Picnic in the Park

 

PICNIC IN THE PARK – Sunday, May 16, starting at 6 PM, you are invited to a picnic at Cherry Hill Park. Cedar Hills will be providing hot dogs and hamburgers and leading some group games after the picnic. Click here to RSVP with the number of children and adults coming from your family and plan to bring a side or dessert to contribute to the picnic spread.

Imposters?

Imposters?

I like to wear a mask. (Not the pandemic kind but the kind I hide behind.) I do this to protect myself. If people really knew me, I’m afraid that they will not like what they saw. I have a hunch that I am not the only one with this fear.

Donald Miller wrote about this in the book Through Painted Deserts: “Relationships aren’t the best thing, if you ask me. People can be quite untrustworthy, and the more you get to know them – by that I mean the more you let somebody know who you really are – the more it feels as though something is at stake. And that makes me nervous. It takes me a million years to get to know anybody pretty well, and even then the slightest thing will set me off. I feel it in my chest, this desire to disassociate. I don’t mean to be a jerk about it but this is how I am wired. If I coil, I’d probably have formula friends because that would be safe.”

Real, authentic community is not safe. We take risks when we disclose who we really are. We risk exposing our mess. We risk entering into another person’s mess. We risk taking off our masks. We are the kind of people who leave the safety of the cover-up. We do life together.

Romans 12:15 invites us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We can only live like this if we all take our masks off and live in authentic community. Will we be real? Or live like imposters?

Authenticity Requires Grace

It seems like every day I hear more outrage. We live in a polarized world where opinions fall on opposite ends of every issue and many of us take delight in proclaiming our differences. Over time these disagreements turn to anger and outrage. How can “they” be so wrong?

Outrage creates fear and breaks down relationships. When it is not safe to say what we really think, we stop talking. Outrage kills authenticity. To know each other and be known by each other does not require agreement, but it does require safety in disagreeing. Authenticity requires grace.

James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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Gospel-Centered Authenticity

Gospel-Centered Authenticity

It seems that no matter how much the world celebrates authenticity, it doesn’t know how to find the real thing. Often the more authentic people appear, the less authentic they are. Think of the Instagrammer who spends forever on her “no makeup” selfie, the guy who bares his soul as a pick-up technique, or the marketer who sells shabby chic as a brand.

Likewise, modern Christianity is trying hard to purge itself of a polished veneer that has smacked of hypocrisy. There’s something good in our desire for “authenticity.” We’re tired of masks, and we want to get real. But what if “authenticity” has become just another mask—one more covering for our sins?

The felt need to not “put on a face” betrays the real issue: people don’t want authenticity, they want solidarity. They want to feel they aren’t alone in falling short, so they desire openness and vulnerability from others, but by focusing on brokenness as proof our “realness” and “authenticity,” have Christians turned “being screwed up” into a badge of honor, its own sort of works righteousness?

This mindset represents a skewed understanding of sin. It’s almost as if our sins have become a currency of solidarity – something we pat each other on the back about as fellow authentic, broken people, but sin should always be grieved rather than celebrated. We’ve become too comfortable with our sin, to the point that it’s how we identify ourselves and relate to others.

Has this type of authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness? Shouldn’t we find connection over Christ, rather than over our depravity? Yes, sin is part of our story as redeemed people. We shouldn’t ignore or make light of it, but we also shouldn’t wallow in it or take it lightly for the sake of earning authenticity points.

In Romans 6:1-14, Paul says the abounding grace of God is never grounds for living in and under the reign of sin. Those saved by grace through faith in Jesus experience a profound union with Him, so that His death and resurrection become our death and resurrection. Though Jesus died for our sins, we’re to die to our sins. That is, we’re to consider ourselves dead to sin, so that sin doesn’t reign over us.

The power of death and sin are broken in the death of Jesus, and we’re called to live out this reality. When we embrace our brokenness, our “old self” (Romans 6:6), allowing sin to reign over and in our lives, we distort God’s grace. Just as the end goal of Jesus’s death was His resurrection to life, so the end goal of our death to sin is a life of righteousness (Romans 6:15-18).

True authenticity comes when we love and pursue God and the truth that He reveals in His Word and collectively encourage each other, by grace, in the direction of Christ-likeness. We should move in that direction, by grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit. You may seem a broken mess, but by the grace of God, your old self is crucified with Christ. You can walk in newness of life, because God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

When we tell the truth about our design, brokenness, redeemed status in Christ, and the end goal toward which believers are moving, we can have life-transformative, gospel-centered authenticity.

Gary Sager
Ambassador of Care

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Bad Things Stink

Bad Things Stink

Recently in the Bible Recap we read Joshua 7 and the story of Achan.  Here’s a brief synopsis to remind you about Achan:  When the Israelites conquered Jericho, Achan disobeyed God by keeping some of the gold and silver from Jericho for himself.  Achan hid what he had stolen and tried to cover up his sin.  God dealt with Achan severely because God hates dishonesty.  Even though God hates lying and stealing He will forgive you when you are seeking repentance.

