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Gratitude somehow builds up in us during the ordinary and good times of life so as to make us less likely to be defeated when the bottom falls out on us in this or that area of life. 

July 26, 2017 0 0 comments
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“There’s no single way to do intergenerational engagement. There’s no hard and fast rule or one silver bullet. It’s all about experimentation and failure, even,” says Amanda Bakale, a pastor at Community CRC in Kitchener, ON. 

July 24, 2017 1 0 comments
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The fine folks at Illustrated Children's Ministry have just posted a fabulous resource to share with the families in your church. It's a list of  5 questions to ask your kids (and each other!) this summer. 

July 12, 2017 1 0 comments
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I keep a growing list about why seminary education is more than just helpful—it is vital for church leaders and the church. Here are three of my top reasons for attending seminary. 

July 7, 2017 1 1 comments
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Ministry leaders spend hours planning and searching for creative ideas and resources. If you're one of those leaders, Faith Formation Ministries is here to help! 

June 29, 2017 0 0 comments
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I came into gardening late in life and still struggle with differentiating between annuals and perennials. Perhaps my confusion has to do with seeming vitality of both plants and the sad demise of the annuals. 

June 28, 2017 1 0 comments
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I'm looking to purchase a new compact Bible and wonder what version most CRC pastors are using. I see the TNIV, ESV, and NLT have all been approved in the last 11 years. 

June 27, 2017 0 1 comments
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Perhaps the most common reason (of the many reasons) people come to religion is control. But God is not tamable, not even through our religious programs and practices. 

June 21, 2017 1 0 comments
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Churches are doing many creative things to make a person’s profession of faith a day to remember. Faith Formation Ministries has gathered dozens of those ideas in the Professing Our Faith online toolkit.

June 16, 2017 0 0 comments
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We are excited to introduce to you one of the newest members of our Faith Formation Ministries team: Trudy Ash. Trudy serves as a Regional Catalyzer in California.

June 15, 2017 0 0 comments
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Discover Your Gifts by Alvin J. VanderGriend has helped thousands of CRC members learn more about the way God made them and how they can use their gifts. And now, for the first time, taking the spiritual gifts inventory is free!

June 14, 2017 0 0 comments
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We are excited to introduce to you one of the newest members of our Faith Formation Ministries team: Ron Chu. Ron serves as a Regional Catalyzer in California.

June 13, 2017 2 0 comments
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We are excited to introduce to you the newest member of our Faith Formation Ministries team: Kristen Rietkerk. Kristen serves as a Regional Catalyzer in California.

June 9, 2017 2 0 comments
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Whoever designed the first Cracker Barrel restaurant was a genius. Everything in that place screams, "Welcome, we’ve been expecting you!" We are invited to come in and rest our travel worn bones for awhile.

June 9, 2017 1 0 comments
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In the midst of Family Jeopardy, photo scavenger hunts, and watching kids connect with extended family members, we took time to intentionally talk about how God has been with us and faithful to his promises.

June 5, 2017 1 0 comments
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It can be tempting to fill volunteer spots and type schedules over the summer. But I've found that taking time to recalibrate can help us discover new ways of doing things and get excited for the year ahead. 

May 30, 2017 1 0 comments
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I’ll never forget the professor who read Psalm 13 and tied it to his lifelong struggle with depression. The sanctuary was so quiet as he spoke that it seemed like everyone was blessed in glimpsing the blessings he received from this short but powerful Psalm.

May 24, 2017 3 1 comments
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Family devotions can be a challenge! The book Teach Us to Pray by Lora Copley and Elizabeth Vander Haagen offers a solution by using short, child-friendly readings that follow the liturgical year.

May 16, 2017 1 0 comments
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Death brings things into perspective. The things you whine about and worry about don’t seem that big when you need a new kidney to live another day. The color of the carpet doesn't matter. 

May 11, 2017 1 0 comments
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It doesn’t seem right when one of our churches can’t afford to fully use what is, essentially, their curriculum

May 9, 2017 1 2 comments
Q&A

I am taking a doctrine and theology class and some of the teachings are raising questions in my reformed faith. I'm wondering, at what do point do we receive the Holy Spirit and what is the primary purpose of the Spirit?

