Category Archives: Cedar Chips

The month newsletter of Cedar Hills Community Church.

Forgiveness Can Be Hard

Forgiveness Can Be Hard

Forgiveness can be hard to offer! Especially when you have to forgive yourself. Parenting at church has challenged me to offer forgiveness to myself– week after week. Let me explain. The average Sunday morning rolls around and we prepare to attend church with our kids.  I have grand expectations about how my children should sit quietly during the service. They will entertain themselves with the two overflowing bags of goodies that I’ve deliberately packed the night before:  magnet dolls, crackers, crayons, finger puppets, Cheerios, books, toy cars, granola bars, wooden lacing shapes, white boards, etc. However, enter the real world Sunday morning at church and both kids are crying, darting through the chair rows, running on stage, crawling underneath the chairs, throwing toys at the poor family behind us, and grinding all those snacks into dust using only their fingers.

Many Sunday mornings I’ve had to take a deep breath (or three) and offer myself forgiveness that my children are not perfectly behaved during church. This forgiveness did not originate with me though. I’ve learned to be kind to myself through the forgiveness and love I’ve received from other church-goers. (And they’ve learned that forgiveness from Jesus who offered it freely to all of us.) The elderly woman who comments, “I love watching your kids dance and be happy to be at church.” The parent who is one step ahead of me in parenting, “I miss my kids crawling under the chairs. Man, I never would have said that 5 years ago.”  The church staff member who catches my eye, nods, and chases after my child as he runs away for the third (yes, third) time. That simple nod told me to sit down, listen to the sermon, and know that my child was being cared for. The couple who purposely finds me after the service to offer a kind, “You’re doing a great job!  You’re teaching your kids to worship corporately and that’s a huge gift.” So, even when some Sundays I don’t feel like it, I remember to offer myself forgiveness.

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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Stuck Between An Offense and Forgiveness

Stuck Between an Offense and Forgiveness

I dreaded writing an article on forgiveness because I’ve got some un-forgiveness being harbored in my heart. I put this article writing off until the last minute. When I finally started writing, I checked social media a dozen times.

I’ve got a lot of hard heart-work to do in this area. Or rather, I’ve got a fist to unfurl.

If I’m being honest, the lack of forgiveness is causing me to have anxiety and a dreary attitude. As Marshall Segal writes on the ‘Desiring God’ blog, “Much of our confusion and misery in life is due to our underestimating (or ignoring altogether) the enemy of our souls.” 

Derecho damage at our home.

But I’m stuck in the in-between. I’m beyond the initial hurt, but haven’t yet made it to the forgiving. My heart is headed that direction, but then the devil reminds me of all the reasons I have to be offended. As I sit in the middle of the matter, energy is stolen from my parenting and my marriage and my ministry (none of which were the offending party).

Segal tells me that, “Forgiveness outwits Satan, and forgiveness subverts his wickedness.”

Of course it “so happens” that I’m studying the book of Ephesians right now in my small group, which is a call for unity.

I will make it to real forgiveness with the Holy Spirit’s help. This article is a stepping stone in the right direction as I remind myself what is at stake.

I’m certain that on the other side of forgiveness is peace, joy, and love. Letting go of the poison of unforgiveness will allow my heart to experience the health I’m ultimately seeking.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

 

 

 

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Forgive Like a 3-Year-Old

Forgive Like a 3-Year-Old

“He took my toy, Miss Kris”, I hear shouted across the room.  “He took it!  Miss Kris, he took my toy.”  Boy, have I heard this phrase a lot in my classroom over the years!

I teach three-year-old preschool. Three-year-olds come with a set of eyes that are only fixed on their own path. They do not see other students in the room. They see a toy they want, and they see nothing else until they get it.

We teach social skills in preschool, although COVID-19 has made it mighty difficult.  We ask the kids to “share” and “take turns” and “watch the person in front of you.”  I have learned though, that most three-year-olds are in their own bubble. Most three-year-old kids have one thing in common…a short memory. When a toy is being disputed over, after the problem has been dealt with, most kids just let it be, they do not carry a grudge.

I have decided recently that I want to forgive and forget like a three-year-old. Really, though, would it not be great if everyone was able to forgive like a three-year-old.  Most of them, (although it must be initiated by a teacher) will forgive at the drop of a hat. Someone says sorry and the other one says OK. They move on and forget.

You see, you can distract almost any three-year-old with “something else” to play with. Before you know it, if you hype it up enough, the toy they thought they wanted is a thing of the past and they will be pushing everyone out of their way to the new toy!  As an adult when someone takes my toy, although let us be honest…it is never a toy.  It is usually a feeling or an event that hurts me.  I want justification. Unfortunately, adults do not always redirect like three-year-olds can.

I pray that Jesus will rest in my heart and remind me that events are in the past, there is no going back to doing it differently. The real trick is how I handle it right now and how that will affect my future. I am determined to learn as much as I can from my three-years-olds. I am learning to “redirect myself” when I’m feeling like I need an apology. After all, Jesus forgives me the minute I ask for it.

Kris Crowther
Director of Noah’s Ark Preschool

 

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Choose ‘Cultivate-Culture’ Over ‘Cancel Culture’

Choose ‘Cultivate-Culture’ Over ‘Cancel-Culture’

What is cancel-culture? Ask a young adult or teen for their definition! This is a familiar part of their culture. Wikipedia defines it as “a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – either online on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be ‘canceled.”’  This cancel-culture allows people to feel justified in attacking people with which they disagree. In fact it dehumanizes them. If they believe ______, then I will have nothing to do with them.

