Walking Honestly With Your Darkness

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

My passion for Christ, the glory of Jesus in me AND my pathetic selfishness, my ugly darkness within, are both true about me.

If I am honest, I must admit  that I have both.

I shared a quote in a Sunday message from Edna Hong in her book, The Downward Ascent, wrote, “My self does not live in a sweet, sunny, one story rambler but in an old ancestral Gothic house of many floors and rooms and hallways, of dark passageways and spiral staircases, of damp and gloomy cellars and cellarages. The maze of subterranean corridors go downdowndown and eventually converge in one dizzily winding and descending th that dead-ends at the Room of Riddle, the Fall, Original Sin, Original Guilt.”

Deep down inside, we are messed up!

Are you willing to take a long, honest look at your dark side? Am I? Oh, we know we are flawed. But we want to ignore it, minimize it, or dull it somehow.

When we are most deeply aware of our fallen nature, it’s not a bad thing. Perhaps at that moment, on this side of heaven, we are never closer to true joy and a sound mind.

Around Cuyahoga Valley Church, we say we want to live new. If that’s to be true, we must recognize that darkness, that fallenness, that depravity that still lives in us and we must constantly stand at the foot of the cross and receive the gift of forgiveness through the precious blood of Christ that flows so that we can be born again and again and again.

Edna Hong writes, “I feel quite cheerful about my cheerless view of me.”

See, that’s what makes us run to Christ. Forgiveness of sins is why Jesus came. It’s what the gospel is all about. It is good for us to sense the guilt of sin. Because without sensing the guilt of sin, we will never humble ourselves and repent. It’s repentance that makes forgiveness possible. And when we receive that forgiveness, our gratitude for Jesus will grow. And that gratitude to Jesus will arouse in us a desire to serve, sacrifice, love, and work for justice.

If we can’t be sorry for not being sorry for our sins, we are in trouble. If we cannot sorrow and bring ourselves to say “Wretched man that I am!” then we cannot rejoice and say, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

We must maintain this tension – the conviction that our fallen sinfulness is far worse than most of us realize AND that our redeemed humanity is more amazing than we will let ourselves believe.

Let’s be equally distrustful of our fallen selves AND thankful for our redeemed humanity. Let’s be equally sorrowful for our sinful pride AND rejoicing in our great salvation.

This is what it means for us to die to self and live new.

Don’t get used to the grace of God in Christ. Be amazed by grace. Bruce Marshall in Vespers in Vienna wrote, “What one really needs is a new little conversion every day, a fresh bright light inside oneself to make one anxious to like fresh bright lights in other people.”

Yes, I am a forgiven son. I rejoice in my reconciliation with my Father. I’m newborn, a new creation, a new Adam. I can live new. But I am still a human fallen son of a fallen Adam, as well as of a heavenly Father. And my chief enemy is still the I of myself. The I of myself as my own worst enemy, for in the self of me there is still a fallen sinner.

I will break my loving father’s heart again and again. As I live out this life in Christ, I will understand His will more and more. And I will also see more and more subtle and secret ways in me that I disobey. I will have to face the consequences of the symptoms. At the same time, I will recognize that he loves me just like I am. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more and nothing I can do to make him love me less. Therefore, how could I not continue to run to Jesus. Again and again.

There is no sin that cannot be forgiven when we come to the foot of the cross. When do we know that we have found and have rested in forgiveness? Soren Kierkegaard said, ” A person rests in forgiveness when the thought of God does not remind him of sin but that he is forgiven, when the past is not a memory of how much you trespassed but how much he has been forgiven.”


by Chad Allen, Cuyahoga Valley Church Lead Pastor

I’m white.  Scottish/Irish/Italian white to be specific.  I have a white wife. I also have a bi-racial African-American daughter, a Chinese daughter, and technically a bi-racial son who is ¼ Mexican, although you would never know it by appearance.  I absolutely LOVE the diversity in my family.  It is a beautiful kaleidoscope gifted to us by the hand of God.  I also love the growing diversity I’m seeing in our church.  This year we had the largest percentage of diversity at our annual sports camp in all its history.  I love looking out and seeing the kaleidoscope in our church body too.  I love having the awareness that I worship with people who come from European roots, Jewish roots, African roots, Asian roots, Latino Roots and the like. That is one of the reasons that I am absolutely sickened by what happened in Charlottesville, VA last weekend.

Racism is ugly.  Racism is ludicrous.  Racism is ungodly.  Racism is unbiblical.  Racism is evil.  Racism is hate.  Anyone who believes in, participates in, or teaches racism is a proponent for hate.  Racism is “hate-ism.”  Racism isn’t new. And contrary to what it may feel like, it isn’t necessarily worse than previous eras.  In our insta-post culture today, we are just made more aware of it when it happens.  I agree with the actor Will Smith when he said, “Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”

What’s tragic is that racism is now being veiled as patriotism by those who are champions of such hate.  It was surreal to watch KKK, Neo-Nazi, and other white supremacists have the freedom to provoke and carry out the rampage that floods our screens.  Freedom of speech is one thing, but freedom of violence?  And white supremacy? Really?  The only “white” we should celebrate is the white-as-snow cleansing of our filthy souls through faith in Christ (Is. 1:18; Ps. 51:7; 1 John 1:7-9) and the only supremacy we should celebrate is the supremacy of God over all of creation (1 Chron. 29:11-12; Ps. 103:19; Col. 1:17).  And yes, there is only one race… the human race (Acts 17:26).