May 7, 2017 0 4 comments
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I am looking for podcasts to listen to on Christian living, encouragement, etc. Do you have any recommendations? 

May 5, 2017 1 5 comments
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Jesus didn’t immediately tell Martha he was about to raise her brother from the dead. Martha had to live in the space of death and heartache for a little while longer, and perhaps we may have to as well.

May 4, 2017 1 0 comments
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Whatever else Easter means, it does not mean people stop dying. The Thessalonians knew what we still know: namely, the stark and stubborn fact of death in our world poses a most difficult challenge to our faith.

April 19, 2017 2 0 comments
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Country singer icon and Christian Johnny Cash was a prolific poet. Cash was not a bad theologian either. He bore it all for me...and you...

April 12, 2017 1 1 comments

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Before seminary I was doing ministry in a non-denominational, organic, young and hip group with zero budget and no ties to a building. I was living the dream that a lot of anti-seminary, anti-denominational, anti-institutional seminarians and pastors think they want. And there were some great things about it - but it wasn't nearly the dream that people like to think. I was so thankful when God called me to attend CTS! I came in with the attitude of wanting to get to know God better and understand His community of children - the Church. I was seeking for a greater filling with Christ, and I found that. The time I spent in seminary were some of the best years of my life, digging deeper into my relationships with God and with His Church everyday. I got to sit at the feet of people, past and present, who have been recognized as deeply knowledgeable, passionate, and wise about God. Yes, there is an academic structure and rigor to it all, but every relationship comes to a point where it takes an organized and intentional effort to grow. When I hear someone talk down about the importance of a seminary education I end up wondering how serious they really are developing their relationship with Jesus.

I cannot speak for every CRC pastor, but I've always used the New International Version. For most of my life it was the 1984 NIV, but a few years back I purchased the 2011 NIV. While I consult many other versions, the Bible I use for sermon preparation, visiting, and personal devotions is the 2011 NIV. Hope this helps . . .

Great post, Syd.  As to your question, "how to encourage" such a perspective/attitude, a think a key is to persuade that having a contrary perspective or appreciation is absolutely, unqualifiedly OK, even good.  That's only a key of course, but without it, folks tend to see themselves as compelled to act as if they think/feel the same (that they like rap when they don't, or that they believe food stamps shouldn't be increased when they don't think that), or choose the route of being divisive.  

If we lie about our honest differences to keep community, we ultimately will not keep community.  Nor will we learn, as Mr. Wellstone has, how to "deal with" those differences and how to discern priorities of importance.

Probably the largest collection of Christian radio programs and podcasts can be found on Crosswalk.com, though they will tend to be the mainstream sorts of programs you'd hear on Christian radio. Another resource might be iDisciple.  But neither of those would likely have much for independent or start-up podcasts. 

And as Karen mentions, we at ReFrame Media have three regular audio programs: Groundwork, Today devotional, and Kids Corner!

 

-Steven Koster

This is provided by the CRCNA. But if the RCA would like to offer something similar to their churches, we'd certainly be open to exploring it.

Is this assistance program also available for RCA churches?

Thanks!

Just came across another new podcast suggestion while reading this post on The Twelve. The podcast, called Rewrite Radio, is produced by the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing’s Creative Director Jon Brown and hosted by the CCFW’s managing director Lisa Ann Cockrel. Per the description, the podcast showcases sessions from past Festivals, along with new conversations to frame the sessions’ content. 

I highly recommend "On Being" with Krista Tippett. I believe she herself is a Christian, and definitely brought up Christian, but she discusses faith and life with people of other faiths, too. Incredibly insightful, throught-provoking, and for me life-changing: https://onbeing.org/

Also as a side note Alex, you mentioned when in one's life does this take place. Truth be told, we may not be aware of or know when this takes place. For example, there is a good chance (and many theologians believe this) that the Holy Spirit could be given in the womb as in the case of the baby in the womb of Elizabeth when she was greeted by Mary who was pregnant with Jesus at the time. (see Luke 1:39 and on) In such a case the baby who would have been regenerate by the Holy Spirit would rightfully respond in faith when he would grow to understand and first hear the gospel (as faith comes by hearing of the Word.) For others, this may take place later in life as an adult who never grew up trusting in Jesus, and upon hearing the Word of God, they respond in faith because at some point prior to that (we don't know when/could happen immediately prior) such a person's heart had been changed from a dead heart of stone to a heart of flesh, made alive by the power of God to see, hear and respond in faith. Does that make sense?

