Why is there a desire to ignore having construction done on the soul? I think maybe it has something to do with the fact that, just like road construction, it gets in the way of our hurrying. 

July 25, 2016 1 0 comments

I recently talked to Bekki about her relentless joy in spite of ongoing health and personal challenges. She candidly told me her story and encouraged all of us to avoid the temptation to throw ourselves a pity party.

July 19, 2016 5 3 comments

Life is a paradox. There are days when life seems “self-contradictory” and “absurd.” We can't make sense of the great joy and stomach-turning sorrow. But are these situations really paradoxes?

July 13, 2016 2 0 comments

I'd heard the word "mentor" before but it always had a certain amount of formality attached to it. After learning more, I realized the potential for our churches.  

July 13, 2016 0 2 comments

Coffee time connects us in a very real way to our brothers and sisters in Christ who worship with us each week. How can we find ways to ask and tell each other how God is working in our lives? 

July 7, 2016 3 2 comments

Do you desire rest? Do you desire to have the burden lightened? Come, seek the ancient paths and you will find rest for your souls.

July 7, 2016 2 2 comments

The puzzle pieces (painted on the wall of the children's wing) are a metaphor for the many pieces of the Bible fitting together into a coherent whole. It's a great teaching piece and reminder for all who see it. 

July 5, 2016 0 0 comments

In a recent article for this very Network, Syd Hielema wrote:

Like many preachers I know, I often have stomach cramps on Sunday morning while going through a final sermon review before taking the pulpit. The calling to declare the Word of the Lord to a community is overwhelming, and it...

July 1, 2016 3 3 comments

For most churches, the thought of not having a "coffee" gathering time after worship would be unthinkable. And yet, how often do we ask how effective this time is in forming the faith of all who attend? 

June 29, 2016 3 0 comments

I wonder if we in the CRC are called to be somewhere along that seven-mile stretch of uncertainty concerning homosexuality; I believe that I am. 

June 28, 2016 13 34 comments

No matter what we experience, no matter how bad or pitiable or shocking, it seems to me that believers always know that God himself stands somehow between us and sheer, unbearable horror.

June 27, 2016 0 0 comments

By now we’re starting to adapt to the rhythm of life in Nicaragua and I think I speak for several of us when I say that the days seem to be slipping through our fingers and we want to stay longer.  

June 24, 2016 0 0 comments

Carlos and Sharla Martinez (Directors of FIT) explained to us the adoption process, what the families involved go through, and what their role is in supporting families as they welcome new children into their lives.

June 23, 2016 0 0 comments

Today’s agenda was dominated by three events: a presentation by Alcides (Paola’s dad), a stunning trip to Volcan Masaya, and a trip to the University of Nicaragua.

June 23, 2016 0 0 comments

Mondays are a bore. But this was not the case at all today! I'm still reflecting on our visit to Tesoros de Dios (a school for children with Disabilities), House of Hope, and a fair wage coffee company. 

June 22, 2016 0 0 comments

I think I want black and white answers to the questions that can plague me. But as I get older, as I do ministry and hear stories from God’s children around this world, I have a different perspective. 

June 21, 2016 0 2 comments

Before we came to Nicaragua, we prayed that God would reveal Himself and the work He was doing there. I think I can speak for the group when I say that God exceeded our expectations. 

June 21, 2016 1 0 comments

I don’t think that any of us knew that the moment we stepped outside the airport in Nicaragua, we would fall in love. And I’m not talking about falling in love with another person, or even the country of Nicaragua. 

June 20, 2016 1 0 comments

Recently I had a conversation with someone who, upon hearing me describe all the work that goes into creating pedagogically, theologically sound children’s ministry curriculum said, “I had no idea. You should tell people that!” And so I am.

June 17, 2016 1 1 comments

I was struck dumb, my mind racing. What had I done or said to evoke such a question? I don’t remember how the conversation concluded. But I do remember its impact on me.

June 14, 2016 2 0 comments

For most of the morning, half of the youth group had been planting cannabis, aka marijuana. The leaders from both churches were mortified and the experience taught everyone an important lesson. 

