Category Archives: January 2021 Chips

As We Close out 2020 – Join the Miracle!


Dear Friend of Cedar Hills,

As this year winds to a close, I simply wanted to share a miracle that happened in our congregation in the past two weeks. This miracle happened because God’s people responded in a time of need. This miracle happened because of you!

A couple of weeks ago we shared our dire financial need and we called people to invest in the mission of Cedar Hills. We believe in the call God has for us as His church and we see fruit, even in these challenging times.

  • Our children and families made a special connection this season with the Nativity Escape Room. This creative and meaningful opportunity added joy to our Christmas season this year!
  • Our youth ministry has served so many students this season. Your giving has enabled us to reach students with both online engagement and in-person gatherings. It’s exciting to see so many young people connecting with each other AND with Jesus!
  • Our Christmas Eve services made a real impact. Especially online. I’ve heard about meaningful engagement stretching from Vancouver British Columbia to south Florida. The total number of people reached when we add in-person and online participation actually tops last year’s attendance!
  • Our growing online ministry was the most unexpected fruit of 2020. In the month of December we will reach over 5,400 people with over 4,000 individual engagements of our various online postings. God works in wondrous ways! Your gifts helped us develop this essential ministry this year.

God worked and you responded. In the days after we made our financial need known to the congregation, we received over $150,000 in donations. Thank you! God’s faithfulness and your generosity blew me away! Thank you – your generosity made a difference. It made a miracle!

God will do something even more amazing through you and our congregation in 2021. Your giving today moves us into the new year ready for more miracles in our lives and in our community.

The best is yet to come!

Pastor Kent

P.S. Gifts given to our church, whether given online, dropped at the office, or postmarked by December 31, are eligible for a tax deduction on your 2020 taxes. To give online, click here.



Renew and Restore


A new sermon series for 2021 – A celebration of God’s promises! There was good reason in Old Testament times for God to call his people to renew their devotion to God. God’s people frequently forgot God and drifted in their devotion to him. This forgetfulness and drift has happened to every generation of believers and still happens today! We fail to appreciate God’s goodness, the depth of our spiritual laziness, and our indifference to the things that matter most. Begin 2021 with a celebration of God’s promises and find renewal and restoration of spiritual vitality. Ezra and Nehemiah will guide our celebration of God’s promises.

  • January 3 – Renewed Vitality. Ezra 1-2
  • January 10 – Renewed Worship. Ezra 3
  • January 17 – Renewed Grace. Ezra 4-5
  • January 24 – Restored Truth. Ezra 7-10
  • January 31 – Restored Prayer. Nehemiah 1-4
  • February 7 – Restored Grit. Nehemiah 2-6
  • February 14 – Restored Obedience. Nehemiah 8-12

Leadership Notes

Our leadership board, the Consistory, is made up of deacons, elders, and pastors who discern the path God calls us to follow, who keep us on that path, and who celebrate progress along the way. We will install our newly elected deacons (Beth Brockette and Brad Hoeppner) and elders (Heidi Flamming and Deb DeHaan) on Sunday, January 3. They will serve with our current leaders to form the 2021 Consistory.

Deacons: Beth Brockette, Melissa Dahm, John Davidson, Brad Hoeppner, Nancy Josifek, and Josh Oberembt

Elders: Gary Mills (Vice President), Deb Cameron, Pastor Alan Crandall, Deb DeHaan, Heidi Flamming, Robin Joens, Pastor Kent Landhuis, and Diane Potter

The Consistory is committed to growing our ministry by making disciples who love, belong, and serve. We value hospitality, authenticity, forgiveness, and restoration. Pray for the consistory and staff as we meet for our annual leadership retreat January 29-30. Thank you!

Bible Reading Plan

Rediscover the unified story of Scripture by reading through the Bible in 2021. Follow this plan and discover renewal. We’ll be using “The Bible Recap” – a daily schedule of readings with an accompanying podcast.  Follow the steps below to get set-up for January 1st. There are options for those who prefer paper and those who will be using their mobile devices:

  1. Print users: Print your plan. There are copies of this plan available in the Gathering Space at The Hub.
  2. For digital users:  Download the Bible app.  Sign up for your reading plan “The Bible Recap” (While you’re in there, ‘friend’ Cedar Hills!)
  3. Subscribe to The Bible Recap podcast. Available on iTunes | Spotify | Stitcher | Podbean | Google | Google Play | YouTube
  4. Listen to the prep episodes before the end of the year to get off to a good start:

Blessings to you all!
The Cedar Hills Consistory

Becoming a Bible Reader


Paul writes in his letter to the Roman church, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Paul is addressing sin here, but I think we can also apply this principle to spiritual practices. As Christians, I firmly believe we have the DESIRE to do the things we believe we are called to as people of faith: prayer, Bible study, good works, tithing, meditation on the Word.  But the actual execution of these things in a regular and diligent manner is actually much harder.

Authenticity is the degree to which a person’s actions are congruent with his or her beliefs and desires.  I WANTED to be an authentic dig-into-the-Word-daily Christian, but for most of my Christian walk, Bible reading and study just didn’t happen regularly.  Not to mention, I felt like the biggest hypocrite! I love the Lord! Why couldn’t I get into this very necessary habit??!!

