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Archive | From the Pulpit

Bread and light

Pastor Dallas Burgeson

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs

In Leviticus 24:1-8, God gave His People a couple of ways that He could show them He was with them. Present. It all begins in the Tabernacle, the movable, tent-like structure that God said He dwelt in as He led them through wildernesses and battlegrounds on the way to their Promised Land. These two ways of symbolizing His Presence came in the form of Bread and of Light.

Bread. In the Tabernacle, it was the job of those who worked there to bake bread every Sabbath that laid in the presence of God. Here’s what’s so cool about symbolizing presence with bread: It was a joint effort between God and His People. 

God was present to produce the grain. If weather didn’t cooperate, there would be no grain, and the ancients knew that only God could control weather. His presence was indispensable. At the same time, God’s People were present to harvest the grain and to take every step that lie between the harvest and the fresh Bread of the Presence that lay in the Tabernacle. Man’s presence was indispensable, too. God and Man had to be present to one another in order for the Bread of the Presence to exist at all.

Light. Once the Bread of the Presence was freshly made and placed on its golden table in the Tabernacle, it then was bathed under the light of the menorah, the seven-wicked lamp that also symbolized the warmth of God’s Presence in His House. As long as the menorah, this lamp was lit, God’s people knew that He was Home with them when they came to worship Him. And you know what God asked of those who took care of His House? That the menorah never be allowed to go out (Lev. 24:4)

God is always Home. There is always the smell of freshly-baked bread in His House, inviting us into the inner rooms of His warm hospitality. The light is always on, casting the lilting glow of intimate friendship into every time of prayer. Imagine the radiance when we come together in prayer! 

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again” (John 6:35, NLT). He said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12, NLT).  Then watch this: Paul said, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? …God bought you with a high price.” The price was the life of Jesus sacrificed on a cross so that you, you and your church, could become a Temple where God is always Home. Fresh bread coming out of the oven… with the glow of a lamplight that never has to go out. 

Please don’t miss His Presence today. He’s Home. Are you?

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Take time to notice

Pastor Darryl Miller  

South Ensley/Sand Lake United Methodist Churches  

616-636-5659

Psalm 91: 1-2: Living in the Most High’s shelter, camping in the Almighty’s shade, I say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my stronghold! You are my God—the one I trust!”

This past Labor Day weekend, we went to our annual church family camp on Lake Michigan. We celebrated 50 years of camping together. It is a wonderful place and means a lot to those of us who go. We sing around the campfire and worship together. We even have communion on the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan at sunset. It is truly inspiring. 

Nevertheless, we must remember what it is that makes is so special to us. It is the presence of God. We feel close to Him there and we love that. However, we cannot forget that His presence is always with us. We must remember that we can feel close to Him wherever we may be. The trick is to seek Him. To pay attention to His presence. 

Of course, it is easier to notice Him in a quiet and beautiful place like a camp or a backyard than it is in a noisy office, but that is because of our focus, not His presence. Are we willing to take time to notice His presence? The next time you get to a place where the world seems to be coming in around you, remember to try to take a moment to stop and listen, to feel, to hear that still quiet voice. He is there and He always will be. That is the true beauty of creation, God’s presence in all of us. Are you having trouble slowing down and focusing on God? Ask a friend or the pastor of a nearby church to pray with you. 

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Bible insight about your work ñ Is it a blessing or a curse?

Pastor Jon Huizenga

Rise Up Church

Meets at Pine Ridge Bible Camp

8415 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

By today, you are beginning to forget the holiday weekend you just enjoyed and it feels like you’ve been working forever without a break (sigh). Am I right?

This work that you do—is it a blessing? Or is it a curse?

I would like to propose two thoughts:

Our work is a gift from God. 

The frustration we experience in our work is a result of the sin and brokenness that is in us and the world around us.

We can find all this in Genesis chapters 2 and 3 in the Bible; the creation story:

In chapter 2: “The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground …The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it … The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him … The Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man … Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame” (NIV).

Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed because it was all good. They could trust each other, and they could trust the world. There was nothing wrong. And notice, there was work to do.

But then comes chapter 3: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked…”

This is the story of Satan tempting Adam and Eve to eat from the one tree in all the Garden that God prohibited them from eating. They chose their way over God’s and that is where sin and its effects enter our human story.

