Escape the Tomb! Easter Program

Escape the Tomb!

Calling all actors and wanna-be-actors!  Now’s your chance!  We need actors of all ages for an Easter program.  The program will be presented Easter Sunday, during the 9:45am and 11:00am services as a children’s worship option during those two services.

Practices will be Wednesday evenings and/or Sundays after 2nd service.  No memorization is required. If you an interested click here to sign-up to get more information.

CRU Testimony Event – Friday 7pm

One of the ministries we support is CRU and Katie Smith down at the U of I. They have a great virtual even this Friday at 7pm “Together For Iowa”.
This will be half an hour of getting to hear from several students at Iowa and Iowa State about how God is working in their lives, which is encouraging to hear! They will share some ways about how we can work together to impact the lives of more students in Iowa.
RSVP here to receive the link: https://bit.ly/3pTD8SP
We are excited to hear how Cedar Hills’ partnership with CRU continues to impact the lives of students and people across Iowa with the gospel!

I Want Restoration

I Want Restoration!

Since last March, most of my thoughts have been on the idea of having school in a “normal” or “original” setting. When I was asked to write on Restoration this month….it was like a breath of fresh air to voice my inner thoughts out loud. I WANT RESTORATION! I want things back to the way they were before COVID-19 and the Derecho.

I started looking back at what was lost (in my mind) in 2020. The last day of our school year was the middle of March. We lost three and half months of tuition. We did not get to say good-bye to our students. Our classrooms needed major repair to even think of starting school. We are limited to no more than 10 students in a classroom.   They must be six feet apart. No “learning to share” at play time. Toys, tables, chairs must be sanitized after a child plays or touches it. No parents in the building. No guest readers. So much extra time and stress on teachers to fulfill the COVID-19 requirements. I could go on and on.

So the idea of an “original setting,” but maybe better, gives me pause to realize that restoration is happening at Noah’s Ark. There are so many blessings to give thanks for this year.

New staff and smaller classrooms have encouraged closer friendships. Students feel more confident. Teachers have truly gotten to know their students. Parents may not agree, but by not allowing parents into the building at drop-off, we have greatly decreased our students who have separation anxiety by re-directing them immediately. Students and teachers have been healthier this year than in the past. (Knock on wood, right?)

All in all, I can see a total restoration (both back to its original and improved beyond measure) occurring for Noah’s Ark right now. Every day is a blessing to love on our students, show them God’s love, and grow together. If you have ever taught, you know you will ALWAYS receive more when teaching than what you give.

Kris Crowther
Director of Noah’s Ark Preschool

 

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“If You Give a Moose a Muffin”

“If You Give a Moose a Muffin”

“If you give a moose a muffin…” that is how Cathy would describe my restoration project this past week. We have an old cedar chest I inherited from one of my grandparents. However, in recent years it has received some abuse. The lid now has a big crack right down the middle. Repairing the chest has been on my “to do” list for a while. Last Saturday I went over to a friend’s house so we could fix the cracked lid. My friend has an adequate shop and more wood-working knowledge. Once the project to repair the cracked lid began, we quickly decided not just to repair the crack, but to refinish the whole lid. This meant scraping and sanding off the existing finish. Restoration is like that, things often look worse before they get better. Restoration is a painful process. This little project required GRIT (you know, sandpaper 80, 120, 220…). I believe the process of spiritual restoration God plans for our lives is quite similar. The Master Carpenter is using trial and tribulation in our lives, like sandpaper, to slowly remove the “old self” and restore us to the person He created us to be. Dying to our old self and our old way of living can be hard work. It can be painful. Therefore, it is only accomplished by the restoring power of God’s Spirit!