Until one day near the end of 2019, a friend of mine posted on Instagram about a daily Bible study/podcast that she was completing, talking about the great growth that had happened in her life over the last year, her failures of not always getting it done daily, but her determination that got her caught up and back on schedule to finish the study by the end of the year on time. Looking at her life, we have much in common—married, three kids, doing the mom thing while being a work-outside-the-home parent.  She had no excuses and I decided it was time for me to hang up mine as well.  I wanted my desire to be a lover of God’s Word to line up with my actions.

 So January 1, 2020 I began a year long journey of reading through the entire Bible, word by word, line by line, following a reading plan inside the YouVersion app called “The Bible Recap”.  It was tough at first. I hadn’t made room in my schedule to fit it in every day.  Something had to change! It was stressing me out to find time in the day to get this thing done without interruption from the kids and noise and TVs and conversations.  So I began to wake up earlier. And earlier. And earlier.  6am became 5:30am became 5…5:30… 4:30am.  Yes, you read that right! 4:30am! It became my new wake up time to spend the time I need to properly digest God’s Word slowly, meditate, complete the daily readings, and listen to a short podcast that accompanies it to help me gain understanding.  It was so hard at first!!! I have never in my life been a morning person, but over time it became my new normal.

So what changed along the way?

  1. I don’t stay up late. I can’t. I’m too tired. I go to bed and get a good night’s rest (minus kids getting up at night!)
  2. I gave up TV all together. Except for an occasional look at the news, I don’t have time for it anymore and find nothing edifying from it.
  3. If I sleep in and don’t make time for reading the Bible, I am grumpy all day. Time in the Word sets my day off to a great and peaceful start.
  4. My heart. Scripture has come alive—even the ‘boring’ sections of genealogies or Levitical law. The accompanying podcast that goes with this particular Bible study has really helped me understand what I just read and make me look forward to the next day.

Can I challenge you to join me Jan. 1, 2021 for my next journey through the entire Bible?  It requires change.  You can’t just squeeze it into your schedule. Some other things have to go.  It’s going to cost you something… time, sleep, activities. But it is so worth it to make an action match the desire.

  1. Download the App – The YouVersion Bible App
  2. Join the study in the App – The Bible Recap Bible Study
  3. Or print off the plan and use your own Bible –The printable chronological reading plan

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media





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    Moving Towards Authenticity


    “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brene Brown

    Letting go of who I think I’m supposed to be means letting go of my perfect parenting notions in favor of parenting the child I was given, with the skills I currently possess.

    My six-year-old and I are in conflict as I write this. She has the exact same anger and rage issues that I had as a six-year-old girl. When she and I are at odds, she hits, kicks, and screams. I say too much, cop an attitude, and hold a grudge which can be felt in my body language.

    When we are in a season with this kind of behavior, my inner critic shows up and says I’m not “good enough” as a parent.

    We have all wrestled with the thought of not being “good enough.” So, why bother to share this internal battle with anyone? It feels safer to pretend these thoughts never existed.

    But, Brene Brown says, “If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”

    Letting go of who I’m supposed to be means sharing the hard stuff with a few of my Christian friends in a small group. In my case, my small group of women I study the Bible with. It means letting them in on the inner struggles, my own bad behavior, and the difficulties of parenting.

    Authenticity is not about sharing an open wound on social media. It’s not about shouting to the world in anger. Those things are easy to do.

    Authenticity is about letting a few Christian friends see what’s really going on in your heart, and letting them speak into the mess and the brokenness and the shame. This path of sanctification also leads to growth in faith.

    Being authentic is messy and hard and requires the grace of God.

    For the body of Christ, practicing authenticity is a way of strengthening our muscles. These are the muscles that allow us to glorify God as we move towards others in love.

    Lindsey Ungs
    Connection & Communication Architect




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      We Love Our Staff


      “That a staff signifies power, is because it is a support; for it supports the hand and arm, and through them the whole body; wherefore a staff takes on the signification of the part which it immediately supports, that is, the hand and arm, by both of which in the Word is signified the power of truth.” from

      We had a pretty significant change in our staff this year. Prior to this year, most staff had been here for over 10 years. This year all staff are new to Noah’s Ark except one with a partial year under her belt. Change like this can be very difficult for a preschool program, but NOT ours!

      We have been incredibly blessed with new teachers that are supportive and strong and bring the truth of Jesus to our students. Our program hasn’t missed a beat this year. They have been able to adapt to a new environment and expectations.  COVID-19 changes were implemented and not one teacher complained of all the extra time and effort it took to make those guidelines work for our school. We added in the derecho and had to postpone one of our classes for a week, then start in different rooms that had to be set up/taken down every day. Nope, even then, not one complaint. School has been closed for 3 ½ weeks so far this year and they still came in to do packets and videos. They lost income due to the closures and still….no complaints.

      These teachers certainly have supported our school and are an example of the ‘power of truth.’  I thank the Lord each and every day that He brought these wonderful women to Noah’s Ark Preschool. May the Lord bless and keep them always!

