Tag Archives: Authenticity

What’s Next?

What’s Next?

The Reformed Church in America (RCA) has been a spiritual home for me for almost 60 years. A few weeks after I arrived in the world, I was baptized into the First Reformed Church, an RCA congregation in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. For almost six decades I never imagined leaving the RCA. Until now.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine shared these words of Jesus, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins” (Mark 2:21-22).

We then discussed the ways God works. God sometimes repairs the old. God remodels and revives and remakes. God restores broken things. And sometimes God restores by doing a brand new thing. God makes something out of nothing. God brings new creation. God breathes a fresh wind.

Honestly, I tried for a long time to avoid the question, “What’s next for Cedar Hills and the RCA?” But, following the Vision 2020 report last fall, the RCA called the question. Every church was called to discern. And so we’ve been discerning and the more time we’ve invested, the clearer it seems to us that God wants to do a new thing.

For years the RCA has tried to sew new cloth on an old garment and it appears that the tear this created is getting worse. I believe that now is the time to pour new wine into a new wineskin for the sake of the kingdom. By doing this we will see even greater faithfulness and fruitfulness.

This is my hope and my prayer.

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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    Easter Worship Then and Now

    Easter Worship Then and Now

    Easter of 2020 was difficult for many all over the world. The church building was empty and the actual church (the people) were fumbling around trying figure out how to share fellowship and encouragement while not being together in person.

    Those of us who are leaders in the church found ourselves in the church building, standing on a platform speaking to empty chairs and a video camera. Without a congregation to speak to face to face, it was a challenge to believe that anything we shared on the platform mattered.

    Easter of 2020 found us as a church staff reeling from the changes in the way we gathered and sharing a simple meal of ham, rolls, and deviled eggs in the gathering space.  It was a far cry from Easter of 2019 and involved much lamenting on my part.

    The people (paid and unpaid) that showed up on in those first weeks and months became linked in our efforts to continue to share the Good News despite having to navigate constant changes.

    Thankfully Pastor Kent had hope and developed a plan with the consistory. Thanks to the leadership of this church body, we were able to function with a core group of courageous ministry leaders and volunteers to make it to August of 2020, also known as The Derecho.

    As bad as the Derecho was, it also was a time of people remembering that people matter. It was as if people came out of their own homes and remembered that other people existed and had needs as well.

    It was as if our whole city took a breath and then used the strength from that breath to chop wood and patch roofs.  It was a beautiful group of people that came together to serve the church body and the community at large. This was a new level of fellowship we hadn’t seen since March.

    Then, in fall of 2021 we saw a whole new wave of those interested in meeting together as a body of Christ. This was a new level of fellowship and was certainly encouraging to me. New faces started to walk through the doors of our church building. Others decided to become members. People who hadn’t been around in a year and a half decided that being together in person was worth the risk.

    And that brings me to Easter Sunday 2022. As I looked around on Easter, it brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful sight to behold! The worship space was filled and some services were better attended than Easter of 2019. What a joy to see the restoration God has brought to our local church body two years later.

    Lindsey Ungs
    Connection & Communication Architect

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      Renewing Our Minds

      Renewing Our Minds

      This past week as I was reading our weekly memory verses for our 100 verse challenge, I discovered a familiar favorite that has meant a lot in my journey of restoration. God has renewed my mind over time as I have followed Him.

       “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~ Romans 12:1-2

      To me this is one snapshot of what Christian living looks like. It is me. It is you. It is us together, offering ourselves body and mind to God. Our lives become a living offering. Our actions every day take on a new meaning, as they become our offering to please God by obeying Him. In Romans 12:1-2, I have discovered this purpose and identity that is more important than myself, and my own wants and needs. As verse one gives us the why, I think verse two helps us understand how we act as living sacrifices. We are transformed! God transforms us by renewing our minds.  As we pursue God’s good will instead of being tossed about by our own whims and feelings, God makes our thoughts more like His! Wow! This is an amazing truth, which the creator God of the universe, who came and died on the cross to redeem us from sin and death, now wants to transform us into His image. He wants us to be His body here on earth as we live sacrificially. What a great privilege and honor! However this is not an easy call. We are to shun the ways of the world. We should not be consumed with worldly pursuits of money, recognition, fame, sexual gratification as is the world around us. My heart breaks to know that statistics say there is very little difference between those in the American Church and the world.  If we are honest we have mostly failed this Romans 12:1-2 challenge. So this month I was inspired by our Ephesians series, and Romans 12, to think about what Kent said, “welcome is our language and transformation is our vocabulary.” How have my thoughts, my mind, been transformed to be more like God’s? What actions can I do to be more transformed, to be a better living sacrifice?

