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Twisting through the most barren and mountainous parts of China, it was reported that building the Great Wall of China took more than a million lives. Do we also seek security at a high cost?

October 21, 2015 0 0 comments
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God’s servants must be prepared to accept risks, inconvenience and opposition. In all of this, the Lord Jesus shows us the way. He did not object to being delegated to earth to suffer for sinners.

October 14, 2015 0 0 comments
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Is it possible, given our preference of heart-knowledge over head-knowledge, that we, too, are at risk of abandoning our long and strong tradition of intellectual exploration?

September 30, 2015 0 3 comments
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This webinar addresses theological and practical questions about spiritual warfare, such as: Can a believer be demonically oppressed? Are there dangers involved? 

September 30, 2015 0 0 comments
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I asked a social worker: “What is your working life mostly about?” “Trouble”, she said.

September 30, 2015 0 1 comments
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I think it's safe to conclude that being offendable is a sign of weakness - one I have succumbed to on countless occasions. Yet why are so many people eager to claim that they have been offended? 

September 17, 2015 0 0 comments
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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 0 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 0 1 comments
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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 0 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 0 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 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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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OK, I'll bite: is the local church the hope of the world?

That idea packs a host of theology, and certainly runs counter to Christian history. Of course the Gospel must take on scandalous clothes in the particularity of a given place, time and community, but that doesn't mean that it is the hope. Rather that hope, properly is in Christ Jesus and then it is to that hope we are to give account, with our lives, in our gatherings, in our broader life together.

The larger question in the reductio ad congregation is that of social class. How exactly do communities get to hear? One of the important roles for collective or institutional action is to work with those who otherwise do not have the resources: the poor, the weak, the forgotten. The proposal works well enough for the established (hey! internet!) but if educational institutions are any judge -- and they are at the least, a useful model -- then we know who will be going without. Really, is that the model for "the hope of the world?"

Lastly, what does this model of the local church do to confession? If the church is fundamentally local, then the notion of confession must itself be circumscribed, good ideas at best, perhaps. How then do we have any weight, any possibility of mutual accountability? Denominational structure strikes me as the necessary wineskin for our common confession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Doug, for your affirmation of the proposal. And I'll start thinking about part 3

Not only do I wholeheartedly agree with this post, Sam, I think you describe what the CRC Church Order precisely provides for.

I am personally persuaded that the creation of a CRCNA "Board of Trustees," with its own governance documents/rules no less, was a pivotal step in the direction of our regarding the CRC denomination as a separate church rather than as a function of the churches.  There is a great tug, I believe, to "be big," to be "influential" (especially politically) as some other so-called mainline protestant denominations and the RC Church are "influencial," to have permanent offices in Washington DC and get regular audiences with representatives and senators, even the White House on occasion.  And all of that is good and fine except that is not the function of an institutional church, at least as defined in the reformed tradition, as well as provided for in CO 28.

I look forward to your Part 3. :-)

Thanks for pointing me to Suttle's book.  I concur with the mark of faithfulness when understood as faithfulness to join with God in his mission to seek and save the lost by making disciples. But I wonder about the biblical/theological  foundation for Suttle's marks of faithfulness: demonstrated growth in the leadership virtues of vulnerability, cooperation, brokenness, patience, and fidelity.  How did he come to that list?

Also wondering if you would discount any connection between faithfulness and the number of baptisms/professions of faith?  

The most obvious benchmark of effectiveness may be annual professions of faith and baptisms within local congregations, but I would challenge whether those are the right benchmarks to use. The leadership team of my church has been studying the book Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church-Growth Culture by Tim Suttle. The author's thesis is that the church's job is to be faithful, not be successful (i.e., numeric growth). Faithfulness is demonstrated by growing in the leadership virtues of vulnerability, cooperation, brokenness, patience, and fidelity. I agree with the need to adopt benchmarks to determine effectiveness, but we need to be careful not to adopt simple numeric metrics to measure effectiveness.

Here are a couple quotes from the book to consider:

The gospel isn't about reaching numbers; the gospel is about participating in God's redemption of the cosmos.

We only have the duty to be faithful in all the small things and leave the results in the hands of the loving God who holds our future.

Bill you are right on.  That is the kind of info that would be delivered by regional reps to the headquarters.  And the kind of info that would most-likely results in a significant reduction in denominational offices and agencies.

The denomination could possibly balance its budget by polling the local congregations on which agencies wish to support, then dropping the agencies that don't get super majority support. Should do before the denomination spends a zillion bucks remodeling the headquarters building - might need a smaller building.  