      Kris Crowther
      Director of Noah’s Ark Preschool





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        Here you see some of the youth wearing their festive Christmas sweaters. Some of them, mine chiefly, seem to be as messy as 2020. In December, Journey Youth Group continued to build Christian community with youth who need connection more than ever. We have been celebrating Christmas most of the month with special events. We sang Christmas carols outside The Views assisted living facility. This was a fantastic opportunity for our teens to share the joy of the season by caring for others well.

        Next, we laughed together during a Christmas movie night complete with Christmas PJ’s dress-up. Finally, we celebrated with a Christmas party including a Christmas escape room, Christmas games, small group discussions about the real meaning of the season, and a white elephant gift exchange. Our students have been challenged to invite others to join us in Christian fellowship, experience the gospel in community, and hear the gospel. God has blessed their efforts with many new faces joining us.

        Our God, the triune God, is a God of community. It is part of His identity. He has created us in His own image. Therefore, Joy has been overflowing to see students who have been quarantined with their families for months experience the community they have been missing. The laughter and smiles are contagious. This is the Christmas present Journey youth group is celebrating this December!

        Steve Poole
        Director of Youth & Young Adults




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          Brene Brown, who has become our modern day “evangelist” for authenticity and vulnerability states, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” In other words, authenticity occurs when the relationship between who we are inwardly and how we act and appear outwardly are in harmony.

          There is nothing wrong with our quest for harmony between our inner person and outer personage, it’s just not enough. Even if we succeed and express perfectly what we are within, our deepest longing for authenticity will not be satisfied.

          There is a deeper level where authenticity is missing. We long to have a genuine, permanent identity, by virtue of being rooted in and formed by some ultimate reality. Jesus alone can satisfy our longing for authenticity. He not only gives the freedom to be outwardly what we are inwardly, but he also, and more importantly, enables us to be inwardly what we were designed to be by God.

          Ultimately, Jesus is the standard for authenticity. He defines what it means to be an individual, to be loved in God’s own community, and to offer real hope to the world. Every day, we need to let go of ourselves more and more, that Christ might be displayed in us increasingly and endlessly.

          With that in mind, let’s consider a few steps to possessing authenticity, using Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23 – “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” as a guide.

          Deny yourself daily:

          Jesus reveals that the ultimate purpose of God for humans is that we bow under Christ’s lordship—that we yield to be his possession, depend on his provision, and aim at his honor. We are to repent of our rebellion and submit to Christ’s Lordship. God’s purpose in sending Christ to die for our sins and rise again was to purchase us out of slavery to the lordship of sin and bring us over as servants under the lordship of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:207:231 Peter 1:18).

          Take up your cross daily:

          Accept that this journey is a painful process, and cooperate with God as He initiates and carries out change in your life. As surely as you experience the death and burial of your broken self, you’ll also experience the resurrection of it.

          Matthew 16:24-26 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

          Follow Jesus daily:

          After you’ve denied yourself and have stayed at the cross, receive God’s Word, letting it be what covers you. Jesus’ story is yours, like a new garment to cover your nakedness.  One passage that sums it up well is Ephesians 4:22-24, in which believers are called, “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

          Authenticity Occurs in Community:

          All of us need redemption and renewal in all of life, and so we must be intentional to communicate that every day “right now” need to others regularly. How did you need Jesus yesterday? How do you need Him today? How do you need Him tomorrow? Tell that story to God, yourself, and to others.

          What is true about you because of Jesus? What is true about the others in your church because of Jesus? What does that mean for your life with others? That is your new reality, and it’s theirs too, and it’s how we should see and treat ourselves and one another.

          Authenticity in the Church is the quality of our exposure of brokenness and adornment in God’s grace. An authentic person is one who is both privately and publicly putting off the old self and, by God’s grace, putting on the renewed self.

          Gary Sager
          Ambassador of Care




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            Real Church

            Real Church

            Yesterday somebody shared a silver lining he experienced in his pandemic quarantine. The losses he felt created a deeper appreciation for the things lost. He now enjoys getting out for a cup of coffee, meeting up with friends, connecting with co-workers even more. He said, “Digital connection bridged a gap but there is no replacing the real thing.”

            This struck me because earlier in the day I started to read the book Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age. The author, Jay Kim, expresses the idea better than I could: “True human connection is fueled by empathy – the God-given ability to step into another’s shoes and open ourselves to another’s story, not to compare and contrast, but to be overwhelmed by compassion to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15). This requires patience, depth, and the risk of stepping into real community with real people and their real lives in real time and in real space.”

            “At their best, social media and other digital spaces can be wonderful initiating spaces that lead to true human connection, but they can never become home for those connections. They’ll always fall short and leave us wanting. When I Facetime with my wife and kids (our digital gathering space when I’m away) it’s a wonderful benefit of technology – but ultimately it only makes me eager to get home and give them real hugs. That’s digital at its best – increasing our appetite for the real thing.”

            My prayer for 2021 is that we will all grow in our appetite for real connection, with real people, in their real lives, in real time, and in real space. Real church.

            Kent Landhuis
            Pastor of Teaching & Leadership




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