Jeremiah 9:23-24 (MSG)
“Don’t let the wise brag of their wisdom.
Don’t let heroes brag of their exploits.
Don’t let the rich brag of their riches.
If you brag, brag of this and this only:
That you understand and know me.
I’m God, and I act in loyal love.
I do what’s right and set things right and fair,
and delight in those who do the same things.
These are my trademarks.”
Lamentations 3:19-33New International Version (NIV)
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
One of my all time favorite texts is Lamentations 3 : 19-33. I like the whole chapter, but since one has to stop somewhere, vs. 33 is as good a place as any.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for this. My son has Usher Syndrome, so in addition to already being hard of hearing and possibly going deaf, he will continue to lose functional vision until he is also blind due to retinitis pigmentosa.
There is so much hope out there for DeafBlindness in the form of "success stories" that showcase what a person can DO with their disability. There is not enough out there that reminds us, all of us, that our primary identity shouldn't be in what we DO but instead in whose we are.
A parent is one thing, and I'll try to lead as God allows, but I so hope that when he's in middle school my son has someone else, someone like you did, to guide him as the darker days come (or the days grow darker sooner, as is the case with RP). I hope he has someone to point him like a beacon to the One on whom all our identities should rest -- so that he can do as we all should do and NOT discern what he "can do" but RATHER what God would have him do.
Thank you for sharing.
As a 62 year old nursery volunteer, I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know the youngest people of my church because those children's parents bring their children to nursery. I have some lasting relationships with some of these kids because they were in nursery when I was and because I spent a couple years leading ages 2-3 Sunday School.
We need to think of nursery as a "win-win-win" scenario -- because it is.
Thanks, Sam, for a thoughtful and perceptive take on Job. Our need to "trust in God’s goodness even though all the current evidence was suggesting otherwise" is something that we need to keep hearing -- and keep reminding each other.... Bless you for doing so.
Craig -- I just LOVE your passion and succinct messaging! I couldn't agree more! It's the sharing of our faith, our personal stories, our willingness to be vulnerable, our heart for others, and the connecting we do that turns us into a church! It's how we reflect Christ! Those are all the things HE TAUGHT us! Yes, it is certainly IN the mix, and some of the sessions will focus on this more than others, but I couldn't agree more! We, as a team, will go back, with your comments in mind, and revisit the sessions to make sure this will be an emphasis! I hope you will join us and encourage such behavior as well!
God wants nothing more than for us to represent HIM well in His church! Praying we can do this as we plan, as we execute, and as we prepare to gather together. Our prayer is that we can all humble ourselves to each other and BE CHRIST to others as well. Thank you for your heart and message to chew on! ~Paula
I'm sure that this will be included somewhere in this mix but it needs to be talked about specifically, that It's All About Relationships! We are so good at developing programs, ministries, and even strategies but it all comes down to relationships. What should be a natural and expected aspect of life has been thrown by the wayside. The older generation no longer knows the children and vice-versa. We skitter around from one practice, one meeting, one game, etc. We send out emails, texts, Facebook messages and consider that our social interaction. Meanwhile I hear complaints about how church used to be our family and how we used to invite people over but not any more. I don't care what you are talking about (evangelism, worship, Bible studies, outreach, etc.) it is all about developing and growing relationships and we need to stop for a moment and talk about how we can nurture that. When I look at my life it was relationships that grew my faith the most and when I hear from those who don't attend church anymore the repeated response is that they don't feel connected. It doesn't have to do with style of worship, lack of ministries, or anything else. It is simply because we don't take time to build relationships. Like I said, I expect and hope that this will be included is some of what has been listed but it can't be a little spice that we throw into the mix. It is the whole recipe.
The verses that I am holding on to is : "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he has put everything under his feet. Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." (1 Corinthians 15: 24-28)
In light of God's victory, political victories lose their appeal and importance.
I am privileged to be engaged in God's kingdom and victory by his grace.
Dan -- Thanks for your heart and passion for those that might have areas of accessibility issues. We have been working closely with Mark Stephenson and his team! Our goal is that this event will be barrier free and that we can encourage the churches to have the same goal. We will have specific breakout sessions on ideas/perspectives/reasons for creating environments for ALL of God's people. We will also have sessions on inclusive behaviors and messaging that would invite and embrace those that are different than us as well... not just physical, emotional, and accessibility conditions. We are hoping to change the lens by which we see things from how can we help them to possibly how can they help us... be better! Thanks for the reminder, the passion, and the heart! God is certainly smiling!
