Resource, Book or Booklet

The new short board book, found (yes, all lowercase letters) by Sally Lloyd-Jones, is a great way to introduce kids to Psalm 23. I can see this book as a great bedtime book for a toddler. 

February 27, 2017 1 0 comments
Blog

If you are looking for a new church, don’t make up your mind before you even begin. Be open to being surprised about where God will use you—even if the building or worship style looks way different than you imagined.

February 27, 2017 4 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Lent is just over a week away (March 1 this year) and I'm curious to hear what churches and individuals in the CRC are doing to mark this season. Let's open up the discussion!

February 21, 2017 1 1 comments
Blog

As pastor of spiritual formation at my church, I have a lot of faith formation "tools" in my toolbox. Some are very specific. Some are weirdly shaped. Here are 7 of my favorite and most powerful tools. 

February 21, 2017 1 0 comments
Q&A

Do you have a favorite Bible app? Willing to share? I'm looking to purchase a study version that would also supply historically accurate maps, as well as cross-reference information. 

February 16, 2017 0 3 comments
Blog

My parents always saw my sister and I as integral parts of their ministry, knowing that we had valuable contributions to make. And yet they did not force us to get involved; they extended an invitation. 

February 14, 2017 2 0 comments
Blog

The day 5-year-old Axel brought his plastic blue guitar to church, he found a place between the drummer and guitarist, and began to play. No one laughed or made a fuss. Axel knows his gifts are valued. 

February 9, 2017 3 2 comments
Blog

My church has approximately 40 different denominational backgrounds represented. In such a diverse group, the tendency is to go "wide," stripping worship to singing and a message. But what if we opted to go "deep" instead?

February 9, 2017 8 2 comments
Blog

Before our church remodeled, the kids felt comfortable in our building and knew the places where they could hang out and socialize. After the remodel, we realized the need to create kid friendly spaces.

February 9, 2017 2 1 comments
Blog

It makes me cringe sometimes—standing in church pews, planting mustard seeds, telling someone I’ll pray for them. And yet, I’m still religious because sometimes my faith needs the religion.

January 31, 2017 3 0 comments
Blog

It takes a lot of courage to become an ordinary Christian in a culture that celebrates the extraordinary. But as Horton argues in his book Ordinary, God most often works through ordinary things to change us.

January 19, 2017 2 2 comments
Blog

It’s easy to remember the big stuff from the past year—things like weddings, or selling a house, or natural disasters. But how can we remember God's goodness in the seemingly mundane moments of life?

January 17, 2017 1 1 comments
Blog

One question I hear from church leaders is: How can we organize our practices, groups, and curriculum for lifelong faith formation? One simple way to organize faith formation is around the liturgical calendar.

January 16, 2017 2 4 comments
Blog

Interested in Intergenerational Faith Formation? That's one reason to attend the InterGenerate conference at the beautiful Lipscomb University in Nashville on June 25-27, 2017. Here are 9 more!

January 12, 2017 2 0 comments
Q&A

I am a faithful member of a local church, but I love listening to sermons online throughout the week. What are some of the churches you listen to online, get fed from? 

January 10, 2017 0 3 comments
Blog

Introducing the newest member of our Faith Formation Ministries team: Sam Gutierrez. Sam serves as a Regional Catalyzer in California. 

January 6, 2017 2 0 comments
Blog

We place a lot of importance on the new year and making all kinds of resolutions. But perhaps we don’t need a new year on a humanly constructed calendar to signal us to seek a more sanctified life. 

January 4, 2017 4 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Training events related to Coffee Break and young adult ministry are coming to Kalamazoo, MI, this January! Learn more and consider attending one of these worthwhile workshops.

January 3, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

The memories that sustain us and the treasures that last are always framed by relationships. In this season, I will never forget the privilege of coming to the bedside of that young mother who died on Christmas morning. 

December 29, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

Ultimately, Job didn’t need an answer to why his suffering was so great. Rather, he needed to know that God was taking his pain, his protest and his petitions seriously.

December 29, 2016 3 6 comments
Discussion Topic

As we look ahead to 2017, what Bible verse (or verses) give you hope for the coming year? 

December 26, 2016 1 12 comments
Blog

"Can you recommend a good devotional?" I suspect this is a question that pastors are frequently asked (I know it's one I receive fairly often). In response, here are 12 resources I've used and would recommend. 

