Cedar Hills

His Final Breath, Alive in Me

Rose Hartwick Thorpe writes of a soldier who was condemned to die by execution at the ringing of the curfew bell. The soldier was engaged to be married to a young woman named Bessie. The sexton, old and deaf, prepared to pull the rope to ring the bell; Bessie climbed to the top of the belfry, reached out and then clung to the tongue of the huge bell. As the sexton rang the bell, Bessie was smashed against it, moving her body each time in order to silence the bell. As the tongue finally ceased its swinging, Bessie painfully descended from the tower. As General Cromwell demanded to know why the bell had not rung, Bessie approached him and confessed to her deed in words captured by the poet:

At his feet she told her story

Showed her hands all bruised and torn;

And her sweet, young face, still haggard

With the anguish it had worn;

Touched his heart with sudden pity

Lit his eyes with misty light

“Go, your lover lives,” said Cromwell,

“Curfew will not ring tonight.”

As Jesus stood among the Roman guards, a single blow strikes him, and then more blows. Fists and kicks rain upon him. Inhumanity assaults his humanity. His clothes are stripped and he is tied to a post. The soldier takes a whip of braided thongs. Metal balls and sharp bone is woven into them. The balls punish him, causing deep bruising and contusions. The thorns rip open flesh. Deep cuts run along his shoulders, buttocks and back of legs. His spine is exposed, visible through his shredded back, lacerations producing quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh, veins laid bare. Only when death is near does the beating stop. Shock from blood loss ensues: the heart races to pump absent blood; fainting and collapse follow dropping blood pressure; kidneys fail to produce urine and great thirst sets in.

A crown of thorns is placed on him, though placed is too mild a word: Large, sharp, stiff, curved thorns are shoved and embedded in his head.

His exposed backside is laid down and his hands nailed in outstretched fashion. Spikes five to seven inches long, tapered to a sharp point, drive through the median nerve of his wrist, squeezing and crushing it, locking his wrists in place. After he is hoisted and the crossbar is attached to the vertical stake, nails drive through his feet. Being lifted up stretches his arms and dislocates his shoulders.

As his arms fatigue, waves of cramps wash over his muscles.  His pectoral muscles are paralyzed. He draws in air but cannot exhale. He fights to lift himself in order to breathe out, but in doing so the nails tear through the foot and lock up against tarsal bones.

Carbon dioxide is dissolved into carbonic acid which leads to irregular heartbeat. Fluid collects in the membrane around the heart and lungs. The soldier thrusts a spear into the side of Jesus, through his lung and into his heart. The built up fluid spills out accompanied by a large amount of blood. He has died of cardiac arrest. Jesus dies of a broken heart, but only after declaring “It is finished.”

Everything God in Christ intended for us was fulfilled and accomplished. Death vanquished in the Great One’s death. The devil and his host stripped of power. Our stain of sin cleansed. Our separation from God bridged. Jesus lays our pardon at our feet. 

Curfew will not ring for us tonight.

A Season of 'Yes'

I would like to introduce Luke Patterson. Luke is a fellow Cedar Hillian, and part of our Rooted Leadership team. The journey he has been on and the insights he brings, continue to inspire me and challenge me. I asked him to share his journey with us because I am confident the work the Lord is doing in him will inspire you as well. 

 

Alyssa McLaughlin 

Adult Ministries 

 

A Season of 'Yes'

Imagine being a fisherman, standing in your boat with your brother and father, sorting the nets. A crowd approaches, following a man. Amid the murmur of voices you catch a name: "Jesus". You've heard incredible stories of this man the last few months. Surprisingly, he approaches your boat as you look on. When he is within speaking distance, you are shocked when he looks right at you and says "Come, follow me." What arises in you in that moment? Surprise? Fear? Curiosity? Likely, you'd have some questions too, such as "Where are we going?", "For how long?". As we see in Mark 1:16-20, Simon and Andrew, and also James and John said "Yes." Not just in word but with their actions. Both that day, and again and again. 

This is a common pattern you'll see in the Gospels as Jesus ministered. A call, a command, an invitation. The ones who responded with a 'yes' received the miracle - the healing, the deliverance, the very presence of Jesus. He invites us, beckons us into something, then waits for our response. In His Kingdom, there is choice. We always get to choose whether to respond or not. That freedom is so beautiful and powerful, but also heavy. Heavy because of the responsibility that it gives us over our spiritual life. We are fully, 100% responsible for our part in the relationship. 

