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We are living in a cultural season in which a kind of “stand alone authenticity” is celebrated and encouraged everywhere. It’s a false idol that needs to be discerned, named and rejected.

November 16, 2016 0 2 comments
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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It's time for you to know that whatever you are going in through is simply under the builders mind. He is building His own Church (Mathew 16:17-18). When you are built in Him, nothing shall take you away. As much as others may judge you according to...

November 15, 2016 0 0 comments
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Check out this treasure trove of faith forming, intergenerational Advent tools and ideas for how to use them.

November 11, 2016 0 0 comments
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As I hear my friends reflect on the election’s outcome, I am hearing a loss for words about how to talk about this with children. It is in response to what I am hearing that I offer this devotion for parents.

November 10, 2016 0 1 comments
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In my 62 years as a member of the CRC, I’ve noticed that we tend to describe people either in terms of the opinions they hold or the stories they share. And these two are very different.

November 8, 2016 0 2 comments
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Rather than advising flashier technology or younger staff, Growing Young helps churches address some cross-cultural barriers that will produce deeper, more lasting change in their engagement with today’s youth. 

November 8, 2016 0 0 comments
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When I asked my class of nearly 30 students to pick their #1 line from the Confessions of Augustine, there was very little duplication. This list of their 'top lines' may encourage you to revisit this classic spiritual autobiography.

November 7, 2016 0 3 comments
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How might remembering that each person has a dream—some broken, some whole—change the ways we care for each other on the street corner, at the grocery store, in our congregations and in our neighborhood? 

November 3, 2016 0 3 comments
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The artist Prince will be remembered for a long time. He had an impressive property, a studio, and countless records to spark people’s memory of him. But what about me? Will anyone remember me?

November 2, 2016 0 1 comments
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When a congregation repents well, its culture will lean towards humility, teachability, hospitality, and a healthy vulnerability that shares how the Lord’s power is made perfect in its weakness.

October 28, 2016 0 0 comments
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We’ve all heard someone say, “My faith story is boring. I grew up in a Christian family. I went to Christian schools...And that’s about all there is to tell.” Well, let’s get one thing straight right now: There is no such thing as a “boring” faith story.

October 27, 2016 0 0 comments
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When is the last time you and other leaders in your church formally reflected on this question, “Where does Jesus live in our church?”

October 25, 2016 0 0 comments
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I can remember even now the sense of awe and gratefulness I would feel as I, a child, watched from a dark corner while the adults in my life made themselves vulnerable before God and each other.

October 24, 2016 0 3 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Westwood CRC is excited to host the "4 Chair Discipling Seminar" in Kalamazoo on November 5. The training helps a church with an overall strategy for building a ministry that multiplies disciples. 

October 20, 2016 0 0 comments
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The toolkit is divided into sections on becoming a storytelling church, shaping our stories, and sharing our stories in many different facets of your church’s ministry.

October 14, 2016 1 0 comments
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At this fork, I find myself praying prayers like these: “Lord, the news cycle has helped me to see the great pit of fear that lives inside me. I feel paralyzed and confused. Pierce my fear with the power of your Spirit...”

October 12, 2016 0 5 comments
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To celebrate 20 years of women's ordination in the CRC, First CRC of Toronto has prepared a resource package for churches in Classis Toronto and across the CRC to commemorate this milestone.

October 10, 2016 0 0 comments
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As the US election date draws nearer—a date being closely watched on both sides of our border—my prayer is that the Christian voice will increasingly become shaped by tenderness and tears. 

October 7, 2016 0 1 comments
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Who has the time to practice solitude? Well, we all do. If you’re willing to schedule a lunch with someone or schedule a meeting, you can schedule a meeting with God and just be present with him. 

October 6, 2016 0 2 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

InterGenerate is the first multi-denominational conference about bringing generations together! It will be held at Nashville’s Lipscomb University from June 25-27, 2017. Sound exciting? We think so! 

October 5, 2016 0 0 comments
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My almost two-year-old granddaughter Joanna wants to jump to the balcony at church. We, her grandparents, have more experience in this world and know the power of gravity. Yet, like Joanna, we too have a hope others may not have. 

October 3, 2016 0 0 comments
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What does forgiveness really look like? Deb and Steven Koster, co-editors of Family Fire, address that question in a FREE new ebook, The Power of Forgiveness: A Guide to Healing.

September 28, 2016 0 0 comments
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Is signing up for a service project because my friends did still a good action? Is giving to a good cause still good if it’s out of guilt? Is it even possible to be a "good Christian?"