June 13, 2016 1 0 comments

Short-term mission trips are difficult. They can also be rich and rewarding, with the potential for long-term impact. To equip your team, check out the new, free, downloadable resource called Changed for Life. 

June 7, 2016 2 5 comments
Discussion Topic

The Banner recently published a question about infant baptism versus dedication. The response pointed to Synod 2012's call to "refrain from rituals of infant or child dedication." Your thoughts? 

June 2, 2016 1 9 comments

During our morning worship, anyone could offer to read a Psalm and describe how the passage had significantly shaped his or her life. Imagine the impact of these testimonies on the community. 

June 2, 2016 1 1 comments

Since the release of the God Loves Me storybooks last October, grandparents have been sharing stories about the impact of the books. If you’d like your heart warmed today, read on.

May 31, 2016 1 0 comments



How about books to read with children that form their faith? Like the Chronicles of Narnia? Or the Psalms - the excellent collection by Bob & Laura Keeley,  Psalms for Families. I know a lot of people like The Jesus Storybook for young kids, but I always liked My First Message by Eugene Peterson.

I work with Lesli at Faith Formation Ministries. We are so glad that you found these concrete ways to include Faith Formation helpful! Let us know if there is any other way we can help you or share with us what you have been learning about Faith Formation with adults. 

I work with Lesli at Faith Formation Ministries. We are glad you found this post helpful! Blessings as you approach the conversations about discipling your congregation's teen volunteers. Let us know if there is any other way we can help or share your insights from those conversations with us. 

These kinds of questions can be very helpful in getting people to think about their faith stories. Thank you for sharing!

That sounds like a wonderful idea!

Perhaps we need to record, via DVD, "elders" testimonies about their walk with the Lord?


 It appeared in May of last year, either the 19th or the 26th as a guest post. 

Here's the article on the network that Michele is talking about: On Chronically Normal People

Thanks for the information. Michele, where on the Network can we find that one article?

 Oh, and by the way there will be two articles in the Spring issue of SZMAGAZINE due to appear on April 4th that I wrote. They only publish online now, but you can get a subscription for $50.00 that will allow you to print as many copies as you want.  These subscriptions are mostly for organizations since they usually have the funds to afford that. One of them was already published on the CRC Network. 

I am very encouraged to hear about this cross training teaching at Neerlandia. When I am there in June, I would love to hear more about how it went.

Hello again Ron: I am commenting from home tonight as I am thrilled to see the "conversation going". If I were in my church office I could add to the list of resources.  At Neerlandia CRC, during the month of March, Pastor Ron Klok and I put together a CrossTraining series on Mental Illness Toward Understanding and Responding. That prompts me to say that for now I would add that our church family can be a valuable resource once we open up the topic for discussion. Blessings to all as we continue the conversation. Liz Nanninga, RN and parish nurse NCRC

I like method a former pastor used with us in Counil___He

would ask each of us : "How has God been real to you last

week?"     I f you don't have an answer, you need to check your religious pulse.....

Thanks for the recommendation Mark. I plan to add this to my reading list

Ron, thanks for this. Another book I highly recommend is Ministry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families. Mark

Thank you for this Michele. 

 Among periodicals for people who are not specialists in the field of mental health are Anchor Magazine for people who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. SZMAGAZINE targets those who suffer from schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder. I believe there is also one for those afflicted with bipolar disorders, but you can check out the site for more information.  These magazines are published by an evangelical Christian, named Bill McPhee.

Thank you for this! I've been thinking a lot about Faith Formation lately. My interest is with the adults. Thank you for showing us a concrete way to include Faith Formation in the wider ministry of the church.

Well this is very timely post! All of this information is rattling around in my brain as we approach a more formal way of discipling the teen volunteers in our children's ministry programs. This will be a big help :) Thanks!