For me, this has been a season of saying 'yes' to where I feel Him inviting me. In the fall of last year, Kiersten and I were given the opportunity to go through Rooted with several other people. Rooted is a 10-week group experience hosted by Cedar Hills that establishes deep spiritual foundations and growth in a community environment. It is vulnerable, deep, and real. Being a part of that group was such a beautiful experience for us. We didn't have to say 'yes' though. We are busy, have kids, businesses, and other pursuits. But when we prayed about it, we felt that it was a God invitation. Then, as we went each week and did our studying at home, we continued to say 'yes'. 'Yes' to going deep, to wrestling with the topics, to being genuine and vulnerable during our group times. During that 10 weeks, lots of things came up in our life - other opportunities, events, etc. that we had to say 'no' to. Our 'no' protects our 'yes'. I am learning to use my 'no' a lot more, so that the few things I say 'yes' to can really be great. I can give them the time and attention they deserve. 

After a 2-month break, Cedar Hills launched a new 10-week round of Rooted groups, and this time Kiersten and I were facilitating a group of our own. During our first meeting together, as the 11 of us strangers sat in a room together, we went around and each shared what had led us to sign up and what we were hoping to get out of our time together. The common theme that we heard was that while almost everyone was nervous, hesitant, or even uncomfortable, they all simply wanted more of Jesus. Their hunger was greater than their fear, busyness, insecurity or questions. 

This morning, we had our 10th and final meeting. As we broke bread and took communion together I looked around the room at each person. I can say that we all have our share of problems, of pain and struggle that we've lived through, or are still in. But I see how each one of us has continued to lean in to Jesus these last 10 weeks, opening up to Him and each other, and giving Him room to work in our lives. The growth, breakthrough, and transformation that we all have experienced is real and amazing. 

I think that life is really all about our 'yes' and 'no'. I believe that right now, in this season, the invitation from Jesus is clearer than ever. Breakthrough is happening, and people are choosing to follow Him at a greater level than they ever have before. He is ready and willing to come into our lives and heal, deliver, teach, grow, and LOVE. The question is, will we say 'yes'? And will we protect that 'yes' with our 'no'? 

In the place within your life where you sense Jesus beckoning for you to follow Him - I ask that today you will take a moment to talk to Him about it. Tell him of your fears, your hesitation, your doubt. Put simple words to what you are feeling. Then ask yourself this: "If I am standing in the boat, and Jesus is calling me, what am I going to do?". There is always a price we must pay with our 'yes' - but we get so much more back than we give out. He is really that good. 

Be Blessed, 

Luke Patterson

 

For Good?

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

 

There are times when I just don’t understand how a circumstance could be used for “my good,” but it happens more often than I’d like to admit. There are events in my past that happened, some good, some bad, some so horrible that my mind has blocked them from memory—but they happened. I mean let’s be real here, we really only harp on the bad ones. How can this happen? How could God let this happen? How is this good? The only real and true answer I can come up with is…I don’t know. We don’t know. That’s so tough to understand, let alone write out. We just don’t know what the purpose is until we’re far removed from it.

There is so much peace in knowing that whatever you are going through, God is right there next to you. In fact, even when you think you can’t go on anymore, he’s right there with you. He’s fighting for you. He’s telling you he loves you, no matter what’s happened in your life, no matter what you’ve done, or any of that, He loves you. It’s also hard though right? I mean you’re going through some rough stuff, and God’s right there? Why isn’t he stopping it? I don’t know. All I know is that in my life, that’s usually when I need to cling to him more. He didn’t cause this to happen, but you know what, he’s still there. I may have done something stupid, and it’s my choice that put me here, but he’s still right there with me. 

 I came to a realization last week…had I not been in a car accident 3 years ago and lost my job, I wouldn’t be in Sandpoint.

I wouldn’t be in a church where I am comfortable enough to sit through a gathering by myself. 

I wouldn’t be in a place where I could raise my hands in worship.

I wouldn’t have made friends with people who are not only awesome because they are present in my life, but more importantly they’re awesome because of the massive spiritual impact they’ve had on my life. They challenge me in ways I never would have experienced. 

I am who I am today because of the things that happened in my life. They formed me into the person I am, and that’s not to say I don’t have faults, because I have plenty of them, but I am just getting to a place where I FEEL God’s presence in my life, BECAUSE of what’s happened over the past 3 years, over the past 30 years for that matter.

