Interesting idea. Does this limit your office hours or just maximize efficiency?
Appreciate the good suggestions for LED lighting.
I'm with Chuck, I love books. I've been blessed to have inherited a few small collections from former pastors. I would suggest finding a young minister who would be blessed by having such resources available.
Hi, Pastor Gil--
No good advice here, except to say that I wish I were closer to St. Louis--I'd drop in and buy some from you!
I'm as much of a bibliophile (or book hoarder!) as my dad was. Not sure what I am going to do if I ever need to downsize. Shalom, and best wishes on your retirement.
One of your former catechism students,
I am a Coffee Break Co-ordinator from Neerlandia Alberta and have registered for Inspire. I would like to fly to London (direct - as there is no direct flight to detriot from edmonton.) I am wondering if there are any women from London going to inspire that would consider giving me a ride.
Meredith Van Dijk
www.scripturalreasoning.org. If you wanted to talk with someone who has done this often, contact Doug Leonard of the RCA,who is part of the two-denomination group planning the pastoral trips to Oman,or else Justin Myers. They can tell you a lot more than I can.
Hi Barbara. Thanks for sharing. Relationships and love are so important. Can you share with me the link also for the academic based site? I want to do a report on Scriptural Reasoning for our Christian Interfaith Reference Group.
Dirk, thank you for your honesty and transparency in your prayer request. It was an honor and a privilege to come together as the body of Christ to pray last week at the Prayer Summit.
Joshua, thank you so much for sharing this prayer request. It was a privilege to come together as the body of Christ to pray last week at the Prayer Summit.
I sure can, Michael. Scriptural Reasoning (I will find the link and send it) is a model of dialogue that involves a passage from the Qur'an, Hebrew Bible (if Jews are involved as well) and New Testament on an agreed upon topic that is supposed to allow for comments/insights from the participants that not only shed light on the passage but on the faith stance of the other participants (or yourself). It usually has a facilitator and a time limit. In my one experience with it (in Oman, at the RCA's Al Amana Centre), I found it to be very much like the beginnings of an inductive Bible study, with observations and questions but not necessarily anything in depth re meanings and application. I am still hoping to do this with a small group of Muslims from a nearby mosque and our church on the first chapter of the Qur'an and the Lord's Prayer as they are similar in length and are both the primary Scriptural prayer expressions of the two faiths. I'll post this and then find the link to the academic-based Scriptural Reasoning website.
Barbara, thank you for sharing this prayer request with us. It was an honor to come together as the body of Christ and pray last week at the Prayer Summit.
Scott, thank you for your trusting us with these prayer requests. It was a privilege to come together as the body of Christ in prayer last week at the Prayer Summit.
Thanks so much for the information.
Can you give a little background on what “Scriptural Reasoning” with a Christian/Muslim group looks like for you – how gets started, what exactly you do, structure, allowance for expression, questions, etc.? I find that, the more we know about how things are supposed to “work” we can be less intimidated in starting the process. Thanks.
Wow! I have to admit I'm surprised that Calvin would have that particular problem.
Doug, that's a great question. The answer is yes. To bring the sin of racism before the Lord is a wonderful opportunity to lament, repent, pray, and work towards becoming more aware of its effects on all people. Again, thanks for the question.
I love this list! Every single suggestion is practical and useful. What a huge difference these small things can make to a volunteer!
Thanks for the thoughtful comment, John.
When Hatmaker gave statistics on pastors' job satisfaction (or lack thereof), I saw it as a way to highlight the pressure on pastors, not the fact that pastors have problems (as we all do). I saw it as a challenge to narrow the role of pastors so that they can EQUIP disciples instead of bearing the responsibility for the spiritual development of each member of the congregation (which is the Holy Spirit's work anyway).
I really appreciate your point on God working through our weakness. I completely agree and am reminded of this every single day (thanks be to God!).
Is racism a big enough a problem at Calvin College that there needs to be an annual chapel dedicated to the problem? Is it the student body? faculty? administration? constituency?
Imagine if all pastors had their lives entirely together. Would this be success. Saying that if pastors have problems that this is a failure rate, points to the essence of the problem. Because if all pastors were pathetic, and had nothing but problems, but yet the church was growing and people were worshipping God in greater and new ways, then it would not be failure. God works through our weaknesses, through our trials and tribulations, which increase patience, perseverance, hope. As scripture says.
