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I was driving in the car this morning listening to yet another discussion about the death of the beloved lion Cecil in Zimbabwe this month. The amount of hatred being spewed against the man who killed this majestic animal, for sport, was immense. I get it. It was very terrible what this man has done. I'm not sure how I feel about hunting for sport as it is, let alone all the lengths it appears he went to to bag this mighty beast.

But as I was driving down the highway listening to the radio hosts talk about how we should all be appalled and up-in-arms about this atrocity, my mind was quickly filled with other images.


 
 
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Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” This passage has a lot to teach us, as individuals, and as a church body.

It’s pretty easy to get weighed down by the struggles we go through, and those things that just don’t seem to go our way. When life gets tough, we get anxious, and even start fearing the worst. It’s natural. We worry that, because things look like they’re going badly, we’ve messed up, or that something is broken, or there’s nothing we can do to fix it, and we get tempted to give up. This happens in our lives, and it happens in the church.



 
 

Know Your Story: Church Traditions
Christian Iconography

        If you were to enter the sanctuary of a Roman Catholic cathedral, or an Easter Orthodox church, you would most likely be met with many beautifully ornate images of people and symbols all over the place. These images are called icons, and they are sacred images that have added to the faith and story of Christians for centuries. They are viewed as an image of another reality, of a person, a time, and a place that is more real than here and now. More than art, icons have an important spiritual role; an icon is “theology in imagery, the icon expressed through color what the Gospel proclaims in words.”

 
 

Know Your Story: Christian Traditions
Colors of the Christian Calendar

            Just like we use our typical January-December Gregorian Calendar to designate different times of the year, to mark holidays and special events, the Christian Church has, for many centuries, used the Christian Calendar to demark seasons and holidays in the life of the Church. This calendar is made up of seven season, with special days being observed throughout those seasons. These seasons and days honor the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the Kingdom of God. We use these seasons and special days to remind us of the events that are important to our lives and story as Christians. They tell us the story of our faith year after year and help us structure our worship services.

 
 

Know Your Story: Christian Traditions
Latin Liturgy

            Christian traditions are those things that have been done in the Church for a long time, and which are a vital part of the worship and practice of many Christians. There are lots of traditions throughout the history of the Church that have played a vital role in the development, growth, and transmission of the Christian faith to people all over the globe. Some have been a part of Christian practice since the formation of the Church, and some have been around for only a few decades. But what they all hold in common is that each helps to add to and deepen the faith and spiritual walk of individual believers and Christian communities all over the globe.

 
 
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Here’s a simple truth for you: God can be trusted! God is reliable, good, honest, and worthy of our trust!

In fact, the Bible is full of examples of God being trustworthy- of God following through with what He says He will do. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with stories of people not trusting God, and then having to deal with the reality of those choices.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us that we should, “Trust in the Lord with all [our] heart; don’t depend on [our] own understanding.” The writer goes on to remind us that, if we seek God’s will in all we do, then God will show us what path to take. Basically, the writer’s telling us to trust God. God has promised to work for our good in all things (Romans 8:28).



 
 
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I’ve been the pastor of this church for just shy of two years. I can’t believe it has been that long already, and yet, it still feels like I just started yesterday! In the time I’ve been here, I have met some amazing people, and learned a lot about their lives and the life of this church.

I have also heard about a lot of the conflicts and problems that have gone on in this church over the years. Thankfully, many of those have been resolved, and unity was restored, and growth came out of those situations. Sadly, some of those conflicts did not find resolution, and they resulted in people leaving the church, cutting off ties with the people, and harboring bitterness even to this day.


 
 
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This past Sunday, we were blessed with the presence of the Reverend Sandra Douglas, a very passionate, in-your-face, wonderful deacon from our West Michigan Conference. Sandra brought to us a message that began our latest three-week mini-series on Conflict Resolution.

Sandra reminded us that we’re all created in the image of God; we all have that spark of the divine; we all have that remnant of God’s likeness. Now, as she also so bluntly stated, some of us are just hard to love! That is so true. And I will be the first to say that there are many times I am just downright unlovable. We all get that way- cranky, irritable, annoying, mean, and just plain nasty.
So how do we reconcile these two things: we are all created in God’s image, and many of us are hard to love? As Mark 12:28-34 commands, we are to love God and love our neighbor. We are to love God, and those who are His image bearers…even the hard to love ones.


 
 
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Sin. It’s present in both our behaviors and our motivations. Too often, when we talk about sin, we focus more on our behaviors, on those things on the surface that are easy to see and pick out. Even when we begin talking about accountability partners- people that we hold ourselves responsible to- we really only focus on those surface things.

Why is that? Why do we insist only being so superficial? I think it has to do with not wanting to offend or hurt the other person; with not wanting to get our hands dirty. I’d go so far as to say we don’t really want to deal with the bigger issues in someone else because it means we may have to deal with our own deeper issues. And no one wants to do that. That’s the tough stuff. We are too afraid, to worried, to protective to allow someone else to see all those sins we hide so deep within. And even worse, in some twisted sense, we like our sins- we like being bad, we like our disobedience.



 
 
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Our culture teaches that the purpose of having a relationship, whether friendly or romantic, is mostly about my happiness and fulfillment. And when a relationship no longer serves me and my needs? Well, then, they become disposable. I don’t have to work at making them better. I have every right to sever ties and move on to my next conquest. But you see, God calls us to have relationships with more meaning than that. Scripture teaches that our relationships are to be more than commonplace- they are to be radical in their nature and purpose.