Hi Adom, I think you are asking a very important question.  As you must realize there are hundreds of different Christian denominations.  There’s Baptist, Reformed/Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic and the list can go on.  Any one of these may look at a Bible teaching (or doctrine), like baptism a little differently from the other.  As Reformed Christians we may poke holes in the Baptist perspective on baptism, just as they may poke holes in our perspective.  Our perspective is a Reformed theological perspective.  And by our perspective all the bits and pieces of theology, or the Bible’s teaching, fit together consistently.  But the bits and pieces of Baptist theology or Catholic theology don’t fit well into our Reformed perspective.  Each perspective makes the overall teaching of the Bible consistent within its own perspective.  Pastor’s go to their denominational seminary to be trained in the Bible’s teaching according to their particular denominational perspective or point of view and way of understanding the Bible.  That way we can claim that the Bible is perfectly consistent, as long as we stay within our Reformed perspective.  So you could say that theology is an important key for having a consistent interpretation on the Bible.  If you go to a Baptist church you will be looking at the Bible’s teaching from the Baptist perspective (and there’s a consistency within that system). The same will be true of each different denomination.  Maybe you just have to pick the perspective that you like best.

The big problem is, why are there so many different points of view, in understanding the Bible?  Why isn’t there just one perspective, the right perspective? Of course, each denomination claims they have the right perspective.  It doesn’t seem as though the Holy Spirit has done a very good job of leading the church in all truth.  There is so much seeming inconsistency within the Bible that it’s like a maze by which we need a particular theological perspective in order to get through this maze without becoming hopelessly lost?  Well that’s what a particular theology does for a person, it helps him/her to get through the many twists and turns of the Bible without becoming thoroughly confused.  That’s my take on the importance of theology.

Thank you Staci for your insightful comments!

=) thanks for your graciousness of my ignorance re Star Wars details... I was informed by my family that it was a rogue storm trooper, not a droid...  so I apologize for my inaccurate description... 

May all of God's children, both men and women, put on the full armor of God, that we may stand firm in Christ, that each member of the body may become all that he or she was meant to be. May we all be free to love God with our whole our heart, soul, mind and strength. May we all be free to love our neighbor as ourselves, which means standing with those who are oppressed, against all forms of injustice. This calling in Christ takes great courage and dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit, which he has granted to all of his children. He alone is our strength, our protection, and our source of grace for each day. 

One item I would like to address concerning this blog post: In no way do I at all advocate nor meant to inadvertently advocate any form of abuse of power by men in anyway shape or form. This post has revealed that there is not only much pain still being afflicted upon people today in the use of God's Word, there is also much of it being covered up. Having seen this form of abuse on my own family growing up, I find it abhorrent. 

My purpose for this post was to state that we have to raise men of faith who are willing and able to stand up and be strong against the tides of terror, evil, and the darkness of this world, to be willing to put on the full armor of God. Though he is a secular (and someone pagan) author, Robert Bly states it well that the man was made to throw down the sword in fear of causing war. Yet, he states, the sword can do more good guarding and protecting than it will causing war. The sword I desire for men to pick up is the Sword of the Spirit to fight by standing firm in the Word of God. This means standing up against abuse, against injustice, and to be willing to toss around some money changing tables if need be. 

In the Old Testament, God is frequently called a mighty warrior--not because he defeats the enemies of the people of Israel but because he fights for and protects the people of Israel. 

I think maybe look for an upcoming post by me on God being a mighty warrior who fights for his people. 

Looking at what it means to be a man of God is very important to me. Here's some posts on my personal blog I've done over time:

And a geeky one for good measure:

Bless your heart, Joshua, yes, abusive behavior in the Church is an area that is especially on my heart over the last several years, as God has opened my eyes in a variety of ways to the extent of this that has been going on in the Church...  and I'm sure I've not even seen the tip of the iceberg.  This is such a huge issue, and it has been so well hidden...  personally, I've been blessed and protected and I thank God for that, but it also made me very naive and unaware... until 2011, God started bringing a number of situations to my attention and the eyes of my heart was opened to see these patterns of abuse and cover-up via manipulation and deception going on on our watch.  And then finding out how bringing this into the light is a threat to leaders.  I'm still processing that part =(  It's been one of those "unwritten rules" that it's not talked about (that would be gossip right? =( see #3 of things not to say to someone who has been hurt by the Church) because I really had very little idea before 4 years ago, and when you do talk about it, you run into opposition and resistance that is unbelievable, including accusations of gossip, slander, and divisiveness.