Why don't churches just become a social clubs because then identities, history and scripture are no longer needed.

When the Dutch immigrants came to Canada, they organized churches to bring the gospel and set up separate organizations to be active in education and politics. In that spirit, a Christian Heritage Party was set up as well as Citizens for Public Justice.

As time went on, CPJ complained that the reformed churches were not active in politics. The North American model was for anything Christian, the organization must be directly supported by churches. Kairos works with that in mind. Any separate organization is assumed spiritually neutral. 

I think we should applaud the efforts of the church to be politically active, and encourage both CPJ and OSJ to think European rather than North American in organization.

Complaining that the group only speaks for a minority does not help at all. Both conservative and Liberal minded Christians love the Lord and want to follow His commands for life.

 

August Guillaume

I just posted a reply to an article in the same communication that I am reading this.  A church, under the auspices of OSJ, is sending some  young people to Nicaragua. I wonder how long it will take for the government (in Canada anyway) to eliminate the church's tax status if we continue down this road.

The last sentence in Doug Vande Griend's comments say it all.

The CRC was started as an ethnic denomination. If we are not to continue as an ethnic denomination then what justifies our continued existence? No "spiritual" response, please. Yes, the CRC will exist as long as God wants the CRC to exist. But I'm feeling that God doesn't want me to make the 70 mile commute to attend church. It isn't "fair" to the other drivers on the freeway. <G>

There are over 100 Christian denominations. What does the CRC do uniquely,  better, or more efficiently than the other 99+? 

Personally, I think Dutch Reformed theology is worth saving. Specifically, the doctrine of common grace. Far as I know, it is unique to the CRC. But I don't see any interest in theology in Classis, in Synod, or in The Banner. All I see is the pushing of a secular politically correct agenda using "Christian" words. That and budget problems.

OK, this isn't the whole truth. I like Pastor Jim Wiersum and the congregation at First Everett CRC very much but intend to quit when Pastor Jim leaves (after 25 or so years). To old to change horses, to set in my ways, and am seriously thinking about quitting driving. The roads between Olympia WA and Marysville, WA, are to unnerving for me. But seriously, it took me 30 years to find the CRC but only a couple more years to decide that the CRC doesn't want to be a Dutch Reformed Church. 

 

Sincerely,

Bill Wald

 

 

According to the NT,  there are no such organizations as denominations, splitting Christians in various camps to compete with each other.  Part 1 shows very clearly that resources can be shared easily between denominations. Let us promote such sharing.  Denominations should find more ways to cooperate on a national scale, Classis can start to cooperate on the regional scale and congregations on a local scale. 

August

One key to strengthening the thread between the denomination and it's local churches is the denomination giving up its claim to act as political lobbyist and expert for its members.  Church Order Article 28 requires it but has been ignored.

Indeed, the "doing more together" cliche has been used by a minority of CRCers (who have the lion's share of denomination level power) to establish a political platform (planks on federal policy on climate change, federal policy on public welfare benefits, federal policy on immigration, etc) for all CRCers (that is, for all members of local CRC congregations).  

My own local church does not presume to speak for me as to national or state or even local government policy.  Why should my denomination?  Again of course, CO Article 28 says it should not, even may not, but it does anyway.  And of course that is a breach of trust and covenant committment.  No wonder the thread is thin.

I think denominations are very valuable, but as ecclesiastical institutions, not as political, scientific, or political think tank (etc) institutions.  Of course, this thinking (Kuyperian social sphere sovereignty) is not at all new, even if increasingly ignored at the denominational level of the CRC.

REVIVAL!

Take a look throughout the history of the church and note what factors contributed to revival. Also note the effects of revival: churches and people who are pursing holiness and blessing their communities in practical ways. I think we often get the causes and effects backwards in the CRC.
 

I love this, Jane! It would be so cool to find one of these vacation issues. 

Not the topic of an editorial, but an idea for an issue:  When I was growing up in the sixties and early seventies one of the summer Banners was a "vacation Banner"...a week of devotions to use while traveling, additional Kids Pages to keep us busy in the car, and other things that I can't recall 45 years later.  It was, as my Aunt Florence wrote in, "a gem".

Would love this!

As the church, we need to model respectful dialog that honors the image of God in ALL people. We can disagree, but we should be able to talk with one another respectfully honor the value of each person by being willing to listen carefully and try to understand.

 

If it's Jesus that holds us together - we will hold together. Our identity must be found in Christ, not in our Dutch Heritage or other religious trappings. 

How should the Church respond to the current political uproar? What is the role of the Church, the leaders in the local church, and even our denomination?

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").

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