And... I will take a look at the language of our breakout sessions to make sure we are communicating clearly what each session will cover! Perhaps when the website goes live, the "summary" of each session will give a better idea of the content you'll find in the session.
Thanks again Dan! Look forward to seeing you at Inspire 2017! ~Paula
Terry -- Thanks for your thoughts! YES! We are hoping for lots of gathering for churches/leaders/volunteers to share stories. We have a few breakout sessions designed to ignite those conversations. However, we are hoping that ALL the sessions (no matter what the topic) ignite conversations with the attendees. We are praying for new relationships to be birthed, new partnerships to form, new ideas to bubble up, and LOTS of mutual support for ministries happening in very different areas. I hope you'll come and help spark those conversations. With 2000 attendees planned, we are not going to be able to BUILD those small groups, but we are creating time and space for them to pop up!
Conversation, energy, and the Spirit of God will be driving this event! We're anxious to see God at work! I hope you are planning to come and join in! In the meantime, please continue to pray -- for the attendees, the presenters/facilitators, and the continued planning. We all want to honor GOD at this event! ~Paula
Angela -- Love... that you are looking for this! We too, have thought this to be a vital part of Inspire 2017! Although we are not using a specific book to drive the sessions, we have a number of sessions planned for reminding us of our connection with God! We have a session on discernment of the Holy Spirit's call, one on healthy habits of connecting with God, and another planned to help folks find renewal with God when you are tired and worn. In addition, we will have a prayer room, a specific prayer walk, and lots of sticky spaces to have partners in ministry pour into each other WITH God!
Thanks for your interest in conversations at Inspire 2017! Please continue to pray -- for the planning, for the presenters/facilitators, and for the attendees as they prepare to come! ~Paula
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
I have a hard time picking just one or a few of the verses in this Psalm. I have been drawn to it all through 2016, and looking forward to 2017 it also gives me hope for the future. It is such a reassurance of God being beside us all the way - "an ever present help" - even when "nations are in uproar." The image of the "river whose streams make glad the city of God" is such a peace-giving image for me. It brings to mind the phrase "there is a balm in Gilead," and reminds me of God's healing power. And, of course, how good it is to "be still and know that [he is] God."
I do not see anything in the plans that highlights the inclusion and belonging of people with disabilities. With 1 in 5 households including someone who lives with a disabling condition, and with the CRc having historically led the way in prioritizing persons with disabilities, this is suprising. I would recommend the following:
- Joint presentations by Mark Stephenson and Terry DeYoung what their office does for CRC churches
- Presentation on the importance of including people with disabilities
- Discussion/panel/presentation on starting a disability team in your church
Glad to hear that this pastor helped you "see the light." I was half expecting to read another story of abuse, but no. This pastor encouraged the author. I just read about the five ways in which pets bless us. Ever considered getting a seeing-eye dog?
How about having a session where everyone gathers in small groups of churches (a half-dozen or so) to tell stories, share ministry ideas, and pray for one another?
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
One time when I felt I was in over my head the Lord gave me this verse through a devotional on my phone. It was just the encouragement I needed and will lean on it in the year to come.
Psalm 16:8...... I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken....
It's the same as last year.- Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. That says it all - to the glory of God.
I looked through your list of topics and almost all of them are about DOING something in the kingdom of God. Not necessarily wrong but what about learning to listen with discernment to what God is doing in the church and following what he is up to. We are using the book "Pursuing God's Will" by Ruth Haley Barton as the basis for spiritual practices that build up leadership discernment. More information about personal spiritual practices are found in Soul Leadership and Sacred Rythms. I believe learning to be in God's presence and being transformed into the image of Christ for the sake of others is crucial for healthy leadership that discerns where God is at work and follows Him there. What about some workshops on spiritual practices like silence and solitude, scripture reading for transformation not information, retreats, fasting, prayer, listening to consolation and desolation to name a few.
You can find a few more at www.edwinwalhout.com; on the book of Revelation, or the Psalms, or a few theological topics.
Thank you Ken. You definitely offer a lot of "food" for thought. My assumption would be not to meet in people's homes, but in a facility owned by someone in the community with whom we can build a ministry partnership.
My biggest concern is that the building can be seen as a "safe" place for the congregation, but viewed as a "members only" club by folks in the community. If we are to be seen as missional, and connected to the community, I think we offer some level of vulnerability by being willing to meet in another's "space".
In my humble opinion, "church" is not primarily about a worship gathering or a Bible study, but rather the people serving the community, being Christ's hands, feet, ears, heart, and at times His voice. In order for that to happen we need to be intentional about engaging our community.