Here's another quote from Bonhoeffer:  “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  This is our watch!

and here are several more difficult, but insightful posts from Boz Tchividjian:  (this is a very sobering movie that every Christian leader needs to watch on the abuse of power in the Church, covering up wrong doing at the expense of those abused)

and these 2 articles about patterns of abuse that nails what a friend experienced in the CRC...  and it makes me wonder how often varying degrees of these patterns are occurring at the expense of those who were harmed and violated, because we/CRC are very good at keeping this kind of thing hidden, under the rug, as much as possible (think non-disclosure agreements/NDA's)... God's way is to bring these patterns of abuse into the light.  As one pastor said to me, "confidentiality is killing us"...  and I have nothing good to say about NDA's.  anyway, lots of thoughts, this is a huge topic, but praying for the Spirit to work in all our hearts, His way, His wisdom for the Church to walk more fully in the potential He has for us...  we need to be open and obedient to Him.  Walking in holiness is a key part of walking in the power of the HOLY Spirit.


oh, in case you aren't familiar with this sermon, this is my favorite sermon that I've ever heard from the book of Judges, I read it several times a year, sometimes more often (there are audio options as well if you prefer)...  Paris Reidhead and 10 Shekels and a shirt based on Judges 17/18







Thank you for your words (and Star Wars quote). I can see the passion you have as you write this. There is an old proverb (I do not know the exact author) that says "Evil triumphs when good men do nothing." My aim in this short post was to encourage men of faith to stand up to be good solid men of faith. With time between now and when this was posted, I believe that there has been some backlash because of remembering abuses happening over centuries of bad theology and wrongful interpretation of key passage. I believe that this is in some ways propagated by popular pastors today such as Tim Keller in his book on marriage (I wanted to throw that book across the room when I read it for a class). Strong women of faith have stood up and served and this should not only be applauded, it needs to be encouraged. At the same time, as you said "Where have all the Godly men gone?" 

Right now I am leading a Men's Bible study for which I am writing the curriculum, and it's on the book of Judges called How NOT to be a Man of God. We look at the areas of how men need to stand up and serve and lead as well again, along side the women that God has raised up. 

How can we encourage men of faith to stand up along with women of faith and lead together? For we are all one in Christ Jesus. 

what is a man of God?  One who will do the right thing even in the face of fear, even at the expense of the "good old boys club",  exposing what is hidden in darkness, doing what is right in the face of resistance and opposition and persecution from their peers and leaders for standing up and doing what is right even though it will make the others look bad.

The man of God will speak out and protect those who have been harmed and abused by those in power, instead of operating in fear and damage control, instead of covering up and protecting the reputation of the leadership causing further harm to those who have been abused... remember Jesus and the woman caught in adultery?  The leaders who brought her to Him, didn't give a rip about her life... they didn't care if she was stoned, she was nothing to them, just an object to be used for their selfish purposes, yet they protected the man involved... don't do this!

The man of God will not shift the blame away from themselves, and will not change the narrative to minimize and distract from their wrong doing, or turn themselves into the victim.  I think of pornography and the horrible fruit which has caused extensive harm in so many ways, including objectification of people, especially women. the percentages of porn in the Church are horrific, beyond epidemic levels... and the CRC is not exempt...

The man of God will confront and challenge his brothers, his friends, his peers in this area.  It is a lie that looking at pornography is no big deal.  It is a lie that looking at pornography doesn't hurt anyone.  It breeds horrible stuff...  including fueling human trafficking.   yet, it seems the Church, including the CRC (from my perspective, including research and anecdotal evidence through discussions with people on this subject) barely acknowledges/addresses this, only in secret it seems, behind closed doors, not openly. 