In addition to the wise and helpful words that Bonnie and Eric shared - I also feel some of your pain that you share as we continue to struggle in this fallen world, which still belongs to God.
One thing that has helped give me some perspective is a simple saying by Rev. Ron Nydam - former professor of Pastoral Care at Calvin Seminary: "You can't give what you never got." We as people are dependent on the common & special grace that God gives to people - and people receive this - sometimes supernaturally, but more often through a remnant (often called His church) that God is preserving through which he continues to give people his grace. Unfortunately, there are many people who have gone through a wide range of circumstances in life that inhibit their capacity to love and be loved. In this case, often people cannot love others because they have not been given a rooted and persistent love. However, God often intervenes and breaks the chains and cycles - and I think your questioning is one means of breaking these chains.
As Bonnie and Eric mentioned - I too encourage you to do this kind of self-reflection that is present in your post. In addition, finding some key people who you can trust and will continue to give you the things you need to be a person of peace and grace - so that you continue to "get what you want to give."
Keep on keeping on brother!
I'm Karen DeBoer from Faith Formation Ministries. Although I don't have access to the resource you're searching for, I can suggest another place you might post your question. There is a Facebook page for Church Educators and it's a wonderful place for gathering and sharing ideas and for getting to know others in educational ministry---including those who plan and lead VBS. A Facebook search for 'Church Educators' should get you there. Hope that helps!
Clearly you have a lot of pain and a lot of complex matters that you are grappling with. I am sympathetic to your pain and struggle. Particularly in light of the complexities of your concerns and uncertainty, I would urge you to take these matters up with your pastor and a trusted elder or two. If you are not currently attending a Bible-believing, gospel preaching church, make that a priority so that you can be ministered to by God's Spirit through the preaching of the word in the fellowship of believers. It is in the context of this fellowship that you will be able to receive much more specific and personal attention to your concerns and struggles than anyone in this forum will be able to provide.
A couple words of encouragement along the way: God's grace is sufficient for you, both unto salvation, and to bring you through life's (often cruel) challenges. At times this may feel like a distant reality or hard to actually take hold of, but I encourage you to place your trust wholly in Jesus Christ, and he will indeed faithfully shepherd you. May God bless you and encourage you, even as he uses His Word, His Spirit, and His Body (the church) to heal you.
Dirk, I'm so sorry to hear about the abuse that you've experienced, it's not the way life is supposed to be, certainly not what we were designed for as people created in God's very image. We are constantly reminded that we live in a very broken world; and there are not easy answers to the questions that you ask - theologians have been debating them for generations. It is important to take "not sinning" seriously - and yet realize that none of us are able to do that. We are completely dependent on God's grace not only for our salvation, but for our life every day as we fulfill our desire to honor God in all that we do. And we are called to extend grace to others as well. In love, we understand that no one is able to live a life holy and pleasing to God, therefore we extend to others the grace that we also have received. All that said, the question of how to navigate through this broken world, which includes abusive relationships, still remains. I believe that God calls us to personal self-reflection. We can't change other people, only God can do that. What we can change is ourselves, with God's help, and also our response to others. Where to draw the line in a relationship that is abusive can be a painful and difficult process of discovery and discernment. We are called to speak the truth in love - Jesus was filled with both grace and truth - we struggle in between justice and mercy - there is a tension that must be maintained, or we don't have the whole picture. I think it's a mistake to resolve that tension in search of a quick fix - better to embrace it and live into it. A Christian in an abusive relationship is not called to maintain that relationship at all costs. The costs may simply become to high. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to leave the relationship, creating safer separation; this can be what's most loving to self and others, and can be most honoring to God's created purposes. We are created to be loved and to thrive in a safe environment. Creating a safer separation can be live-giving to the person who has been experiencing abuse. And it can also be life-giving to the one who must now face up to the truth of the abusive behavior and the truth about the damage that has been caused.