Hey Alex,

Good questions to be asking! I grew up in a different tradition and was taught a few things that I later found were very much less than biblical. Regardless of the label "Reformed" or not (which is also a nuanced term depending on who you speak to) our goal should be to define according to the standard of God's Word.

Biblically understood, one receives the Holy Spirit by an act of God's grace and not as a response to our faith. The tradition I grew up in sadly reversed this order and made it seem as though the new birth (being born again) takes place once you repent and believe. However, biblically understood (read John 3 for example which talks about the new birth) we are dead in our trespasses and sins and are not capable of such things and need to be made alive to the things of God and thus are given the Holy Spirit as a gracious gift of God's choosing according to nothing more than His good pleasure. What takes place as a result of the new birth are also gifts: repentance and faith.

While the word is not found in the bible, historically theologians have called this "regeneration," another term for being born again, or made alive by God's Spirit.

Hope that helps. Not sure if the second question can be narrowed down to one primary role that the Holy Spirit does within the role of the Triune God. He leads us in all truth, empowers for gospel ministry, glorifies the Son and proceeds from the Father and the Son and countless other things.

Eric

I just heard that Shauna Niequist launched a podcast. I haven't listened to the first episode but the description looks good: 

Best-selling author and speaker Shauna Niequist hosts this interview-style podcast featuring personal conversations with leading writers, thinkers and leaders about life, relationships, purpose, family and faith.

Hi Annette, 

That's a great question! I was at a conference for Christian leaders and heard that podcasts continue to gain in popularity. (Wonderful news for those of us who are getting tired of 'screens', right?)

I posed your question to my Faith Formation Ministries team members and they recommended two sites---one is actually hosted by team member Sam Gutierrez from his Granite Spring Church. It's called Curious Church and you can find out more about it here. The other is called Groundwork, Biblical Foundations for Life and it's one of the excellent resources provided by the folks at ReFrame Media. (If you're not familiar with their site, it's worth a look as they have all kinds of encouraging resources on a variety of topics.) 

If I hear of any more recommendations I'll post them here for you.

Do we receive the HS at baptism or our second birth (as in profession of faith and our acceptance of Jesus)? 

Alex, that's a great question and one that I'm glad you're getting the opportunity to wrestle with.  Maybe the first thing that we should look at is defining our terms.    What do you mean when you use the phrase "receive the Holy Spirit"?  There is, shall we say, a lot of freight in that truck.  It's a phrase that not only appears in Scripture but has taken on nuances of meaning from various theological traditions...pentecostalism, etc., as well as specific meanings in more liturgical traditions.  So to unload the truck a bit, what's the particular understanding of that phrase that you're wrestling with?

 

In terms of the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit, that's another important discussion.  I guess off the bat I've been helped by Max Ander's illustration of the spotlights that ring the Washington Monument.  The spotlights do not draw attention to themselves but to the monument.  In the same way the Spirit is "the shy member of the Trinity", tending to draw attention not to himself but to the work and the person of Christ.  Christ says that "he will take what is mine and make it known to you".

Excellent article, Kurt Monroe.  Very well written.... inspiring.  

Thank you so much for sharing, John. The book sounds interesting and insightful. 

Just reading this. My heart breaks for this searing loss. Thank you for sharing. I am deeply encouraged by your testimony. Prayers until you see her again. 

Each year during Holy Week - usually on Good Friday - I read through the book "We Call This Friday Good" - by the late Dr. Howard Hageman.  Hageman, who served as a pastor in the Reformed Church of America and served as president of New Brunswick seminary - writes about each of the 7 words Jesus speaks from the cross.  His writing helps connect me anew with the humanity of Jesus.  Each year, as Holy Week draws near, I find myself eager to again listen and experience anew the deep love of Jesus.

 

Powerful. Thank you for sharing Patiliai. 

Love this! "While Easter is deeply personal, it is also universal" is a statement that really resonates with me. Thanks for sharing. 