He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

“…to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

The phrase “if you give a moose a muffin…” is from a children’s book. In this book, the protagonist gives a moose a muffin, but then it wants jam. This process leads us on a grand adventure as the moose wants more and more. I think this is a little like our relationship with God. His love for us is all-consuming. So, when we first give our lives to God, we do not often understand the grand journey we have begun. One in which God will ask us to surrender more and more of ourselves to Him. In this way, God is not abusive toward us immediately forcing His will on us. Instead, just like my restoration started small, but grew to encompass the whole lid, God’s restoration of us begins small, but grows to transform our whole self as we further understand the amazing blessing of His restoration in our lives! The more we surrender to His plans of restoration, as painful as they may be at first, the more we experience the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (love, joy, peace, patience,…).

“Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life.” ~ Rick Warren

Steve Poole
Director of Youth & Young Adults

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Restoration From New to New

Restoration From New to New

Bear with me for a minute and turn to the beginning of your Bible, Genesis 1:1 and 31a. They say, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”

Now, please turn to near the very end of your Bible, Revelation 21:1-5, this says,Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’  And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’“

This absolutely tickles me. God starts and ends with new. God loves new. He is the maker of new.  In fact, He says in Revelation 21:5 that He is making all things new.

We were originally made in the image of God. We were made to reflect His glory into the world, but Adam and Eve usurped God’s position in their relationship with Him and sin entered into their lives. That ruined the new.

Through disobedience Adam and Eve rejected God. This led to a rejection of self (shame – Genesis 3:7), a fear of rejection (Genesis 3:8, Genesis 3:10), and rejection of others (Genesis 3:12-13). The manifestation of the break in the relationship between God and man was rejection and the fear of rejection.

That spirit of rejection is still alive and well in the hearts of men and women in the 21st Century. The fear of rejection drives most of our decisions. We can trace the need to control, perfectionism, fear of relationships, need for power, anger and hostility, and even war to the fear of and reaction to rejection. The greatest human need is to be accepted. The greatest source of darkness in the human heart is rejection, and “if you reject me, I will reject you.” Humans are remarkably clever and devious in how they “get back” at the ones they believe rejected them.

Fear not!  Remember, God is a maker of new.  Almost as soon as Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden, God began restoring people back to Himself. To restore is to “bring back to a previous, normal condition.” In fact, renew, redeem, restore, and reconcile have the same root meaning, which is to restore to a previous condition or position. This is something that God loves to do!

I love God’s desire to restore. He restores us to a right relationship with him through the gift of forgiveness and justification. He is able to restore earthly relationships, and he can even restore days and years that have been lost to the effects of sin (Joel 2:25). Not only can He renew a life and redeem its future, but He can also redeem its past.

In the New Testament, we see Jesus live a ministry of restoration. He restores sight to the blind, the ability to walk to the crippled, hearing to the deaf, and new clean skin to the diseased (Mark 8:22-26; Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 7: 31-37; Luke 5:12-25). In all of these accounts, Jesus didn’t just heal a condition. He restored life, security, and hope to broken people.

Jesus said, “I have come to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners “(Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-19). Jesus accepted the rejected, the prostitutes, the infirm and the sick, Samaritans, tax collectors, women, and the demon possessed. They were all rejected by the Jewish culture in the time of Jesus. He healed them and cast out demons. He accepted and restored them.

As Christians, restoration/reconciliation is the heart of the message of Jesus. He calls us to partner with Him in this ministry. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.” (NIV)

We don’t need to wait for a clean slate. We can take off our old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).

New beginnings bud around us and within us every day. God is in the business of making all things new. His healing brings restoration beyond understanding, no matter where we come from or what we’ve done.

From New to New, you have to love how God works!

Gary Sager
Ambassador of Care

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Restoration in the Midst of Uncertainty

Restoration in the Midst of Uncertainty

Revelation 21:5 contains a promise I read every time I stand beside an open grave: “He who is seated on the throne says, ‘I am making all things new!’” The Bible talks specifically about new songs and new names; a new heaven and a new earth; new creation and new life. The Bible tells the story of ALL things made new in Jesus. Even death.

Given the times, I can’t imagine a better promise than the promise of newness. Given the times, we need reminders that God is still at work. We need to trust that trouble is not the end of the story. We need a hope that moves us toward a better future. We need to believe in restoration.