"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)
This verse gives me hope because it reminds me that no matter what we face in this world, Jesus Christ reigns now and forever. I know that this world, my life, and the lives of those around me are held firmly in His hand. Therefore I enter 2017 (a year of unknowns) with absolute confidence in Him.
I like the idea of "House Church". As a missionary with CRWM for 20 years in Mexico, this is where we often began: Sometimes in the back yard under a tree for shade: but there were certain disadvantages: If you hold it consistently at the same place, what do you do when they need to leave for whatever reason for a few weeks or a month: sure, you tell everyone that normally attends where the next service will be: but not everyone has the space for a growing house church: sure, develop leaders and hold multiple services in more homes as needed: that's the goal: eventually home groups will either want to join a larger group of worshippers where there are more options available for children's ministries, or for youth ministries or for the worship experience with larger groups, good music, liturgical experiences like baptisms and Christmas programs etc. Home worship and small group experience is a great way to get started or to reach the unbelieving neighbor. But sooner or later the group itself will be asking, "where can we meet where there is more space to accommodate our growing need for "Sunday School rooms", for a vacation Bible School program, for ceremonies like weddings, baptisms, and funerals?" The host may eventually realize that their home is no longer their home: it becomes everyone else's space: people will assume that the bedroom can be used for a class, or that refreshments for the kids can be taken from the fridge: and you have no control over perceptions of how well a host welcomes or resents the intrusion of everyone taking over their space. We have had people say to us, "we want to attend your worship service but we won't go into that home: her husband or her unbelieving family that lives with the host have said inappropriate things or behaved rudely towards me or my children." Some just don't like the idea of continually entering in someone else's private space as if it was a public space: because there is always the possibility "that my turn will come soon and I don't know if I want people in my home." Some are too embarrassed to let everyone see how they live.
When you have to "rent" for the moment, or share the worship space with another congregation in order to make more use of the same facilities, there is always tension over use or abuse of materials shared, space shared, sound equipment or musical instruments shared, etc. or if you have to move in, set up, take down and clean up after every event, yes things break down or wear out quicker, including the people you count on to help do the work. I've been there too.
So there are benefits to pooling resources and owning property for the purpose of public worship and providing the options large congregations can provide when it comes to ministry. I didn't even point out the limitations for handicapped or those in wheel chairs and those who need walkers in order to be mobile: House churches are less likely to be "handicapped accessible" unless they have someone with those needs living there. What a blessing to have a church facility that is accessible to be able to host "friendship" or other events that are a delight for all to attend: for events like baptisms, funerals, weddings, Christmas and Easter programs, etc.
Pastor Ken Vanderploeg
Thank you for your kind words.
"But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength..." (2 Timothy 4:17)
Merry Christmas Bonnie. May God bless you in your work. Thank you for your ministry among us.
In reply to Bonnie Nicholas about the word "rape" stating the " all rape is criminal." I talked with the Deputy Chief of my City and asked him about the correct wording for "rape." Being that we don't talk about this subject very often, I thought I would be educated !
He replied; With a weapon- -aggravated criminal sexual assault
Without a weapon- - sexual assault
Illinois does not use the term of rape..
I believe that when talking about a sensitive subject like "abortion" we should try to be thinking on how the law frames the situation, and also on how the medical profession chooses their words. The layman's term, miscarriage is used when a woman delivers a nonviable fetus. The short, medical term is; "she aborted." Now, if someone retells that event, and states that Ms. or Mrs. X had an "abortion", rather than say the medical, "she aborted", one could see how this event could have a damaging effect to Ms or Mrs. X life !
I think that when discussing this subject, "abortion", we should have a short personal prayer to choose our words properly.I know I need to say that prayer ! I am pleased that the CRC is openly discussing many issues in its Network News ! Please continue this practice !
Thank you for your comments, Larry and for sharing the anecdotal story.
However, my question goes a little deeper than simply the logistics of hosting a weekly worship gathering. I asked if there are those who have "intentionally" chosen not to have a building. The intention is to focus ministry energy in the community in a more expeditionary manner. The intention is to purposely find a kingdom partner in the community with whom the church can serve in exchange for meeting space when it is needed. The service would be to incorporate the people from the community organization into the worship gathering. For example, here in ABQ we have a number of special needs folks who worship with us each week. I wonder if we chose to focus our ministry and even worship gatherings to serve that population's needs; meeting in their space. Then also using their facility for space to develop disciples within the serving congregation as well as the population served.