September 27, 2016 0 2 comments
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Sam Huizenga describes what it means to be collaborative in her work coaching and training leaders of small groups. What about you? Do you have a story about working collaboratively with another church or ministry? 

September 21, 2016 0 0 comments
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Last year thirteen churches took a risk, they joined a cohort of churches willing to work with the Building Blocks of Faith Model. This model answers the question: What do people need for their faith to grow?

September 21, 2016 0 0 comments

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Living with uncertainty is such an important discipline, one that as a mental health counselor and educator I have felt duty bound to help people with because there is so much in life we cannot ever know with certainty. I had not thought of holy uncertainty in those words, but I embrace them, as I have been the recipient of so much harm at the hands of people who can only live with certainty. Thank you for this. I think I will need to begin to share the concept.

Where is the end point? Uncertainty is generally unhealthy. The story given to justify "holy uncertainty" is strange because the end point is acceptance of homosexual marriage. And then to have no comment on the mother's conclusion is taking a stand on the issue.

Seems to me you are writing with a forked pen.

Thanks for your thoughtful words, Syd.  You/ve given a name to what I have been thinking and feeling about this topic - holy uncertainty.  I was actually hoping that the tragedy that occurred in Orlando just before the discussions/decisions were to be made at Synod would have led us to the same conclusion.

I personally know 2 people who grew up in the CRC and are homosexual, and I weep when I talk to them or think about the longings that they have for both their personal and spiritual life. They want all the same things that the rest of us do - love, family, being able to use the gifts God has given them in their church, etc.  However, the CRC does not "allow" this, so they have gone elsewhere, for better of for worse.  This grieves me to no end.  I will also stand with you and weep, and pray for the Spirit's enlightenment to show us how we can be the hands and feet of Christ to persons with alternate sexual orientations.  I'm glad we as a denomination have begun to discuss this more openly, but I believe we are still a long way from making final decisions on this.  May we continue to be open to the Spirit's leading.

Amen. Thanks for your comments

The old saying that we should worry about things we can do something about and leave the rest to God? Most theological questions, like higher math, are beyond understanding to most of us and are best left to God and/or math majors. 

Great post, Syd. Thanks for challenging us to think in new ways and make peace with unknowns, confident that God is faithful. 

Thank you Syd. You beautifully express what has been on my heart. I will join you in this time of holy uncertainty on my knees in prayer. Thank you for giving us a posture for this time.

Thanks Syd. Really appreciate this. A friend often says that the pull of the "idol of theological certainty" is strong for us.

 This week I had the same reaction from a church educator when I described how many people looked at a lesson after it was written before it was published -- She had no idea!  Thanks for the article.  

 

Hi Rick, 

Thanks for feedback! The video download has been fixed and the other materials should be easily viewable. 

Thanks again!
Staci 

 

posted in: Missions Tourism

This is incredibly helpful, Roger. Really good background and food for thought. Appreciate it very much. 

Hi Staci.  You ask a good question. And of course, the answer varies from person to person.  Many people are not overly vested in the theology of their particular denomination.  So changing from a Reformed denomination to a Baptist can easily feel rather refreshing, especially seeing that Baptists groups tend to be more experiencial in their faith expression.  Faith within Baptists groups tend to be more exciting (some would say more uplifting).  Sometimes Reformed folk long for a more experiential faith that they see in Baptists or Pentecostals.  So coming from a Reformed persuasion, a person might like the idea that baptism testifies to my experience of faith, rather than the Reformed idea of baptism testifying to God’s leading and choosing in salvation. The Reformed expression of faith and salvation tends to be more “head” focused (recognizing what God has done and then being grateful), whereas the Baptist tend to be more “heart” focused (enjoying the experience of salvation).  Seeing as babies cannot (not possible) to have that faith experience, the Baptists refuse baptism for children and opt for dedication.  The Reformed folk, acknowledge a covenantal perspective (Old Testament carried through to the New) in which God envelopes our children within the family of believers and therefore give the covenant sign (Baptism in the New, Circumcision in the Old) to believers and their children (even though the children are not believers at that point).  As part of the Christian family, the  (Reformed) church takes seriously its obligation to train up their children in the Christian faith and pray for their salvation.

Depending on the direction of migration, whether from a Baptist to a Reformed church, or from a Reformed to a Baptist church, and also depending on how important the finer points of theology are to such a person, the move can either be quite smooth and easy or, on the other hand, can be quite difficult.

