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Tag Archive | "God"

The Heart of the Father

Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine St. • Cedar Springs


As we come into this weekend, naturally our thoughts turn to the father that God has placed in our lives. We will give cards and gifts, make telephone calls, and go out to eat as we honor the men who have so greatly impacted our lives. It is good that we do so. Fatherhood is designed by God to have a strong and positive role in a family, and we need to honor and restore that institution in our generation.

In our current culture, the role of the father in a family is one that is often mocked or misunderstood. In many TV sitcoms, the dad is portrayed as a dopey buffoon, a lustful and leering predator, or a weak and emasculated figure, who is constantly subjugated to an inferior role in the family by disrespectful children and/or a dominating wife. Reality is that what is seen on TV is often played out in real life in homes all across the country.

Some people do not have good relationships with, or memories of, their father. Unfortunately, many times those strained relationships or bad memories have been rightly earned by men whose parenting skills have been sorely lacking. Many children, small or grown, have bitter memories of fathers who were physically or verbally abusive or even went AWOL.

While there are many fathers who are derelict in their duty, thankfully there are also many who have accepted their rightful roles and are living out a reflection of God’s character in their own lives to the best of their ability. I am truly grateful that I have been blessed with a wonderful father who has lived out his faith in God and blazed a trail for me to follow in the paths of righteousness. Dad has lived his life in a way that made it easy for me to embrace the concept of God as a loving, Heavenly Father.

Jesus told Philip in John 14:9: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (NKJV). Dads, that needs to be the goal in our lives. Part of the process of restoring fatherhood to its God-ordained place in society is for men to step up and accept and shoulder the responsibilities that come with that position. Being a dad is far more than just a title; it is an ongoing action.

It is being humble in our attitudes, consistent in our daily walk of faith, unwavering in unconditional love for our families, uncorrupted by current culture, constant in our generosity, and magnanimous in our acts of grace. It is being firm enough to provide boundaries for our families’ actions, strong enough to demand a proper code of conduct for our families’ behavior, and gentle in teaching those ways to ones we love. We are to model the heart of Jesus for those with whom we live.

May our spouses and children see the character of God shining out through our lives as His grace empowers to be more than we ever dreamed.

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The missing puzzle piece

CS-United-MethodistPastor Steve Lindeman

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319


In my reading of the Bible, one of the saddest verses is found at the very beginning. Genesis 3:9, God calls out Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” God has been walking in the garden in the cool of the afternoon. This portion of Holy Scripture is short but teaches so much about the relationships that we have been created for. As I read the text, I envision that there was a time when God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in community with one another; but humanity had rejected this relationship and we have been hiding from God ever since. Due to the power of sin, it seems we have become unable to live in direct relationship with God, as we had prior to the fall. It is the hope of God’s love that continues to pursue us, and this hope is made available to all of us through the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.

Not long ago, I was listening to an evangelist at a tent revival that my congregation hosted as a part of our church’s sesquicentennial celebration. She used a statement that I have tried to communicate both from the pulpit, as well as in more intimate conversations; we have been created with a God-sized hole in our hearts. There is nothing that can fill that place in our lives except God. My children played with a plastic blocks puzzle when they were young; each had its own unique shape and could only properly fit in the space that it had been designed for. They couldn’t force the wrong block into the wrong hole without either the block or that space being damaged. As people, we try to put all sorts of things into that space in our hearts that’s designed for God (drugs, alcohol, abusive relationships, love of power and riches). We get the same result as the block puzzle—we damage ourselves and our relationships with others. This God-sized hole is of our own construction. God did not decide to be separate from us; God has sought us throughout history and has pursued us so that we might be in right relationship with him again.

Here is the good news for our life puzzles: God has provided a fix for our hearts. The cross of Jesus Christ fits within that hole. We simply have to accept the gift of grace and allow Jesus in. So as you continue on the journey that is your life, remember that God is pursuing each of us—seeking a relationship with us—seeking to restore our hearts and to make us whole.

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Good all the time



By Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

A.W. Tozer once wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I can hardly disagree. Our perception of God shapes our character and actions like little else.

So it’s no wonder that some people are the way they are: loving, helpful, sacrificial, kind, and giving. They think of God this way. But on the other hand, some religious people are angry, suspicious, unforgiving, and murderous. These folks, in turn, think of God in these terms and it shows.

