Category Archives: Cedar Chips

The month newsletter of Cedar Hills Community Church.

The Weary World Rejoices

The Weary World Rejoices

Christmas brings waiting. We anticipate family gatherings, giving (and receiving) gifts, colorful light displays, seasonal music, favorite treats – we wait with anticipation for these special seasonal celebrations. (We wait for it all to be over?)

God’s people have a long history of waiting on God. They waited 430 years for deliverance from their Egyptian captivity. They waited another 40 years wandering in the desert. They waited 70 years exiled in Babylon. They waited 400 years longing to hear God speak.

Waiting can be exhausting. “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old.” (Lamentations 5:20–21) Waiting for God’s intervention can wear us out.

We live in a time of weariness. So many things are not the way we want them to be. They are not the way they ought to be. We long for the day when everything that is wrong will be set right. We look forward to that great day. We wait.

Many Advent readings and songs invite us to wait patiently. The great day we anticipate is worth the wait. The one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas is worth the wait. “He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:32–33)

When waiting for something really important, we can be worn out in the waiting. Christmas reminds us that the wait is worth it.

One popular Christmas carol reminds us – The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. (If you can name the carol – let me know in the form below!)

The thing you are waiting for is yonder – but it is coming.

Merry Christmas,

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

Can you name the carol?

    Good Tidings in Small Group

    Good Tidings in Small Group

    In my family small group, full of ladies and gentlemen, we had one of the best conversations we’ve ever had. After more than a year, we are getting to know each other in a way that is allowing for us to be vulnerable with each other. We are using Alisa Childers’ new small group study guide and video called “Another Gospel?”

    In our study was an inventory on key Christian doctrines. The first question asks “On a scale from 1-10, how equipped are you to deal with assaults on core Christian doctrines?”

    1 – I think I’m a Christian, but please don’t ask me any questions.

    5 – I know the answers to some things but not to others.

    7 – I enjoy conversations about faith. Even if I don’t have all the answers, I love to be challenged to learn more.

    10 – I love it when people ask questions and debate because I think I have good answers.

    This was only the first question in a long list. We found ourselves sharing about our beliefs and our honest faith questions. This was truly a great way to spend an evening with merry gentlemen and ladies. Christ is our savior and at times we do go astray. Thank God for a small group to be vulnerable with about my faith questions.

    Good Tidings of Joy,

    Lindsey Ungs
    Connection & Communication Architect

    Can you name the carol?

      Hate Is Strong and Mocks the Song

      Hate Is Strong and Mocks the Song

      You don’t have to watch TV, listen to the radio, or surf social media long to understand “hate is strong”.  Coverage of the war in Ukraine, hate is strong. Political diatribes villainizing the other party in the aftermath of the midterm elections. Hate is strong! Stories or statistics of human trafficking. Hate is strong.  The latest mass shooting in Virginia. Hate is strong. A sign saying, “My neighbor is a Karen.” Hate is strong. Earlier this month Cathy and I went to a fundraiser for Shirley’s House of Hope, a faith based domestic violence shelter. We heard testimonies about how hate was strong in the lives of these women. However, these testimonies all shared hope. The women encountered the hope of Christmas at Shirley’s. The Christmas song goes “for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on Earth, good will to men.” Peace on earth, good will to men. The women told stories of how they found peace in Jesus.  Not just peace from the violence in their lives, but “Shalom.”

      “The ancient Hebrew concept of peace, rooted in the word “shalom,” meant wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety and prosperity, carrying with it the implication of permanence.” (https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/inherit/what-is-shalom-the-true-meaning)

      They found wholeness, health, and prosperity in counseling and through relationship with Jesus.  This is the peace on earth we celebrate during the advent season. It is a holy peace that we cannot attain on our own, or earn by our good deeds. This Shalom comes from abiding in Jesus, who abides in the Father.

      Peace, lasting peace, transcends the situations and flaws of our own personal lives because it doesn’t come from us. It comes from God. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3–4). (https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/inherit/what-is-shalom-the-true-meaning)

      Trust in the LORD!  Trust in Jesus!  When Jesus is talking to His disciples on the night of His arrest, He promises the Holy Spirit will come upon them to equip them. Also, He teaches that they are to abide, like vines in the branch. In between these teachings, in John 14:27, Jesus promises His peace to the disciples.

      “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

      So, during this advent season I encourage you to turn off the TV. Unplug from social media. Put away your “Karen” signs. And abide in Jesus. Encounter the prince of peace, who promised to leave His peace with us.  Meet Jesus. Talk with Jesus. Seek peace with Jesus.

      Steve Poole
      Director of Youth & Young Adults

      Can you name the carol?