Later in chapter 3, God pronounces the consequences: “To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘you must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.”

Before sin entered the picture: Work involved joy, success and peace.

After sin entered the picture: Work remained, but sin frustrated it.

Here is some Bible wisdom about your work:

We should thank God for meaningful work. It gets things done, provides for our needs, and helps the world. Work is good. We were created to enjoy meaningful work.

We should let the frustrations of our work point us to our need for Jesus. We are a mess as we walk into our work. Our work environment is a mess before we even get there. Who can save us? Help us Lord! Jesus came to reverse the curse.

A brief excerpt about heaven (Revelation, chapter 22): “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city and his servants will serve him. They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads…He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen, come Lord Jesus.”

This curse-reversing presence of Jesus is available to you as you go to your work today. And, it will make all things new at a day still to  come. 

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Daniel and the window

Pastor Jonathan Bergsma

City Impact

288 North Main, Cedar Springs

Recently I’ve been stuck in the book of Daniel. Many have heard the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. The story (in Daniel 6) tells how God shut the mouth of the lions and saved Daniel from the penalty of a bad law written by dishonest men, with bad motives. They wanted to destroy the life of a good man (Daniel) who was standing in the way of their selfish personal agendas. Sounds like the world we live in today, minus the lions. 

As I meditated on the story, I noticed how even the title of the story glorifies the problem (the lion’s den). When we think of this situation, the deliverance from the problem is the thing that we celebrate; and when we encounter problems in our lives, we also should look to God for deliverance.

What captures my attention though isn’t the lion’s den; it’s Daniel kneeling and praying at the window (Daniel 6:10). Daniel’s faith and consistent pattern of prayer was the only non-negotiable in his life and everything else flowed from there. When opponents to Daniel tried to find anything wrong with him, they found nothing except a continual pattern of prayer three times a day. When the law was changed, turning Daniel, a good man, into a criminal, it says Daniel went up to his room and opened his window and thanked God, “just as he had always done before.” I love it. He didn’t freak out; he didn’t suddenly remember in a crisis that he needed to get back to church; or start to pray again. He had a consistent lifestyle of giving thanks to God—the same God who had preserved his life many times before. 

When we face suffering like Daniel did and we look to God for deliverance, are we facing this trial in our life because of our faithfulness and obedience to God? Or is it possible we are reaping fruit from bad decisions we’ve made or doing things the way we want vs what God says? 

I have faced many trials in my life and gone to the Lord in prayer for help. But as I look back, many of those tough places I found myself in were a result of my own selfishness or poor choices. We often come to God in a crisis, and when our prayers aren’t answered, God gets the blame. People write him off as something they tried and say, “it didn’t work for me,” or “my prayer wasn’t answered.” God does not work for you and I; God is not something we add to our life to give us the life we want, to ignore him and then step in during a crisis when things aren’t going as we think they should. He is not added to our plan; we are added to his plan, and apart from Him, we have no good thing. 

I’ve changed the name of this story from “Daniel and the lion’s den” to “Daniel and the window.” Without the window, there would have been no lion’s den; and without the consistent deep relationship Daniel had with God, Daniel would have been just another nameless man in history eaten by a lion! 

If you’re going to go into the lion’s den and you don’t want to get eaten, make sure you’re going there for the right reason. May it be because of your consistent obedience and love for God. He is faithful to see you through.

My prayer in front of the window for you and I today is that we would be a people of God whose lives are marked by daily time set aside in prayer, to go deep in relationship with Jesus. Don’t focus on the problem–focus on Him today and every day!

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Security in Jesus

Pastor Dylan Mason 

Frost Creek Church 

(formerly Solon Center Wesleyan)

15671 Algoma Ave. NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319

Lately, it seems like every time I turn on the news there’s another world tragedy, another debate, or another divisive political topic being discussed and argued and weaponized. I don’t think that’s an observation that is foreign to most people. In a world where news, information, and opinions are more accessible and quickly spread than ever before, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s natural to experience anxiety, insecurity, and pressure when we’re constantly confronted with news, events, and political ideologies that we feel we need to have a strong opinion about. That’s all natural. But as followers of Jesus, we’re not called to live naturally, we’re called to live super-naturally!