By way of example, I have a friend whose thinking about God is sadistic. God, for her, is an always lurking bogeyman who must be continually appeased. He is vicious and eager to rub out a groveling sinner (or an entire city) if it suits him.

Thus, she lives in fear of God and inflicts her angst on everyone around her. Recently, however, I connected the dots between her thinking about God and the relationship she had with her father, when in an unguarded moment she told a forbidding story.

She was a child, and her father came home drunk, as usual. In his stupor he pulled a revolver from his pocket and called his daughter over to his lap. He cuddled her in his arms and then placed the revolver against the back of her head.

“I could blow your brains out right now,” he whispered. Then he put the gun aside and held her close again, only to return to the gun and the threat again and again over the space of the evening. One moment he was loving, and the next he had a gun barrel pushed against her skull.

This type of parenting has caused my friend all types of emotional disturbances over her lifetime, not the least of which is her thinking about God. For her, and I understand why she feels this way, God is just like her drunken father.

The moral and spiritual authority for her life is an erratic, cold-hearted bastard whose words of love are nothing more than an invitation to terror. Her God calls out for his children, takes them into his arms, and then threatens them with violence.

Such a God is unworthy of worship, incapable of being trusted, and impossible to love. Thankfully, such a God doesn’t exist, for Jesus has shown us that God is good, and he’s good all the time.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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Trust and faith in God

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs



The Bible tells us that when we put our trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and obey His commandments, we are bound to achieve great and marvelous things through Him. But many of us have been involved in situations that resulted in frustration and disappointment. We thought we had faith in God’s power, only to see the results not go our way. Sometimes, we need a clearer understanding of what faith really is.

Faith is not just a concept that fulfills a mere wish. True faith is complete confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, which makes us follow His footsteps. (Hebrew 11:1)  In the book of Daniel, we are reminded of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who refused to worship the golden image created by King Nebuchadnezzar. Because of their stand for God, they were thrown into a fiery furnace. In faith, they believed that their God could deliver them. Their perseverance demonstrated the elements that are required of true faith in God and they came out without a single burn. They trusted in God even if things would not have turned out as they had expected.  Faith in Jesus Christ calls for total reliance on Him, even when some things do not always make sense to us. The trio knew they could trust in Him because they understood His nature, which does not change. They understood that God is in control of everything in Heaven and on the earth.

God has given us an opportunity to choose and to decide. Sometimes we are bound to be tested and he again assures us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that he will never let us be tempted beyond what we can endure. After the great challenges that we must all undergo, we can be victorious and emerge as stronger men and women of God. It’s not necessary that we go looking for trials and tribulations. They will find us. But when faced with them, our Heavenly Father gives us strength to overcome.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul was assured by the Savior that His grace is sufficient and that his strength is made perfect in weakness and his response was just amazing. He said, “I take pleasure in my infirmities, in accusations, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress for the sake of Christ.” He realized that during his very weakest moment is when he became very strong. Not strong in his own might, but strong in the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to empower and live in him.

When we trust in God, He is more than willing to provide help when we desperately need it. It doesn’t matter how challenging the situation is. This gives God’s spirit room to live in our heart so that He can constantly talk to us and lead us in the right direction.  True faith is based on trusting the Lord Jesus Christ and His ever willing desire to meet our needs. Daniel 3:15 says, “For surely He blesses and prospers only those who fully trust in Him.”

Faith in Jesus Christ is more than a system, tradition, or belief. He is a Person who knows our needs, feels our pain, and sympathizes with our weaknesses. In exchange for our trust, He offers to forgive our sins, to intercede for us, and to bring us to His Father. He cried for us, died for us, and rose from the dead to show that He was all He claimed to be. Conquering death, He showed us that He can save us from our sins, live His life through us on earth, and then bring us safely to Heaven. He offers Himself as a gift to anyone who will trust and follow Him (John 20:24-31).

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Hard of hearing

By Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

A husband and wife had been married for many years when the husband began to fear that his wife was going deaf. He implemented an informal exam. With his wife in the kitchen, the husband asked from the den, “What’s for dinner?” She didn’t answer. He repeated the question over and over, each time moving closer, and each time received no response.

Finally, he was directly behind her asking his question. His wife whirled on her heels and shouted, “George, for the hundredth time, I said we’re having chicken!” Often, others listen just fine; we are the ones who are hard of hearing, especially when it comes to describe deafness to the Spirit.