It's sad when congregations, and other Christian communities sometimes support those who perpetrate abuse, rather than those who are being hurt by it. This can often happen unintentionally, due to a lack of understanding about the dynamics and impacts of abuse. It can also happen because there is often great pressure to maintain the status quo than to enter into the hard work of bringing these hidden issues out into the open and dealing with them honestly. Safe Church Ministry seeks to help congregations respond more effectively by offering resources that can help. Spiritual abuse, or any abuse within a Christian context is especially damaging, because ideas about God are impacted. My prayer is that you will find others who can understand and support you in your journey with God toward healing and wholeness. The important thing is to be on the right path, going the right direction - we'll all get there in the end. Until then, it's good to have those who can walk with us on this journey as we navigate through this broken world.
This is a very balanced approach. Our church heritage is also God-led, and ought to be acknowledged.
My only concern would be the lengthy explanations and intros. I worry that churches are so wordy that we crowd out the Spirit. But perhaps you addressed that with your 'slowness' comments. Faith grows in silences too.
Thanks again for the grace. Your intentions were certainly received and there are some really good tips. Keep up the good writing! I read a couple of your previous articles... well done. I'll message you something related to a past article but perhaps in January of next year, just prior to Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, I'll share it through the Network. Thanks for the encouragement.
Thank you, Angie. One other thought that came to mind this morning was when our daughter was dying, I had asked God, "Why? I don't understand." Not out of anger, but simply at a loss, at a place you've been I'm sure. Later that morning, as we waited in the Rochester NY airport for our other dau to fly in, a plaque above where we sat had the words to Ps.139:13-16 written out. I literally felt a wave of peace come over me as I read them and clung to those verses in my own days of grief, tears and turmoil, with an eventual peace I can only say is from our Lord. My heart goes out to you and your family. It's a long journey, and just know that you will be in my prayers. Blessings to you also!
I should also add that I'd be very interested in attending a GriefShare program. My grandma recently went through the program after my grandpa passed away, and she truly appreciated the program and found it very helpful. I'll have to be on the lookout for these types of programs when we're ready for something like that.
Thanks for your comment. I should clarify that my sole intent for this post was to openly share my personal experience with grief so far, and maybe provide some practical suggestions for how to interact with parents who have lost a child--more specifically those who have recently lost a child. My post was more directed to the average person struggling to know what to say to their friend, neighbor, fellow church-goer that has lost a child. And I think this post does achieve that based on the overwhelming amount of positive feedback it has received so far (and I'm so grateful for that!)
I confess that my writing comes out a dark place, as I'm still very much in the midst of the early stages of grieving. I'm not yet ready to talk with others about the deep theological questions that death brings up (though that's not to say I haven't thought about them...I do). I most definitely believe that God is sovereign--I'd feel pretty hopeless if I didn't wholeheartedly believe this! Perhaps my wording in the post didn't express that, although I hope that many will see that. My intent for my post was most definitely not to make sweeping statements on the nature of God and his relationship to suffering and sin. I wrote my post on a much shallower level, I admit. :)
I think most reading this post are simply looking for a few tips for comforting their grieving brothers and sisters. Personally, it will be many years before I'm ready to explore the big questions about grief that have been debated by people of faith for hundreds and hundreds of years. But I think that's OK.
Thanks, Linda! And thank you for sharing your story, too. You're so right in that grief changes as time goes on. I've noticed that throughout the past six months. The rawness and shock of the first couple months has given way to a different kind of grief. Still overwhelming and crushing, but there certainly has been healing too. Blessings to your family!
BTW, one of the greatest books I've read that helps with some of these big questions is "Trusting God Even When Life Hurts" by the late Jerry Bridges. Soooo good. Blessings in Christ.
Thank you so much for sharing your story and the wisdom you gained from your ongoing experience. I’m so sorry for your loss. These are really good thoughts and things to think about for those with good intentions to consider beforehand. It was a gracious reminder of the need for the body of Christ to “weep with those who weep.” Rom 12:15 Because trials will continue until Christ’s return, its helpful to learn how the church can properly come alongside the grieving. Our church recently had a group full of people grieving for a variety of different reasons who went through a study called “GriefShare” (I think its called). While it was primarily geared for people who were currently in the midst of grieving, it would be awesome for everyone to learn how to better provide comfort for the afflicted… to point toward the gospel.
I can certainly identify with many of the comments you mentioned, but I fall in the category of NOT “knowing how you feel” exactly. Not that it is required in order to come alongside of someone, but I think those in my situation of not having gone through difficult loss are more in need of good advice to help those who grieve. So thank you for providing some good insight.
