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Sometimes the scheduled newscasts consist of nothing but sad and bad news. Would the listeners feel the pain of these tragedies? Violence is so widespread, the killings so many...

September 1, 2015 1 2 comments
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All through the Western states and provinces the fires are raging. The damage is incalculable. We think and ponder, we talk about details…and we go on our way. What can we do?

August 24, 2015 2 1 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter. Set in 1837 India controlled by the East India Company, two soldiers of the company go in search of a famous poet adventurer believed captured by Thugs. For people who like history, detective stories, exotic locations and customs, interaction between cultures,...

August 11, 2015 0 0 comments
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Albert Einstein echoed what the Bible had said ages before. Romans 8:18-27, speaks of “our present sufferings." Believers, too, know hardships and fear. Yet, Romans 8 also has good news... 

August 10, 2015 1 0 comments
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“Is it true?” he asked, “that in American streets one sees houses without people around, talking together?” I answered that was mostly so. He said, “There must be much loneliness in America…” 

August 3, 2015 3 0 comments
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We all felt the emotional weight of this man’s experience. He had not only witnessed a terribly tragic event, he had been part of it. After a long silence I had to ask the question… 

July 20, 2015 0 1 comments
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Judges Chapter 17 tells of a little family that struggles with situations outrageously problematic and complicated. What can we learn from them?

July 14, 2015 1 0 comments
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What's the Trinity like? I was thinking about this the other day, and though I know I risk heresy by even trying to liken the Trinity to something within human experience, here are my thoughts. 

July 14, 2015 1 0 comments
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I’m not saying legal standing, such as the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling on Same-sex marriage, doesn’t mean something or carry any weight. It certainly does. It just doesn’t have anything to do with love.

July 13, 2015 3 2 comments
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There is one space that makes me nervous. I can’t rearrange it or make sure it’s painted my favorite colors. I’m just asked to trust that it will be perfect, with no weeping or sorrow or pain.

July 2, 2015 1 0 comments
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The ugly clouds of conflict, distress, and famine hang heavy over many nations. Who of us has not had pessimistic thoughts about the future of the world? Yet, as we believers, we have a source of security...

June 10, 2015 0 0 comments
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The suffering on a world scale is so enormous that we try not to think of it. Yet the Messiah, in His empathy, took our sin upon himself. How can we enter other people's suffering?

June 1, 2015 1 1 comments
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Graduation exercises are hardly a suitable setting to ponder on educational ideals. But graduation stands as an exclamation point at the conclusion of another year, how can it be avoided?

May 26, 2015 1 0 comments
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Ponder with me the reality of illness. It is more than the pain — it brings hardships and problems. Illness affects not only the patient but fellow family members and wider communities. What can we do?

May 19, 2015 2 1 comments
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The moving industry is a growing business; more than a quarter of the population of this continent will move this year. What are some reasons that people move?

May 11, 2015 1 0 comments
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As Christians, we cannot think of love without being affected by the New Testament’s use of love. Agape, the original Greek word for selfless love, is unconditional, like the love Jesus shows us.

April 20, 2015 2 0 comments
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Our Christian profession is important in so many ways. It involves facing the realities of daily life. But we have our heavenly Father, who in the power of the Holy Spirit, will accompany us and see us through.

April 15, 2015 1 1 comments
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In John 10, we read that the Shepherd knew his sheep."To know" is an important verb in the Bible. Such 'knowing' always demands a response. Jesus tells us...

April 10, 2015 0 0 comments
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In the Bible we find three responses to Easter. Can you relate to any of these? 

April 7, 2015 0 0 comments
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In the Heidelberg Catechism, L.D. 17, we confess that the resurrection is very much part of our lives as believers. "....by his power, we too are already now resurrected to a new life."

April 1, 2015 0 0 comments
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"Jesus, keep me near the cross," we sing. It would not have suited us well that first Good Friday. Does it ever suit us?

March 30, 2015 0 0 comments
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The large crowd of spectators gave Him an enthusiastic welcome. They spread palm branches and garments on the road in his honor. Less than five days later, they shouted, "Crucify him, crucify him!"

March 25, 2015 1 4 comments
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In the age of Pinterest and Google, cookbooks are hardly practical. Yet there are stories found among the recipes and ingredients. What cookbooks or recipes have impacted you?

