Discussion Topic

As we go through Holy Week and celebrate Easter Sunday, I'd love to know: What traditions and/or parts of the week are most meaningful to you? 

April 12, 2017 0 8 comments
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I usually enjoy an opportunity to be with the kids but on this day I was near the end of my rope and they were too. Though I wish they'd been easier on me, I'm grateful for the reminder that these kids have complex lives, too.

April 4, 2017 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

I've spent plenty of time with other ministry leaders bemoaning the impact of the "fear of missing out" (FOMO). I'm done bemoaning this reality and instead want to ask: How can we find freedom from this idol?

April 4, 2017 0 0 comments
Q&A

If love is the fulfillment of everything and keeps us from sin—and we are to fear no evil and love our enemies—would we love the devil being our enemy? 

April 2, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

Here are seven ideas of activities with the potential to form faith that you can do with your kids for little or no dough.

March 30, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

We associate souvenirs with traveling, but we also keep them to remind us of faith milestones. A family baptism gown, a signed Bible—these things help us remember moments that shape our identity as people of God.

March 29, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

Below you’ll find six tools to help the families in your congregation build faith at home during Easter. 

March 29, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

Faith Formation Ministries has been working with churches to help strengthen faith storytelling practices. Our Faith Storytelling Toolkit lists dozens of practical ideas for shaping and sharing our faith stories.

March 24, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

“Pastor” is a word that I like. I have good associations with it and sometimes it’s helpful to use because it opens the door. But sometimes I have to let it go and find more creative ways to communicate what I do. 

March 22, 2017 0 2 comments
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Faith formation is an elusive term. How do we know if faith is being formed in children, teens, and adults, and does faith look the same for everyone?

March 17, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

If it’s time for some new profession of faith practices in your congregation, here are four ideas to consider. 

March 14, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

It takes time to get in the habit of doing daily devotions. At first, the payoff may not seem obvious, but once devotions become a part of your daily life, you will begin to feel their amazing benefits.

March 9, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

Strengthening our commitment practices, including the practice of profession of faith, calls us to name the idolatries that tempt us and intentionally embody a different way of being.

March 8, 2017 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Is faith power? Or is it trust? I've struggled to make sense of the verse "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, tell this mountain to be cast into the sea." Can you help shed any light?

March 7, 2017 0 2 comments
Resource, Website

The Professing Our Faith toolkit offers practical, creative resources for encouraging a culture of commitment in your church, preparing people to profess their faith, planning a welcoming council conversation and more. 

March 1, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Devotional

If you want to focus your heart on the need for the the cross and prepare yourself to experience Easter anew this year, subscribe to Today and let “Focus on the Cross” encourage you in this season of Lent.

February 28, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 1 comments

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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?

The sudden death of Prince hit me and several of my family & friends hard. I had to really wrestle with why, and what endures when greatness is fleeting.

https://mbentley.org/2016/04/22/the-purple-reign-ends-goodbye-prince/

I absolutely love this post. It almost brought tears to my eyes as our interactions would look so different if we remembered the hopes and dreams that each and every person around us has. Eternal perspective! 

Beautiful, Angela! I would really love to see that video and include it in Faith Formation Ministries' Faith Storytelling toolkit so other churches can see it too. If you're willing, send it to me at sswartzentruber@crcna.org!

I love this, Angela! What awesome stories probably came out of the question you asked. Thanks for sharing. 

Thank you, Syd!
  Fear - the pit of fear that lives inside of me.  It casts out love, or tries to.  And fuels my racial junk.  You help express how deeply rooted my race junk is.  and how important is the repentance that's on the way to love and joy and peace.

We are new to intnetional faith story telling. Because of what I read on the Network, this summer we video taped 10 responses to the question "Tell me about a meaningful Bible passage and why it is meaningful?" We included youth to seniors and different nationalities. We showed the first one last Sunday and I think it went well. It was very powerful to hear this story from this particular person. I hope it is the beginning of us being much more vulnerable with each other as we share our faith.

"I'm sure glad we have a God who is greater than either of these..."

Amen, Helen! Thanks for your insightful comment. 

This is a year when the churches are being tested. Those in authority over us or those planning to be have not acted much like we would prefer. The language and accusations have brought us down low. Those running for the highest office of the land have been exposed as being sinners just as we are. However, comments made by the viewers would seem to be made by those who don't sin. I keep thinking of David who had an affair with Bathsheba. To cover his misdeeds, he put Uriah in the front lines of the battle after two other attempts failed. Yet David was a man of God. If it's Trumpland that one wants to criticize or Clinton Foundation and its implications, I'm sure glad we have a God who is greater than either of these. Whatever happens, He will bring it to pass. If it is to punish us for our rebelliousness or bring us back to Him through a lifestyle we haven't experienced for many decades, His wisdom is far greater than ours. I will do my civic duty and vote for the one I feel is more god-fearing and will lead in an honest and integral manner.

What about the challenge the Clinton campaign lays before the church?

 

Thanks for leading with transparency and humility like this, Syd! Really appreciate it. 

 

Thanks, Joshua, for the post.  In the past, I felt a sense of guilt at my inability to practice the presence of God for more than a few minutes.  A spiritual guide, farther along in the journey of faith than I was, said, "Think of God the same way that you think of a loving parent with a small child.  The parent finds great joy when the child snuggles up and just quietly sits on the parent's lap.  However, a parent's joy and love aren't diminished in any when the child then runs off to play.  Giving myself the same grace that God extends to me has kept me from feeling guilty and, over time, my ability to be present and just "sit in the Father's lap" has greatly increased. 

posted in: Entering Solitude

Beautifully said, Syd, and worthy of reflection and action!  Thanks for these words of wisdom and challenge.

Jeanne Kallemeyn

Outstanding Joshua, keep working at it!!!

It was a struggle for me as well, we often live our lives at 100 mph. Trying to put the brakes on long enough to for anything other then ourselves can be seem unnecessary and impossible. I for one have to make my time in the a.m., but my wife and I have a separate time we set aside for prayer together. My personal time is around 3:30 a.m. or as soon as I have my first cup of coffee down. I'm not sure exactly how the progress came about but I started by just reading a verse each morning I am now up to about 30 minutes of prayer. I found that the more I prayed the more I found to pray for. I can only say I believe that to be the Holy Spirit growing in me. Either way I truly enjoyed you post, thank you.   

posted in: Entering Solitude

I have come to see and understand that, along with the truth that Jesus died in my place, he also lived in my place - lived that wholly faithful and sinless life that I cannot.  Still, to know Jesus and to listen to Him, to 'live in his neighborhood' as someone put it, I can't miss the push to imitate Him, to do what he says and what himself does.  I am coming to see that the closer I am to Jesus, realizing what it took for Him to deal with sin, the more I can come to see what sin is, especially in my own life.  Separating law and gospel has always led to problems, but seeing them united in Christ seems like the best way forward, at least to me.

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