While I greatly appreciate the majority of what you said, I wonder if you’ll allow the freedom to question a couple of things. I almost feel that this is inappropriate… and if you find it to be so, then please feel free to delete my comments. I mean everything I’m about to say with “gentleness and respect.” What I would want to challenge is not so much what should or should not be said to someone, but rather what should or should not be believed about God and his sovereignty.
These may not be things that are initially discussed immediately following a tragedy like the one you experienced, (for that is the time to care for, provide comfort, come alongside and weep with, etc.) but these should be things that will provide long-term comfort, hope and confidence in God’s goodness. So while initially comfort it needed, after some time, for some, there may be need for godly confrontation and challenge concerning the false beliefs some have. You see, big questions arise concerning God’s nature and character whenever people experience tragedy. The problem of evil (whether natural in the case of disaster or disease, or in moral evil) raises questions about God’s love, justice, omniscience, omnipotence and so forth. The big “why did this happen” questions come. And as far as the specifics go, we have no definite answer for specifically why. But that does not necessarily mean there is no reason or that our pain is arbitrary and insignificant to God.
To this point, there may be a chance that you have some inaccurate or unbiblical assumptions about God that many do. (If this is not the case, and I am misunderstanding you and I’ve gone on and on needlessly, then I’m truly sorry and this can be deleted)
Specifically under statement #3 you said “I know that God did not cause this evil to happen, and I know God can make good come out of tragic experiences.”… and also in a similar way under #5 “…but I know God didn’t cause her death. He didn’t give us this tragedy.” I guess I just wanted to ask, if I may, how do you know this for sure about God? I totally understand the feeling of not wanting to think that God could be in control of these things, because “why?” Does he not love? However, our feelings in submission for the moment, based on God’s Word and how He describes himself, he has revealed the contrary. The two greatest examples we have are in the lives of Joseph and Jesus. (One could also argue for Job as being the greatest example) At the end of Genesis we read of a beautiful testimony of confidence in the sovereignty and providence of God, when Joseph declares “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Gen 50:20 That is, God did not merely react and turn a bad situation into a good result, but rather, God intentionally had a purpose to ordain that evil would be done to Joseph that would ultimately serve a greater purpose. All the while we would also affirm the biblical truth that God does not sin nor does he tempt anyone to sin. However, we have to affirm the biblical truth that God ordains that sin be, and for a purpose that serves his greater glory. These are really big things that people have wrestled with for centuries and I in no way am trying to explain them away in a quick post. I do however want to show how the truth of God’s sovereignty (as affirmed by our Reformed confessions) is a beautiful comfort for the afflicted. So often we think that our pain is arbitrary and serves no purpose, its hard to find any hope.
The other example and the greater of the two would be Jesus. In the book of Acts, the disciples pray a beautiful prayer that praises God for his sovereignty. Acts 4:24-30 (beautiful prayer) Within that prayer they also pray these words “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” This is huge! All the evil that was done to Christ was part of God’s plan and that he “predestined to take place.” Now, we shouldn’t assume that this was just one of a few things that God ordained, but that he works “all things for good.” We move from the greater to the lesser in that if God did not spare his OWN son, and it was for our good, how much more can we trust him as a good father who provides for his children! He has already given us his very best in Jesus! And at great cost to himself, and by the means of evil men, carrying out their evil desires and yet not knowing it was all part of God’s plan.
Now this does not answer the specific “why” to the tragedies we experience, but we can be confident in God’s love. While I don’t know why a tragedy happened, I DO know that its NOT because God doesn’t love me, because he came and entered our human pain in the person of Jesus and died to demonstrate that love. So while God does not commit any evil, he does have a purpose for it and we have to affirm, based on what we know of him in Scripture, that he does “give us this tragedy” and that he does not merely turn something into good (as if he is responding or adjusting to new knowledge) but that he has reasons (ones we may never know of – we aren’t promised an answer) for ordaining that trials occur to us.
That is why, while I love and agree with most of your suggested list of things we could say, I don’t think we can rightfully say “this shouldn’t have happened.” We can’t put ourselves in God’s place or have him answer to us. He could rightfully say to me so often what he said to Job, “who are you oh man?” When we say this or that shouldn’t have happened, whether we mean it or not, we are really saying God has no right… or, he did something wrong in allowing or ordaining this event.