March 16, 2015 2 10 comments
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Dealing with regret is not easy. Regret tends to cling. What can we do about our regret…?

March 10, 2015 3 0 comments
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It's been an unusually cold and long winter. How does this affect people who have no regular income, people who have little income, and people who suffer?

February 23, 2015 2 0 comments

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Or, what keeps the CRC together, theology, history, worship?  Seems to me that, with the welcome diversity of the CRC, history and worship no longer form the bonds they once did.   

Congratulations on your new role. The issue I would like to see addressed is why leaders of the evangelical community such as Robert Jeffress, Jerry Falwall, Jr and James Dobson are supportive of Donald Trump. Do they have a different Bible, interpret it differently or are we just so much more sophisticated than our brothers in Christ?

How are we together now that what held us together no longer holds?

What does it mean that we are a denomination in a time when we are becoming more separated.  What does unity look like when we disagree about theological discussions?  How do we grow relationships when we idolize full calendars and busy schedules?  When congregations no longer care about or respect denominational authority how can we work as one?  How can individuals experience the great work of our denomination when they only want a 30 second sound byte?

Congratulations Shiao Chong and Welcome!  

I’m hoping for sensitivity in the language  we use for our Beloved Creator.  Too often we worship as if God’s name were ‘He”.  As if the Divine were exclusively male.  

For some of us, God is both Mother and Father, yet God’s face as reflected in our mothers and daughters is rendered virtually invisible by the language we use.

Blessings,

JoMae Spoelhof

We need to find our identity in Christ - certainly not in a political party (I'm sure Jesus weeps at his misrepresentation and misuse of his name), and not even in a denomination, which can also become an idol. When we are more concerned about our identity as a member of a political party, or as a member of a denomination, than we are about our identity with Christ - That's a real problem. 

Perhaps a study of the Gospels to learn better who Jesus is, so that we can model ourselves after him (and only in his power) would help us find a truer identity. 

I would like to see an editorial about how Canadian Christians, and other international Christians, struggle to identify with a Christian faith that seems to be shaped more and more by American politics, especially those of the Republican Party.  

On another political note, I'd be interested in seeing a comment on how political parties can become idols. How can Christians protect themselves from total devotion to a political ideology, while still engaging in the political process in a meaningful way?  

Do you know the top reason that churches end up in court? Find out here. What is is it? It's something experienced by1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys, yet we hardly ever talk about it; and about 40% of our congregations do nothing to prevent it. It's also experienced in one of it's most violent forms by 1 in 5 women during their college years. Intimate partners and even teen dating partners experience it at alarming rates in our culture. The effects can be devastating. And yet, most people in the CRC have no idea how to respond to this far-more-common-than-we-think issue. And many, many have left the CRC because of the lack of response, or the mishandled response. Maybe we need to write more about that! 

You can find out more about it on the Safe Church Ministry Website.

“Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: The CRC’s Uplifting Mission To Downcast People”

Thank you all for the well wishes and the good ideas so far!

Keep them coming!

 

Headline for Banner..........Gay people were born that way, it is just a matter of time when they "come out" to confess it.

Jesus loves ALL his children!

My header would be, "The fallacy of climate change and what we can do to stop the madness"

Be more aware and write about our culture. How the liberal views on abortion and sexual promiscuity creeping into our Christian world and life view. Find Christians who are involved with these issues and have them write about it.

I am highly biased (aren't we all?), but I would love to see more celebration of the impact we have on the secular and institutional world around us -- particularly the work done by our growing number of chaplains (nearly 150 endorsed, plus many campus chaplains and pastors serving part time as hospice, hospital or police chaplains). This is a significant missional aspect of the church influencing many institutions, agencies and individuals outside the church -- one that at times seems not fully embraced by the church. If 10 - 15% of our ordained clergy are finding their way into this arena that provides great opportunities for ministry at the "fringes," with very little cost to the organized church; might this not be something we wish to be more aware of and deliberate about? 