Everyone enjoy their "Feast of First Fruits"  (Some call Easter) Service!

Feast of First Fruits = Third Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread = 16th of Nisan, 5777 
This day ends at sunset on 13Apr 2017 (sunset = 7:32 PM ET)

Why is that important?

Jn 19:31

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.

The day before the Sabbath was commonly called the "preparation day" because chores were done on that day to avoid working on God' day of rest. Clearly, we see from Jn 19:31 that Christ was crucified and His body placed in the tomb immediately preceding the Sabbath.

The question to consider is "which Sabbath"?

Most people assume John was speaking of the regular weekly Sabbath day observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. From John' clear statement here, most people assume Jesus died and was buried on Friday-- thus the traditional belief that Jesus was crucified and died on "Good Friday."

But is that true?

Most people have no idea that the Bible speaks of TWO KINDS of Sabbath days-- the normal weekly Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. (Friday Sunset to Saturday Sunset. Not Sunday. Sunday is the first day of the week), and seven ANNUAL Sabbath days, listed in Lev 23 and mentioned in various other passages. These annual Sabbath days could fall on ANY day of the week. Once we understand this we see that "Good Friday -- Easter Sunday" never happened that way!

Notice again in Jn 19:31 that the Sabbath Day is referred to as a "high day". That term was used to differentiate a weekly Sabbath from an annual Sabbath.

So what was this "high day" that immediately followed Jesus' hurried entombment?

Mt 26:19 - 20, Mk 14:16 - 17, Lk 22:13 - 15 tells us the evening before Jesus was condemned and crucified, He kept the Passover. This means that He was crucified on the Passover day. Lev 23, which lists God' festivals, tells us that on the day after the Passover, another festival, known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins. ( Lev 23:5 - 6). This day is the first of God' annual Sabbaths. 

This is the "high day" of which John wrote on Jn 19:31.

Passover began at sundown and ended the following day at sundown when this annual Sabbath began. 

So this is the correct order of events:

Nisan 13 (Tuesday ends at 6 pm sunset. Nisan 14, Wednesday begins at 6 pm sunset and ends just before sunset the next day.)

1. Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples and then arrested later that night.

2. After daybreak, the next day, He was questioned before Pontius Pilate, crucified, then hurriedly entombed just before the next sunset when the "high day", the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread began.

Jesus gives up His spirit approximately the 9th hour which is 3 pm. So Nisan 14 begins at sunset right after Jesus is placed in the sepulcher. 

Computer programs have demonstrated that Nisan 14, 31 A.D. was a Wednesday, not a Friday.

Nisan 14 ends at 6 pm sunset on Thursday. Nisan 15, the "high day", of the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins at 6 pm sunset on Thursday and ends just before sunset on the next day.)

Jesus has now been "in the Earth" for 24 hours. (One day and one night.)

Nisan 15, the "high day" ends at sunset and the weekly Sabbath, Nisan 16 begin at 6 pm Friday and ends just before sunset the next day.

Jesus has now been "in the Earth" for 48 hours. (Two days and Two nights).

Nisan 16 ends at 6 pm Saturday and Nisan 17, "First Fruits", which is the third day of the 7-day feast of Unleavened Bread that begins at 6 pm Sat and ends at sunset the next day.

At sunset, in the last few minutes of Nisan 16, God, the Father resurrects God, the Son from death! Because it was not possible that death could hold him. He has been "in the Earth" for three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17, Acts 2:24) 

1 Wed evening - Thu evening (24 hours)
2 Thu evening - Fri evening (24 hours)
3. Fri evening - Sat evening (24 hours)

So, in conclusion when we understand the difference between God' weekly Sabbaths and His annual Sabbaths any confusion about the days of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection go away.

1 Cor 15:20 -23 

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

So our Lord and Saviour is alive! Risen from the dead and given all honor and all power that can be given. Literally on the day that celebrates the reality that Jesus is the firstfruits of God' Elect!

We crowned him King but the crown was of thorns, he mounted a throne, but it was an unadorned cross, yes it was for my sins that he endured all...

Thanks for sharing.  Growing up my parents were big Johnny Cash fans.  I think I'll use this as our devotional at Easter this year.  