I pray my words are read with as much grace as you gave when you wrote this article! You were incredibly patient with those who said some of those hurtful things. Again, I don’t mean by all of this that one should casually say “just trust God, he has a plan.” Sometimes truth can be said at wrong times and in the wrong way. But over time, as some of those big questions start to surface, we should both allow others to speak truth to us with gentleness and respect and also seek ways that we can comfort others with such truths from God’s Word.
I trust I did not offend in any way. Sorry for the book… and most likely, poor grammar.
Grace and peace to you!
You said this so well, Angie! I am so sorry about the loss of your precious baby. No, nothing can ever replace any child you lose. We understand from our own losses - losing a 6-month pregnancy of twins who didn't separate, almost losing a 16-y.o. son, and then losing a 25-y.o. daughter. Your words speak eloquently to each of us. We, too, continue to grieve after all these yrs, but in a different way now than the immediate pain of loss. God bless you and your family as you travel this journey forward together on a path you never expected. With much love and hugs...
Thank you for sharing your experience in this way, Angie.
In French, we have this proverb or saying that goes,"L'enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions," that could probably be translated as, "Hell is paved [over] with good intentions." People may mean well, but some comments still hurt when you're on the receiving end.
Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry for your loss. I see that you miss your daughter very much, and I pray God will comfort you and guard your heart in Christ Jesus with His daily, hourly, moment by moment peace.
So true! Grief is a lifelong journey, but I'm so thankful for the hope we have in Jesus...wouldn't be able to get through the day without it, that's for sure!
Angie...........just some words from a friend in Illinois. I was ony 1 year old when my 10 year old brother fell from a tree and died a week later. I was only 2, when my 4 day-old brother died because of a mistake that a visiting-nurse made on him. We lost a son who died from esophageal cancer at the age of 35. My daughter-in-law, wrote a very similar article that you just wrote. You are so on the same page ! Because of my young age at the time of my 2 brothers death, I did not realize the impact my parents had going though this experience of losing 2 sons at an early age, and one son at the age of 40. My mother told me that they were blessed with a very good pastor at the time who knew how to associate sorrow at the time these events happened. He turned out to be my parents best friend ! May God give you His PEACE ! Dean Koldenhoven
Thanks for sharing this, Angie. Such wise and practical advice.
Thank you for sharing a deeply felt issue. May God continue to give you help in your sorrow. Even though it diminishes over the years, it will never go away! My wife and I lost our son 40 years ago and I still weep when I read articles and stories dealing with the loss of a son or daughter. I weep for you but I glory in the hope that Jesus has made it possible for all of us and our children to be together for all eternity! What a Savior!
Powerful, helpful and honest. Thank you for sharing!
What a helpful and thoughtful article, Angie. I hope this helps everyone who is experiencing heartache and who wonders how best to minister meaningfully to those experiencing heartache.
Thank you for writing this, Angie.
Just said a prayer for you, Dirk. May God give you peace!
The sample job description for Pastor/Director of Faith Formation can be found here. Thanks!
I need serious prayer for the condition of my soul. I know that I’ve turned from God time and time again. I prayed for salvation as a child and grew up in the church.. but not knowing my bible having obsessive compulsive disorder young (which literally everyone in my mothers family had) and the fear of man let me into heavy heavy sin. I’m devoting myself to the truths of scripture. My long time abusers convinced me that God had rejected me and that I was awful. Please pray I have the faith and ability to repent and turn from sin. My most serious condition is having pet sins while feeling calloused with them. Please please pray for my standing before God. For God to hear my prayers and change my heart.
Pray for LEMA Institute, a post GED level school for training pastors in Africa, for God's financial provision to fully renovate its site in Mbaitoli of Eastern Nigeria.
Thanks Bill for highlighting these misunderstandings and bringing some clarity to our discussion. The Mormon-Muslim comparison is interesting.
Pray for Ideal Park CRC in Wyoming, Mi. Our pastor will be retiring in September, and we will be searching to find someone appropriate to lead our small congregation. Pray that God will present the right person, and that we will follow His will.
Very interesting an important work. Recently, in dealing with some old historical records, an archivist told me that there may some doubt about whether digital records could be kept 500 years. No one seemed to know. The Dead Sea scrolls lasted some 2500 years (I think) and are still kept in a "safe place".
Is this something we need to be concerned about? Just wondering!