Created on Tuesday, 29 November -0001 16:00
Written by Element Christian Church
Ahead of this Sunday's Baptisms, check out the five stories of those who are getting baptized this weekend! Please read them, be excited for them, and join us on Sunday at 1pm to witness and celebrate this amazing step in their walk with Jesus!
Created on Monday, 10 October 2016 13:17
Written by Element Christian Church
This week we finished our series of Acts Part 1. We found this fun video to help vizualize what happened in the first twelve chapters of Acts by our friends at the Bible Project. View more of their videos at: http://www.jointhebibleproject.com. Enjoy:
Created on Tuesday, 04 October 2016 09:38
Written by Aaron
I was reading an article on ESPN two days ago. For me (yes, Aaron), that is an odd way to start a blog because I do not normally (or ever) read ESPN, their website, or sports commentary. I would rather play
sports than watch them or read about them. I am pretty sure it was click bait of some sort that made me look at it—if you’re friends with me on Facebook, it just might have been your fault. Either way, I ended up on ESPN’s site reading a blog about Michael Phelps, swimming, and how he is going to cope after the “golden age” of his life.
If you don’t know, after Phelps retired the last time (a few years ago), his life became meaningless because swimming, once the center of his life, was now gone. He went off the rails, so to speak, became addicted to prescription drugs, and wanted to commit suicide—all because he felt there was nothing in his life to give him meaning and purpose. Phelps went through rehab, got cleaned up, started swimming again, and at the 2016 Olympics won 1 silver and 5 gold medals. He has now said he is retiring again, but the question becomes: how will he stay sober, focused, and have purpose in his life?
It is here I would like to quote the ESPN article: “This time, Phelps insists it's different. He will no longer have swimming to keep his life within the boundaries -- to bring him happiness, contentment, sobriety. But he doesn't need it. He finally knows who he is beyond a swimmer. He no longer needs gold medals to define himself as a successful and productive human being. He has a fiancée who has been there through the good times and bad and loves him for the man, not the medals. He has a son who will blindingly care about him and has cried in recent days during FaceTime chats because he misses Dad
I hope you guys caught what the article actually said. Swimming will no longer give him “happiness, contentment, and sobriety.” That will now be provided by his fiancée and his son (who is an infant at the time I write this blog); this son’s job, according to the article, is to “blindingly care about him [Phelps].” Isn’t it obvious that this is a recipe for disaster? Has Phelps’ son agreed to these terms? If I was in Vegas and were to run odds on people’s misery, I would start taking bets against Phelps right now…not because I dislike him, but because I know basing his “happiness, contentment, and sobriety” on others will fail.
While not many of us are Olympic swimmers, this happens quite often in our culture. We have laid the things of God on people, because we think people can stand up under the pressure. When people fail to live up to the God-like standards we have set for them we think they have let us down. In actuality, we have failed them
by putting them in a position they could never hope to fulfill. This is idolatry. How sad is it that an infant isn’t sacrificially cared for by a parent, but instead is seen as the
thing that gives the parent’s life meaning?
Since the beginning of creation, man has always been drawn to becoming his own God. When that fails, as it always does, he is drawn to make something in his life, that he can control, become his God. Psalm 115:4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
Isaiah 44:13-17 speaks of how we will cut down a tree and use half of the wood to make furniture and use the other half to make a god we will fall down and worship. “Anothershapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.”
God goes on to say, “How dumb are you?”
The answer is…pretty dumb!
One of the reasons God continues to remind His people who He is throughout the Old Testament (which is often) is that they needed to remember that He is God—not people or things. Fiancées, children, friends, parents, spouses—no one can live up to god-like expectations, because none of us are
God. My advice for all of us, including Mr. Phelps, is that if you want your life to have meaning and weather the challenges of life, stop exchanging one corruptible self-centered god for another and surrender ALL of your life to the true Lord, Jesus Christ. After all, no one else can promise true fulfillment and rest as Jesus can. He doesn’t “blindingly” care for us, but rather, died for you and me fully aware of our sin and betrayal. In spite of our brokenness, He paid the final and ultimate price so that we can be fully confident in His power to redeem our lives.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
The rest we long for is found in Jesus—there’s no need to look elsewhere. Jesus doesn’t help us fulfill our potential. He re-orients our life to how it was created to be, with Him as the center.
The following is a blog post written by Christie Marangi on our eFamily! website.