For an interesting source that explains the differences in the way Reformed and Baptist churches look at salvation, you might want to consult “The Canons of Dort,” in the back of the CRC hymnal.  It presents the Reformed (Calvinistic) view, but also criticizes the Arminian (Baptist) view.  Most Christians, it would seem, prefer the Baptist view over the Reformed.  But the bottom line is, which is more Biblical?  That might be where the Reformed have the edge.  

I hope this is helpful, and of course this is my take on the topic.  Wishing you well.  Sorry for the length.

Thanks for letting us know, Rick. We'll get these back up and running and keep you posted! 

posted in: Missions Tourism

Awesome Resource!!  But the Video download does not work and all the other information is shown in a very narrow window that cannot be enlarged.  I look forward to reviewing all the material.  Thanks to those who authored this resource.  

God Bless!!

posted in: Missions Tourism

This is a helpful distinction, Roger. Wondering about people who grew up in the Reformed tradition that may have left and gone to another church. Is there still a desire for baptisms? Or how about people who came into the CRC/Reformed tradition but grew up in a different denomination. Are they doing baptisms if they have older children or for themselves as adults? Or is it just profession of faith at that point?

Thing is Staci, infant baptism doesn’t really fit into the overall Baptist theology.  Baptist theology and Reformed theology are very different at many points.  A Baptist theologian works hard to build or put together an altogether consistent Biblical theology in which the whole package is consistent throughout.  So to drop infant baptism (the Reformed practice) into that Baptist perspective will make the picture inconsistent.  The same will be true if someone tries to drop infant dedication (the Baptist practice) into the Reformed theological perspective.  Just as infant baptism isn’t consistent with a Baptist theological view, nor is infant dedication consistent with the Reformed theological view.  That is why neither Baptists nor Reformed are quick to mix their theologies.  One inconsistency leads to another and then to another and so on.

Christianity has long taught that it is the sacrament, itself, that produces the desired effect, not the adult who preforms the act.  

Infant baptism is a requirement of the Christian Religion, and a uniting factor. The rest of the world uses baptism as the line of demarcation between "them" and "us."

 For me this is not an issue at all, and I'm not aware that it is for our congregation either because the topic has never come up in congregational meetings that I can remember.  I've never heard anyone complain that they could not dedicate their babies.  What I have heard, however, is our former pastor saying that people who had been baptised in the Roman Catholic Church as infants asking if they could be baptised again because their first baptism meant nothing to them, and they were not sure of the faith of the priest who baptised them as babies, and he had to turn them away because he did not have the permission to do it.  That we hear about here in Québec.  But dedication...?  Not really.

The links are fixed now! Thanks, Anthony.  

posted in: Missions Tourism

Thank you for the article and for sharing this great resource.  However, I think the links are broken.  But I was able to find the website online still.  Maybe the links just need to be tweaked.

posted in: Missions Tourism

Thanks for sharing these additional questions, John. I think you did a great job of framing the case for baptism, especially with how it may be liberating for the faithfulness to depend on more than just "me" or the family. 

I'd love to hear if other reformed folks have done dedications or would be open to them as well. Got a story?

Syd, thanks for this post of your 3 minutes of Grace.  This is a great idea and I will prayerfully consider how to implement something of this sort in the Britt CRC where I serve.  I appreciate you sharing this with the network. -Pastor Joel A. De Boer

Thanks Staci:

  Great questions. In a nutshell, I would say that the presuppostions behind dedication or infant baptism are as follows:

a. The first big question. Are we dedicated enough to pull through in our commitment to God with this child, or is God dedicated enough to help us pull through?

b. The second big question: Are we as parent(s) giving someone who already belongs to God back to him via dedication or are we making a declaration that this child by virtue of being part of a covenant family in a covenant community already belongs to him and this is simply our faithful response.

c. The third big question: Are we as the parent(s) dedicated enough to pull through for this child, or is the entire covenant community dedicated enough to pull through?

      In my opinion, dedication is largely--though not entirely--a human-centered response to a gift from God and infant baptism is largely--though not entirely---an affirmation of what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do. A read through the Canons of Dort will also demonstrate the divide between a largely human driven type of theology and a God-centered type of theology.

     As to the liberating part, yes. It does not all depend on the faithfulness of me and my family to raise this child, but rather depends on the faithfulness of a promise-keeping God. The first can easily lead to striving and anxiety, and the second to a steady restfulness. Of course, some Reformed people can get rather presumptuous here, and that is always the ever-present danger, as some live like hellians and think that their baptism will cause God to turn a blind eye.

Thanks for asking the important question.