        Two Plants

        Two Plants

        This song is about two plants, both evergreen plants that are traditional Christmas symbols. One represents the Crown of Thorns that the Savior wore during His Passion. This plant has little sharp points all around its edges, much like a thorn, and one can easily prick a finger by touching the leaf carelessly. The berries represent the drops of Blood that Jesus shed. This plant is held by tradition to be of the same plant that the wood of the Cross was said to come from.

        The other plant is so perennially green, that it symbolizes fidelity and immortality or eternal life in Christ. In addition, it clings to its support as it grows, which symbolizes Christian’s attachment and undying affection for our merciful Savior.

        Gary Sager
        Ambassador of Care

        Can you name the carol?

          God is Not Dead Nor Doth He Sleep

          “God is Not Dead, Nor Doth He Sleep”

          At the end of the Old Testament, between the book of Malachi and Matthew is a period known in Protestant circles as the “400 years of silence” from God: no new prophets were raised up and God said nothing new to the Jewish people.

          Malachi ends with, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”   And then the New Testament opens with John the Baptist—the fulfillment of this prophecy.  He came in the spirit of Elijah, proclaiming that the Messiah was coming.  And He did!  Within John’s lifetime! In fact, the pregnancies John’s mother and Jesus’ mother overlapped by 3 months.

          Suddenly Israel went from no Word from God to two major voices on the scene speaking loud and clear.

          I wonder if in those 400 years until then people had thought, “Is Yahweh dead? Is He sleeping?”

          So much time had passed, that the Jewish leaders didn’t recognize God when He and began to speak.  Though they knew what the scriptures said about the Messiah, it was as if blinders were over their eyes to be able to see the fulfillment in front of them.

          And yet we know outsiders also knew the Jewish Word and responded, looking for the “King of the Jews” when the recorded Star appeared in the sky.  The knowledge was OUT there, but not all could see.

          Faith in Jesus today is also described in Scripture as an ‘opening of the eyes of our hearts’, to suddenly see and understand what the Word is saying.  But when the blinders are still on, perhaps it feels like God is dead or sleeping to those who don’t know Him yet.  It’s actually one of my favorite prayers to pray for unsaved friends and family. “Lord, open their eyes.”

          “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep” is from a carol that uses unique Christmas imagery to describe all of this! Can you name the carol? Let me know in the form below!

          Leah Carolan
          Director of Worship & Media

          Can you name the carol?

            From Ankles To Belonging

            From Ankles To Belonging

            Small groups are restarting now at Cedar Hills, as we begin our Walk Like Jesus series, and I would like to encourage us all to join a group. Not because it’s easy. In fact, small groups take time and work to be successful. Don’t join a small group because it will solve all your problems because some days it will seem like your small group has created new problems. Don’t join a small group if you feel like everyone will agree with you and always get along easily. All of these are unrealistic expectations of small groups. They all over sell the benefits and minimize the fact that when you meet with other broken people, it won’t always be easy to love them (or for them to love you), and sometimes you will be offended. That’s just life. However, there are many benefits to opening up your lives to others.

            It helps me identify my own selfishness and pride. When I meet with others, I must wrestle with caring for other people. Do I care enough to listen well to you? Do I care enough to inconvenience myself to help you when you need it? Will I swallow my pride enough to admit when I need help? If I ‘go it alone,’ as a ‘lone ranger’ Christian, I never have to deal with these issues. However, when your son ends up in the hospital where do you turn for support? Well, for my family, that is my wife’s small group. These women watched our children and made us meals.

            I hate to be an inconvenience to others. I despise being dependent on others for help. But I believe the humble call of Jesus is to be a part of His Body and to find a place to belong. The brain needs the blood vessels and heart. The feet need the leg muscles to function properly. I recently rolled my ankle. My right ankle is healing, but now my left leg muscles and back are sore. Why? Because all the parts of my body are connected. While my right ankle is hurting, my left leg is working overtime to help compensate as I limp. Just like all the parts of my body are interdependent, God made us to belong to each other as part of His body. I think one of the best ways to find a place to belong at Cedar Hills is to join a small group. It won’t be easy. It may drive you crazy at times. However, belonging is worth it.

            Steve Poole
            Director of Youth & Young Adults

            What did you think of this article? Did you laugh? Cry? Learn something new? Let Steve know below.

              Living In Fear Of

              Living In Fear Of

              Part 1:

              I just read a blog post suggesting that if we put the word “teenage” before any term, the second word automatically becomes negative. For example: “Teenage Driver.”

              Also, teenage drama. Teenage hormones. Teenage choices.

              This negative association, according to the blogger, is everywhere. We seem to be living in fear of teenagers. Then the writer of this post said, “I think there is something fundamentally wrong with how we think about teenagers.”

              I agree.

              And I wonder, if we spent time with teenagers, would that make us less fearful? I wonder, if we imagined the potential of teenagers as 1 Timothy 4:12 does – “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity – would we have less fear? I wonder, if we invested in helping the next generation succeed, would we have less fear of teenagers?