      I challenge you to spend more time with God! It never fails in my life. The more time I spend with God the more I think like Him. I start to see the temptations of the world as fleeting and false. I find I have more love, joy, peace, patience, and self-control. So, the nearer we draw to the goodness of His light the more we reflect that goodness to those around us. The great truth of Christian restoration and transformation is that it is not accomplished by our own strength or power, but through more surrender to God’s awesome power and love in our lives.

      Steve Poole
      Director of Youth & Young Adults

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        Am I Living Authentic?

        Am I Living Authentic?

        Authenticity. It seems like a loaded word. What does it mean? Am I living authentic? If I’m not, how do I? If you are like me your head just keeps spinning with those questions.

        Growing up I was always told to treat others as I wished to be treated, be truthful, be a good person, do my best, try hard, work hard, etc. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I really started to take those statements and put them in to action.

        Living authentically seemed very out of reach to me just a few years ago. I thought I had to live up to certain expectations; not disappoint anyone; apologize for things that were out of my control; don’t say too much because you might hurt someone’s feelings; please everyone I possibly could and the list would go on.

        It wasn’t until after going through a tough divorce, hitting rock bottom, and meeting my current husband that I really started to live more authentically. I started to realize I was loved for exactly who I was. I didn’t have to put on a brave face for anyone. It has been a tough switch in my life to live more authentically, but one that is so much easier. I’ve learned that I don’t have to hide behind someone that I’m not. In a recent book I read by Amy Carroll and Cheri Gregory, they said: “The difficulty of hiding your gifts behind a façade to fit in feels less scary than authenticity.” (from the book Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not, Love Who You Are, Live Your One Life Well). I’ve learned that people need the gifts that I have and the love that I have, just the way I am.

        Where do you start to live authentically? How do you know what to do first? I started my whole goal with just me and God. I started journaling and speaking with God about who I was and where I wanted to go, started reading my Bible and going to church more regularly. I started making daily changes, small changes, like washing my face every day. Then moving on to picking up toys at the end of the day. Then reading each night for 20-30 minutes and I just continued to work on myself. I was still a busy mom and working full-time, but I started to make small changes for myself and my family. That start date was almost six years ago and I still mess up. I have bad days, where I get nothing done and I struggle to even say a word to God. Remember to give yourself grace. I’m thankful to be a child of God who forgives me when I confess my sins and I get to start each new day with a clean slate and the ability to make it a better day than the day before. Go out and live authentically and start today!

        Bridgette Hintermeister
        Member of Cedar Hills Community Church

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          I’m Tired

          I’m Tired

          I’m tired.  Can I say that? Like, overly tired.

          Part of it is being a new mom. You know—all the stuff of new babies—middle of the night waking, extra prep work of bottles and diapers and pumps and diaper bags and enough supplies to get through each day and still showing up. Part of it is just being back at work full-time and juggling life as a mom of four little ones who haven’t entered fully into self-dependence and still need me to assist with their everyday needs.

          I’m proud to say my 4-year-old can make his own instant oatmeal now, so there’s relief in sight.

          Another part is my desire to be in the Word more and more each day. And because the days have gotten so full taking care of everyone else, the only time of the day I can really find quiet and peace is 3:30-5:30am. So that’s my Word-reading timeslot.

          If you’re a night owl, or any normal person I guess, I might have just made you think, “Wait—what??” Because no sane person wakes up that early. I get it. It’s cringe-worthy just thinking about it. But my hunger to know God supersedes my need for sleep. I want to know Him! I want to hear Him! I want to break through in so many ways I’ve lost track!

          A woman asked recently of a preacher in a live Facebook feed, “I’ve been reading my Bible, but I still can’t hear God.” The pastor replied, “Keep reading.” The woman responded, “No, I mean, like I want to hear His audible voice.” And the pastor replied, “Keep reading!”

          Keep reading.

          The first time I went through The Bible Recap “read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year” plan, I felt like I fumbled my way through because the Bible was still somewhat foreign to me. The second time, it was much easier, but I felt also that I was getting new revelation on passages that seemed old or mundane. Now I’m on course to finish it a third tdime at the end of April, and hopefully again in August and again in December. Each read through gets more fascinating, the characters and kings and prophets a little more understandable, and God speaks a little more.

          Keep reading.

