Category Archives: Cedar Chips

The month newsletter of Cedar Hills Community Church.

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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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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Welcoming the Stranger

Welcoming the Stranger

Ladies, do you need a spa day? Do you need to be welcomed, listened to, and treated kindly? Does your soul need some tender loving care?

For Christmas my grandma bought me a spa facial and recommended that I use Paula at Elevate Salon by Westdale. Let me tell you about experiencing Paula’s hospitality.

Paula greeted me at the door with a smile and a great spirit. She asked me about myself and my day and listened to what I had to say. I knew she was listening because she followed up with questions about what I had said. She took me to a calm and quiet room where I was able to get comfortable. Once settled in, she described the process of the facial and asked what my preferences were. The facial was a wonderful experience, after which, she offered me a cool drink.

When I left the spa, I felt a sense of gratitude for her hospitality. What she had offered me was not something you could buy. Her bright spirit made me feel welcomed and safe. Paula showed me a great example of hospitality. She welcomed me, a stranger, into her life for an hour.

We have the privilege of doing this for others. We can invite strangers into our lives and homes and treat them like friends. If this idea sends panic to your heart, here’s a reminder that it’s not about entertaining. It’s not about impressing someone with perfect house décor, ‘Martha Stewart style’ meals, or well-mannered children. Entertainment is a focus on self (on the home, on my kids’ behavior, on me). Entertainment says, “Look at me and my things.”

Hospitality, however, is an ability to focus on others. Hospitality is a way of saying, “There you are, I’ve been waiting for you.” Welcoming people into my home, offering them a tall glass of something hot or cold, and listening to them is the best gift my family and I can give to a weary soul. And every soul is weary at times.

My husband and I were reminded of this recently when we invited someone into our home. After eating and drinking and being cared for, he shared some legal challenges he was facing. He felt much shame around this issue and that made him want to keep his situation a secret. But in our home, with our care, he felt comfortable sharing his challenges with us. And when you’re able to speak your shame out loud, you force the shame to shrink. My husband and I offered this young man a gift. The gift of someone who listens and cares. And, here’s the secret to moving in the direction of hospitality. It’s not just the stranger that benefits from hospitality. Offering hospitality to others creates joy in the heart of the giver.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

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Just a Thought

Just a Thought

As I write this article I am praying for Max, as he is fighting a cancer diagnosis. I very much consider Max to be a father in the faith. I first met Max, and his wife Peggy, at Berean Baptist Church’s college Sunday School class. They were the teachers and Peggy always made sure we had homemade breakfast. I chose to attend this church during college for two main reasons: I could walk there easily from my dorm, and FREE HOMEMADE BREAKFAST! While the hospitality of breakfast may have drawn me to Max, and Berean Baptist Church, I soon discovered a much more fulfilling and transformative hospitality. Max offered to share more than just a meal, or Sunday mornings with me, but he shared his self-control. What? Can you really share self-control?  Max asked me once, “What do you need from me?” As we talked I shared that I wanted a daily “quiet time” with God. I knew that this would be a key to spiritual growth, but I didn’t have the self-control needed to be faithful. So Max proposed a strategy he humbly named “Just a thought…” He invited me into his personal time with Jesus, a part of that intimate time studying God’s Word. Each day at 4am, Max would get up and do his own daily “quiet time.” Then, Max would write me a “Just a Thought” email containing a Bible passage, devotional material, and some reflection/application questions. My commitment, to redeem the time Max was sacrificing daily, was to read each email, read God’s word, and write a reply. In this way Max’s self-control and dedication were reckoned to me by this accountability. I couldn’t have defined it like this 15 years ago, but as I look back, Max was sharing not only his faith, but specifically the fruit of self-control with me.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

When I ran into Max a few years ago God had called him to pastor a church in Prairie City. Max continues to write “Just a thought…”, and now has over a hundred people (from several countries) following that devotional. God transformed my life through His Spirit, and Max’s generous heart. God has grown Max’s faith and influence as a result of his faithfulness to show me generous hospitality. This is a testimony to the power of the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.”

God put you and me in His Body and He equipped us with “the Spirit” for “the common good”.  Max’s example challenges us to change our paradigm of church. Maybe it’s NOT, ‘What did I get out of it?’ but, ‘How did I generously bless someone else today?’  Radical hospitality is sharing our blessings with one another for the “common good!”  Just a thought…

Steve Poole
Director of Youth & Young Adults

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Hospitality – Yes You Can!

Hospitality – Yes You Can!

My material grandmother was the classic depiction of hospitality. She served in the kitchen at all the church gatherings. She sent care packages to distant relatives in Germany in the late 1940’s, after World War II. Her holiday gatherings were spectacular, and she always had some kind of cake or cookies ready, in case someone stopped by to visit. Don’t get me wrong, she loved doing this for Jesus, but she seemed to come by it pretty easily. “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13) just came to her naturally.