              Familiarity overcomes fear. What are we living in fear of? Teenagers? Maybe we need some exposure therapy to help us confront this fear.

              Part 2

              I met with my small group last night. It was the meeting that saved my week. After an exhausting series of meetings, I did not want to meet again with my small group. I actually was afraid that I might not have enough energy.

              We met anyway.

              We are doing the Walk Like Jesus study and the group blew me away. We all want to be more like Jesus. We want this even though this desire kind of scares us. What will Jesus want from us? What changes can we expect to make? What happens when Jesus calls us to obey and we are not ready to obey?

              Our group said, “Full steam ahead. We want to walk like Jesus and we will not live in fear.”

              “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

              Kent Landhuis
              Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

              Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry or learn something new? Let Kent know.

                Small Groups Are Scary

                Small Groups Are Scary

                Small groups are scary.  At least that’s what I thought most of my life as I skillfully did everything I could possibly do to avoid being a part of one.

                They gave me visions of sitting criss-cross applesauce in small circles, singing kumbaya, with forced sharing of intimate stories and lots of crying.  Not my thing.

                It wasn’t until I arrived in Cedar Rapids in my late 20’s that I made any real effort of actually trying one.  I’ll be honest, the first couple I tried to be a part of eventually flopped, ended, or disintegrated into messes, which just cemented in my head even more that they weren’t worth my time.

                So with a not-worth-my-time attitude and my propensity towards being as introverted as one can be,  I thought my time in small groups was over. JUST NOT GOING TO DO IT. No, no, no, no, no. No Thank You.

                Until last year. I tried again. This time, it was a Bible study group of women. I only joined it because my husband was a part of the same Bible study organization, as were my kids—and even though each met on a different day, we’d be studying the same curriculum and daily questions together. So weighed down by sheer mom-guilt alone, I decided I should try it.

                This particular group was super-structured, and involved intense, weekly individual homework. It wasn’t too big, or too small. We (15 ladies) had a set timeframe of starting and stopping, set number of questions to answer, and a set number of minutes for “socializing” which was great for my general let’s-just-dig-in-the-Word-and-get-on-with-it mindset. You know what?? I LOVED IT!!!!  Turns out, I just do really well with structure. Like, SUPER structured. No sugary snacks, no coffee time, just a tiny bit of socializing, and lots and lots and lots of Bible study in and out of the meeting.

                This revelation has been huge. Small groups are scary when they are a structure that doesn’t fit how I’m wired, but there are so many out there! And so many options!

                So if you have given up on them, or are weirdly wired like me and just need structure to function, can I encourage you to try again? And maybe again? And then maybe one more time? And maybe once more after that?

                Leah Carolan
                Director of Worship & Media

                 

                Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry, or learn something new?  Let Leah know.

                  If You Teach It, They Will Listen

                  If You Teach It, They Will Listen

                  My fourth grader has been sitting in service with us since he aged out of Children’s Church. I knew he had the ability to sit that long, but I wondered how well he would listen to the teaching. I found out Sunday afternoon.

                  After hearing a sermon on the four chairs and the new Like Jesus app, he was moved to come home and download it on to his device. My husband and I looked at each other with a shocked expression. He was listening.

                  He then proceeded to take the four chairs survey on the app. He said he did not know every word, but that he could generally figure out what they were asking. Then, from the other room, we heard him watching the video that corresponded with the survey. Wow.

                  What a great lesson for me as a parent. My fourth grader was ready and willing to engage with the teaching at church. I see it as my job not to get in his way, but to facilitate whatever learning I can.

                  Lindsey Ungs
                  Connection & Communication Architect

                  Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry or learn something new? Let Lindsey know.

                    Like Jesus

                    Like Jesus

                    When we hang out with my grandson Mikah we play lots of games to keep him entertained. Many of the games go something like this: “What does a cow say?” If he does not moo then we all moo. Repeat until Mikah says, “Moo.”

                    We moo, cluck, oink, baa, and growl (with claws up!), then we branch out to truck and tractor sounds. We seek unusual sounds to make. What does a golf cart say? What does a giraffe say? What does a rhinoceros say?

                    Our journey to grow like Jesus is not a game, but it works like this toddler game. What does Jesus say? What does Jesus do? What does Jesus think? What does Jesus value? Once we figure it out we keep at it until we sound and look and live like Jesus.

                    “Whoever claims to live in Jesus must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

                    The Apostle Paul talked about it this way in Galatians 3:27, “And all who have been united with Jesus in baptism have put on Jesus, like putting on new clothes.”

                    I’m certain that those who watch us make animal noises for Mikah can tell which animal we are imitating. I wonder if, as the world watches us, they can tell when we sound and look and live like Jesus?

                    I think they can!

                    Kent Landhuis
                    Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

                    Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry or learn something new? Let Kent know.