Maybe God used to speak to you, he once whispered in your ear, or stirred in your soul; or maybe you have never had such a sensation of God speaking at all. Regardless, now you’re stone deaf, but might be thinking it’s God with a hearing problem.

The troubling thing is, when someone’s hearing begins to erode, his or her life gets louder, only magnifying the problem. The TV volume is cranked up to the decibels of a jet fighter. Warning bells and alarms are ignored. Communication becomes difficult, a game of escalating voices.

Bring that scenario into the realm of faith. While we want God to shatter his perceived silence with thunderclaps, earthquakes, and firestorms, why should he speak to us over the noise of our lives? Why would he add to the commotion? His voice will only get lost; and it does, in the dissonance that surrounds us.

My friend David Beavers says it impeccably: “Along life’s way, you lose you. Your life gets covered, buried, and numbed out with addictions, distractions, medications, and busyness of all kinds. If you don’t believe me, spend the day alone, without a phone, book, or computer. There, listen to and observe the insane, obsessive, cyclical and compulsive chatter that drives you—inside and out. It is nothing more than noise, and noise is the problem.”

So, you might not be hard of hearing at all. It could be the pandemonium within and without; the sound and fury that has been absorbed into your heart, mind, and very soul. We have to turn down the volume around us, not to hear ourselves think, but to hear anything—even the Maker of the Universe—when he gently speaks our name.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.


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Spring—a reminder of life

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs


Springtime is finally approaching. What a lovely time of year. No other season invokes these sights, sounds and smells. Spring is the awakening of what was once dead but has now come alive. The Bible describes it, “For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!’ (Song of Solomon 2:11-13). 

The spring season reminds us of how important life truly is.  But what is life and what does it mean? What does it mean according to God?

In the beginning God created a perfect world. Why was this world so perfect? Because God’s presence was there and the presence of God brings life! However, man fell into Satan’s temptations, which removed the presence of the One who gives life. As a result, a curse was placed on this earth because of sin which has resulted in all of us being handed a sentence of death.  The image of a physical death and a curse on the earth which forewarns us of an ending we do not want to inherit.  That picture is eternal death. Eternal death means eternal seperation from God, the One whom gives life.

However, God had a plan; a plan to rescue us from that separation. He accomplished this by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for us. This sacrifice bridges us back to the One who gives life! Eternally God has allowed us to escape our death sentence and has called us to live and reign with Him forever and ever. All you need to do is to confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and He will set you free and grant you eternal life in His Kingdom.

While the life God is concerned about is eternal, He gives us reminders and illustrations here on this earth.  Spring is a perfect time of year for that reminder. Spring brings hope that there will be brighter days ahead; days full of sunshine, happiness and joy. We see plants come to life, trees blossoming, flowers blooming, animals lively and birds chirping. These are all wonderful signs of life and should remind us that Jesus Christ gave us life through His death. It is a life that will allow us to live in peace and harmony with Him forever and ever. Remember, God is Life!



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The Rev. David Meyers

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church

1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI  49306


I was in the doctor’s office the other day and the appointments were backed up. The wait was much longer than usual. After perusing the scattered magazines, I made a mental shift. Instead of succumbing to growing irritation, I decided to make the most of the time of waiting. Mentally, I made a list of the jobs I had to do. Then I checked off the things that needed to be done to get my house in order. I did some financial accounting and then I checked my prayer list. I remembered all the friends, family members, social issues, and church concerns I had committed to pray for. It seemed as if the time passed at a rapid pace and then my number was called. The wait was over.

Dear friends, we are now in the first week of Advent—the season of emergence, of coming forth, of appearing.  We have four weeks to wait for Christmas. In our church, we stubbornly oppose the cultural norm of rushing Christmas. The deep blue colors and reflective mood are anticipatory, but restrained. There will be no decorations until just before the 25th. The words of Isaiah, Jesus, and John the Baptist help flesh out the time.  They guide us through the wait.

Time with God can be bent in so many ways. Even as we await the celebration of the coming of Messiah in the form of a child, we anticipate the coming of Christ in great power and glory.  Both happen at the same time. Both are comprehensive, both are cosmic. The nature of the wait depends on the understanding of the event.

As people grow older, they begin to understand that the appearing of Christ may be individual instead of a worldwide event.  The wait is a useful time to get the house in order, to make sure that jobs are finished, and accounts balance. The act of simplifying helps the wait go smoothly.