Created on Tuesday, 27 September 2016 10:21
Written by Christie
: I’m not good at vulnerable. Because I’m not good at vulnerable I’ve put this blog post off for far too long. I’m going to be honest, this one hits me close to home, and in answering it, I feel like I’m leaving myself vulnerable to people seeing shadows that I’m pretty darn good at hiding. God, however, has different plans for those shadows, so hence the blog post. This is the second in a series of posts that I am writing to answer some of those questions that make us scratch our heads. These questions were gathered at camp from a bunch of high school students from all over the country. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do justice to the feeling behind these questions, and while not all of the questions are easily answerable in this format, I’m praying that through this series that Jesus will be glorified and that those of us with these questions are not alone in our ponderings and our sometimes pain.
How do I fight through pain, depression and eating disorders?
This one breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because I have been there, and it’s a place I would never wish on another soul. If this is a question you are asking right now, just know that I am praying for God’s comfort to come upon you. If you are currently living this question, please make sure you seek help. Tell a parent, tell a trusted leader in your church or at your school. Get support. DO NOT GO THROUGH THIS ALONE. That said, the answer to this question on a practical level is personal for each of us that struggles. But I can tell you what I’ve learned and about my continued fight through some of my own personal demons.
The first thing I had to discover was that God is Relevant.
We have a God who relates to every struggle that we have. When He sent His son, Jesus, to earth, the Son of Man wasn’t sent as a fully developed adult male, he was sent as a helpless infant. He had to learn and struggle and grow and go through puberty and do all of those things that we struggle through as well.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
God knows the ugliness inside me, He can relate, and He loves me in the midst of that. God knows that some days I struggle to even look at myself in the mirror because I hate what I see. God knows that there are days when I just want it all to end because it’s exhausting to be constantly working through issues. And even though He could be angry at me, because I’m hating on His creation, He continues to walk with me every step of the way, and wants to walk with those of you that struggle as well. But I had to surrender that pain to Him, and it’s not a one-time surrender, it’s a constant surrendering. Because sometimes we wear our pain and hurt and issues as a sort of badge of honor. I used it as an excuse to lash out at those who love me, maybe you use it to lash out at God. Sometimes it’s easier to live in that place of struggle and anger rather than admit that we need a Savior to rescue us.
When we allow ourselves to stay in that place of pain, it’s very easy for that pain or that struggle to become our identity. Which leads me to my second take away; Know Who You Are.
We are not our struggles. We are not our sin. We are not what has happened to us. We are God’s Children who are redeemed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ His son. My identity was (and if I’m honest), at times still is, a “Depressed” person. When what I really should label myself is is a child of God that struggles with depression. If you haven’t already, surrender your life to our heavenly Father, allow His power to transform your heart. Give yourself to Him and take on your true identity, as one who is loved and forgiven. Don’t allow people or Satan or yourself to define you as anything else. When you take on the true identity of a loved and forgiven Child of God and take off the false identity of whatever it is you have labeled yourself as, you will find that your struggles get framed in a different way, and for me, it is easier to deal with my struggles when I see them in that light.
All of this to say, I still struggle. There are good days and bad days. But because I know that God cares
, He relates, and I am His, on my best days I can try to use those struggles to God’s glory. But I’m only able to do this through God’s power, and not my own. My prayer for those of you who can relate to this question is that you will rely on God’s power as well.
Created on Tuesday, 20 September 2016 08:58
Written by Aaron
Years ago, a friend of ours told us he believed that Christians misinterpret Peter’s sheet vision in Acts 10 to mean that we can literally eat all kinds of animals previously considered unclean. Peter’s vision is later explained (as you've pointed out in recent sermons) to mean that no person (i.e. Gentiles) is excluded from God's message/kingdom. My friend's point is that this is the only meaning of the vision, that we read too far into it by taking it to mean that we can literally eat any animal.
Have you considered this stance? What are your thoughts?
(Even further, what do you think of the idea that we were created vegetarian, if not vegan, based on the available food in the Garden of Eden?)
I hope I don’t sound too harsh, but your friend is a legalist. Legalists will look for any reason to ADD laws where there aren’t any laws.
Let me start at the beginning. (Or, in the beginning
, if you will…)
In the garden, we were probably vegetarians…but remember the garden was called “good” and not perfect. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with being a vegetarian; we just can’t use the Garden of Eden as the standard to say this is how everyone should live. Everything changes once Noah exits the ark in Genesis 9:3. God says to him, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything
.” He does go into prescriptions about blood and such after this, but here we get the idea that we get steak (praise the Lord!).
When Jesus comes, He does follow dietary laws because He came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). He couldn’t do that by ignoring it (haha). Jesus was showing us the true intent of the law…it was made for man’s benefit. The law was meant to lead us to Jesus and His grace as we realize living up to it is unobtainable. This is why Jesus fulfilled the law for us.
