All posts by Cedar Hills

We Do the Caring and God Does the Healing

We Do the Caring and God Does the Healing

Here at Cedar Hills we believe hospitality is a core characteristic of how we live out the gospel. In “The Simplest Way to Change the World,” Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements describe the power of gospel hospitality this way:

Grasping that hospitality is a meaningful way that we care for spiritually sick people is why we do this, and it will be the lasting power we need to make this a way of life. Because ultimately the end goal of hospitality is care and healing – we do the caring and Jesus does the healing.”

If I’m honest, practicing authenticity, I struggle sometimes with hospitality. For example, the other night when I got home from running some errands my neighbors were out chatting across the street. I looked out the window, thought about going over, but then accepted the excuse that I didn’t have the emotional energy to go over and care for my neighbors. I was tired and not in the mood. I realized, as I reflected on this quote from Dustin and Brandon, that I sometimes feel like I not only have to do the caring, but I feel responsible for the healing. I choose not to care because I feel inadequate. I know they have brokenness and hurt (like all of us), and I don’t feel strong enough to help them. Today I am challenged that all I need to do is just listen, and trust God to do the healing. As I reflect on this truth I am encouraged. I feel like I can answer the Facebook message with kind hospitality, because I don’t have to have the answers. I don’t have to carry their burdens.  God just needs me to listen and care. I can simply be there for those who need relationships, and rely on God to provide the wisdom and strength to bring healing when and how He wills. God commands us to show hospitality in Hebrew 13:1-2.

Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.

Brothers and sisters, let’s be encouraged today. Let us not neglect to show hospitality to our coworkers and neighbors.

God help us to choose to show hospitality. Give us the strength to enter into the messiness of each other’s lives, knowing that YOU bring the healing as we simply care. Amen!

Steve Poole
Director of Youth & Young Adults

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Investing in the Lives of Others

Investing in the Lives of Others

What mental images emerge when you are presented with passages that encourage hospitality? Hospitality can come in many forms and expressions. As Christians we are called to practice biblical hospitality and practice it with joy! Some Scripture examples are:

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” ~ Romans 12:13.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” ~ Hebrews 13:2.

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. ~ 1 Peter 4:9.

In a practical sense, hospitality is about investing in other’s lives and learning how you can best serve those around you.

In this month’s article, I am going to briefly highlight three examples of excellent hospitality that I have witnessed over the last few months.  These people are not aware that I am using them as examples, but I am going to point out their positive examples anyway.

My first positive example is Jan and Alan Crandall. If you have attended Cedar Hills for a while, you have most likely been invited to the Crandall’s home for a meal or some sort of gathering. Alan and Jan make a point to intentionally invite people into their home, usually at least one time a week (and that is low-balling it!). Many reading this can attest to experiencing the Crandall’s wonderful hospitality and being made to feel like you are the most important person in the world.

My second positive example is Lore and Shanna Swartzendruber and Deveri Johnson. Last May we were in a Saturate Group with Deveri, Lore, and Shanna. There was a large group that met at the church on Monday evenings. Eventually, smaller groups broke off and met in individual homes. Deveri was always willing to have that meeting at her home and she has a gift of making her guests feel welcome. The Swartzendrubers’ also seemed excited about inviting people into their activities. They were going camping during a holiday weekend that extended into Monday and they insisted that the group come to their campsite and join them.  This has led to an open invite of having the group and anyone else join them for dinner every Monday night. This is a great informal time of fellowship, loud laughter, and people not leaving until well after mid-night. Something special is happening at that meeting. People feel welcome and free to be themselves and the Holy Spirit is doing the work. The freedom and love that the Swartzendrubers’ encourage is apparent.

My third example is the food pantry crew led by Darlene Devries. Recently the food pantry had to undergo a routine inspection, which was passed with flying colors. The inspector told Darlene that everything was great. What really impressed the inspector was the spirit of hospitality. The people who use the pantry’s services reported that ours was the friendliest. It was also the one where they felt the most cared for. The pantry volunteers exhibited joy and excellent service to the pantry patrons. Jesus is using the hospitality of the food pantry to act as His loving hands in this community.

There are many more examples of excellent hospitality going on within our midst. We are the kind of people who make it a habit to be hospitable to others and one another.

Gary Sager
Ambassador of Care

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Planting Seeds of Hospitality

Planting Seeds of Hospitality

Hospitality has been extended to me and I’d like to describe it to you.

Imagine sitting in a garden surrounded by beauty. Everywhere you look there is a new type of flower or plant to take in. Also, in this garden is a flowing waterfall with ponds that reflect the setting sun. The sound of it is relaxing and draws you in.

Beside you is a friend. A person that wants to listen and hear what’s on your heart. A friend that has made time for you. They are happy to listen and encourage you on your journey. This friend both affirms you and provides direction as needed.

