Easter and Our Unanswered Questions (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

It’s been a while. Again. Maybe I’ll write about it again someday.

But for now, I shared some thoughts at my church’s blog about Easter and what resurrection looks like in our own lives.

 

Easter and Our Unanswered Questions 

Will I ever get better?

Why did my little sister have to die?

Which college should I choose?

Why do so many other people get to have happy marriages?

When will I finally get a job?

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Photo Credit: Marko Horvat

We all come to God with questions. Some of them are big and will seemingly never be answered in this lifetime; some are seemingly smaller, yet frustrating all the same. It’s tempting to approach Easter with its flowers and candy and Easter eggs and simply say, “Jesus rose from the dead! All is well!” And in a cosmic sense, Jesus’ resurrection makes that statement true, but in our day-to-day lives it often doesn’t seem that way.

 

Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

When It Seems Like God Lied (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every few weeks, I write a post for my church’s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on that week’s sermon. We just started this year’s Christmas series, and I suspect I will be taking away a lot from it. The first message was on God’s promises and how they often don’t look like we expect them to.

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Francis

When It Seems Like God Lied

There are many promises throughout the Bible.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

In our best moments, these verses likely come as a source of deep comfort. When we’re in the middle of difficult times though, having these verses offered as solutions to our problems can be frustrating or even annoying. Does losing a job seem like a plan to prosper us? Do illnesses, failed classes, divorces, cruel bosses, or financial ruin seem like giving us a hope and a future? There are times when God’s promises feel more like lies than truth.

Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

College Students Need Your Church (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. Even though I’ve been out of school for several years, this season always makes me a bit nostalgic. There’s an energy to college campuses that’s unlike anything else, and there’s a piece of me that still misses it. It can also be an intense and overwhelming time of life, so I think churches have great opportunities here.

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Photo Credit: Loic Djim

College Students Need Your Church

Over the next few weeks, colleges will be filling back up with students. Particularly for churches geographically close to colleges or universities, this brings a host of unique opportunities–not in a “Millennials are leaving the church oh no what do we do about it” sense, but because all churches are able to be a blessing to college students in some way. How each church does that will vary greatly, and it should–not all churches are the same, so they shouldn’t use the same formula. There are many unique ways churches can use their resources, be they space, finances, time, or something else, to support students.

As cliche as it may be, it’s often true that college students love free food (or at least, this former college student sure did). There are many ways churches can meet this need. Maybe it’s church-wide potlucks that get special promotion to college students so they know they’re welcome whether or not they provide a dish to pass. Maybe it’s a college-specific ministry that has a Pizza and Movie Night once a month. Maybe it’s supper clubs that meet at people’s houses and provide college students with a chance to get off campus and eat a homecooked meal.

Keep reading at the YALT blog.

When Someone’s Faith is Drowning (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to have faith and to keep faith, and also the flipside of that–what it looks like when faith fades or ceases to exist altogether. How do, and should, churches and faith communities respond to that?

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Photo Credit: Stephen Di Donato

When Someone’s Faith is Drowning

It’s not a secret that young adults are leaving the church and, in many cases, leaving faith as well. Yet the numbers only show the big picture, not the stories of the individuals whose lives have, for whatever reason, changed from being one where faith is a central component to one where faith is, if existent, merely a side project. And I can’t help thinking that those stories, of faith slowly fading, or of wrestling with pain, or of doubt creeping in and taking over, don’t happen overnight. So where are the people reaching out to the real, living, breathing people who are experiencing these realities?

I once heard a story of someone being at a pier where people were jumping into the water. Suddenly, the screams of delight ceased as people began to notice a young woman struggling in the water. Shouts came from the pier, encouraging the woman to swim harder, to keep kicking, that she was getting close to the ladder. Someone dove in to help her and they both climbed out of the water to safety, but in those tense moments before that person jumped in, the noise was all directed at the woman in distress. Meanwhile, in the water itself, silence reigned.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

When What You Want Isn’t What You Need (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every few weeks, I write a post for my church’s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on that week’s sermon. We’re in a message series about layovers in life, and I especially appreciated the reminder this week that while God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want him to, he does answer them how we need him to.

 

When What You Want Isn’t What You Need

There’s a worship song we sing pretty regularly at Encounter that I struggle with at times. Called “Always,” it includes these words:

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

 
One Sunday after singing it, I remarked to a friend that I wasn’t sure I bought it. At that point in my life, it seemed as though God was either moving really, really slowly, or perhaps not at all. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe God was there, but it was difficult to see how and where he was working. When we’re in a layover season in life, a time of uncertainty, disappointment, loss, heartbreak, change, or any number of other things that seem to keep us from moving from one place to the next, it can feel like “He will not delay” is a bit of a lie.