Ron Klimp - Director of Chaplaincy and Care Ministry

Welcome Chong!  Given your background in campus ministry, I think you could offer a great editorial on Young Adults and the future of our denomination.  Another topic that I'm passionate about and would love to see explored further is how we use our language (and social media) to really isolate each other.  We tend to surround ourselves with people who are like us and then slam those who think differently.  Has this hurt our ability to learn from each other and change?

My headline:

Discerning what it is to be an institutional church denomination in a hyper-politicized culture - what should it mean, and not mean, to be CRC?

I would like to see an article focusing on the general topic of missions and what it looks like today, maybe how it has changed. Not a highlight of an agency's work but about missions as a practice and theology.

Practicing Hospitality and Why I Think More CRC Churches Should Serve Breakfast on Sunday Morning

Beautiful Things by Gungor.  Great message obviously, but also it uses the pronoun "us" in the choruses.  This nicely counters the rabid individualism of our consumer culture.  

This is one of my favorites too, Laura! 

I love how God inspires us with encouraging words and melodies throughout our day.  So many songs come to mind, but for this day in God's perfect timing "Moving Forward" by Integrity's Hosanna! Music is my song.

 

I'm not going back 
I'm moving ahead 
Here to declare to You my past is over in You

all things are made new 
Surrendered my life to Christ 
I'm moving, moving forward 
 

 "How Deep the Father's Love for Us"  by Stewart Townend touches my soul. 

For my wife and I a song that stirs our soul is by MercyMe, called "I can only Imagine"

Lately I've really been inspired and challenged by the Rend Collective song Joy of the Lord. 

This song encourages me to lean on the JOY and HOPE of the Lord, no matter the circumstances. My favorite part of the song are the lines: "The joy of the Lord is my strength, In the darkness I’ll dance, In the shadows I’ll sing, The joy of the Lord is my strength." 

Rory Nolan taught a song at a Willow Creek Conference quite a few years ago when I was a young worship leader, and I have started almost every day since then with these words. I call it my 'shower song'.

He is Able (title)

He is able, more than able, to accomplish what concerns me today
He is able, more than able, to handle anything that comes my way
He is able, more than able, to do much more than I could ever dream
He is able, more than able, to make me what He wants me to be.

My Dad's favorite song, which he sang to us while tucking us in bed, "When we Walk With the Lord" ("Trust and Obey")

What a gift it has been to learn from you and work with you! Thanks for your compassion and wisdom. 

posted in: Jesus Knew

The Fiene article claims that his generation doesn't march against Roe v. Wade but March for Life in DC has tens of thousands of participants from every generation. He also says that his generation doesn't care about poverty or human trafficking... umm... I think the Fiene article might be satire.   

Righteousness received by faith is lived out by loving our neighbor. It makes people act in the interests of others, especially the least of these. Underscoring righteousness that is not our own and is credited to our accounts, in preaching and teaching, as suggested above, will only result in more activism.

I don't know if self-righteousness serves as a motive for activism in the CRC. I think that assigning motives usually turns out to be a pretty bad idea. 

  

Doug, where is your evidence for Republican statements of "opposition" to Trump during the months of June to December?  What led you or others to believe that the Trump phenomenon would "slide away on its own" when poll after poll showed substantial support for his candidacy?

I agree with your observations concerning the Republican campaign being "abhorrent."

Personally I am an independent voter who has supported and voted for candidates from both parties over the years.  Your suggestion that I am "demonizing Republicans" is simply off-base. My GOP friends would find your suggestion amusing.   Please note that my comments addressed partisanship per se, not applied to one particular party  You apparently read GOP into it, and assume that I was referring only to sole reliance on certain sources of information. My comments apply to MSNBC as well as Fox News.  Opinionators approach their subjects in many and varied ways, and neither party has a monopoly on demonization. 

I hope and pray that we can discuss characteristics of the political scene (serious discussion, not "ranting") without resorting to untested assumptions concerning our fellow discussant.

           

 

Sorry Gerrit but I think you are way off-base in your perspective about the Trump phenomena.  First, Republicans were opposing Trump when you say they weren't, although of course it became more as time passed, but that's nothing more than normal -- and responsible -- human behavior.  You don't make a big fuss about something that will slide away on its own.  It was reasonable to believe that Trump would gain no traction at all and fall to the wayside early.  Indeed, it was unreasonable to think otherwise.