December 22, 2016 2 3 comments
Resource, Article

Women considering abortion need education, resources and support. Here are a couple ideas for ways that your congregation can create spaces for talking about abortion with grace and truth.

December 15, 2016 6 13 comments
Blog

Hope is much more than just a blind wish. It's having a clear expectation and the confidence that what you hope for will come to pass. Like the wise men we too have hope—hope for today and for the future.  

December 7, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

“Niceness” is not a Christian value. Friendliness is a Christian value when it goes beyond niceness and leads to something deeper. In being hospitable, I welcome the guest in such a way that I am changed, too. 

December 5, 2016 3 1 comments

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This is such a wonderful idea, Staci. Thanks for sharing it!

Simple and succinct! A good way to live into a rhythm of formation.  And, I think it's a positive when we connect what we do as a local congregation with the global church in observing and practicing the liturgical church year.  

I watch the Calvin Student Service LOFT Sunday nights. They also livestream and archive the Chapels. Go to https://calvin.edu/studentlife/faith-worship/ to find the links. I am so blessed by seeing college students lead worship and by Pastor Mary Hulst's preaching. Even though it's directed to college students, I always learn or am challenged by something.

My wife and i are almost finished reading through Job once again.  Thank you for the clarity you have provided.  As Paul puts it in Philippians 4: "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!"  It often takes our limited tenacity but the Holy Spirit will provide all that we need and the knowledge that God is sovereign is the abundant Blessing! 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Lou. I have a couple of thoughts in response. First, the OSJ was not recommending these devotionals, I was. Second, Rohr's devotionals, as many of the others, are challenging. I do not agree with everything that all of these writers put out, particularly as a Reformed pastor. This is why I listed the denominational affiliation of the devotional writers. Personally, Rohr's penchant for the mystical compels me as a Reformed Christian, which I why I recommended him.

Thanks, Shannon, for sharing some resources; of the ones I recognize they will be a blessing to those who pursue them.

What did disappoint me was the very top recommendation - Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation.  Based on just the last week's worth of postings it can easily be demonstrated how far away he is from the faith "once for all delivered to the saints."  The presumption shown by his disdain for historical Christianity is saddening; more pretentious than charitable.  Does he really think he/CAC leads a "New Reformation"?!  The OSJ can do better than that.

PS  If anyone wants an analysis of the last week's "worth" of postings, send me an email:     wagenlma@aol.com

 

For years, my favorite verse has been Proverbs 3, verses 5-6.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.

I have found encouragement in the verses already posted, so I thank all of you for these.

 

Sam, this post is a gift. I am going to save this blog (maybe even print it out) to read when the hard times come (as they will). I love the person Job became as he trusted God in the fields of pain and suffering. Thanks so much. 

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (MSG)

God’s Message:

“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.”
    God’s Decree.

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.

 

  Hi Staci,

 

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.

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. 

 

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.

Psalm 46

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."

 

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.  

You can find a few more at www.edwinwalhout.com; on the book of Revelation, or the Psalms, or a few theological topics.

"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.

"But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength..." (2 Timothy 4:17)

 

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 !

Dean Koldenhoven

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.  

Hi Beth,

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 !

 

deankoldenhoven@yahoo.com

 

    

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."

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.

What a great story. Thanks, Staci. I'm reminded of how, more Sundays than not, my parents would invite someone over for coffee/lunch after church (especially new visitors). We met a lot of interesting people and, to us kids, it certainly modeled the value of hospitality. Plus I can't tell you how many times I've crossed paths with someone who made the connection and said 'hey, I was at your house once!'

Let's keep this thread going....who's next with an 'act of kindness' memory that left an impression?

Thank you Syd for not only talking about the "theory" of hospitality but giving concrete examples of what it can look like. Often I think we use words without really understanding what we are meaning.

Hi Tim! Just wanted to give you a heads up that part 4 was just posted here

Currently in a season where dear friends are grappling with death (and we all are grieving), I sincerely appreciate this article. Especially love this reminder: "With the exception of faith, hope and love, spiritual subtraction is about looking this one hard truth square in the face – everything is passing away. It’s about practicing death and learning how to let go in many small ways, so that when we’re facing the “big” letting go of our physical death, we’ll be ready." 