 One question that will always have an answer: Can God use this? Let me answer that question with another question…is there anything God can’t do? We’ve already seen some of the amazing and good things God has done. How can WE limit Him? He has already done so many great things, that it’s almost like we’re insulting him by thinking he can’t do something. I’m sure He doesn’t take it like that, but sometimes I need a swift kick in the butt to remember that’s how I would feel if someone doubted my ability to do something I’ve already done. We sing songs in our gatherings with lyrics saying, 

            “Hallelujah, God above it all

            Hallelujah, God unshakeable

            Hallelujah, you have done great things”

Or 

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now”

Or even

You're never gonna let
You're never gonna let me down

Shouldn’t we at the VERY least try to see that in the everyday? He’s done great things, and he’s not done yet. I for one will choose to sing my hardest, because I know they’re true. 

Hope in Deep Waters

This past friday evening I was asked this question, “What is the definition of hope?” and due to the very recent events, I actually went blank in how to answer them for a moment. Now reflecting back on that conversation, I would give this answer for the same questions. Right now, I feel that this is a good definition of hope--
 
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God…”

- Isaiah 43:2-3a

I have never quite understood or experienced the level of panic, fear, terror, or even anxiety and depression that many others have. This season and this month, can have a way of making many people feeling alone in the sea of people and events. And even feel hopeless. The dark Idaho days can seem long and never ending.

Have you ever felt like you don’t know what to do or even how to pray in times that feel hopeless? Or perhaps like you can’t even think in the midst of a trial or hardship or seclusion, like your brain is helpless, and all of your schooling all of your life experience, all of your strength in one moment feels for not?

I think that it is safe to say that you have experienced discouragement at some point in your life. No matter the cause, you’ve been there, even if it was just for a short period of time, you’ve been down. This paragraph is a quote from an incredible book I’m currently reading called “HQ- Hope Quotient” - by pastor and author, Ray Johnston. “You’re going to get down this year, It’s just going to happen. You may be there right now, but if you stay down, your education doesn’t matter. Your theology doesn’t matter. Your skill level doesn’t matter. Your financial backing doesn’t matter. If you get down and stay down, you will drown. The only thing that will keep you from going under is hope. Hope makes you buoyant. Hope liberates. Hope motivates. Hope initiates. Hope activates. That’s why hope is so important. The polar opposite of hope is discouragement. It acts like a dead weight around your neck.”

As I think on through many things, and think of many people who I personally know are struggling I remember what I read recently. Ray Johnston also writes this “Hope is not some unreliable sensation- Feelings are inconsistent. They come and go. Wishing is not hope. Positive thinking is not hope. Goal setting is not hope. Hope is something you intentionally build into your life.”

Feelings are important to listen to and learn from, wishing can inspire us to go get something, positive thinking FAR outweighs negative thinking and negative thoughts, God tells us to have our thoughts dwell on things above, and goal setting is important, God tells us to work out our salvation. Even with all of those things being good things, they are not the root, they are not the source that allows them to be effective long term.

HOPE

Why did Jesus come to this world amongst his own creation?
Because He loved us, and that gives me hope.

Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus?
Because what Jesus did, dying for us, to save us from hell...gave us hope.

Why can we trust that God will be with us in Deep Waters?
Because He has been there before us, and He is there with us no matter our choices in those times!

Why am I able to trust that I won’t drown in rivers of difficulty?
Because my hope is not in my strength to handle it the raging torrent, though I may try initially. My hope is in HIM who is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine.

Why will I not be burned up and consumed in Oppression’s fire?

John 16:33
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

Jesus is my Why. Jesus is my Hope.

Jesus walked on top of the Deep Waters.  


Take Hope.

  • Sean Trostrud
    Outreach and Student Life Ministries Leader

What’s Happening in Adult Ministries?

At Cedar Hills we have new people coming to gatherings every week. Our programs say “Come as you are…” and we do. We come with our brokenness, our joy, our sadness, our loneliness, and our questions. Our doors are open wide to every person, in all walks of life. We welcome the person who has followed Christ their entire life, as well as those who have questions about who God is. We come from all different backgrounds. Regardless of our backgrounds we know as we look for Christ he will show us who He is. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” We are all looking for more of God.

 

I have had many friends, family, and acquaintances ask me over the years, “What’s next, I’ve given my life to Jesus, I’ve been baptized, now what?” This answer at Cedar Hills has always been, “join a Life Group.” Life Groups are an amazing way to grow in relationships with others, as well as in relationship with God. However, it is a large step for many who haven’t experienced community within the church before. It has been too large of a step for many coming directly out of the waters of baptism to join a Life Group. I’ve heard express “I don’t even know where to begin reading my Bible, let alone join a group that has been meeting for 5 years, and is filled with people who have followed Christ for the majority of their lives, that’s way to intimidating.” 