The intention is to be wholly "organic"; a living body integrated fully into our community.
I am not sure this model of ministry will work everywhere, and I am not even certain this is the model that everyone should follow. I only wonder what it might look like for those who have been called to intentionally partner in this manner with their local community?
Thanks again, and I invite any further comments you may have.
p.s. I am almost certain that this model will require the "pastor" to find bivocational employment.
I have always been drawn to the "house church" of the NT. The idea you present, a church without a building, is attractive and resembles that idea.
However, there are practical concerns that make it less attractive. My brother belonged to such a church. Over some years they met in various places, until they finally bought a place of their own. Why? Well, he was in charge of sound setup. He and the other sound people, and the computer people, came to where "church" was meeting 1-1/2 hours before worship to set up and then test everything. Every Sunday. After worship they tore everything down and carted the equipment to store in a trailer. Stuff broke. Too much wear and tear. After time, the people on the setup team "burnt out" and quit.
This is one anecdote of personal experience. I guess if one has a large enough church to rotate people, burnout might not be a problem. But a church that large has it's own problems. Another possibility is to have simple worship without these additions. But most churches (and guests?) seem to want technology.
Is this a case of a great idea that doesn't work well in practice?
Rev. Larry Lobdell Jr
Thanks for your comments, Beth. I added the note about the study in JAMA Psychiatry because it got quite a bit of news last week. Like you, it contradicts most of my experiences with post-abortive men and women.
The summary conclusion of the study sited (involving over 900 women over a five year period) compared women with unwanted pregnancies who were denied an abortion, with those who had an abortion. The summary conclusion, says, "In this study, compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes. Psychological well-being improved over time so that both groups of women eventually converged. These findings do not support policies that restrict women’s access to abortion on the basis that abortion harms women’s mental health."
That being said, abortion affects women differently. A previous non-CRC congregation that I attended for over a year offered a post-abortion support group as part of its ministry offerings - a welcoming announcement was listed in the bulletin every week. This seems to me to be a valuable ministry, offering a safe space to those who need to explore with others, others who understand because they've been there, the intense feelings that surround their decision. It was wonderful to be part of a church that so powerfully, and in so many ways, sent the message that we are all sinners, saved only by God's grace. In that kind of environment, difficult issues such as this could be freely acknowledged.
PS - I'm a strong believer in support groups, for all kinds of issues and addictions, not just abortion. There's a strong connection to discipleship in support groups within a congregational setting, and I believe we have a lot to learn. How can we learn to support one another in our state of fallenness and grace?
I agree the church does need to talk about abortion. I am curious about this statement in the article "Just this week, a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry asserts that having an abortion is not detrimental to the mental health of a woman." Is the author or the OSJ agreeing with that statement? AAPLOG (The American Association of ProLife OBGYNs) has many professional position papers that would argue to the contrary, which I happen to agree with. I have the privilege of working with women making pregnancy decisions. I have seen some of the emotional trauma abortion has caused men and women. When talking about abortion Christ's love, forgiveness and grace must always season the conversation.
Thanks for this account, Dean. Like Shannon said, we too often make abortion about an issue rather than real people.
In answer to your question about how to advise in a case like this, I would likely encourage that as soon as the rape kit was complete the hospital should be asked to immediately perform an emergency D&C. Not all will agree, but I would see this morally as preventing pregnancy, akin to taking the pill, rather than terminating a pregnancy.
I had to search for the link. This is the one I suggested for the OSJ abortion page: http://abortionprocedures.com/
Unlike too many anti-abortion sites, I found this one to be medically accurate without being too graphic and without hysterical screeds against women who get abortions. It clearly explains the four types of procedure, and at which stages of pregnancy they are used.
Thank you for sharing this story. Too often our conversations about abortion are about an "issue" and not real people, made in the image of God, who have been victimized.
Seems we also need to talk about rape. Most rape happens by someone who is known; and all rape is criminal. There is no criminal vs. non-criminal distinction for rape (even though the vast majority of cases do not end in the criminal justice system).
For what it is worth.............I was fortunate enough to have friends who could openly discuss "abortion." In those discussions I gave an example of ..."What would you do ?"
A woman discovered that she needed to go up to the grocery store to get some food for the next day's lunches for her family. It is about 9:00pm, it is dark, when she parks her vehicle in the parking lot and goes into the store to buy her groceries. She comes out and starts to put her groceries into her car when she is grabbed by men who had parked next to her in a van, and throw her into their van and close the door.