“He who is seated on the throne says, ‘I am making all things new!’”

Restoration fixes what is broken. Sets right what is wrong. Repairs damage. Overcomes evil. Redeems. Rehabs. Restores. Restoration makes all things new.

Right now I’m praying for restored resilience. I feel run down. Stressed out. Exhausted by uncertainty. This quote helped focus my prayer, “The big idea for building resilience in the midst of uncertainty is that cultivating meaning is the key to flourishing in all seasons of life, including when we are suffering” (Daryl Van Tongreren, Courage to Suffer).

The hope of all things made new gives meaning to our suffering. Joseph said it this way, “You meant it for evil, God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Paul said it this way, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) “He who is seated on the throne says, ‘I am making all things new!’” We believe in restoration!

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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A Restoration of the Heart

A Restoration of the Heart

My best friend and I were born 12 days apart. It would be funny to add up the hours we spent together hanging out in her basement. We shared our hearts on a daily basis. I helped her with algebra and she helped me with dating advice. We made decisions together, spent lazy Saturday mornings together, and laughed until our bellies hurt. Eventually, she made her way to the University of Iowa with me for college. We shared friends and food and took the hardships together. When we moved into our “adult” lives, our friend group from college continued meeting on a yearly basis at a minimum. It was at this point that we had a falling out. She no longer wanted to participate. After a flurry of angry emails the relationship ended in a matter of days. It has now been a decade since our falling out. We have barely spoken, except for a few sentences at a high school class reunion.

It took about five of those years to realize that I had a role in our falling out (because I’m humble and also a fast learner). Plenty of blame is mine. I was a demanding and bossy friend. I often tried to manipulate her behavior with my criticism. I held our relationship with a closed fist.

It took a few more years for me to offer forgiveness to her. This was done in my heart because she would not receive any kind of contact from me. But it was honest and it lifted a huge burden from my shoulders. It was a burden that had been making me sick every time I thought about it. The burden made my other relationships harder. This burden of blaming her was causing me pain.

This is where we sit today. She has not chosen to communicate with me in a decade. The only reason I can share that with the world is because, with the help of Jesus at every step, I have been able to truly forgive. This has led to a restoration in my own life, even though she has no idea of my story.

Today I can say that I am free of anger and spite. I know this because we bumped into each other in the mall a month ago. I was happy to see her and her mother. I was happy to exchange a few brief words. I hope for the best for her and her family.

God has restored my heart from this terrible burden. From the pain of the lost relationship, the ugliness of not forgiving, and the sickness that it causes as we tighten our grip while trying to make it right in our own power.

Thankfully, God is able to forgive me for the part I played, which is good news for my soul. And even though she and I are not back in a relationship, this is still a restoration story.

Restoration is about the work that has been done in my heart. God is making all things new. This experience has grown my hope as I eagerly await the redemption of my body and this earth (Romans 8).

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

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Teen Restoration

Teen Restoration

One day I was sitting, chatting, alongside a teen. We’d been chatting about normal things, what classes had homework, what activities would happen next weekend, whether or not the teen should pursue a job, etc. Out of the blue, the teen turned and looked me in the eye and said, “I can be me here.” 

I was confused. “Huh?” was my novel reply.

“No really, like, I can be me here.”  The teen went on to explain, “I can’t be myself anywhere else.  If I say what I want to at school, kids look at me funny, post nasty comments, or talk behind my back. They’re just jerks. But here, I can say what I’m thinking, like really thinking.  And I know I won’t be made fun of. Nobody will laugh at me. I feel safe here. That’s really why I come every week.”

And you know what…the teen is exactly right! That is exactly why attendance happens every week for this teen!  The teen is starting to experience Isaiah 54:4 with real skin on: “Do not be afraid, for you will not be put to shame; don’t be humiliated, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth,”

But what else has this teen truly experienced? RESTORATION!! This teen knows that there is hope, unconditional love and truth being offered here. I love knowing that this hope and restoration is offered only because we, ourselves, have experienced the freedom Christ’s restoration brings and we want to pass it on! This is why we do ministry, even in the midst of every day uncomfortable moments and uncertainties.