          Is this the only way? Does full devotion to God really take this much time and investment?  Do you have to be slightly crazy to pursue God at this velocity?

          Sometimes the internal battle asks this question. I’ve given up some of my favorite things to maintain such a rigorous schedule.

          When I read the Gospels, I see Jesus asking the big questions and the big commits. “Are you willing to give up everything and follow me?”

          Up until this point in life, I really haven’t given up anything where I really felt the hit.  Like… really felt it. Jesus just sort of fit into my schedule. I was probably a Pharisee—a religious imposter.

          Keep reading.

          May God fill you also with a great hunger for His Word!

          Leah Carolan
          Director of Worship & Media

           

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

            Own Your Own Sh**

            Own Your Own Sh**

            Small group ground rule #1 – own your own stuff. That is the Sunday way to say it. The small group way is – own your own sh**. (And don’t act surprised because I know people talk this way Monday – Saturday.) We hope for authenticity in groups and we get there by talking honestly about ourselves, not about others.

            Our small group is using the Lent videos to explore the Fruit of the Spirit right now. The topic of week 2 was self-control. An amazing thing happened in our group as we dug in. Everyone came clean about their lack of self-control. One after another we put our stuff on the table. It was marvelous.

            Then everyone shared something else. We all fear rejection when admitting our own stuff. If people really know the real us, will they still accept us? Will they still love us? This fear often keeps us from being real about our sh**. This kind of authenticity was even more marvelous.

            As we all came clean about our need for greater self-control, our group discovered that we loved each other more. Our group members expressed deep gratitude for the openness of the others. We shared words of support and encouragement. We connected in deeper ways. We grew in love.

            I recommend that everyone belongs to a group where you can own your own sh** and be loved for it! It is a marvelous thing.

            Kent Landhuis
            Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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

              Life is Hard

              Life is Hard

              I was reading about authenticity this week in preparation for this article and I came across an article by Roy Baldwin. He shares the story of being young and newly married, and struggling. Roy and his wife saved their marriage and ministry through counseling.  He writes this about authenticity:

              “I opened up this post telling you a story. A story about the struggles my wife and I had early on in our marriage. Truth is, we still struggle despite what you might see on Facebook or Instagram. One powerful lesson we learned from our early struggles is that we were not alone in those struggles. And so we started openly sharing about them.” ~ Roy Baldwin

              I just want to say this, “LIFE IS HARD!”  It is ok for us to admit that.  Marriage is hard.  Being single is hard.  Being a parent is hard.  Work is hard. Being a student in school today is hard. Life is hard!  Following Christ is hard.  That is a real, authentic, truth we must all face.  Recognizing this truth can bring freedom. We don’t have to pretend life is easy, and we have it all together.  The professional family photo we post isn’t REAL life.  We didn’t post the 15 other pictures where a kid is crying, or looking the wrong way.  Authenticity allows us to acknowledge the difficulties we all face in life, instead of pretending we all have it together all the time. The Bible helps us understand why life is so challenging.  We believe that God made a perfect world, but WE have corrupted it with our sin.  So why is life hard? Why is it so messed up?  Because WE are messed up.  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is the Christian worldview.

              I think Christian authenticity is about more than just being honest about who we are and our struggles.  True Christian authenticity doesn’t just leave us a place of recognizing our own weaknesses and frustrations, but offers hope in Jesus. Paul describes this in Galatians 5:16-18

              16 I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

              I love this authentic description of what it means to be a Christian.  We all live in human bodies, here Paul calls that “the flesh”, and because of sin our flesh desires unhealthy and unholy things.  By nature our flesh is selfish, seeking satisfaction in power, money, fame, food, and sex.  But in Christ we now walk by the Spirit!  God has given us His own Spirit to lead us and strengthen us so we have the power to walk by the Spirit instead of live as slaves to our flesh.  God gives us a new identity that transcends our flesh.

              “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:1-2

              WE HAVE DIED TO SIN! Why then is the life of the Christian hard?  We live with a flesh that is “opposed” to our new life in God’s Spirit. There is this constant battle between our flesh, and who God is making us to be as we become more like Christ.  Jesus didn’t sugar coat it either,

              “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Matthew 16:24-25

              Following Jesus means dying to that sinful flesh. Losing our life. Living NOT for ourselves, but for Jesus.  However, we do NOT do this alone. God gives us the strength to walk when we are faithful to follow His leading!  He is the one who produces the fruit of the Spirit we have been learning about during Lent. (Galatians 5:22-23)

              Steve Poole
              Director of Youth & Young Adults

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                Authenticity Precipitates Sanctification

                Authenticity Precipitates Sanctification

                Once a week my family meets with three other families in someone’s home. We all eat and catch up and tell jokes. After dinner the kids loudly play in the basement while the adults circle around to discuss life and faith. We have a chosen curriculum we are following, though that will change with the seasons. It’s in this small group that we wrestle with how to live out our faith given life’s circumstances. We all face challenges on a weekly basis that make us wonder how to walk by faith as we move towards the chaos. Together we discuss how to accomplish this.