 

Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

Saying Yes to Jesus (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every few weeks, I write a post for my church’s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on that week’s sermon. In this week’s, I ponder what it really means to say yes to Jesus–which doesn’t always mean selling all our stuff and becoming a missionary, but that’s how I’ve often felt.
Saying Yes to Jesus
When I hear stories of people selling all their stuff and moving to another country to become missionaries, I want to like them. I really do. I want to be able to applaud their sacrifice, their willingness to give up all they’ve known, their dedication to following Jesus even though it seems so extreme. Except most of the time when I hear those stories, I get kind of annoyed at these other people’s piety, and then feel kind of ashamed that I’ve never done anything so extreme for Jesus. Almost every time I’ve gone to another country, it’s been for a vacation, not to serve Jesus.

There are two rather different stories of Jesus calling his first disciples. In the book of Matthew, it takes all of two verses (Matthew 4:18-20):

 

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

The book of Luke records things differently, and I appreciate the perspective it offers. Instead of instantaneously dropping everything to follow Jesus, Luke 5 shows that it takes a bit for Simon Peter to come around to the idea.
Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

The Real Way to Create Community (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. Lately I’ve been thinking about church again–why I go, what the purpose is, how participants in a church go about enfolding everyone into the life of the church–so today, I’m writing at YALT about community.

The Real Way to Create Community

Evoking images of shared meals and laughing people, community is a popular word in Christian circles. While not the sole intent of a church, creating a sense of community among their members is a mission most churches value, because strong Christian 2015-07-22 20.49.48-1community is certainly good, and even biblical. The how to create community is where things get complicated though. Countless books and blogs posts have been written, all offering various tactics and strategies, but I think the real way to create community cannot be distilled into an easy formula.

I think the way to create community is to embrace the awkward.

Keep reading at the YALT blog.

You Can’t Screw Up God’s Will (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

For the past few weeks, my pastor has been preaching on finding God’s will. While it’s a topic that’s important at any stage of life, it feels particularly relevant in these young adults years. I’m a regular contributor my church‘s Midweek Encounter blog that offers reflections on Sunday’s message, and this series seems especially fitting to share here.

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You Can’t Screw Up God’s Will

Every time I hear a sermon or read an article or book about finding God’s will, I hope that this will be the one that makes it clear for me once and for all. Yet even as we after hearing about the importance of knowing God’s word, of surrounding ourselves with people who will give us godly advice, and learning how to seek God’s perspective on things, the decisions we face in our everyday lives can still seem cloudy. Which job should I take, or should I go back to school? Is this the right school for my child or would they do better at that one? Should I stay in Grand Rapids or move somewhere else? If we apply all the good tactics Pastor Dirk has been talking about for the past few weeks, we can still be looking at these decisions with concern that we’ll make the wrong choice.

Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

Let’s Talk About Booze (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. This time I’m writing about alcohol, which is a topic I’ve thought a lot about but have yet to explore in written form in any public space. It’s a complex topic, and I’ve to hear your thoughts in the comments on the YALT blog.

Let’s Talk About Booze

In the Christian Reformed church I grew up in, alcohol wasn’t really ever talked about. Most of the adults I knew didn’t drink (or at least not that I saw), so over time, I was left to develop my own thoughts about alcohol and the place it would or wouldn’t have in my life. Considering I facilitate a Bible study I named “Women & Wine,” where I landed–at least for my current phase of life–is clear.

And yet, I think it’s a conversation that has been missing in many church communities. I don’t think the question is whether Christians should talk about alcohol, but how and why we should talk about it. By not talking about it, we miss out on asking the deeper questions of how and why we choose not to or to engage in particular behaviors. By talking about it, we open ourselves up to be continually contemplating how we are able to best emulate Jesus, and how that plays out in very practical terms in our everyday lives.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

Say It Again (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. My latest post in that space is as much a reminder for me as it is a message I think others need to hear as well–and also somewhat explains why my posts have been less frequent of late.

 

Say It Again

These days, it’s fairly easy to find Christian messages. We open a browser or app, and are presented with an array of articles and blogs we can read or sermons and podcasts to listen to. They can encourage us in our faith, challenge us to pray more, and help us look at a Bible passage in a different light. Many of these messages are good, worth paying attention to and learning from.

Yet it can easily become overwhelming. These resources, tailored specifically to our own age demographic, writing style preference, and theological affiliation of choice, are available quickly and from any number of places. And, in the midst of it all, it can be easy to wonder if our own message has any worth at all.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.