As I listened to the story, I started to giggle as I recalled a story I’ve heard many times about dishonesty and hiding.  My high school English teacher, Mrs. Nett, loved to tell this story.  Now, as a parent, it makes more sense and is quite simple:  bad things stink! One day at school as a young child, Mrs. Nett had to use the restroom.  Actually, a #2 to be specific.  However, she knew the teacher would not let her go during the middle of the lesson.  A few minutes later she made herself comfortable.  Then, she carefully waddled to the Kleenex box, grabbed a couple tissues, and tiptoed back to her desk.  Using the Kleenex she wrapped herself a nice #2 present and carefully hid it inside her desk, just like Achan hid his gold and silver.  Later, the teacher walked by and asked if she needed to use the restroom.  This was followed with an honest reply “Nope!”  In the afternoon the teacher took her aside privately and asked what she was smelling.  Mrs. Nett told the teacher the truth about her #2 present.  Her stink was found, just as God perceived Achan’s sin.

As a high schooler I remember laughing uncontrollably as Mrs. Nett would tell the detail laden story.  As an adult, I’ve watched my two littles hide in the corner to make their #2 presents in their diapers.  Oh, do they smell!  As a potty-training parent, I’ve found a present in the corner of a bedroom because of an atrocious stink!  It makes me ponder:  Our sin stinks!  It will be found!  Parents, teach your children to be free from the stink of dishonesty!  Parents, remind your children that God will forgive their sin if they say sorry.

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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An Unexpected Renewed Friendship

An Unexpected Renewed Friendship

Of the three members of the Trinity, whom are you least familiar with? Of the three, to whom do you have the most trouble relating?

A very good friend challenged me with this question recently.  And to be honest, it was a great question and the start of a beautiful and unexpected journey to renew a friendship that I had largely ignored most of my life.

I know God the Father. I get Him.  I get what He does.  I like His sovereignty.  His gentle hand. His interactions with His people.  I picture Him with a nice fatherly face.  And because I have an awesome earthly human father, I find it super easy to relate to God the Father and talk to him.  Because I know his actions in sending Jesus to earth, I know His love for me.  He gave up His son for me.  I can understand all of that.  And so when I talk to Him, I can see Him and thank Him and dialogue with Him.

I know Jesus! I can picture Him.  When I pray, I know where He’s at and can picture Him sitting on His throne, just to the right of God the Father. He has a body.  He has brown hair.  He has scars in His hands and feet, but also a white robe.  He’s a carpenter. He’s coming back on a white horse.  His eyes are like flaming fire.   His actions on the cross showed me exactly how much He loves me. He is my brother, and also my King. And so when I talk to Him, I can see Him and love Him.

But the Holy Spirit?  This one was harder.    In my head, He was a concept or a thing, but not a HE.  He was an IT or a THE.  It’s like His name leads to strange concepts.  And where is He?  I wasn’t even sure.  I couldn’t picture Him in the throne room.  Does He even sit down? Does He have a chair with the others?  In my mind, He doesn’t have a body like Jesus and Father.   He doesn’t bare scars. He’s not a King with a robe and a horse.  So what does He look like?

So, taking my wise mentor’s advice, I sat down and started to talk to Him as a person and ask questions.  She challenged me to bring my journal along and write down what I hear.

Amazing process! The first thing I did was drop the ‘the’ from my vocabulary.  The Holy Spirit’s name is Holy Spirit.  He is a He, not a ‘the’ –a person that I can talk to directly.  He has roles – He is a counselor, a guide, a friend.  He helps us search our hearts to reveal brokenness, heartaches, sin – and then, as the best and most gentle counselor, helps us process them and break the chains of all these things.

Once I started the process, I had so many questions! What do You look like? Where do you reside? Do you have a throne chair?  How can I find You?

Together, this great friend and counselor walked me through memory after memory of events that had created little fractures in my childhood heart, offered me healing and wholeness, and showed me how to release them back to Him and walk in greater degrees of forgiveness.

He showed me where He was in the most challenging moments of my life, how His presence was there to guide and counsel me even when I was unaware of Him and did not yet know Him as friend.

And those journals I had been pouring my heart into over the last 20 years? I was writing to Him.  That time spent crying in agony, reading the Psalms out loud while lying in my bed? I was crying out to Him.  That inspiration to stop in the middle of giant snow storm and buy my wedding dress at that very moment–Him–delighting in my love for a good deal.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned in this newly renewed friendship is how to connect with Him.  He stands at the door and knocks, I merely respond, “I invite You in.”  Simple.

He does not condemn. He does not shame.  He is so gentle! And even though the pain of reliving old memories was hard, letting Him show me where He was in the process was so completely healing – my trust in Him and love for Him only increased.

In terms of being authentic with our friends, this is one where I am completely me and completely accepted and completely loved.