                Each of us is at a different place in our faith journey. Some of us are mature believers. Others are brand new to their faith. It’s in these conversations (and prayers) that we are crafting the next steps: What to do at work or with a family member, how to approach someone with a loving attitude, and how to live with both truth and grace.

                It’s in these conversations that we slowly learn to trust each other. Here as the trust is built, the conversation becomes more vulnerable. It’s because of this authenticity that heart matters are shared and believers can encourage and give guidance in the things that really matter. Authenticity is the pathway that allows the sanctification process to move forward. The process of moving towards holiness is our desire. Living life in authentic community is the way to live out the gospel.

                Lindsey Ungs
                Connection & Communication Architect

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                  A True Soul-Friend

                  A True Soul-Friend

                  Authenticity is at the heart of our current teaching series, LIFE TOGETHER. I want to share with you a story from The Walk by Michael Card. Michael had been going through a difficult time having recently broken up with his girlfriend. One Monday morning, Michael’s mentor, Bill invites him out for breakfast. After they are seated Bill makes a bold but loving statement:

                  “I’m worried about you, Michael. This is perhaps the third young woman you have dated since we’ve known each other and now you’re breaking up again. I’m concerned about your ability to sustain a relationship.”

                  Wow! That is being authentic about your concerns for a friend. Also, being bold enough to say it, even if you know they might have difficulty receiving such truth. Michael goes on to explain that out of his own immaturity he responded:

                  “How can you say that to me! After all, you are divorced. At least I never did that!”

                  Ouch! Burn! Michael shares this story in his book so that we could all see Bill’s response:

                  Bill grew quiet. He had risked genuinely loving me and, like so many others, I had hurt him for it. “Worked at that relationship as hard as I could for as long as I could.” He said, almost in tears, and there the discussion ended. Anyone else would have decided, at this point, that walking with someone like me was not worth the trouble. Not Bill. As best I remember, he never brought up the subject again. A few months before his death, I recalled the incident and asked for his forgiveness. It was obvious from his response that he had forgiven me long ago, although I could tell he still remembered the sting of it. All that remained, he said, was for me to forgive myself.

                  Authenticity opens us all up to pain. The pain we experience when someone lashes out at us, reminding us of our biggest regrets or mistakes or when someone weaponizes our honesty against us as Michael did. The hurt we experience when someone breaks our trust. However, real, deep and lasting relationships are built on authentically sharing our lives with each other. I hope you are as encouraged and challenged as I am by this story. Michael Card ends the chapter by saying:

                  A true soul-friend is willing to endure the inevitable pain that is caused by being in a relationship with another human being. “We are fragile and fallen people,” Bill would say. “Often we hurt each other.”

                  Who are those people in your life who know you authentically and can speak the truth in love to you the way Bill did?  Who in your life needs you to be their “Bill”?

                  Steve Poole
                  Director of Youth & Young Adults

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                    Be Real

                    Be Real

                    One of the speakers at this year’s Global Leadership Summit started his talk by asking, “Can I just be real with you?” I’d never heard of this person before but I was immediately intrigued.

                    Shola Richards then explained that many of his good ideas came from his mother. She taught him, “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who you feel good about when they walk into the room; and those who you feel good about when they walk out of the room.”

                    Shola went on to teach, in simple terms, about civility which couldn’t be a more timely subject to explore. He challenged us to leave a legacy of civility and respect by valuing the people around us. Value the ideas, the roles, the time, the skills and the humanity of people. Be real, let others be real, and be curious.

                    I wanted to shout “Amen” in the middle of Shola’s lecture. We are the kind of people who are real and who respect others. Life together requires civility. There is no way to get civility without spending time together.

                    We will practice being real and being civil this fall with a church wide study. This is an opportunity for you to experience life together. If you are not yet part of a small group, click here.  We will feel good when you walk into the room!!

                    Be real,

                    Kent Landhuis
                    Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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