Over the last 17 months, as a pandemic flipped our world on its head, as we’ve experienced a new world-shaking event seemingly every week, as the course of each of our individual lives seemed to change regularly, the things that we’d become accustomed to finding our comfort and security in—like our jobs, finances, or even our physical safety and well-being—have been threatened or even completely taken from us. But this should be no surprise to us as followers of Jesus. 

Look at the warning James gives in James 5:1-2 (NIV): “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” 

When we attempt to find our security in and hold onto temporary things of this world like time, money, possessions, and relationships, in the end we will all be found empty. That is the warning James is giving us here. He wants to be sure we know that lasting security cannot be found in temporary things. 

As followers of Jesus, we’re called to find our security in him. Jesus is the only place where we will ever find eternal, lasting, fulfilling security. And praise be to Him, because we can all have the true peace, joy, and freedom that he provides if we just accept the gift of salvation that he’s given us! 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV) says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 

I hope you find peace and freedom, regardless of the trials and difficulties you face, knowing that we already have victory in this life and the next because of Jesus.

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Rooted in Love

Pastor Michelle Vallier 

Cedar Springs UMC

140 S. Main St, Cedar Springs

It has been chaotic time, and after a short break this the summer, we are facing higher Covid numbers, and all the angst that brings. It is easy to give into feelings of fear about Covid-19, and the Delta variant. It is easy to lash out in anger at the thought of masks and more life restrictions. It is easy to despair as friends and family once again face deep disagreements over these things. It is hard to build community in such a time. 

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130, NRSV). For thousands of years, people have been crying out to God for help, for rescue, for ease from suffering. It is good to cry out, and to know we’re not alone in doing so! When we open ourselves in that prayer of lament, we connect more deeply with our creator. We set aside the surface anxiety and petty disagreements of our lives here on earth and begin to see a bigger picture. 

I find hope in the prayer of Paul, as he wrote to the people of Ephesus while he was in prison: “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, [God] may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit,and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19, NRSV).

As roots reach out to find the edges of a planter, continually seeking water and nutrients, we are called to root down in the love of God, which is never-ending! I pray that the people of this community will know that God hears our prayers. I pray that the Holy Spirit will be with us through this time of uncertainty and frustration. I pray that we will come through all of this more deeply rooted in love. Blessings to all of you!

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Who are you?

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd NE, Cedar Springs

There is an incredibly common lie that way too many of us believe. We believe that our worth and identity come from what we do. Have you ever noticed at a social gathering that the conversation often begins, “So, what is your story?”  For a long time I answered and labeled myself as a banker. My job and position was the first thing that came out of my mouth when I answered this question. I lived believing that who I am is what I do.

King Solomon figured this out. He was considered to be the wisest and richest man who ever lived and in Ecclesiastes 2:10b (NIV) he said, “My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.”  

He boasted that he was the ruler of a great kingdom, had built temples and buildings, and had become as rich as anyone could. He was proud of who he saw himself to be. But then in verse 11 he catches himself up short and says, “Yet, when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (NIV).

If we believe the lie that our identity comes from what we do, then it is an identity coming from the wrong place. We are not what we do, nor what we’ve done, nor what we are going to do. We are who God says we are. Let that sink in a minute. We are not our performance, accomplishments, wealth or what others think of us. We are who God says we are.  

So, here is an idea. When asked about yourself, can you change your standard answer? I’m not saying that what you do for a living is not important; but instead of simply replying mechanic or stay-at-home mom, lawyer, retired accountant, cook or dishwasher can you answer who you really are?   

We are God’s handiwork! We are children of the King! We are joint heirs with Christ!  We are who God says we are. And I like to remember what a fellow youth leader would always say as the youth headed out into the night after our group meetings. He would say, “Remember who you are and never forget WHOSE you are.”  

We are who God calls us to be and we belong to God. So please know how absolutely precious you are—how wonderful you are to God. You are so wonderful he sent his only son to save us all.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV).

Remember who you are and whose you are! 

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Moving

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake UMC/South Ensley UMC

Sand Lake, MI

Genesis 12: 1,4-5 1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

We just went through what we plan to be our last move. After moving back to the house that I grew up in and spending an additional 22 years there, we moved and downsized a great deal. What an ordeal! We had wonderful help from wonderful people and yet it was a big job. I can’t imagine what Abram went through with the move described above. There was a great deal of trust and obedience displayed there. We moved around the corner; Abram, on the other hand, left everything behind and moved a long distance away. He really didn’t know where he was going or what he would find there. He only trusted God. As always, God proved trustworthy. 