Of course, as children, we did not understand the deeper meaning of the season. Waiting was so hard! Little people, literally abuzz with excited energy, know that a great celebration is approaching. They can barely eat while they tick off the days. For them, the wait is torture.

For younger adults, the wait is more trying. Demands of time and purse result in the feeling that the wait is actually too short!  How can it all be accomplished? Or rather, why must is all be accomplished? So much is pressing that the wait does not lead to peaceful understanding. It is time that demands to be filled.

Wherever you find yourself, remember that the wait has a purpose. It teaches us that we are not in charge of time. The Messiah comes when he chooses. No amount of stress can make the days go faster. Preparation, however, can make the days more meaningful. Take some time in these next weeks to be quiet. Sit back and close your eyes. In the midst of the immediate hubbub, take a personal inventory. Is your spiritual house in order? Are accounts balanced? Are the necessary jobs completed? Are you ready to welcome the Christ Child, the Messiah as your guest?

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Get still; God will speak

Ronnie McBrayer

Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

Last week my son asked me a profound theological question: “Why did God make stinging bugs?” Stumped, I told him to talk directly to God about it. Pausing for just a moment to consider my inadequate answer, he countered, “You know I can’t talk to God; I’m not even dead yet!” In my son’s literal but complex eight-year-old mind, prayer does not qualify as “talking to God.” Thus, his many and variegated questions about the mysteries of the universe, the meaning of life, and the purpose of wasps and biting flies, will have to wait.

Truth be told, my son’s conclusion about “talking to God,” and more pertinent, God talking to us, is the conclusion most of us have. God doesn’t really talk to people, does he? And those mystical types who routinely say things like, “God spoke to me” or “I heard God say,” are we to take them seriously, or should they be scheduled for a mental health examination?

God gets blamed for a whole lot of the kookiness in this world, but this aside, I still believe God speaks. Now, I don’t believe God’s instructions ever include harming others, doing evil, or committing violence. Such voices are patently inconsistent with the way and person of Christ. And no, I don’t think God’s voice arrives in our inboxes as an unalterable blueprint for life. Besides, if God did speak that clearly (and maybe he does), most of us would miss it anyway (maybe we have), for it seems God prefers communicating through quiet and stillness rather than through the pyrotechnics of signs and wonders.

It’s summed up by Dan Rather’s magnificent interview of Mother Teresa more than twenty years ago. Paraphrasing, he famously asked her, “What do you say to God when you pray?” She offered him a simple answer, “I don’t say anything. I just listen.” Rather then asked the obvious follow-up question: “Well, what does God say?” Mother Teresa gave Rather that crooked little smile of hers and said, “God doesn’t say anything either. He just listens.”

A great deal of religion, I fear, is built upon the desire for divine fireworks, megaphoned and crystal clear answers, God showing himself in flamboyant and undeniable style. Yet, God only requires the quiet and silent heart to quietly speak. Getting quiet will do more to sharpen one’s perception of God than all the religious gymnastics in the world.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author. His books include “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus” and “The Jesus Tribe.” Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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Pastor Jim Alblas
Pioneer Christian Reformed Church
3110 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