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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Restoration

Restoration

Sometimes the word broken can create a picture in one’s mind of a thing that is beyond repair—a shattered window, a broken vase—things, that if we tried to fix them will never be restored to their pre-broken state. Glue on glass just doesn’t do it.

Sometimes the word broken can refer to something that is currently unusable —a broken down car, a snow blower—things that need a new part installed to replace faulty pieces that have gone bad.

Sometimes the word broken can refer to relationship dynamics—lack of communication, lack of understanding, inabilities to see eye-to-eye, lack of respect—things that with counsel and prayer *could* potentially be restored, but not always.

Sometimes we seem something as “broken” when it has been neglected—an abandoned house, old barns along the highway, a rusty cast iron skillet.

I actually really love cast iron. It’s the only type of skillet I own. I have multiple ones for different uses—one for eggs, one for meat, one for pancakes and quesadillas, and other meals. And a tiny little one as the spoon holder on top of my stove.

When Rick and I first got married, we discovered an old giant cast iron skillet in his parents’ basement that been largely neglected over the course of 30 or more years. It was dirty, rusty and covered in cobwebs, crud and burnt-on grime. Thinking it was beyond rescue, it had been stashed away many years prior.

Until I saw it. And let me tell you I was excited to see what I could do with this beauty.

I brought it home and began the restoration process.  I cleaned it, scrubbed it with a coarse salt to remove rust and grime, boiled water in it, removed more layers of grime, seasoned it with oil, heated it to set it in, seasoned it with oil again, heated it to set it in and repeated the process until it became black, shiny and smooth. In its restored state: It. Is. Beautiful—my biggest and best cast iron skillet yet.

Broken doesn’t always mean beyond repair. Broken doesn’t always mean throw out the old and get a new one. When we see a broken world, when we hear that Jesus can fix broken things, I don’t see Him casting it away or just replacing a broken part.

I see Him spotting an old and rusty cast iron. I see Him saying, “Oh! I love it! Because I created it, I know the process to cleanse, shine and restore, to bring it back to a beautiful and useful state.”

“Because I created her, I know how to restore her. Because I created Him, I know how to claim and bring him back to beauty.”

He knows.

He knows what is beaten and stashed away in an old box in the basement.

He is familiar with rust.

He is familiar with cobwebs.

He knows about crud and grime and 30 year old dust.

He’s not afraid to go after it and claim it and take it home.

He’s excited to restore us back and show the world what all He can do.

If you come to my house, I’ll probably show you my giant cast iron and tell you the story of how I brought it back to life.

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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Offering Hope When All Else Contradicts

Offering Hope When All Else Contradicts

Restoration:  (noun) the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.  However, last week I read “Restoration offers hope when everything else in life contradicts.” This was a concept I could easily wrap my mind around.

Hope was offered through Cedar Hills this year when we restored our Sunday class kids and youth ministries. This happened after the derecho when many were unsure of life due to troubles regarding cleanup and rebuilding. When the restoration process began we weren’t sure what it would look like. How many kids per classroom?  Do we limit class sizes? Would we have willing teachers?  Should we focus on storm clean up instead? Would kids come? However, through prayer (“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” ~ Matthew 6:33) we determined it was the right time and path to pursue. Now, we’ve seen hope being restored and it looks like this: “I have kids in my class again, Mom!”  “My teacher taught me that God will give me what I need.”  “I have joy in my heart again,” stated one teacher after hearing the kids tell her the gospel story!  Even a simple, “Cathy!  You’re here with us today again?!” from an online class student demonstrates such renewed hope. Restoration has been offered to other Cedar Rapids ministry families when they’ve joined our church family for a week or two for personal retreat and renewal. Teens have experienced restoration by hearing scripture stories again because they have not been able to attend their home church due to COVID restrictions. Some days we still don’t know what the path to restoration should look like or feel like, but we do know that 1 John 5:4 states: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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