This setting exists. It exists in the front and backyard of the Landhuis house. I find myself drawn in, cared for, listened to, affirmed, and receiving wisdom whenever I go there.

This is a picture of hospitality. The kind of offering we can provide to others. For some the setting will be a bustling coffee shop or a front porch restoration project. For others a simple walk in the park will give the encouragement needed to get through another day.

At Cedar Hills we are the kind of people that offer hospitality using whatever gifts have been made available to us.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

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Hello Neighbor

Hello Neighbor

Yesterday I complimented my neighbor on his beautiful garden and noted that I had never seen such a large cabbage. He immediately launched into the fine quality compost he picked up for free from the city’s yard waste disposal site and how he tops off his garden with this stuff every couple of years. (I already knew this.)

In the hope of discovering something new I asked him, “How did you start gardening?”

He answered my question by talking about his wife. She grew up on a farm and she was the real gardener. (I did not know this.) I asked a couple of follow-up questions and he might have talked to me all day but my restless dog pulled me away.

As I walked away two thoughts struck me. 1. A little curiosity goes a long way. 2. My neighbors love to chat. I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for almost three decades and I am still discovering new tidbits about my neighbors.

Good hospitality starts with a little curiosity and a listening ear. Maybe you could test out my theory. Strike up a conversation with someone new, be curious, and listen. I imagine that this kind of hospitality will open the door to deeper love of God and neighbor. Let me know how it goes.

 

PS This is not my neighbor and not his cabbage but if you saw a giant cabbage wouldn’t you want to know more??

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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Sock Dilemmas (Again)

Sock Dilemmas (Again)

I don’t know why socks are such a big thing at our house. They are literally EVERYWHERE like… all the time. I think my family walks in and slowly sheds a sock as they pass through the door, through the kitchen, down a hallway and into the living room. The simple trek is lined with dirty socks. Socks that have gotten wet, socks that stink, socks that have gotten dragged through the yard, socks that made someone’s feet too hot in the heat. I think they get shed for all sorts of reasons.

And their match is always missing. Does your household have a place for socks that have lost their match? I have a small bin on the folding table in my laundry area where socks go to hopefully one day be reunited with their match. Some socks have been in this bin for *shudder* years. But I leave them in there with the high hopes that some day, some how their match might appear. (Of course, as soon as I throw one away, the match always does appear!)

But oh that day! Oh that celebration! Oh that moment when a long-lost sockie appears and finds its match! It melts my heart in a deep move of satisfaction and enjoyment. I smile, I jump for joy, and happily fold the two socks together and return them to their rightful owner. Safe, secure, and happy.

If I can find such silly but real enjoyment in a lost sock restored to its partner, imagine the even greater joy, the unsurpassed life-changed-forever-and-eternal joy that God feels when one of his lost children finds HIM and is restored to HIM.

His pursuit of us has always been about a restored relationship that we were MADE for. We weren’t created to be separate from Him, but were created for eternal fellowship with a real God, a real Abba Father—a relationship unlike any other. Without Him, we are just a lost sock in a bin, completely missing our true and created purpose.

And the beautiful thing? It is He who is searching out us, waiting and anticipating that beautiful moment of restored joy.

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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The Return of the Visitors

The Return  of the Visitors

In the fall of 2019 a new couple walked through the church doors. They had kids about the same age as mine and I invited them to the Parenting Together class. It felt like a connection had been made. They seemed to recognize that connection was important to one’s faith. They never came to class but they did come back for a few weeks. Then, we never saw them again.

Situations like these make me wonder if there was something we could have done differently as a church body. My article from last month’s newsletter on shouldering ministry failures flows from these types of encounters.

Fast forward to earlier this year. This family walked through the door, again. Again, several people invited them to Parenting Together and they started coming and chose to dive into relationship with those in class. I was blown away by this change in behavior.

Currently, they are in the Saturate Leadership class where

they are doing life together with others in our church body. This Saturate class teaches how to live out life (eating, celebrating, resting, and blessing) with others while doing ministry all along.

My husband and I have the privilege of getting to know this couple. And our kids are thrilled to have new friends to play with. We are continuing on our sanctification journey alongside this family, as we try to live out our faith in this world.

God knows the big picture and He is restoring all things.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

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Celebrate Beauty

Celebrate Beauty

Last week Mary showed me a video of the singer Nightbirde. The singer told about her recent struggles with cancer and then she shared an original song, “It’s Okay,” about her experience. As I watched her sing, tears welled up in me. Her beautiful voice and authentic performance struck a chord. It was beautiful.

This is not the first time I’ve cried while enjoying a performance, or reading a book, or watching a movie. (Or a commercial.) I used to think that my tears were in response to sadness. But I’m starting to wonder if they are more likely tears of joy and hope.