If racism isn’t bad enough, hearing white supremacists twisting God’s Word to fit into their mold of hate is repulsive!  I watched portions of an interview with one of the white supremacists who proudly proclaimed that he is a racist and said that he is doing the Lord’s work.  Really? Which work?  Loving one another as Christ commanded (John 13:34-35)?  Serving one another in love (Gal. 5:13)?  Making disciples for Christ (Matt. 28:19-20)?

Regardless of your faith background, I hope you are discerning enough to reject the “Christianizing” of hate.  Wrapping hateful words and actions in a Bible verse will never justify it.  Racism is clearly in opposition to the God who made all men in His image (Gen. 1:27).  It is beyond bizarre that white racist people seem to forget that God sent His Son, a brown Middle-Eastern man, to die on the cross!  If I wanted to isolate one verse that directly addresses racism from Scripture it would be:

1 John 2:11 – But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Racism is darkness.  It is blindness.  It is hate.  And it isn’t just in Charlottesville, or the South.  It’s everywhere.  Even in our communities.  Denise, our Children’s Minister, shared a sad story from our own church sports camp of a first-grade girl turning to another first-grade girl and saying, “My mommy told me I can’t play with kids with dark skin like yours.”  I don’t know if this child goes here or was a guest, but what I do know is that there was evidence in that moment of an attempt to teach her to hate.  No one is born racist.  They learn it.  What are you teaching your children about God’s beautiful kaleidoscope of creation and His design of diversity?

There is hope in the midst of the hate.  As Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

As followers of Jesus, part of being a Christ-glorifying, Gospel-sharing and Bible-believing person is to stand with and for those who are being victimized by racism.  Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations.  Embedded in the Great Commandment is an affirmation of diversity.  So, what can we do to help counter racism?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Purge yourself of any racism. There may racism blatantly or subtly lurking around in your own heart. Ask God to show you it if it’s there. And then lay it before God in prayer and ask Him to take it away and replace it with a love for others who are different than you.
  • Cultivate friendships with people of a different ethnicity. Do you have diversity in your friendships? We benefit greatly from expanding our friendships to people of different ethnicity. Part of being a relational risk-taker is getting to know people who may not be exactly like you.  Listen to them and learn from them.  Share perspectives and stories.
  • Speak up. We cannot be silent nor still when physical, mental, and emotional violence is being carried out upon people God loves.  We are to neutralize racism in peaceful, prayerful, and proactive ways as we see it.  We can speak against it, write against it, post against it, vote against it and teach against it, especially in our homes. In fact, the picture that comes with this post is from a family in our church. The mom was trying to explain what had happened in Charlottesville when her 9-year-old African-American son took it upon himself to place his hand with his white sister’s hand to form a heart. He then told his mom to take a picture of it and post it to “show everyone that love not hate wins.”  There is light in the midst of the darkness and there is hope in the midst of hate!
  • God can do more than man ever will.  Pray for those who have been hurt by racism.  Pray for their families.  Pray for those who have been ensnared in racism—perhaps even discipled in hate—that God would push away the darkness and blindness and shine the light of His love into their hearts. Pray for our churches to be safe and diverse.  Pray for Christians to be the salt and light in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities to help make a difference.




Ancient Ways for the Modern Family – RESOURCES

by Chad Allen, Cuyahoga Valley Church Lead Pastor

It’s tough raising a family in the world today.  Each day has new challenges, new problems, new fears.  Where do we turn for help?  Parents today are bombarded with books, articles, videos and advice from countless voices telling us how to have a healthy family.

Our hope isn’t to overwhelm you with resources but to point you in the right direction in hopes you’ll find what works for your family and parenting style. When it comes to parenting, here’s a list of our favorite recommended resources.



  • www.cpyu.org – It’s a must for families with 11-19 year-olds.  Walt Mueller does all the hard legwork of having a team keep up with youth culture.  He gives biblical frameworks to think about what’s going on in our teens world.

DVD Series:

Looking into the Fridge: A quick peek at the primary end times views

by Chad Allen, Cuyahoga Valley Church Lead Pastor

There is an interesting phenomenon that we all participate in.  We occasionally like to go to our refrigerators, open the door and just gaze at the contents for a minute.  Sometimes we grab something, but sometimes we just close it and walk away.  What are we looking for?  Why are we looking?  It’s usually our way of seeing if there is anything new in there or anything that appeals to our appetite.  It’s a funny behavior.