God calls us to be different. He calls us to “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44) Jesus himself prayed, “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:34) over those who were crucifying Him. This is the heart of cultivate-culture! Brothers and sisters, let us follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Let us glorify God by being counter-cultural in the way we value people, forgive people, and refuse to cancel those with which we disagree. Instead, we pray for them. We cultivate instead of cancel. Cultivate means to prepare the ground before planting to increase growth. Therefore cultivate-culture means to recognize that God wants to prepare everyone’s heart to receive the truth of the gospel, and bear fruit of the Spirit. The very people who hurt us, like us, NEED Jesus to cultivate their hearts. First our hearts are cultivated for the seed of the Gospel to take root, but then, for the tree of faith to bear fruit. Jesus teaches us cultivate-culture in an unusual parable:

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

So, when you are tempted to “cancel” someone because they have hurt you, remember that God created them. Jesus died for them. Who are you to chop down their tree? Jesus would rather you get your hands dirty and shovel some manure instead!

Steve Poole
Director of Youth & Young Adults

 

 

 

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Forgiveness-Choosing to Remember

Forgiveness–Choosing to Remember

I have been in and around church my entire life. As I have gotten older, there are certain “church sayings” that I have had to check for their truthfulness. One such phrase is “forgive and forget,” and another is “you need to learn to forgive yourself.”

The phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in Scripture. Yes, yes, the Bible does say such things as, For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12), “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25), and “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,” (Acts 3:19), but let’s be realistic.  One, our all-knowing Father God cannot forget, and two, we can’t just automatically forget something. Try not to think of a purple gorilla riding a unicycle. How’s that working for you? Sure, there are those times when God takes memories of heartache and pain away. So it isn’t that forgetting isn’t possible, but Scripture simply does not couple forgiving and forgetting.

Let’s look at thing from a different perspective. Let’s try remembering. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul comments on the pain and sorrow. He writes, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.”  A ‘godly grief’ looks something like 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” This leads to salvation! This is good news, otherwise known as the Gospel!  Christ’s atoning work on the cross perfectly covers all of your past, current, and future sins. God will never again allow the knowledge of these sins to play a part in relating to you. Christ reconciles you to God the Father, who then sees you as washed us “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18) through Christ’s shed blood. Because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross, any pain you have dealt with in the past, are dealing with in the present, or will deal with in the future is perfectly cared for by Jesus. God perfectly models what forgiveness entails through Christ. You are called to walk in the power that is extended to you through his mercy. To let the pain from a past hurt or offense keep you from walking in healing is to misunderstand the all-encompassing work of the gospel to save, sanctify, and glorify us. Humans are not able to do this perfectly like God does, and this is why regular reminders of the gospel are so important.

This brings us to the second ‘church phrase,’ “You need to learn to forgive yourself.” To get straight to the point, never does the Bible talk about the idea of “forgiving yourself.” We are told to forgive others when they trespass against us and seek forgiveness (Matthew 6:12). When we ask for God’s forgiveness based upon Christ having already paid for our sins and our having trusted in Him as Savior and Lord, He forgives us. However, even though we are released from the bondage to sin (as spoken of in Romans chapters 6-8), we can still choose to wallow in it and act as though we are not freed from it. Likewise, with guilty feelings we can accept the fact that we are forgiven in Christ, or we can believe the devil’s lie that we are still guilty and should therefore feel guilty. So although, the Bible does not directly command us to forgive ourselves, it does tell us to believe. Think about it for a moment. Paul tells us plainly that there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). He also says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you continue to condemn yourself after receiving the grace and forgiveness of Christ, isn’t there a sense in which you are denying the faith and crucifying the Son of God afresh (Hebrews 6:6)? When our former sins come to mind, we can choose to dwell upon them (with the resulting guilty feelings), or we can choose to remember and fill our minds with thoughts of the awesome God who forgave us and thank and praise Him for it (Philippians 4:8). Remembering our sins is only beneficial when it reminds us of the extent of God’s forgiveness and makes it easier for us to forgive others (Matthew 18:21-35).

In both cases, forgiveness is a choice that takes courage and strength, and it gives us the opportunity to become an overcomer rather than remaining a victim of our own scorn. Forgiveness is an opportunity to apply Gospel truths. You have been forgiven so you are able to forgive (Col. 3:13, 2 Cor. 5:18-19), and forgiveness is not just a great gift to bestow on others; it’s also something that allows us to be free. We can forgive because of who we are in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says it best, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Gary Sager
Ambassador of Care

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The Problem With Forgiveness

The Problem With Forgiveness

I can relate to Peter, the disciple of Jesus, because Peter’s hang-ups seem to be similar to my own. In Matthew 18 Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

The clue to why Peter asks this can be found in the context. Jesus has been talking about sin in the church and sheep who wander away so I am fairly certain that one of these wayward sheep had offended Peter. Peter, feeling rather good about himself, suggests that he might be willing to forgive the offender seven times.

Peter’s self-congratulatory question raises a problem with forgiveness – we don’t really want to forgive others. Our reluctance increases when we know that we are right and when the offender has not yet come clean. Our unwillingness to forgive is echoed in the proverb “to err is human, to forgive divine.”

Mistakes are easy. Forgiveness is not easy. When we forgive, we surrender our right to make the other pay. Jesus blows Peter (and me) away when he answers Peter’s question about forgiveness. “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22).

The problem with forgiveness is that we are called to do it. And keep doing it.

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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As We Close out 2020 – Join the Miracle!

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

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

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

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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