The writer Alain de Botton noted, “The moment we cry in a film is not when things are sad but when they turn out to be more beautiful than we expected them to be.” Alain is on to something.

We are the kind of people who believe that God fixes broken things. When God sets right what is wrong we call that restoration. We believe in restoration. We pray for restoration. We fight for restoration. We celebrate restoration.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “God makes all things beautiful in his time.” When I see something ugly or painful or damaged become more beautiful than I expected – it makes me cry. Tears of joy and hope.

The theologian Cornelius Plantinga wrote a book about sin entitled Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be. The world is not supposed to be ugly or painful or damaged – it is supposed to be beautiful. We are the kind of people who celebrate every time God makes the world a better place.

Here is the video of Nightbirde if you want to celebrate with me!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZJvBfoHDk0

Celebrating the beauty of restoration,

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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Cedar Hills App

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness

We must never give up on each other or on the supernatural potential of Christian community. Jesus has brought “incompatibles” together. No wonder we often fight! We must strive to hold ourselves accountable to practice forgiveness and reconciliation. Our mutual love for one another is how the world will see who Jesus is. (Timothy Keller)

 This is the conclusion to Timothy Keller’s article: The Fading of Forgiveness: Tracing the disappearance of the thing we need most. In this article Pastor/Author Timothy Keller makes a case for how the practice and principle of forgiveness is fading from our Western society.  The roots come from our culture becoming increasingly post-truth and post-Christian. The removal of absolute truth and morality founded by God and Jesus’ teachings removes the underlying reasons to value forgiveness. People are left asking the question, “Why should I forgive?” When the only truth is our feelings and our greatest purpose is self-fulfillment, there is no reason to forgive. Forgiveness is a self-sacrificing action, it always feels like we are losing something. To forgive we must let go of our “righteous indignation.” We must surrender our feelings of moral superiority.   Alan Jacobs describes our current Western culture this way:

When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better. (Alan Jacobs)

This is the struggle of our age. We must fight against the bent toward our culture and away from Biblical forgiveness. We must resist our flesh’s call for vindictive vengeance.  Instead, we must reconnect with the heart of Jesus. He prayed for those who crucified Him, “Father forgive them…”  The heart of Christian forgiveness is Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies as well as our neighbors. We have this natural, tribalistic response to those with whom we disagree, we devalue them and their tribe. In our minds and in our hearts we dehumanize them in some way. We elevate ourselves, and our “tribe,” above others. When Jesus calls us to love our enemies he flips the script. The love re-humanizes them. I love how Miroslav Volf describes this Biblical understanding of forgiveness:

Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion—without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. (Miroslav Volf)

The imperative for us as Christ-followers to forgive each other, because we have been forgiven. We see this in Paul’s letters:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

Paul is describing a community that is super natural!  We do the unnatural work of forgiveness and reconciliation because of God’s supernatural mercy and forgiveness of us that reconciled us to Him!  This is why forgiveness is one of the core cultural qualities we believe in here at Cedar Hills Community Church.  We see a great opportunity to shine God’s light into our homes, work places, and neighborhoods by practicing forgiveness. God’s body here on earth must demonstrate that there is a better way to interact with people. This may look like foolishness to some, but a community known for forgiveness and reconciliation will be very attractive to those who recognize their own brokenness and need for forgiveness. Forgiveness is difficult. Forgiveness is messy.  However, forgiveness is worth it!

Steve Poole
Director of Youth & Young Adults

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Lake Failure is Filled By Pride

Lake Failure is Filled By Pride

Tim Keller says, “If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts.”

This is where I find myself frequently. With a heart that’s carrying some new failure. The failure might be a conversation turned sour, a connection that didn’t get made, or a message that wasn’t shared clearly.

After reading Keller’s quote last week, I began to realize just how much I still find my identity in things on this earth. As I reflect on the “failures” or the less than perfect way I carry out my ministry, I find that I let the failures weigh too heavily on my heart.

Then my heart starts to wonder about what might be a failure versus what might be a sin.

Separating actual sin from felt failures is a hurdle when I’m carrying burdens instead of letting God handle them.

So is there a sin somewhere in the mix of my failures? If there is, then I need to deal with that directly by naming the specific sin and asking for forgiveness. As my coworker pointed out after reading this article, the specific sin would be pride.

The root of me agonizing over the failures is found in my pride. When something goes right, I want to take all the credit. But when something turns out less than perfect, as things tend to do on earth, I feel the weight of that burden heavily. Primarily, because I look to myself instead of Christ.

When I have my identity rightly placed, both the failures and the successes are in God’s hands. As my coworker suggested, “I can rejoice in both, because they are both from God.”

My focus then, is to ask forgiveness for my pride.

As for my carrying around “failures,” this has to be remedied in moving my identity from my work to Christ. This process is going to take a while.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

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