When it comes to the topic of “Eschatology,” the study of end time events, we tend to do the same thing.  We open the Word of God, a book, a link, or a blog on the doctrinal stances that surround the return of Christ, looking for something new or appealing.  Sometimes we find a helpful nugget of encouragement about the return of Christ, or sometimes we scan the same content and positions that we are familiar with and move on.

So, for those who have a degree of familiarity with end time doctrine, enjoy gazing in the fridge as I briefly summarize some of the main theological stances for those who may be unfamiliar or need a refresher.


The Millennium
The foundation of where you land on the coming of Christ depends heavily on your interpretation of Scripture in relation to the millennium.  The word millennium means “one thousand years.”  This is a large piece of our eschatology because as God is revealing the future to John the Apostle in the book of Revelation, John sees the devil bound for a thousand years (Rev. 20:2), he speaks about a resurrection of faithful saints who will reign with Christ for the thousand years (Rev. 20:4), and a final resurrection of the dead after the thousand years (Rev. 20:5).  When is this thousand years to take place?  Here is a brief summary of the three primary historical views on the millennium in the Christian faith:

  • Amillennial View – There is not a literal thousand-year reign, and the language in Revelation 20 is symbolic. Those who will reign with Christ, as referred to in Revelation 20, are believers who have died and are currently reigning with Christ now in heaven while we currently live in the church age waiting for the second coming of Christ which will usher in all of the end time events at one time followed by our final state of eternity with Christ and His kingdom.


  • Premillennial View – The millennium is a literal span of a thousand years and will take place following the great tribulation and the second coming of Christ. Upon Christ’s return, Jesus will personally and bodily reign on earth over His kingdom and it will be an era of peace and righteousness. Satan will be locked up for the thousand years and the believers that are raised from the dead will join the believers that are alive during Christ’s return and reign with Christ during the millennium.  After the thousand years is up, Satan will be loosed from his captivity and will lead one last rebellion against Christ with many unbelievers who are alive at the end of the millennium but will be defeated.  Jesus will then resurrect all unbelievers for the final judgment in which both believers and unbelievers will then enter their final eternal states.


  • Postmillennial – The view that the millennium will be ushered in by the church through growth and evangelism during this church age.  As more people are increasingly converted to Christ and as the righteousness and peace of God’s people becomes more prolific on earth, then Christ will return after the millennium to then resurrect all believers and unbelievers for the final judgment and their eternal states.


The Tribulation
Jesus taught about a coming time of great tribulation, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be (Matt. 24:21 – ESV).  He also said that this tribulation would come right before His second coming (Matt. 24:29-31).  In the book of Daniel, the tribulation is prophesied to be seven years long (Dan. 9:24-27).  So, when will this tribulation be and will the believers in Christ alive at the time go through it?  There are three primary views related to this part of end time doctrine as well:

  • Pre-tribulation view – Jesus will appear before the tribulation begins to “rapture” the church (1 Thess. 4:17) and spare believers from God’s wrath during the tribulation. His second coming will then take place following the Tribulation when Christ appears to establish His forever kingdom.  Believers in Christ will not be present during the tribulation.


  • Mid-tribulation view – This view takes the distinction in Daniel 9:27 between the first half of the seven-year tribulation and last half (great tribulation) and believes that Christ will “rapture” the church in the middle of the seven-year tribulation after the first three and a half years, when man’s wrath ends and the wrath of God begins. Then, following the tribulation, Christ’s second coming and kingdom will occur.  Believers in Christ will be present for only part of the tribulation.


  • Post-tribulation view – This view sees the rapture and the second coming as one simultaneous event following the seven-year tribulation. Believers will welcome Christ as their coming King, who comes and sets up His forever kingdom.  Believers in Christ will go through the tribulation and need to prepare to endure suffering.  In this view, believers will be present during the tribulation. The saints rise to meet the Lord in the air and accompany him back as the rightful King of the earth. This implies that the church will go through the tribulation on the earth.

So there you have it.  Some of you are having a refrigerator moment.  After reading this blog you will close the door dissatisfied because nothing new is in here, or you craved something that wasn’t present.

Please keep in mind these are simplified summaries of these primary views. There are numerous versions, combinations, and interpretations of end time events.  For two thousand years credible, reliable, and biblical leaders have arrived at different views based on the interpretations of the same passages that they mutually see as God’s infallible and inerrant Word.

As you take these doctrines into consideration, and as a self-feeder, take on further study of them, keep in mind that we major on the major (Christ is coming back suddenly, literally, and bodily) and minor on the minors (when He returns, what events transpire pre or post His return).  I encourage you to align with a view, but hold it loosely.  We can’t be dogmatic or unloving to others for the sake of our favored positions.  We must remember and live a great principle of our faith – In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.

With that being said, in my next post I will share where I personally lean and why.  I may also share where a few of our other Cuyahoga Valley Church pastors lean as well.


Recommended Resources:

Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology

Wayne Gruden audio lecture and related notes easily accessible.





You Don’t Have to be a Pastor to Share Your Faith

Every heart with Christ, a missionary; every heart without Christ, a mission field. 