Yes, the Republican campaign has been beyond abhorrent but also beyond precedent.  But all of it -- all of it -- has to do with one candidate who could as well have run as a Democrat, whose history strongly suggests he has no political party affiliation -- or political theory perspective -- of any kind.

Your response suggests you are a bit of a victim of what you what the denomination to rant against, that is, partisanship (noting your reference to "opinionators from one end of the spectrum and one cable 'news' channel").  If you want to "prevent the prevailing ethic of obstructionism, anger, and demonizing the opposition ...," you could start by not demonizing Republicans -- or Fox News for that matter -- as you do here.  The brushes you are using are far too broad (aka "partisan").

Keith: I heartily agree with your suggestion as to what the institutional church (synod or otherwise) may and should talk about (e.g.,  state of American society, anger, increasing percentage of children born out of wedlock, etc).

There is a fine but yet very real line between the institutional church talking, and then proclaiming, about societal issues, and the institutional church usurping sphere authority of others by becoming a political megaphone for a certain member segment's political perspective.

Where was the Republican Party and where were the Republican candidates in the months following Mr. Trump's entry into the campaign on June 16, 2015?  Where were they in July, August, September, October, November, December?  Where was the "courageous," "principled" Sen. Ted Cruz during those months?  Waiting for the Trump phenomenon to fizzle so he could pick up votes from the Trump supporters?  An example of leading from behind?

An appropriate and potentially fruitful way The Banner and Synod could address the current situation would be to engage in a discussion of the consequences of blind partisanship and knee-jerk allegiance to a single political ideology and a world-view informed solely by opinionators from one end of the spectrum and one cable "news" channel. It should be a source of concern for Christians  that so many of their fellow believers rely solely on such a narrow range.  I don't recall any campaign since the 1950's that was so disdainful of fact-checking and so ready to wallow in "truthiness" and escalating divisiveness.

What is to prevent the prevailing ethic of obstructionism, anger, and demonizing the opposition from carrying over into 2017 and beyond, regardless which party prevails in November?

    

It's been three months since that initial posting and much has happened since then. There has been a growing endorsement of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. Hillory Clinton is almost assured to receive the Democratic Party nomination.

While I agree that synod should not get into a partisan debate, there is considerable merit in having synod talk about the 'state of the union'; that is, the state of American society. What is sparking the anger?

As Mercatornet editor Michael Cook recently wrote, "about 40 per cent of American children are born out of wedlock ... 55 per cent of teenagers live in families where their biological parents have rejected each other. Broken homes are associated with poverty, personal instability, and poor employment prospects. In this year's election campaign, this might encourage people to vote for an anti-establishment figure like Mr. Trump."

American society seems broken. The notion of 'the family' is disintegrating. If ever there was a time for the church -- in our case, Synod -- to discuss the issue, it is now. And it shouldn't be a discussion on which candidate or which party to support -- though it may come to that; it should be a discussion on how the church should respond to the desperate cry for help from millions of American families who seem hopeless and disenfranchised.

While it may be wise for the church to stay out of the partisan debates, the church does have a significant message of hope to bring to a broken society ... and it indeed is broken.

This author says, "What is most amazing is that there is no significant denunciation of Trump's comments by the Republican Party."  Huh, what?  I can't recall a political party that has more denunciated its own primariy season leader than the Republican Party has done this year in dununciating Trump and Trump's actions/statements, even though the Republican Party knows it risks alienate its own who support Trump by doing so.

Donald Trust does not equal Republican Party, even if this author suggests it is the case.  Had there been a better opportunity in the Democratic Party to get elected, Trump would have run as a Democrat.  Indeed, Trump has quite easily slipped from party to party -- and candidate to candidate -- in the past, and will continue to do so in the future, a fact not lost on Republican Party leaders and others who actually know what the phrase "political theory" means and can articulate their perspective about what government should or should not do.

Contrary to the advice in this article, The Banner should editorially stay out of the 2016 presidential race.  Why?  Beyond the generic sphere sovereignty arguments, because the editor and editorial board have less expertise than is needed to constructively take such positions.

Certainly, the institutional church (including Banner editor and ed board) can take a position against being crass, against calling names, against demagoguery, against racism, against hating, against dishonesty, against all sorts of things that it might decide it sees in this election, but it should not try to definitively describe the nuances of the make up of the Republican Party, nor the Democratic Party for that matter, nor any of the candidates, let alone endorse or oppose any.