My father’s family was very poor. I remember hearing stories about dad and his siblings picking up coals by the railroad tracks to help heat the house in winter, and I was reminded many times how they hunted for game to help feed the family. When I was home from college in the summers, I worked at a gas station/convenience store that was very near to the neighborhood where my father was raised. There were many regular customers, who upon hearing my last name, and affirming who my grandparents were, went on to say what loving people they were. One person mentioned that he lived in a very troubled household, and he spent many nights at my grandparent’s home. He fondly described how they fed and sheltered him. What an example of the Bible saying, “Is this not the fast which I chose …Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house” (Isaiah 58:6-7).

My mother was the complete opposite of her mother. We never had company in our home. Mom would get extremely anxious if a relative, fellow church member, or stranger showed up at our door. Our house was a complete mess with four wild boys running around but, me and my brother’s friends adored my mom. She would bring Kool-Aid to a whole group of boys playing in the backyard. She would listen to all of the ridiculous stories that little boys and teenage young men tell. She would pack way too many kids into one vehicle for rides home from school or a trip to the movies. I remember multiple testimonies at my mother’s funeral that both friends and family shared about her kindness. No, she was not her mother, but she did, without ever recognizing it, show hospitality motivated by love.

My dad also left a different legacy of hospitality. Years after his passing, an old school mate reminded me about the multiple hours that my dad spent in our home helping this friend memorize Bible verses for the Awana program. This young man went on to receive the Meritorious Award, which was the program’s highest recognition. He is now an Elder and full-time Music Minister at his church. Another classmate and friend, who my dad drove to and from football practice and games since our early Junior Tackle days (5th grade) through high school, approached me at our 35th High School Reunion, and said, “Sager, when my mom told me about your dad’s passing years ago, it hurt. Man, he was a good dude.” Multiple, seemingly insignificant steps can lead to great impact.

There is a common misconception that before practicing hospitality, one needs to be gifted in entertaining, cooking, and home decoration. Because of this misconception, many of us have bought the lie that hospitality is beyond our capacity. Initially, I was going to just share stories about my grandparents. I was actually planning on stating that my parents weren’t great at hospitality, but then God convicted me.

Jesus knew that one of the greatest keys to a person’s heart is by showing them kindness, which is a form of hospitality motivated by love. Think about it: What person, aside from your immediate family, has had a great influence in your life? Can you name your favorite primary school teacher? What’s the best thing anyone ever did for you? If you can tie back any of your answers to these questions to some form of kindness displayed to you, there are high chances that you were shown a biblical form of hospitality. My guess is that these acts of hospitality weren’t glamorous, but they were born out of love.

The great thing about kindness and hospitality is that anyone can demonstrate them.  In fact, I bet that you do demonstrate kindness frequently. My encouragement is to do it more, and do it with intentionality. This is love in action. “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Gary Sager
Ambassador of Care

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Modeling Hospitality to Children

Modeling Hospitality to Children

Hospitality. Generous treatment of guests or strangers. Housing visitors. Companionship. Cordial. Friendliness. Warmth. Welcome. My thoughts on hospitality have changed over the years. I began adulthood thinking it only meant having strangers in my house or preparing a three-course, top-of-the-line meal for others. How limiting! Through a women’s Bible study I learned hospitality also encompasses inviting others over (even though I haven’t cleaned in a week), sharing a simple frozen pizza, attending a park playdate, grabbing coffee with a teen, sending a note in the mail, delivering fresh cookies, remembering a birthday with a flower. However, I was shocked one day when a seasoned Momma shared that hospitality also includes your family, even your very own children. My mind was blown (lightbulb!).

She quickly explained, after seeing my utter confusion. “We need to show hospitality to our children. Take church service, for instance,” she continued. “I bet you think you go to church so you can relax, listen to the sermon, sing a praise song and be renewed for your week. But what if I told you, you should show hospitality to your children every time you usher them into a worship service?”

Still confused… Not going to lie.

“Jesus showed us companionship, warmth and welcome by teaching us about faith, traditions and scripture. He shows us generous treatment by forgiving our sins. As parents, we’re called to do the same thing. With real skin on, this hospitality for our children begins to look like us narrating and guiding them through the worship service, explaining the different parts, explaining why we worship, take communion, listen to scripture and on and on. It looks like dancing with them during worship time. With older kids, it can mean teaching them to take notes about the sermon. With younger kids, perhaps it looks like drawing a picture about something they hear during church. With the tiny ones, it means cuddling them close on your lap (of course, with a good snack) and reading a kids book about a Bible story.”

My thinking started to change. This seemed radical, but also so very true. Not limiting. Maybe, just maybe, attending a church service while raising kids isn’t all about me hearing every word preached. Maybe it’s about helping my children feel welcomed into God’s house. Maybe it’s about helping my children experience Jesus’ hospitality.

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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