  -Dick Hillis, Author and American Missionary to China 

We’re afraid of ridicule. Maybe nervous that we won’t have all of the right answers. Maybe we’re putting off having that conversation with a coworker or loved one because…well,  there’s always tomorrow, right? Interestingly enough, world renowned illusionist and outspoken atheist Penn Jillette  has something to share on the matter:

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward–and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself–how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

It’s not always easy or comfortable to share your faith with someone, but as beloved children of the almighty and loving God, it’s our duty to step out in love and share the wondrous fact of salvation and eternal life. It’s something that anyone who has a relationship with Jesus can do, regardless of education or profession. Founding Pastor Rick Duncan has a few suggestions on where to begin:

  1. Start wondering about the spiritual condition of everyone you see.
  2. Focus on five non-believers you know, and pray every day for them.
  3. Every day, tell somebody you know something good about God.
  4. Find a question (or two) that you can use.
    • How can I pray for you?
    • Do you have much of a spiritual background?
    • How would you describe your spiritual journey?
    • How do you make the most important decisions in your life?
    • Sometime I’d like to share with you what’s most important in my life. Would that be ok?
  5. Be ready to share the good news in a simple, non-threatening way.

Here at CVC, we’ve adopted a growing method to sharing your faith in a simplistic manner. All it takes is some paper, three circles, nine words, and someone to talk to. Click here to view how this Gospel conversation works!


Sharing the 3 Circles

Facing Affliction for the Faith

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

Here in Northeast Ohio, our people take seriously the command to “make disciples.” We see ourselves as missionaries cleverly disguised as baristas, homemakers, lawyers, bricklayers, teachers, plumbers, nurses, etc.

Because of this reason, many from Cuyahoga Valley Church have faced opposition, ridicule, and rejection. We shouldn’t be surprised. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know”
(I Thessalonians 3:3-4).

On Facebook, I asked, “What kinds of criticism, opposition, ridicule, rejection, alienation, or marginalizing have you faced for sharing your faith with your family, in the marketplace, or in your community?”

I’m grateful that many from Cuyahoga Valley Church are standing strong for Jesus in spite of the opposition we have received. Here are the responses… 