The man of God, will confess, repent, and tell his wife***, and walk in the opposite direction, honoring and protecting the dignity of these women, including his wife, who are made in God's image.  You will be free!  that is a man of God!

The man of God will then help others get free!  Bonhoeffer says... Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.  Read more at:

The man of God that is truly remorseful and desirous of change, would seek the forgiveness of those they have hurt instead of blaming/attacking them, and instead of making themselves the center of attention, would turn people's attention to those they have hurt.

The man of God will be wearing well used armor... not shiny and new, but beaten up, scratched, dented, muddy and bloody.. that means this knight has been in action, serving Him!

Here is the Warriors Prayer (author unknown):

When it is all said and done, and I'm standing before God, I want to be there bloodied and exhausted and worn from the fight, haven given my all.  I want to place at Christ's feet a well used, yet still razor sharp sword, a battered shield with the Kingdom's emblem faded and dull from years of service, a breastplate with deep scratch marks where the enemy's darts scarred it when my shield of faith dropped low, a helmet of salvation marked by the blows from the mace of doubt being deflected, boots of the gospel resoled many times and lastly, a belt of truth that is as strong as it was when I received it. All to be turned in for my eternal garments of white and a new name given by my King, the King of Kings. 

we recently took our family to the force awakens, I'm not a star wars fan, but my kids wanted to see it...  and my favorite line that is well worth the $100 for our family to watch it, is the maverick droid dude's response to the question asked by the fighter pilot on why he rescued him... and the response is "because it's the right thing"...   Pres. Obama used the same phrase at least 3 times if I recall in the state of the union address...  back to the movie... in a battle, you see this droid start to realize something is wrong, that he is a part of something that is not what he wants to be a part of.  I hope and pray that our men will start to see that something is very wrong...  that the enemy is somehow using spiritual leaders to abuse those who are under them and that this is spiritual abuse, which is abuse of power...  recognizing our battle is not against flesh and blood...

I have had friends who have experienced spiritual abuse from Church leadership ask me "where have all the good men gone?"  "where are the good men in the Church?"  I know you are there and I know you want to be a man of God, so please speak up and do what is right! 

one of my prayers for 2016 is that we the Church will do the right thing..   Yes, it will be hard, and there has been and will be failure, but own up to it, deal with it, learn from it and grow stronger through it, instead of hiding it.

 *** tell your wife... this has been debated, with some recovery programs encouraging men to wait until they are porn free for 6 months to do so as well as the conventional counsel of the world, which pastors will use as well, will advise not to tell at all ...  I disagree and here is something from Lewis Smede's Forgive and Forget P11… Patronizing husbands lie to wives to spare them the pain of knowing the truth.EOQ  the truth will set you free!  confess your sins to one another, and you will be healed... that verse has been twisted in various ways to avoid telling the wife.   So men, do the right thing!  I'm praying for you as part of the Bride of Christ...  and the Bride has made herself ready...



Thanks for sharing, Denise! I love this positive and bold word. Thanks for also sharing the scripture reference. 

Thanks, Joel! Excellent word that creates a posture for God to work in big ways. 

Thanks for sharing! I love the simplicity of the word "Why" and how it cuts right to the point of our motivations. 

I love the word Faithful. It presents a big challenge! Thanks for sharing, Evelyn. 

Thanks, Laura! I must admit I don't use this word often but how powerful to rejoice in the Lord (even during the most difficult times). 

Great word, Jim! How quickly we forgot the deep meaning of this word. 

Thanks for sharing! Love the action word and will be praying for your church in the upcoming year. 