I’ve started to notice here in Cedar Springs that there are certain signs that have started to appear all over town, and maybe you have seen them, too. I’ve generally seen them at main intersections but they appear in other places as well. The signs are usually bright colored and often have just two things on them; a symbol and a word. The symbol is an arrow and the word is “Sale.” Obviously, I’m talking about garage sale signs. Garage Sales, Lawn Sales, Yard Sales, whatever you want to call them, their popping up all over town.  When it comes to garage sale signs many people become like human radars. We can spot them from a mile away and our eyes become like eagles looking at the details of the sign. “That one’s a Barn Sale!”  “This one’s a Rummage Sale!” “And look, a multi-family sale!!”  There’s something about garage sales that many people love. Finding a treasure at a low price is always enticing. I think my mother-in-law really started to like me when she found out that I like garage sales just like her. She even said I was her favorite son in law…although I’m her only son in law.  And not only do these garage sale signs point us in the direction of good deals, but they usually indicate that winter won’t be coming back for a while. And so we love garage sales and we love noticing those garage sale signs.
In the same way, when we think about God, we come to realize how much it is that he notices us. We are on His radar, His eyes are like a hawk’s fixated on us. Sometimes when we have something on our mind or if we are driving a little too quickly, we may miss one of those garage sale signs, but God never misses what we are doing. And sometimes we may see a garage sale sign, but decide we aren’t interested in checking it out, but God is always interested in us. My favorite Psalm to read that describes how God is watching us is in Psalm 121. There we find out that not only does He notice us, but He cares about us. It’s a passage loaded with the many ways that God watches and watches over us.  It says He never slumbers or sleeps; He is always on the job looking out for us. It says He watches over our life; from the womb to the tomb, God has His eyes on us. It says He’s our shade at our right hand; when life gets troublesome, He protects us. And it says He won’t let our foot slip; which doesn’t mean we won’t ever get hurt, but that we are never out of His grasp. When we think about that, we realize that God is watching us very carefully, He is very concerned about us and that is encouraging.
But I think when we realize that, we must also realize another thing. Just as God watches us, we too, must watch God. We need to be on the lookout for what God is doing in this town, country and world. By looking to see what God is doing, we learn more about who He is and we can better join in with what He is doing.  But the key is that we must keep our eyes on God with the same intensity that God keeps His eyes on us. Remember Psalm 121, He watches us intently! How have we been watching what God is doing?  Are we reading His word daily, to see what He has done in the past and what He desires for us today? Are we looking at what God is doing right now in the lives of people around us and around the world? Are we keeping an eye out for what God will do next? Or are we just keeping an eye out for those garage sale signs?
In a society where we have up to the minute knowledge on sports scores, grocery store sales and facebook statuses, are we up to the minute on what God is doing? My word of encouragement to you is that when we are watching what God is doing, we find some wonderful blessings. We can be a benefit to others when we know what God is doing in their lives, because we can come alongside that work. We can benefit ourselves because when we are watching God we will notice things we hadn’t noticed before and they will bring us joy. And when we are watching God closely, we become closer to Him. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  Let’s keep our eyes on the Lord!

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Hold on loosely

Pastor Chad Wight

Climbing a deep ravine to the large oak tree at the forest’s edge near my boyhood home, I stood at the gateway to a 9-year-old boy’s most amazing adventures. The acres of woods before me were wildly entrancing as the terrain and corresponding “dangers” were unique in every direction. From sunrise to sunset, from hideouts to creek beds, no two days were the same.
Engaging God the Creator, who on a Tuesday of the first week plastered the earth with forests and firmament, has proven to be equally unpredictable, challenging, and at times “dangerous.” Childhood is long gone for me, and it seems with each passing day I have more questions than answers. Every attempt to make God merely a favorite “hide-out,” of sorts, has led only to arid familiarity; and you know what is said of “familiarity.”
A close companion of Jesus wrote about a woman named Mary who stood sadly in a cemetery that first Easter Sunday (John 20). Seeing a man whom she thought was the local gardener, upon hearing His voice she lunged for her Savior. Jesus’ response may have surprised her when, in effect, he said, “Stop holding on to me. There’s a new way to know me that’s different from what you’ve experienced thus far. You must let me go for I must move on.”
Christian author and speaker Frank Viola best explains the principle in all this in his article “A Vanishing God.” You cannot cling to the Christ you know today because He will vanish from your midst. Christ is an elusive Lover, and seeking Him is a progressive engagement that never ends. While we all wish to cling tightly to the One whom we know now, or the Christ who has been revealed to us today, the harder we try to hold on the more elusive He will be. I have noticed this in my own life. Jesus woos us one way, but that season eventually ends, and just when we think we’ve laid hold of Him He slips out of our grasp. He will then reappear, and most likely as a stranger (Luke 24). Only by looking and listening closely will we discover that He’s no stranger at all.
We often cling to the Christ we know by accepting only those who talk our language, participate in our religious forms, and share our ideas—and all along we end up turning away Jesus Himself. But then He returns to us in a way we do not expect, through people we’re prone to ignore and inclined to write off for a myriad of arrogant, religious reasons. Unfortunately, if we fail to receive Him in those unexpected ways, He moves on and the revelation we can have of him ceases to grow.
In drawing close to God, we are always standing at the edge of something much too deep. Jesus Christ is richer, larger, and more glorious than any of us could ever imagine, and ironically He comes to us in ways that make it tempting to reject Him. He will always break free from our frail attempts to pin Him down, box Him up, hold Him in place, and play Him safe.
This ought to make us think about how God goes about His plans in this world, for every day is a new day, and there is a God who wants to be known.

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