When you get to Peter and his vision, you see God moving his church toward understanding the greater call of mission. Dietary laws were part of the civil law (as was not wearing blended fabrics or cutting your sideburns). These laws limited the interactions that God’s people had with their surrounding neighbors, because they couldn’t eat the same things; they essentially hindered mission. One of the reasons God showed Peter the vision in Acts 10 was so Peter would understand that he COULD now eat with Gentiles. It was about witness, and that witness included food.
A few years later, Peter actually forgot this and Paul confronts him in Galatians 2:11-14 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?
The circumcision party said what your friend did. “You can’t eat that; God’s vision for you wasn’t REALLY about food.” They tried to make everyone start to follow dietary laws again. Paul goes on to say, Galatians 2:15-16 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified
Think about this…because we talked about this during Acts as well, is the prescription for circumcision still valid if the dietary laws are? That is part of the civil law as well. Why not tell everyone they have to be circumcised? Paul goes on in Galatians 5:2-12 and essentially says if the Law and circumcision is so great, why not cut off your whole penis? Then you will be REALLY spiritual! (Paul is being sarcastic). Paul then says these amazing words in Gal 5:13 For you were called to freedom
…Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery
I have no problem if someone wants to eat a certain way; they have that freedom. However, the second they say others have to eat a certain way (or be circumcised, or wear certain clothes, or cut their hair a certain way), they have left the realm of freedom and entered slavery. They have cut themselves off from those God has called us to minister and serve. The point of the freedom God gives is that we can worship God in any context we find ourselves in…serving others is worship, and we cannot serve others if we feel like we are better than them.
Created on Tuesday, 19 July 2016 10:07
Written by Aaron
A few weeks ago Eric Djafroodi gave a message about Stephen’s sermon in front of the religious leaders of his day. Stephen was the first deacon in the Church that was martyred for his faith. As I sat in service listening to the message, various things struck me and I wrote a short blog about it (you can find it here
). As more time has passed, I keep thinking how brilliant Stephen was because he used his culture’s metaphors to explain the Gospel in a tangible way.
I originally wrote about how we (not metaphorically) need to understand what God is doing in real world sense of living on mission by being a blessing. After I wrote the blog I had a couple people ask what our current cultural metaphors are today.
The word “metaphor” itself comes from a root that means “to transfer,” where we transfer the idea of one thing onto another to give it more meaning. Like if you are into NASCAR and someone jumps out into the lead, sometimes people will say, “He took off like a rocket.” The imagery gives more detail to what you are talking about.
Our culture has metaphors that explain how people see the world today; it is important to identify those metaphors in order to communicate effectively. After all, we want people to be able to connect with what we have to say, especially in terms of the Gospel. Currently (and this will date this blog years from now), the term LEMONADE is making a comeback because Beyoncé just released a critically acclaimed album with that title. This title is a reference to the adage: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Her album has resonated with a whole culture that is struggling, in their own way, to be heard.
Martin Gannon, from the University of Maryland, writes, “A cultural metaphor is any activity, phenomenon, or institution with which members of a given culture emotionally and/or cognitively identify.” It is important to realize that metaphors will come to represent the underlying values of a culture. Sometimes when we feel out of touch with the “language today,” it is simply a misunderstanding of metaphor. Everyone is looking for a way to connect…and as Christians, we must remember that part of speaking the Gospel into culture is knowing the right words to use for connection and meaning.
The Apostle Paul used the metaphor of a BODY to describe what the church is meant to function like in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. I’ll just quote verses 12-13: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit
. With Paul’s words in mind, listen to much of what our society is saying today. Recently, the Huffington Post shared an article titled “Are We All One?”—obviously with a whole different connotation than the Bible, but this speaks to humanity’s ingrained desire to connect.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians about the diversity in who we all are and how we can still connect and function together when centered on Jesus. One body with many parts can speak directly to the racial divide our country is experiencing today. How do we do this? We understand the metaphors of how people are looking to connect (tolerance, mother earth, all one) and speak plainly about how the only way everyone will ever work together will be by centering on Jesus and not on ourselves. The 2000-year-old metaphor that Paul used, a diverse body made up of many different parts living for the Gospel, is still just as fresh and relevant as an image today.
Acts 17:22-23 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
Paul, in Athens, notices how the culture was worshipping; he doesn’t demean or talk down to them, but simply takes their language and moves it to Jesus and the truth. Instead of telling those around us what they need to hear in words they do not understand, we must speak truth by noticing the words that are used.
I would challenge you to be more aware of the common images and themes that are so prevalent in our culture today. As believers, we should constantly be thinking about how the Gospel speaks and applies to those themes. Ask yourself, or better yet ask God in prayer, how can you “translate” the Gospel to our culture so that it is clear and relatable without compromising the truth?