Many thanks for your commentary, Roger.   I appreciate your perspective. I have celebrated The Season in several countries in addition to the U.S.:  The Netherlands (including the separate Sinterklaasdag as a child), Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and England. My favorite memory is a Christmas Eve worship service in a small 17th century Evangelische chapel in Kandersteg, at the foot of the Blumlisalp in the Bernese Alps (1989). Scripture, meditation, liturgy in 4 languages. Silent Night and other Carols sung in 4 languages --simultaneously.  The only "decorations" greenery,  manger scene, candles, and bells.  Some would consider the setting "austere."  Simple, yes, but hardly what I would call austere. A highly inspirational experience.  Lots of snow everywhere, but no Santa, sleigh, or reindeer.  Springtime greetings to you also, Roger.  Weather here in Cape Coral, FL,is also wonderful.

 

You are likely aware, Gerrit, that in the past (as little as 40 years ago) many of our Dutch (CRC) immigrants celebrated a Sinterklaasa Day on Dec. 5/6 with the exchanging of gifts or with gifts delivered by Sinterklaas himself.  Christmas was a separate Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth on the 25th. . I doubt that such celebration is hardly recognized today.  Also some 40 years ago, many of our CRC churches in Canada (ones established post second World War) would not decorate their churches for Christmas because such decoration was associated with Sinterklaasa day and not Christmas.  Sinterklaas was not considered a Christian figure so why paganize Christmas with such decoration.  It did make for a rather austere celebration of Christmas.  I doubt that such a distinction is made in any of our Canadian CRC churches today.  So goes Rev. McKinney’s idea of separate celebrations.  I will refrain from commenting on Donald Trump and his Merry Christmas pronouncement.  Wishing you well and all good will as we are soon to enter the spring season.  Chicago's weather has been wonderful.

You may well be right in regard to the Dec 25 date, Roger.  On the other hand, non-Christians might be just as happy with another date in December, so long as it is recognized as a holiday (with all the benefits of a paid secular holiday).   One would think that a clean separation (sacred/secular) would be welcomed by both Christians and non-Christians.  I fully realize that this is a radical idea -- though I think it has much to recommend it.  BTW, Donald J. Trump has "promised" that if he is elected President, he will make sure that "everybody" is saying Merry Christmas.  How would he accomplish (enforce?) this is anybody's guess, but it plays well among conservative evangelicals whose votes he is courting and who are concerned about increasing secularization, as well as the Fox News talking heads and their annual warnings about the so-called  "War on Christmas."  The latter will probably not be happy until the U.S. becomes a de facto or de more (as distinct from a de jure) theocracy.  Meanwhile, like you,  I expect the status quo to hold.

 

You make some interesting observations, Gerrit, in regard to Christmas.  You make mention of the “weak influence of Christians in our culture.”  In Western culture, Christianity has continually been losing its influence for many decades.  It’s loss of influence isn’t as much the fault of Christians, as much as in our more developing society, Christianity itself is not seen as reasonable or relevant.  So increasingly our culture looks elsewhere for meaning and relevance. So almost naturally the Christmas story of Jesus doesn’t take hold of hearts and consciences.  Whereas the story of Santa (with an emphasis on being good), generosity, family, good friends and wishes for the well being of others does take hold of people in our culture.  And such an emphasis, in our society of many diverse religions, fits well with the nomenclature of “happy holidays,” rather than simply merry Christmas which in the minds of many is representative of only one religion that focuses on Christ (hence Christmas).  As to Rev. McKinney’s idea of incorporating a new and different date for a secular Christmas, the only way that could possibly work would be for the Christian church to change the date of their own Christian celebration.  December 25th has already been taken over by our Western culture which would never be willing to change.  Do you think the church might be willing to change its date for celebrating Christ’s birth.  Probably not.  So I think we are still left with every individual or family celebrating Christmas or Santa’s day in a way that seems appropriate to them. Maybe a day celebrating both good will for all and Christ’s birth does make sense to many Christians.  It’s all a matter of what you want to make of it.