JS

 

 

Thanks, Roger! Completely agree that we shouldn't be offended by the way others celebrate these holidays (I LOVED a good Easter Egg hunt growing up). But I also hope to be on the lookout for ways I can share what Christmas and Easter mean for me as a Jesus follower. 

It’s interesting to observe how people celebrate Easter, as well as Christmas.  I don’t think it is necessary to be offended by people who make Easter into a holiday of their own making.  For many, Easter is no more than a nice opportunity for family get-togethers and an opportunity to do something special for the children and grandchildren. Chocolate Easter bunnies are still standard Easter fare for many Americans and Canadians.  Even the U.S. president has a wonderful Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn.

For many North Americans, Easter is not a religious day of remembrance. The Christian message carries no meaning for them.  So why would they be inclined to celebrate it as such, any more than we would be inclined to celebrate Muslim or Jewish holidays according to their tradition.  North American culture is increasingly becoming multi cultural and multi religious.  The fact that North American businesses and work places give their employees off on these dates does not necessitate how these holidays should be spent.  So for increasing numbers of people, these holy days are becoming holidays, a time to enjoy family and friends.

I’ve heard it said that the date for Christmas was originally a pagan holiday that Christians chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on.  So today we see, increasingly, our culture celebrating their own celebration on the date we celebrate the birth of Jesus on.  Perhaps it’s best if we just all get along together without taking offense. 

My husband's favorite as well!

posted in: A Cure for Busy

Thanks, for this Joshua. I'm going to share it with my family during devotions. I think it will lead to a wonderful discussion!

I've recently been enjoyed the song by Jonny Diaz entitled "Just Breathe". (You can find the video by clicking here). At first I wanted to turn it off because the beat was soooo busy and I just didn't want to hear that in my busy world. But, then, as I listened further, I was blessed by the words that tell us to "just breathe .. come and rest at My feet ... and be .. just be". All we really need is to "just breathe".

 

This resonates with Syd's reflections. The "peace of God" overcomes. Lay down what is good and find what is best.

posted in: A Cure for Busy

Yes, a beautiful testimony.
I long for this for all of us.

What a beautiful testimony! Thanks for sharing it. 

It's a wonderful vision for Safe Church Ministry as well, that congregations would be the safest places on earth. Amen, may it be so. I share your "deepest longings" that thousands of believers would express similar sentiments about their congregations.

Unfortunately, it's far too common that congregations are not safe places. I've heard story after story from those who felt compelled to leave their congregation because it was not safe. A woman once expressed  to me how much she loved sitting on her porch and looking down the hill where she could see her church building. But now, she said through her tears, seeing the church building only makes her feel "sick to her stomach" because of the abuse she experienced there at the hands of a church leader. 

I will join you in praying and working to make all of our congregations safe and nurturing places for everyone; communities reflecting the truth that we are one body in Christ. We need one another, and we flourish together, as each one does his or her part. Safe Church loves to say that it takes all of us, working together, to make a congregation truly safe.

I could not agree more.  Our children, the "youth of our denomination," can be and will be more affected and guided, whether for good or bad or some of each, by their family, a critically important extension of which, especially in the CRC perhaps, is their local congregation.

Most CRC kids don't really know (feel) what it means to be part of the CRC denomination, but they do know (feel) what it means to be part of (or not part of if that is the case) their local congregation.

Thanks Syd.

 

Those are great suggestions, Diane. Thanks for adding another direction to the list. My favorite faith nurturing books to read with young children are the God Loves Me books. (Look for an upcoming post about the ways those books are impacting three children--and their families!) For parents/caregivers looking ways to connect children's literature with faith stories I highly recommend the Storypath site which lists more than 100 book titles for infants through teens along with ideas for how to use the stories as part of a faith nurturing conversation. 

I love that you mention Chronicles of Narnia. I grew up with my Dad reading me those books and the story style in which they are written (full of adventure, conflict, etc.) was incredibly helpful in my faith development. 

Thanks for the thoughtful comment and call to be bold, Esther. 

  Is it possible that we as Christians are too passive about letting our religious holiday be "perverted" into something it's not? We look the other way as Christmas becomes about Santa Claus and we shrug when the Easter Bunny gets all the attention. We join in with the commercialism. I have asked a  non Christian friend "Why are you celebrating a Christian holiday? Would you celebrate a  Islamic holiday?  If you did, do you think a Muslim would be OK with that, especially if you weren't on board with the meaning of it?"  I then went on to explain why I celebrate the holiday and its importance to me. It's a conversation we should have more often, maybe even in line as we buy the Easter candy. 

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

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