  • Laughed at…
  •  Words such as, “Oh you are one of them, you are a Jesus freak”. She said that often to me, with a great deal of anger. Or, “that doesn’t sound very Christian of you”
  • That may be for you, but it is not for me. I’m good with God so leave it alone. Why do you Christians think that you got it right anyway? And everybody else has it wrong?
  • That is not what the nuns and priests taught us!
  • Cut off by family who do not want you included because of your spoken beliefs 😕
  • Being a hospice nurse I have had three encounters this week with two agnostics and one atheist. One a lawyer, one an engineer and the other a famous photographer. The lawyer and the engineer shared that there is something out there but scientifically don’t know what it is. The lawyer told me that he hates organized religion. The photographer an atheist, was on his deathbed. I boldly stated “_____, you are going to meet Jesus soon now you have to make a decision”. By this time he could not speak. I said the sinners pray with him. He motioned his hands in prayer. I believe that my patient is saved. He passed away gently three hours after that prayer. Praise you Jesus!
  • Verbal and relational hostility/adversity- couched in accusations of being narrow minded or bigoted- often it seems like misdirected anger toward God
  • Forbidden to talk religion in workplace hospital
  • Family very liberal…gay family members
  • Oh, you’re one of those Jesus freaks
  • Oh you’re not Catholic anymore?
  • I’m a server at a restaurant and since this past Sunday, am wearing a “I Love Jesus” pin on the collar of my shirt. I caught some of my co-workers walking by looking at the pin and rolling their eyes. I watched as some customers read it and smiled. Not taking it off!
  • Christian are not supposed to be human and make mistakes or that would be a hypocrite.
  • As a Candidate for Mayor of Cleveland this year I was called the devil. Must say that was a first.
  • Not practicing the rituals that were practiced with Catholicism. Why do they not baptize babies? Why don’t they “make” their communion” “why don’t they go in a confessional” “”why don’t they make confirmation” “where does the church money go? How can the pastors be helping people if most of their homes are gorgeous” “how come communion isn’t every weekend,” “why does it seem like the pastors there only talk to people they know” ….and the list goes on…
  • My Son Samuel who I Love dearly has criticized me for my belief in The One and Only Way, JESUS/YESHUA! Sammy thinks there are other ways, like Buddhism or others. One night Sam asked me if He would go to hell if He did not believe in JESUS/YESHUA. I told Him the TRUTH. JESUS SAVES! Only JESUS/YESHUA SAVES! I could see pain in His Beautiful eyes at my answer. I felt pain for my Son. TRUTH is,The TRUTH will set You Free !!! I Pray daily for the Salvation of my Children, Lauren Marie, Marisa Lee, and Samuel David. I PRAISE GOD for The Salvation of my Daughter Rachel Eve !!! My Son thinks I am narrowed minded. That is O.K. with me. I hope and Pray He and all my Children see and Walk The Narrow Way, The One and Only Way. JESUS/YESHUA!!!!!!!
  • I always get, You believe the Bible? Your one of those holy rollers that think same sex marriage is wrong. Get a life.
  • I was born again in 1980. At the time, I was the only true Christian in my predominantly steeped in religion family. For years, I was an outcast. Given the ultimatum of your new church or the family I chose the church. I had no contact with my family for almost three years
  • I had a relative berate me because I didn’t believe how they believe and they since have decided to have nothing to do with me.
  • Don’t you feel badly or guilty for what you did by turning your back on the Catholic Church?
  • When I started going to church on a regular basis in my 30’s, I realized how hungry I was for God’s word, and was going to the classes, bible studies, became a Sunday school, etc. My mom called me a Jesus freak, which upset me very much, and I went into defense mode and didn’t know how to respond as a Christian. Later it came to me that my response to that is now, “Thank you!”
  • I was criticized by my boss because Zek and I were waiting for marriage for sex and living together, because “the Bible doesn’t say that” and it’s something that Christians have decided to do so they can seem better than other people
  • Made fun as a Jesus freak behind my back.
  • People I converse with usually have legitimate reservations about biblical mysteries, be it the creation timeline or seeming contradictions, that there really is no agreed upon explanation for.
  • “If you’ve read the book, then you know the rules. Just follow them. It’s not that hard but all you Christians can’t figure it out. It’s hypocritical.” That’s a big one. Also, I hear the idea that we’ve “evolved beyond a text that is over 2,000 years old”; it’s not timely anymore; too many interpretations, no one knows which is the “original” text; evolution arguments, etc. I could go on!
  • I was told when I first came to CVC that I could have gone to the other church in our family- the Catholic Church. I said I was looking for a church for my daughter but found it was for me too. Now I get you have great messages at your church and we pray together daily
  • I’ve been told in the past that I have to be careful of mentioning too many God or church things when co-workers talk casually about what we did over weekend to ensure I don’t offend anyone. In 13 years, though, I’ve not had any be offended by my faith.
  • That faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord can’t be the only way… or often times a person will intellectually agree but as soon as they are examined personally (just like James of the Bible would do) they reject that faith and obedience in Christ is the only way to be right with God.
  • We’ve been told we are narrow minded. We are creating self-fulfilling prophesies for ourselves and when these come true we say “God” did it (according to this person, there is no god and we are just creating it all for our own feel good story). We are just part of a club/organization. There’s no real proof. The bible was written and made up by man.
  • My husband had to put his Bible in the desk drawer.
  • My mother told me you do not talk about politics, raising kids, and religion when I tried to talk with her. She did not want to hear about Jesus or God. Just before her death my brother had an opportunity to share the Lord with her, Praise God, she accepted him within a week before dying.
  • I have been ostracized and forbidden to say the name of Jesus to children in the family.
  • My father often tells me that is not how or what a Christian should say or do. He says it about really silly things. So I know he is watching, I am trying but not always perfect. I have suggested that he should become a Christian then he would know how they act.
  • Broken family relationships, threats, ridicule, backstabbing, and name calling, spit on, becoming unpopular (praise God), and misunderstood. How Glorious it is to be faithful in spite of these things!!! Why? Because the living God Always shows up, speaks to defiant hearts, and overwhelms their offense with His Truth and Presence saving many. What a wonderful life we have in being abused for Jesus sake. Jump for joy. Matthew 5:11-12!
  • I was told to put down the Bible and get back to the real world. All because I was trying to defuse a bad situation.
  • You name it, I’ve gotten it & in 3 different languages! I’ve been pretty well shunned because I gave up the “true” religion, I’ve been gossiped about, corrected on my ‘bad doctrine”, grilled about the bible, poked fun of because I do not believe in evolution, been Facebook bullied. Many times people are just down-right angry and I have to remember that “those who are unreconciled with God are always angry”. But- it’s worth it all to please my Jesus.
  • My first job as a graduate from high school was as a maintenance man at Findlay State Park. We worked a 40 hour week but could alternate Saturdays or Sundays Once a month. When I told my boss I preferred to work Saturdays so I could attend church on Sundays he was absolutely incredulous and deliberately scheduled me on Sundays. He took every opportunity to make fun of me. At that initiation into the world I never understood the depth of scorn he had for me. When I got older I began to understand the spiritual battle the enemy wages when we intentionally share Christ. In my family I experienced absolute hostility from some because I identified with Christ. I didn’t say a thing to them about The Lord but they just knew. I believe we, myself included do not take seriously the truth that a battle rages for people’s souls. We must use the armor God provides. This is suffering that happens when openly professing Jesus but does show the genuineness of our faith.
  • Wow….a lot. Mainly at work. I will share my faith by trying to advocate for the individuals with disabilities by trying to request for rides and enough staffing to get the ones who want to go to church so they can celebrate THEIR faith. I run into roadblocks constantly with staff who feel that it is not important enough to take them because the staff doesn’t want to go. When I try to fight for the individual’s rights, I get told not to mix work with church or to stay out of it. I am trying to find a way to pick up these individuals and bring them to church and I am using all my avenues. I have been written up for getting involved and told that I need to back down. I tend to be looked on as a troublemaker and not as a religious advocate.
  • It is rather challenging mentioning Jesus because my parents are in a totally different religion. Even though they accept me for my faith they don’t want things said about Jesus.
  • I will say this. My family had been the hardest on me when I gave my life to Christ. 14 years later they have lightened up but I still find of chuckle when they don’t tell me about things they are doing because they know I will call them out on it. My nickname is “Moral Compass”. Just being honest I kind of like it.
  • Some of my husband’s family was afraid that we had joined a cult. My husband’s grandfather was mad at us at first and asked my husband-why did you do that? You were born a catholic, you don’t change that. We were also called the holy rollers by another family member and all because we wanted to talk about JESUS. In the workplace, I became good friends with a co-worker and one day she interrupted me to say… I never talk religion or politics. As time went on (and I kept talking “religion”) she allowed me to and has been to CVC several times!
  • My dad refusing to allow me to bring up the topic of “Jesus” and often yelling if I forgot this prohibition. Of course, God changed his heart in the end but for years I struggled to honor my dad by attempting to clearly communicate Christ with my actions while muzzling my mouth.
  • I was told by a relative not to return to the country of my upbringing because my faith would make it dangerous for my extended family to live in peace.
  • My siblings roll their eyes at me and sarcastically say, “hallelujah!” Then tell me to, “get out of here with that stuff.”
  • My sister gets very angry with me because all her children “who have a good heart will go to heaven.” And if you say they have to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior….boy…..she turns into a lion protecting her cubs and rips me apart. OUCH!
  • “Stop forcing your religion onto others, you not always right”
  • A friend said that he believes that when you die that’s it there’s nothing. I said you can’t believe that’s all there is. He said there must be other life out there or we just feed the worms. I said what would the other life out there do or have to do with it. He said he didn’t know he hasn’t read anything that told him. I said read your Bible and start with the book of John.
  • Two events come to mind. Having a rifle jammed under my chin as I was threatened by a communist “organizer” in Ethiopia. And, being held hostage in front of a chanting angry mob in the midst of a revolution in Ethiopia. In the second case a short prayer, “Lord, please cool down this mob.” About 10 minutes later we had such a heavy rain we could not see more than 20 feet. The mob was cooled and dispersed. We were safe.