I don't think any of those who have advanced this idea have in mind an "enforcer."  BTW, Santa Claus has done quite well over the years without an "enforcer,"  and so have many church practices adopted over the centuries.  Unblending is not a matter of taking the fun out of Christmas for non-Christians (as though that were possible, given the weak "influence" of Christians in our culture).  I suspect that many, if not most, Christians are quite content to have "the reason for the season" embedded in the iconography of the North Pole, the jolly old elf in his red suit, and flying reindeer.  If a secularized celebration of the birth of Christ is OK with them, the notion of unblending is not worth consideration. Interesting, though, isn't it, that so many of them get upset when someone prefers the greeting "Happy Holidays" to "Merry Christmas" and the greeting "Blessed Christmas!" seems foreign.  Merriment does seem to be a high priority.

       

So how does this untangling or unblending take place?  It seems it should be the responsibility of every individual or family to celebrate Christmas in a way that is appropriate for them.  Are you saying there should be an enforcer that manages the untangling for our population or for our churches? For many citizens Santa Claus is as much or even more the reason for the season than is Jesus.  Certainly there can be no untangling for such as these.  For many, Jesus is as foreign to one’s Christmas thinking as Mohammed is to our thinking.  We live in a culture of many religions and beliefs.  So why would we try to take the fun out of Christmas for non-Christians?  And what influence do Christians have today that they should even attempt to untangle the meaning of Christmas for non-Christians?  It’s best left up to individuals and families.

Louis, 

   We are so appreciative of all of your writings, but especially when your wrote me way back in the early 70s.  I was in Brooks, Alberta in our first church complaining about the congregation.  You so beautifully set me straight.  Your remarks were along this line:  "It is never them and us/me.  We are the church of Jesus Christ together with all of our weaknesses and sins.  We are sinners together living only by the grace of God..."   I don't remember the rest of your correction to me, but that was enough to shape the rest of my ministry, and thankfully also my life to this day.   I have been so blessed.  I have learned that God even uses crooked sticks, that He blesses often in spite of us.  Right there in Brooks, Alberta I learned with your help how much I can value and learn from elders and many others in the congregation.  All this and much more you, Louis, and the Holy Spirit helped me to learn.    Thank you so much - for who you are, and for your care for other people.  God's riches blessings to you and Jean!   God is so good!  Ron Fisher 

posted in: Jesus Knew

Louis, It has been a pleasure reading your insights on the Network. May God bless you as you travel the road ahead.

posted in: Jesus Knew

Lou, I will miss your posts. I guess I'll have to walk next door for tea. jan

posted in: Jesus Knew

I agree, and the discussion should go beyond the comments made by Mr. Trump.

 

 

 Yes, the U.S.A. are a champion of civic and individual rights, and some, unfortunately, use that freedom to appeal to the worst in human nature.  I don't have to name names. If people have been paying the least bit attention to the news, they will know who I'm referring to.  And frankly, I hope that American CRC people at least, will exercise caution and wisdom in whom they vote for next November, for although the rest of the world has no say in who becomes the next president of your country, your choice will impact the whole planet for at least four years.

Ron Fisher on January 26m 2016

Did your congressman recognize that the 2nd amendment refers to the members of military or those empowered by government right to bear arms?  It was never intgended that every Tom, Dick & Harry could walk around with firearms.

What an insightful article.  Indeed, political questions can and usually are far more complex than meets an individual's eye.  And Christians,  even CRCers, rarely agree with each other about the correct answers to almost all political questions.

Synods, the CRCNA and CRCNA Agencies might take this article to heart when tempted to declare and publicly advocate/lobby about political conclusions obvious to them.

Thanks for this wonderful summary of the life of Ed Dobson, Lou. We should all be more like he was.

Thanks Louis for this inspirational thought concerning Mary.  It’s interesting that the angel, Gabriel, personally brought a message from God to Mary.  I guess that is the work of some angels, being messengers for God.  It was also the angel, Gabriel, who brought the text of the Koran to Muhammad in 609 A.D., over a 23 year period.  It is based on this that Muslims, like Christians, believe that the Koran (their Scriptures) is the fully inspired word of God and therefor inerrant.

Thanks, dear neighbor, for helping us think outside the box. 

posted in: Joseph - Our Man

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