There were 5 men in the van and they all took turns raping her while having a knife held against her throat to keep her from yelling out for help.This is known as a criminal rape !
After they all took their turn they threw her out on the parking lot pavement and took off in their van.
Someone spotted her laying there and went to her aid. They immediately called the police and an ambulance. They took her to the hospital to have her treated for the rape, and checked her out for injuries to her body.
NOW...because this woman was in her fertile stage, she could have gotten pregnant by anyone of the 5 men that raped her !
If she takes a RU 486 pill immediately and another pill 8 hours later, she most likely would NOT get pregnant.The doctors would also have to check her out for any diseases she may now have from the 5 rapists. If she don't take the pill, she could have a baby with a terrible disease, besides the mental anguish she most likely will need professional mental care and counseling.
This is the question; Do you consider the treatment the woman had from the doctors a form of an "abortion" or the proper physical and mental treatment she should have ? Maybe the word "abortion" should not be used in such a case, For the victim's sake it should be called a criminal assault. The word "abortion" is damaging enough if used in an unexplained manner.
YOU make the CALL !
Rod, thank you for sharing this counter-cultural approach! What an incredible gift it must be for everyone in your church to be given time to spend time with family, friends and most of all God. I think the candlelight service is also a powerful tradition and it is something I personally look forward to each year.
I'm curious about what the link was, and why it wasn't posted. Also wondering why you didn't try to post it here.
I believe that any discussion of abortion needs to include the underlying reasons that would lead a woman to make such a decision. I like to refer folks to feminists for life. Perhaps if we lived in a perfect world, there would be no need for abortion; we're not in heaven yet. Personally, I would like to see abortion become very rare, and I'm happy to work toward that end.
As this piece states, "We owe it to everyone to educate each other about reproduction and abortion. We also need to create spaces in our ministries to extend the love, mercy, and grace that we have in Christ." This is why this piece concludes with a request for recommended resources that speak the truth with mercy and grace.
Thank you for this post. It helpfully reminds us of the various pressures women with unplanned pregnancies face.
You said of women seeking abortion counseling that "few knew the facts about what having an abortion entails." Yet, when I sent a link giving a clinically accurate, non-graphic description of what happens during different abortion procedures with a suggestion it be posted for information on the OSJ abortion page it was rejected. If you didn't like that one, perhaps you could find another. As you said about women seeking an abortion, "They need education, resources and support."
The Village declares December to be 'Fallow Month' and it is when we close down all meetings and gatherings except for Sunday worship services which we also scale back. We invite people to use the time to spend with family and friends and most of all with God. It is a rich and restful time for all and rejuvenates us for the new year. We have a small candlelight service where we read Scripture and sing carols the Sunday before Christmas. It is a wonderful tradition.
Thanks much, Katie. Adoption is a blessed thing and God's Providence is a puzzling, yet wondrous thing. You have capture a Light-filled bit of the Wonder allowing the mysterious puzzlement to continue. That is necessary and good, I think, because if we think we can "get" God, well, that's blasphemy. But if we can thank God without trying to get God, we have the best of both worlds and God is Lord of all worlds.
I wonder if a name change for the site might be in order? Assuming the Holy Spirit is working by answering the prayers offered over 6 years....could we call the site "Praying for continued renewal in the CRC"?
It would also have the benefit of leaving a more positive than negative impression....
There's some pretty good stuff in there.
Margaret Schuurmans I have been teaching Sunday School for many years. We recently started DWELL and it is going not too badly. I find that it is very much like the LIFE curriculum. We used Walk with Me and Kid Connection. I found that Kid Connection was very juvenile. It did not suit our age group at all. Walk with Me was ok, but I was told that it was being discontinued. Hope this is helpful.
Thanks Shannon for a thoughtful article. We do need to talk about abortion. And we also need to remember that we are called to love one another, including people who face an unwanted pregnancy. We live in a very, very broken world where children are not always valued or loved as they deserve; where the amazing ability of women to bear new life is not always celebrated as the miracle that it is; where men don't always take their share of responsibility for the children that they have fathered; and where sexual violence has reached almost epidemic proportions; and this list could go on... Abortion is wrong; so are many aspects of this broken world that lead up to abortion. How do we talk about abortion, and also reflect the love and compassion of our Savior.
Tom, thanks for sharing! What a creative and generous church. I love that your church allows the nearby public school to use church space for free and also that you have noticed a shift in housing and have responded to that specific need. But perhaps my favorite thing you shared is that you have a disco ball in the sanctuary that 'helps blow the lid off in praise of our incarnate King.' LOVE that image!