Be Encouraged

by Cuyahoga Valley Church

As we focus on being Encouraged this summer we wanted to share some encouragement from a dear friend of Lynne Robie who lives in New Jersey.

“I visit New Jersey, my home state, a few times a year. The last time I was there my friend and I were discussing the power of prayer.  I shared with her about the prayer room at Cuyahoga Valley Church and how it is used and what it has meant to me.  I told her about the prayer warriors that meet in there and pray.

Last week I spoke with my friend and she told me she was so inspired by the prayer room and that she went to her church leader and requested the same for her church.

I am so delighted to say that she is now heading up the creation of a prayer room.  Another woman at her church is in the process of recruiting pray warriors to meet in their prayer room.  An eagle Scout in her church has made it his Eagle Scout project to build a mailbox outside of their church specifically to leave prayer requests in for not only the congregation, but those that may be passing by.

My friend requested pictures of our prayer room to give her ideas of what she can do with her prayer room.  I shared with her that we have people who spend their time in the prayer room during each service, praying over the pastor, the worship team, the message and the people receiving the message.

I also told her about, Live New 10/24, when we wrote names on cards and hung them up in the prayer room to be prayed over.  These were new concepts to her that she was extremely excited about.  She was so thankful, appreciative, inspired and ENCOURAGED by all I shared with her.

Thank you for providing an opportunity and place to pray which provided me with an opportunity to share and encourage my friend.

Please know that in Milltown, New Jersey, there is a prayer room being created and prayer warriors being recruited because of the prayer room and prayer warriors that exist at Cuyahoga Valley Church.

Praise God for he is truly good.”

Wisdom from Mom

by Chad Allen, Lead Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church

One of the great things about Mothers is their advice and the lessons they teach us. We think about the good ol’ phrase, “mother knows best.”  Advice and lessons are samplings of the gift of wisdom that God allows for us to help each other, especially the next generation.

Let’s not forget that Scripture is good to remind us (more than once) that our parents have wisdom for us to glean.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Proverbs 1:8
My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Proverbs 6:20
This past week I asked on social media, “What good advice did your mom give you, or what lessons did she teach you?  The feed blew up quickly and I wanted to share the collective wisdom we remember from our mothers.  It’s a variety of shared wisdom ranging from practical to funny. Thanks for your feedback. Enjoy!