Thanks, Sam. 

posted in: Spiritual Math

It's only when the seed falls to the ground and dies that there there can be growth and harvest.

posted in: Spiritual Math

I would love to see the remainder of this series. I've reposted the first 3 parts on our church's FB page and received some positive feedback. But I have not seen any more parts. If they're available please post!

Thank you

Love this framing of faith formation! Wondering if we would consider the practice of the classic spiritual disciplines to be ways to "subtract" in our lives. Certainly fasting, silence and solitude nicely fit in that framework. I wonder how often we consider our liturgy as opportunities to present both addition and subtraction on a weekly basis.  

posted in: Spiritual Math

Sam, so good to be enriched again by your wise observation!  I'm going to add "walking" to my job description!

Peter Stellingwerff

posted in: Walking Like Jesus

Thank-you for these words! :) 

A number of our churches are engaged in learning about how to rightly understand godly authenticity through the Ridder Church Renewal Process. To continue to build on what you have shared, Syd, I'd like to share some of the insights from the Ridder Process.

True authenticity happens when you bring all of what you know about yourself to all of what you know about God. I find that this fits perfectly with what you share under #1. Such a life of reflecting and growing through various avenues of spiritual formation/practices leads to continuous transformation of our knowledge (as well as directly impacting how we live) of our self and of God; which is connected to your second point.

A third value to consider when discussing authenticity is the growth point to challenge our strident individual practice: authentic community, that is, a community of people who share and sustain a common purpose with one another. It is in these small communities of individuals supporting one another in the practice of authenticity that the Spirit works to admonish, challenge, encourage, and help one another in truth, with love and patience. (1 Thes 5.14) Others helps us see our blind spots, being in community helps us live in God's design (i.e. relationally) and helps us to experience the very fundamental Christian truth: transformation does not happen without submission. In particular, such communities are the only safe place to be authentic before others because they are the only place where we might hear that what we know of ourselves is not true in light of what we know of God. 

When we "fill out" what we understand about authenticity in this way, we see that the key value is not simply saying what's so for you as you are right now, but coming to understanding and action surrounding where Christ through the Spirit is leading you to be transformed to the Father's design. In authenticity, we are coming to terms with the old that needs to go and the new creation that has come (or is coming!) (2 Cor 5.17)

Thank you for this Syd. In my church over the last few years I hear a lot about wanting to grow in authenticity. That sounds like the "stand alone authenticity" you describe. Knowing that true authenticity is linked with spiritual practices gives us a path forward to developing real spiritual community.

Alright, Sam, you've convinced me to read this! I'll have to add my favorite line as a comment :) 

posted in: Confessions

Just ran across these words from a sermon on the Holy Spirit by A.W. Tozer:  There is more of God in Augustine's Confessions than there is in all of the books written in fundamental circles in the last fifty years. If I were on an island and I could have a pile of all the fundamental, full-gospel literature written in the last fifty years, or have Augustine's Confessions, I would give up all the rest to keep the one book because God is in that  book.

posted in: Confessions

I have no words to express my sorrow.  

I know God is sovereign.

i know God calls us to live in unity.

I know God calls us to both speak the truth and speak it in love. 

 

But on Sunday I will sit with people whose decisions will intensely impact the marginalized in society in extremely negative ways. Many do so in utter ignorance of the pain this decision has on people who don't look like them.  It is mystifying to them. 

And I know that the church has been called to reconcile around the table since its inception... but I would be lying if I didn't say that I think we have lost our way as a church... and I weep.  Not metaphorically. I've been crying a lot these past few days, and not just weeping with those who weep.  Weeping when I'm alone too.  

I fear it will get much worse before it gets better.  

posted in: Blessed

 As a student of Dr. Hamstra's, I think this is an excellent example how Augustine's "Confessions" speaks to each reader with a different perspective.  It touches everyone differently as to how the individual is not content, not satisfied, until it is home with the Father.  I don't mean "at home with Father" to be the relationship that occurs after death, but the relationship one finds through complete surrender to the will of God.  Can that surrendered relationship occur here on earth?  I'm not sure but I am praying that I find my rest in doing His will.

posted in: Confessions

Thanks for that example, Steve. It's a reminder of the importance of how as God's family we need to walk beside each other as we experience our dreams--both broken and whole.

 

Karen, here is one more example of broken dreams - couples preparing for their child and finding out that he/she has disabilities. How can we be there for them as they are forced to rethink their dreams?

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