I love the historic hymns that we sing during Holy Week.  One of my favourites is, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" written in 1707. That means that Christians have been singing it at Easter for 310 years!  While Easter is deeply personal (Christ died for me) it is also universal.  I love feeling connected to the church of all times and places during this week.

One of my favorite songs is How Deep the Father's Love for Us by Stuart Townsend. Every time I listen to this song (and especially during Holy Week) I am struck by the line "It was my sin that held Him there..."

During Holy Week I take some time to reflect on the weight of my sin. Looking at my sin really brings me face to face with the magnitude of Jesus' sacrifice. A grace I could never earn. Following this I am filled with a deep gratitude and hope. Praise God for making ALL things new! 

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.

Been wrestling with exactly this over the last few months.  Have taken to calling myself "spiritual coach."  No title, per se.  But that's just fine.

posted in: So, What Do YOU Do?

I can totally relate to this as a pastor/missionary. I am curious though - what titles are you using now as an alternate to pastor in order to open doors to communication - do you have any favorites? Thanks!

posted in: So, What Do YOU Do?

I am curious how this works itself out in the sacraments and especially regarding children? Are children baptized as infants? What about those who have different beliefs in adult baptism? And are children allowed to take communion? Do they need to be baptized? etc. Thanks!

Hi Gillian, 

Did you want to add more in the comments? Let me know if I can help. 

Thanks!

Staci

posted in: Faith as Power?

k

posted in: Faith as Power?

Thank-you Staci, I'll check it out.

 

posted in: Study Bible Apps?

Andrew MacLeod, Andrew...I was a friend to Angus and Peg MacLeod. I met Farquar while we were at Mac's house in Evergreen Park Il. In fact their father was also there. Where does Andrew fit into this ancestry? Just curious !....Dean Koldenhoven

deankoldenhoven@yahoo.com

posted in: Study Bible Apps?

I've heard really good things about the Read Scripture app

posted in: Study Bible Apps?

In previous years I have given up various things (i.e. pop) for Lent but this year I am planning to finish reading through the Gospels (I'm currently in the middle of Luke). Lately I have been struck by how often Jesus talks about the importance of having faith. I'm going to be looking for specific ways this season to 'increase' my faith, maybe through bold giving or by listening more closely to the Spirit's leading. To do this, I'm hoping to be still more often (less media, tv, distractions).

Love these specific examples of how simple it can be to include all ages. Thanks Karen!

What a wonderful (and fun!) example of being an inclusive family of God. Thanks for sharing, Laura.

This post on Belonging leads directly to another toolkit from Faith Formation Ministries:  Building Blocks of Faith! Belonging is one of the Building Blocks and one of our needs for faith to grow.  Connections like this and the interweaving of faith topics are energizing.  Thanks, Karen!

I am encouraged by these verses! Thanks for sharing. 

Sharing a meal, in our homes or churches, can be another one of those 'ordinary means of grace' that seem small but can have real meaningful effects. There's something about sitting around a table together that is nurturing not only in physical ways but spiritually as well.

I couldn't agree more, and this misconstruction about what is important has also become far too much a perspective of the CRCNA at the denominational level.  

Thank you so much! I look forward to listening later today!

Hi Gillian,

I have three resources that I use for sermons during the week.

The first is the teaching of Alistair Begg at: www.truthforlife.org

The second I try not to miss is Charles Price at; www.livingtruth.ca

The third is when I need a boost is Robbie Symons at: http://www.harvestoakville.ca/teaching/sermon-archives/latest-sermon/

Hope this helps and I'd be interested to know how you find any of these helpful.

Blessings.

 

Just a little correction!  Pentecost does not last 50 days... it is one day (the third great feast - along with Christmas and Easter) that kicks off the season called "Ordinary Time"  - Sam Gutierrez.   Sorry about that.  :)

thanks for your comment.  I appreciate it.  :)

posted in: Spiritual Math

Thank you for responding to my article and sharing some of your story.

posted in: Spiritual Math

that's true.  Thank you!

 

posted in: Spiritual Math

You're welcome Hans.  Thank you for your good words.  :)

Thank you Staci - I was honored and blessed by your comment.  

 

Thank you Neil.  :)

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