Wisdom from Mom

  • Put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.
  • She taught me to persevere through hardship.
  • They won’t buy the cow if they get the milk for free.
  • Compassion for people and animals.
  • How to be selfless as a mom 💕🌸
  • “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I now say it to my girls 😊
  •  You can learn anything and do anything, you just need to change your mindset.
  •  Remember birthdays and don’t talk about yourself, focus on others.
  •  Keep our family business to ourselves.
  • My mom was moved around a lot as a kid and went to several different schools. Her parents divorced and things weren’t always stable. She was a teen mom. She found herself pregnant with my older sister at just 16… but she kept that baby… took respon took responsibility, still went to college, had a career, made a really good life even with the stigma and stereotypes of being a young mom. What she has always told us and taught me is that there are no excuses in life and that your past does not define your future. We can accomplish anything.
  • Stay away from credit card debt. I didn’t listen and had to learn the hard lesson myself.
  • My mom and grandma taught me to tithe from my very first paycheck as a teen. A value I have carried throughout my life.
  • My teenage daughter has the 50/50 rule on her paychecks, no matter how small. Spend 1/2 and save 1/2.
  • Both my parents instilled tithing into me and always attending Sunday services. We grew up Lutheran. Of course my parents served at the church and taught us to do that as well.
  • Love.
  • People are your greatest asset.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right
  • I can’t think of what my Mom didn’t teach me. She’s a wonderful Mom, a great person, a woman who taught my brother and I God and church is first and to always love one another.
  • Go to church every Sunday! And she always said to be nice to people, the old saying… If you don’t have nothing nice to say, then don’t say nothing at all!
  • Obviously she taught me many, but the best advice was only three words and they were “Just trust Jesus.”
  • Mom always said, “They laughed at Noah.” Point being, do what lines up to GOD’s Word and do what’s right, despite majority opinion or belief.
  • Momma also used to say, “Life is like a box of chocolates…”
  • When God closes one door, He opens another one. And the verse about God clothing the lilies of the field. I can never remember the exact verse, but I remember what she was trying to teach me.
  • My mom was the one who spoke the gospel to me as a child. She then showed me through word and action how to cling to HIM in the hard times. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 11 she and I memorized Psalm 91 together. When things got scary we would cling to those verses. To this day when things get scary I envision myself being covered in HIS wings as I lift my concerns and fears to HIM. She taught me how to run to my Rock and my Refuge and to Trust Him with all our cares and sufferings.
  • Don’t grab for the last chicken leg on the plate, you’ll get a fork in the back of your hand.
  • Don’t major in minor things.
  • She taught me how to cook, garden, and budget.
  • Mom taught me that God had a special reason for keeping me alive. He apparently still does! Thank you Jesus!
  • Do the best you know how in whatever you do.
  • Be an encourager today.
  • Don’t discuss political opinions or how you vote with anyone else.
  • Don’t cry over spilt milk. She always looked on the positive side of everything!! People used to say they needed some “DottieLand” glasses…..(instead of rose colored).
  • Work before play!
  • If you’re going to laugh about in 10 years, you may as well laugh about it now.
  • My mom has taught me to always lean on the Lord in all circumstances. She always reminds me how he will help carry me through any and all situations. We enjoy going to church together and hearing your sermons. They have really helped us through some difficult times. Thank you 😊
  • During my mom’s final days at Hospice, she had visions. It is those visions she described to me that were her greatest gifts.
  • You can fool some of the people some of the time, and most of the people most of the time, but you can’t fool mom!
  • Everyone has flaws and bad qualities. Focus on the good in people.
  • Work hard. Fight tough. Give all the glory to God.
  • I have to agree with some others, there’s really nothing my mom didn’t teach me. She was awesome. One of the best things though was you can do anything you set your mind to do. And later in life we had fabulous Bible studies together.
  • The shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line.
  • Don’t forget to go to the bathroom before you leave, because if you get into an accident they won’t let you go in the Emergency Room.
  • My grandma had similar advice: never pass up an opportunity to use the bathroom. 😆
  • Now 87, my mom recently told me that I should always try and make friends with younger people. She said that if I didn’t I would only experience a part of the circle of life… people getting older, sick, and dying… If I made friends with people younger than myself I’d see the joy of graduations, marriages, babies, job successes etc….
  • “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
  • “Do it right the first time.”
  • Find yourself a good Christian woman!
  • Wait for no man to do tomorrow what you’re capable of doing today. Her strength and her love of God will forever be in my DNA.
  • My grandma Hannah taught me to love the Lord, and my mother taught me to seek Him.
  • My mother was very disciplined… wish I could say it rubbed off, but I really admired that about her.
  • I took care of my Mom for 11 years in our home after she had a stroke… she never complained!
  • Don’t be a complainer because it accomplishes nothing and drives people away from you.
  • Listen. Forgive. But so much of what she taught me wasn’t in words, it was how she treated others. When she was spoken of unfairly (it happens to pastor’s wives), she would be gracious. Smile, and not even try to defend herself. She would give the rides to the people who smelled bad. I could go on and on. I miss her so much!!!!
  • She taught me that God loves me no matter what. Also that God already know the special person he has planned for you. Plus God only gives you what he knows you can handle.
  • That God loves you no matter. Be respectful. Treat people with kindness.
  • My mother taught me that serving others is more important than serving yourself. I didn’t learn this lesson from words, I learned it by watching.
  • She always says “It all came to pass, nothing ever came to stay.”
  • Always have a backup plan.
  • Reading, writing my first word, patience.
  • These merely summarize the things she did teach me and still do.A mother really deserves 3 times the respect and honoring as to a father. This is for all the things she did for us to be who we are now.
    “Your mother, your mother, your mother and then your father.”
  • Always believe in yourself.
  • My mom shared the Gospel with me, and never stopped praying and pleading with me to come to Jesus! I can only hope to be that kind of mom, that continually prays and shares my love of Jesus and the Gospel message.
  • It never hurts to ask.
  • Always walk in another’s shoes before you judge someone…..and….what goes around, comes around.
  • “Give it time” (be patient) and pray about it.
  • God always knows the end from the beginning.
  • My mom always took advantage of the opportunity to say something good about someone and conversely always declined to take advantage of the opportunity to say something bad about someone. My mom was a great woman who loved the Lord & people wholeheartedly. She was such a Godly example to me every day.
  • She used to say, “Jump only the height of your meter stick”… basically live within your means.
  • My Mom was such an amazing human! She had six children and taught us all so much! She loved children and always said we should treat children like gold because “they didn’t ask to be born.” She also didn’t have patience for bragging or meanness or self-centeredness. She taught us patience, kindness, humility and the importance of putting others first. My siblings are all shining examples of her gentle heart, and snappy sense of humor, even sixty years later. Thank you for asking!
  • Do your best. Don’t complain. Cook good down to earth food. Always help others. Be frugal. Drive politely. Care for the least of these. Volunteer with anything you or your children participate. Buy good books for the kids and grandkids and read to them often. Marvel at the creation. Enjoy rural ranch life. End well.
  • Always stay in touch with your family and friends.
  • You get what you pay for.
  • Whenever I left the house when I was younger, my mom would ask where are you going? I replied with, going to pick up chicks! She then gave me this great advice. Well… make sure you put them back down.