Thanks Shannon... :-)

Sure. Because we are a new ministry, we have been slowly rolling out our Regional Catalyzers. Currently, here are the Classes that our Catalyzers serve:

Jill Friend-Heartland, Iakota, Minnkota, North Central Iowa, and the U.S. part of Lake Superior

Liz Tolkamp-BC Northwest, BC Southeast, Columbia, and Pacific Northwest

Laura Keeley-Georgetown, GR East, GR North, GR South, Grandville, Holland, Kalamazoo, Lake Erie, Muskegon, Northern Michigan, Thornapple Valley, and Zeeland

Lesli van Milligen-Canadian part of Lake Superior, Chatham, Eastern Canada, Hamilton, Huron, Niagara, Toronto, and Quinte

Ron DeVries- Alberta North and Alberta South/Saskatchewan  

Michael Johnson-Arizona, Central Plains, Red Mesa, and Rocky Mountain

In the next couple of years, we hope to hire Catalyzers for California (California South, Central California, Greater Los Angeles, Hanmi, and Ko Am), Chicagoland (Chicago South, Northern Illinois, Illiana, Wisconsin), the Northeast US (Atlantic Northeast, Hudson, Hackensack), Classis Southeast U.S. and Classis Yellowstone. Once that happens, all of our Classes will be covered.

Can anyone explain why, as it seems, there are "catalyzers" assigned for some regions but not others?  I've checked and it seems, for example, that most of the west coast of the US is not civered.

"Flourishing"  (Based on Psalm 92:12-15)

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 15 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, 15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”



Why? That's not a question-it's my theme word for 2016. (Actually, grandchild is my first theme word!) I sat through a great motivational talk in December where the speaker addressed the importance of asking myself, and challenging my team to ask, the "why" question. Why do we work? Why do we do anything we do? It was a good thought starter that has led me to some more reading and thinking. I will conclude this post with a quote from the speaker: You will lose your way when you lose your why!

At Hope Fellowship Church, we just finished an Advent Sermon series on the "Five Flawed but Faithful Women in the Genealogy of Jesus".  Our pastor is big on alliteration :).  So our word for 2016 is Faithful.


My husband and I have had several friends and a family member pass away in the past month.  I received a card from one of my friends before he died, the front of the card is displayed at my workstation and says "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!"  God has given me this same word before to meditate on and use for comfort.  Focus words aren't usually given to me on New Year's day as much as in life events.  

So many words come at us in one day, it's nice to rest in just one word for a moment.  

For this year I chose I Peter 1:15/16 "holy", a word that has not only been removed from the secular word bank (other than the occasional 'holy cow', 'holy smoke') but also limited to defining God by the Christian community. None-the-less, it is presented by the Apostle Peter as front and center in defining the church, its members and how we are to live in "all" things.

Jim Poelman

I've been preaching on this for a few years now.

2014 was "Home," and was the year we moved to Colorado.

2015 was "Launch" as we worked to get Apex Church Started.

This year I was able to preach on this, and share my word for 2016,


"And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:47

Insightful and profound. Thank you!

posted in: My Only Expertise

Last month, our church participated in a church-wide Peter Fish collection for World Renew. Each child was sent home with a fish bank and devotional booklet. On the final Sunday of the month, a massive row boat was placed at the front of church, and there was a special time in the service for kids to put their Peter Fish in the boat. The kids were also responsible for searching the room for Peter Fish from other members of the congregation. It was so moving to see the kids so excited and proud to turn in their Peter Fish and run up to other church members to collect their fish. Such joy and enthusiasm in their giving! The loud clunk every time a full Peter Fish was dropped into the row boat was also priceless! 

I thought this was a great (and age-appropriate) way to get kids involved in ministry.

I think too - that the gospel hope is that this upside-down Kingdom and it's impact on citizens can have a profound positive impact on how people love each other and how people live before God in ways that are deeper and more affective than passing laws or policy. 

posted in: My Only Expertise

Love this broad question! From the side of someone in the pew, there is a sermon series my pastor did this summer/early fall on the fruit of the Spirit where each week was an in depth look at a different fruit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, etc.). This series has really stuck with me because each week was incredibly focused and applicable.

Thanks, Chad, I'll have to look up that one. A little while back I read A Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God by Larry Osborne and he had some good stuff I borrowed from. I recently picked up Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess which I heard was really good as well. 

posted in: Beige Spirituality

Thank you, Rod.

posted in: My Only Expertise