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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Maundy Thursday Worship

Maundy Thursday Worship
Thursday, April 1 at 6:30pm

As part of Holy Week, we will celebrate the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples by taking communion together, retelling the story of Jesus’ betrayal and his death on the cross.
This service will run approximately 40 minutes and will be at Cedar Hills Community Church in the Worship Center. It will also be live on Facebook for those unable to attend in person.
Cedar Hills is located next door to Cherry Hill Park on the west side of Cedar Rapids at the corner of E Ave NW and Stoney Point Rd.
Find Us

Insomnia

We’re excited to have you join in on the April 9-10 INSOMNIA Event! All-night extravaganza!  Enjoy great activities with your friends. Two paper waivers are required to be filled out and brought along with you to the event.

PRINT THESE WAIVERS:

WHERE: Cedar Hills Community Church, AirFX Trampoline Park, Dragon’s Lair laser tag, and more…
WHEN: 7pm-7am, April 9-10
COST: $50 (due day of event)
WHO: Journey Youth & Friends

Removal of Intimidation and Fear

Removal of Intimidation and Fear

Walking in for the first time, anxiety can quickly sweep over you. Your breath quickens, your heart races, and you keep your head down so as to not make eye contact with anyone.

This is how I enter new places. Before I go anywhere new I look them up online. I want to see the place before I ever go near it. I want to become familiar with the surroundings, the products, the food, the expectations—anything I can to feel comfortable and informed when I walk in for the first time.

But all the research in the world doesn’t take away every hint of fear. When I arrive I become dependent on a greeter, a clerk, a waitress, a host to point me in the right direction, to give me the next step in a line of expectations.

When I was in seminary in Canada, there were subtle differences I learned about the culture of my new town that often caught me off guard. My new town in the remote prairies of Saskatchewan took their shoes off EVERYWHERE. It was the strangest thing.  Even a trip to the chiropractor involved taking your shoes off at the door and placing them on a little rack. You would enter the office in your socks. In the summer if you were wearing flip flops, you would remember to bring a pair of socks so that you wouldn’t enter barefoot. I was happy to go places with my new seminary friends who could point out these things to me. I could have insulted many had I not known! I definitely was not prepared for the small confrontations when I missed subtle social cues like the shoe removals. I wrongly entered many places with my shoes on to the horror of any onlookers.

At one of my very first visits to a house in Canada, my worship professor who had spent time in U.S., showed me the best possible hospitality I can remember. I entered their house and they quickly pointed out the next steps: “You can hang your coat here. Shoes can be placed over here. If you need a pair of socks, we have some extras right here. When you’re all done, we’re gathering in the living room. Just find a spot on the couches and we’ll start with some light conversation before dinner.”

Their directions weren’t given in a military state of ‘do this and do that,’ but just a gentle guide to help me find comfort in their home. With a few opening comments, I knew what was expected of me.

As an introvert (and in case you didn’t know this about me, I score about as far over on the introvert scale as possible!) these kind directions removed a great deal of fear from my visit to their home. I was welcomed, received, and informed.

Every Sunday we have the possibility of welcoming, receiving and informing others in our midst. We do this because God has extended us the same invitation: We are welcome in His house, we are received in gentleness, and His Word makes it clear what expectations He has of us. At first God seems intimidating, but as we get to know Him, that intimidation is removed and comfort replaces it.

But what a big hurtle fear can be in the process! But as God has welcomed us, we get the supreme privilege of welcoming others in His name.

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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God Can Use Cinnamon Rolls for His Glory

God Can Use Cinnamon Rolls for His Glory

What does hospitality mean to you? Does it mean a spotless home, a perfectly set table, and great food? Scripture has a different approach to hospitality – it’s not that cleaning and preparing our homes for guests and presenting a nice meal is not part of it. It is just that hospitality in scripture is really a means to an end. Opening the doors of our homes in hospitality is the means to invite people into our lives and hearts. Sharing a loaf of bread with others across the dining table creates opportunities to share the Bread of Life with them. If scrubbing and cleaning our homes becomes our focus, we might miss sharing the mess and dirtiness of our lives with others. If our greatest concern is wondering how a group of people will fit into our home, we may miss the opportunity to make room in our hearts for others. If we worry about making the perfect meal, we may miss sharing the only food that satisfies. If what we are doing in our hospitality interferes with people being encouraged to walk with God, then we are not engaged in Biblical hospitality. God is more interested in caring relationships than the dust behind the couch!

I love the verses in Hebrews 13:1-2. “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” God may be using you to bring someone to His table. Jesus was a wonderful model of hospitality – sharing food with his disciples and serving them as he taught them to care for others.

There are times when you walk into our church or my home and you smell warm cinnamon rolls baking – they smell good – they taste good – and they are a temptation to all weight watchers! But this act of hospitality is so much more – it says “welcome” to a neighbor, friend, church, wedding party, and anyone else who walks through our doors. We will never know when one of these rolls opens the opportunity to share the goodness of God and His love.

Our homes and our lives are indeed the most powerful combination of ministry to our world so don’t be afraid to share God’s love through hospitality. The next time you open your doors to others pray that your heart will magnify Christ in hospitality and point your guests to the only and everlasting meal that will truly fill their souls.

Diane Potter
Hospitality Expert

 

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