The Message of Ecclesiastes

by Joe Valenti, CVCMissions & Youth Pastor

I once read an article about choosing what to read and the author of the post said something that is simple yet profound – only read the best books.

51jsyrqw7tl-_sx331_bo1204203200_I have taken this to heart over the years and I do a lot of research before I buy a book. It is grace to us that we live in a time when there are so many user reviews on just about everything – books included.

As I started my prep for the book of Ecclesiastes several weeks ago, I started to look for the top commentaries and resources. The Message of Ecclesiastes by Derek Kidner rose to the top on many lists. After reading it, I understand why. It is clear but robust in content. It is also beautifully written and quite short. You can always tell when a person knows what they are talking about because they are able to make their point in a few words.

I recommended this resource during my sermon yesterday and I wanted to provide you all with a link just in case you wanted to pick it up!

The Message of Ecclesiastes by Derek Kidner

National Day of Prayer

by Dale Piscura, Pastor of Men’s LifeGroups

This Thursday, May 4th, we’ll observe the 66th Annual National Day of Prayer, here are a few thoughts on how to pray for America.

1. Protection

“Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Ps. 32:6-7).

Pray for the Lord’s protection throughout the new administration’s term of office. Physical and spiritual protection is needed for President Trump and Vice President Pence and their families as well as for all of the administration, Congress, and members of the Supreme Court.

Lord, be our Defender!

2. Presence

“I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (Lev. 26:11-12).

Nothing is more important than the Presence of the Lord Himself in the halls of government. Far too many in our nation would isolate our faith to a private, personal one or to a house of worship. The Presence of God changes lives and meets the deepest needs—not just those of individuals, but also the needs of our nation and its culture. Welcoming the Presence of the Lord into government can open the door for a longing for His Presence in all of society.

Make Your Presence known, Lord!

3. Peace

“I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and not one will make you afraid. I will remove savage beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country” (Lev. 26:6).

In the midst of a badly divided nation from top to bottom, we desperately need God’s peace. Pray for the Lord’s peace to come into the Congress of the United States and into the Supreme Court of the land. May this new administration, that during the campaign often stirred up controversies, become known as an administration that unites and brings peace. Pray also that God’s peace would touch the church in this nation that found itself badly divided over this election.

We long for Your peace to come to our nation, Lord!

4. Provision

“He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations” (Ps.111:5-6).

We need to humbly come before the Lord and confess our need for His great provision to be poured out upon our nation. We need wisdom from above. We need the provision that meets healthcare needs in just ways. We need the provision of a robust economy that allows us to provide good jobs to those who are able to work. We especially need to be a nation that realizes that what we have comes from the Lord’s hand.

Thank You for being our Provider, O Lord!

5. Proficiency

“Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves.

So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace” (Ex. 18:19-23). 

We need a government that is proficient in all its ways. The people of our nation too often look to government as an example of that which doesn’t work well. 

Lord God, would You empower our government to properly use its power for efficient and just government!