 

I have also had many conversations with those raised in church environments. Often we may not fully understand why we do what we do.  We may not feel comfortable stepping into serving, fasting, praying out loud for a friend, or listening to His Spirit speak to us. We simply don’t know how to experience the full life Christ promised us. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10. This year Cedar Hills’ Adult Ministries is all about building a foundation for discipleship. We want to help people understand why we do what we do as Christians. We want to provide an environment for people to experience the elements of spiritual practices that Christ has called us to be a part of. Because when we participate in these experiences and practices, our lives change. 

 

The tool we will be using to introduce people into discipleship is a 10-week group experience called “Rooted.”  Rooted is a curriculum which brings life change. It has been used in hundreds of countries around the world. In the US alone, thousands of churches with all different denominations have embraced Rooted.  Our staff has walked through this together, as well as a Rooted Leadership Team, which just finished the 10-week material. We have discovered first hand that ‘Rooted emboldens us to live out the calling of a radical leader of Jesus. No matter where you are in your relationship with Jesus there is always room to move forward.’ In addition to weekly homework which helps develop a pattern of a devotional life, groups come together each week to talk about how God is working.  Groups also participate in a fasting and prayer time, serving, and a celebration meal together. As the weeks go by, relationships are formed and the Spirit speaks to each person in unique and different ways. Rooted is truly a life changing experience. No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, Rooted will challenge you to grow. 

 

After the 10 weeks is through, the majority of groups choose to go on as a Life Group with together. They have formed bonds through sharing stories and experiences they are eager to continue. Forming a Life Group at this stage is organic and natural, a much easier step then going into a Life Group as the “new person.”

 

The next round of Rooted will be kicking off the end of January. This session will be lead by our Rooted Leadership Team, and will consist of people willing to facilitate a group during our church-wide launch of Rooted in the fall of 2019. If you are passionate about helping people fall in love with Jesus, we wantneed you in this group! No prior experience needed, just an open heart to help and invest in others. Everyone who leads a Rooted group must have gone through Rooted, so in the January sessions all who join will be a participant, with the hope of facilitating groups to come in the fall.  

 

In addition to Rooted, we are excited to share we will be having 4 “Further Experiences.” These will be held once a month January through April, directly after the last Sunday gathering, 12-2pm. Lunch will be provided, followed by a time to experience more of what the Lord has to offer. Topics include, The Holy Spirit, Prayer and Healing, Bible, and Intentional Relationships. 

 

For more information about Rooted, or Further Experiences, please contact me at alyssa@cedarhillschurch.com. I’m super excited to see where God is leading us together, and thrilled to be on this journey with all of you!

 

Alyssa McLaughlin

Adult Ministries Leader

Planning for a Great Holiday Season

Are you feeling the pressure of the approaching holidays yet? If you’re not already you will very soon. Seems like this season puts the heat on with planning and decision making. Most of the focus surrounds what we’ll spend our money on, what we’ll spend our time on, and what events we will agree to participate in. One thing we can be sure of is that WE WILL run out of capacity. There will always be endless opportunities. Because if this it becomes increasingly valuable to design a framework for how we will make decisions, long before we are making them. 

The following paragraphs talk through a few ideas I have found to be valuable in my life when approaching seasons like this. 


Pre-decide your “main things”

If you are anything like me, there are certain things that always happen around the holidays....Thanksgiving dinner at a certain relative’s house, annual shopping trip with a certain group, this side of the family always has a gift exchange, travel expenses to that out of town party. Be so bold as to write down your main things in list form. You may have to take some things off the list. Decide what calendar dates are a must and get them on your calendar. These will help you calibrate your participation. You may have to voice your plans with certain people and communicate “we’re not going to be able to make it for that because we’ve chosen to do this instead”. 

Pre-decide “money caps”

Decide what you plan to spend on a specific holiday, party, or gift. If you have kids, decide what you will spend on each child. What often happens is when you’re out shopping you find a great gift idea. Without a solid cap, you’re emotions will get the best of you...and you will walk out of that story with “brand new credit card debt”. Decide your caps and stick with them. The season isn’t about how much you spend. 


Leave some “margin”

Extra time is amazing! Not only does margin provide a break between events and commitments, it also provides some spontaneity and flexibility. With margin it becomes easier to say yes to last minute parties, yes to that special gift you thought would never go on sale. But the margin has be planned in. This means no overfilling the calendar and being wise in setting your money caps. 

The upcoming holidays are a great time to share with family and friends. Lots of memories to be made and many experiences to participate in. Do your best to set yourself up to maximize your time and minimize stress and overscheduling. It’s gonna be a great 2018 holiday season!