How many times have we felt an urge from the Holy Spirit or a prompt to do something or go somewhere to minister to others only to focus on the difficulty or the size of the job? Why do we not have the same trust as Abram? We can and we should. This move was difficult, but we encountered God every step of the way. So did Abram. That is what happens when we trust instead of doubt. Most likely, you won’t be asked to move across the country or to leave everything that you are familiar with behind. However, whatever God calls you to do, do it with the trust displayed by Abram. Know that God is present and will be with you every step of the way. No matter how big the job seems, God is immeasurably bigger. In addition, His family is all around you to offer help and encouragement. We will never move a mountain but moving a person closer to God is an even better thing to do.

Check out a church near you and encounter the same God that proved His faithfulness to Abram.

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They might be with him

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd | Cedar Springs, Michigan | 616 696 3904

Mark 3:14: “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” (NIV)

Lately, parishioners and friends have asked me: how long does it take for the Church to form a man to be a Catholic priest? My answer is: for those who have just graduated from High School, it is approximately 8 years; for those who begin their formation when they have already completed their undergraduate studies, then it will be approximately 6 years; and if you are slow like me, it took 9 years (indeed it took me 9 years due to special studies I was asked to do!). The next question is: why is there a need for formation and why is it such a significant time? My short answer is: the Church follows the example of Jesus.

In Mark 3:14, Jesus literally made or instituted the twelve as apostles; but before he sent them, they are to “be with him.”  To “be with the Lord” means to be formed by Jesus.  When they are formed, Jesus “began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7).  The time to “be with him” is so important. In this way, Jesus would lead them to experience the Father’s love.  To “be with him” equipped them to share in his messianic mission.

What happened to the apostles can be applied to all of us. God has a plan for each of us in his vineyard. But before we are to be sent out into the field, we must be formed by him, or we need to “be with him.”  The candidates for the priesthood spend a period to “be with him” to receive human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation. Couples who are to enter the covenant of marriage need to “be with him” to understand what God has instilled in them for their marriage life. In short, every vocation needs formation, for without knowing the Lord, we cannot share the Lord with others.

In the midst of summer, it is the time to “be with him” and to be equipped as workers in his vineyard. 

Father Lam also is the Pastor of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, 1 West Maple St, Sand Lake, Michigan 49343 phone: 616 636 5671.

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What does it matter?

Pastor Mike Wittmer

Cedar Springs Baptist Church

233 S Main, Cedar Springs

I told my friend that when I go for a run, sometimes I walk part of the way. She is a kind and generous person, so she said, “There’s no shame in that.” I am a less kind person, so I jokingly put her on the spot. “Shame? Who said anything about shame? You wouldn’t have mentioned that if walking wasn’t a little bit shameful.” 

We laughed, and I thought of Paul’s shrug in his letter to the Philippians. He mentioned how some people in Rome were proclaiming the good news of Jesus from “selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:17-18 NIV).

What does it matter? Paul would only say that if it mattered, at least a little. If it didn’t matter at all, he wouldn’t have noticed. 

I wish I was one of those sweet, carefree people who don’t notice slights and insults. I’d like to skip through life, assuming everyone is love and light. But I’m more like Paul. I feel people’s selfishness. I notice when they are out to get me. It bothers me.

And that’s okay. What does it matter? was Paul’s hard-won confession. How he must have prayed and agonized to get to that point! He learned to consider his many accomplishments to be “a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8). He concluded, “I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (3:9). Jesus is everything, so what did it matter if some preachers were trying to hurt Paul? They were telling people about Jesus, the only person who can save us from hell. 

Life seems easier for lighthearted people, but realists have a more obvious opportunity for spiritual growth. It’s more praiseworthy to feel an offense and give it to Jesus than to not notice the offense at all. The latter comes naturally to some; the former is an unmistakable sign of the Spirit of God. 

Don’t worry that you may be overly sensitive to other people’s selfish ambition and insults. That is your opportunity to run to Jesus. Their slights matter, until you focus on him. Then they melt away into insignificance. And your shrug, What does it matter? That will really mean something.

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