Created on Tuesday, 31 March 2015 09:57
Written by Aaron
Two years ago I was asked to part of the community Good Friday service in Santa Maria. The service is held at noon and many of you couldn’t make it so we posted the transcript of what I was going to say online as a blog. This year, same deal. Many of you cannot make it so I am posting what I am going to say three days before the service. I was given John 19:28 to speak on…here it is (under five minutes):
Almost 80 years the global travel industry was about to be quickly transformed by the invention Zeppelins. Huge flying blimps that resembled gigantic eggs made of Duralumin, steel, hydrogen, and various other materials. The most famous of these Zeppelins was the Hindenburg. After making a flight from Germany to Rio De Janeiro and up to New York in 1937, the passenger Zeppelin Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed, killing dozens of people. As the cameras rolled and the Hindenburg burned, the American Radio Reporter Herbert Morrison said this famous line, “Oh the humanity.”
The term, “oh the humanity” over the years was a cry over the anguish of human suffering.
The theological term we use today for understanding Jesus being both God and man in one person is the “hypostatic Union.” This causes many to look at Jesus’ life and see him a bit like Superman. How did Jesus never sin? How did He please the Father? How did He go to, and endure, the cross…well, we say, “He was God, of course could do it.” But the scriptures are clear that Jesus did not lean into His divinity to not sin or endure the cross. We are told He lived the life we should have lived because He lived how we were to live, in His humanity, through the power of God’s Spirit.
When we look at Jesus and the cross, the suffering of Jesus for us and our sin, we tend to miss or gloss over the fact that Jesus suffered in his humanity…how do we know this? Because on the cross Jesus says these two simple words in John 19:28 “I thirst.”
Let me tell you about the cross…The cross today is one the most recognized symbols in the world, but it is far cry from the piece of jewelry we make it out to be; it was symbol of brutal agonizing death. The early church never used crosses because it was too grizzly, and they believed too humiliating, a remembrance for Jesus
Crucifixion was always reserved as the worst punishment. Crucifixion was so horrendous we made a new word to describe it, “excruciating,” meaning “from the cross.” Persians invented it, Roman’s perfected it. It was done publically (down in front of Wal-mart or at the Santa Barbara bowl). Death could take days and people would come to mock, throw stones at, and spit upon those being crucified. To prolong the agony Romans put a seat under the buttocks of those being crucified so they would take longer to die. Some men, wanting the agony to end, would slide off the seat. Eventually, the soldiers started nailing a mans penis to the cross so he couldn’t slide off the seat to make his death any faster and the torture would last longer.
Crucifixion was done at EYE LEVEL (not all high like the pictures
) eye level so you could watch a man die. Even though all of this is true Christians (including me) call this GOOD NEWS. How is this good news? The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died
(by itself not good news…but the theological understanding of that event is. Paul uses the word “for” to move you from the fact to its implication for us….
) for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
. That’s why it is good news, the cross is the only hope we have ever had. This is what is called propitiation and atonement, which is what Jesus made for us on the cross on Friday.
A lot of pastors today have brought the doctrine of substitutionary atonement under attack; people want to shy away from the cross because it is offensive. The truth is, YES IT IS offensive! People trip over it because they think they are good enough. You and I need to grasp the severity of the doctrine of Atonement and what it meant for God to declare us clean in His eyes.
Heb. 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
So Jesus Dies in our place as our perfect Lamb. Friday is the language of love, restoration, and reconciliation. Why would God do this? I love how John Calvin says this: “The Father wanted His kids back.”
Atonement is what weaves scripture together.
Jesus dies to defeat our enemies of Satan, sin, and death, not His enemies because no one can stand against God…but Jesus came in the flesh, real flesh, to save and redeem us. Too many of us have the view when we look at Jesus on the cross of “Oh the divinity, look at the suffering of God,” but it was truly the most incomprehensible, tragic, horrific, blood curdling “oh the humanity” moment of all human history. All sin, in one moment, laid upon Jesus. He bore the brunt of it all. Not just other’s sins, YOUR sins and MY sins.
Sometimes I have a fear of calling Good Friday “good,” it was only good for us. All God got out of the deal is self-serving, self-focused, self-centered people. We must remember, this is Friday not Sunday, this is a day to lay ourselves bare before the cross of Christ and remember that He died for us in His humanity, to save humanity.
Created on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 11:07
Written by Aaron
We recently finished looking at the 7 churches listed in the book of Revelation as a way to examine our lives, and church, in light of what Jesus said to those early churches. Jesus had strong words of comfort (as He first reminded them who He is), then He offered them words of rebuke (reminded them of mission), and ended with words of encouragement to either return to, or continue in, His mission. I think, if we took all the words to heart, we could walk away with a deeper understanding our life purpose in the Kingdom of God.
The last week we finished with the church of Laodicea. The church in Laodicea was rebuked very harshly with these words from Revelation 3:15-16 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
To the north of Laodicea is Hierapolis, a city that was built upon a thermal hot spring. It was famous for its medicinal qualities because of all the minerals in the water. The water that flowed from this city’s springs are boiling hot! To the south of Laodicea is the city of Colossae (which the book of Colossians was written too), and next to this city is a stream that flows from a mountain spring; the waters are exceptionally cold and refreshing. Laodicea sits in between these two cities, one hot, one cold, but both with good water.
Laodicea’s water source was terrible, it wasn't hot or cold, it was lukewarm, reddish in color, and induced vomiting. Like the city’s water, the church was lukewarm and Jesus was on the verge of spitting them out of His mouth. A lot of people have taken this verse out of context and said incorrectly, "be hot for Jesus or be cold to Jesus, just don't be in the middle." The verse doesn't say Jesus either wants you for Him or against Him, it says He wants you to be on mission in the world for His name. Be Hot and have a passion for Him AND be cold like a refreshing glass of water on a hot day, BE GOOD THINGS…just don't be Lukewarm.
A few of our Gospel Communities have had discussions centering on this idea of being “cold for Jesus,” but are wondering how to do it. I think the best way to think about it is to be, as Matthew 5:13-16 in the Sermon on the Mount says, Salt and Light. When Peter preaches the second sermon ever recorded in the New Testament, he makes a statement about what happens in midst of hope and salvation, he says that “Acts 3:20 times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord
How are we cold and refreshing? Think of it this way, when a tragedy happens in someone’s life they are full of doubt, anger, fear…they have lots of emotion; you could probably say their emotions are running hot. In those moments God’s people need to “keep their cool” and not become all hot with emotion as well, but instead speak words of hope healing and grace. We are to bring a coolness to situation.
This coolness applies to much more than tragedy. We are also called to be peacemakers in the world (Matt 5:9), peacemakers usually diffuse hot and tense situations with grace. How often are you with a friend who is “steaming” because someone said or did something to them that they didn’t like? Our job as followers of Jesus is not to “stoke the flames,” but to try and reorient people to understand that there are a million things that happen in other people’s lives every day and we do not know what lead to the inappropriate exchange (from being flipped off to being demeaned).
We are to do our best to re-center the world around us on the person of Jesus that He may bring hope and healing. Too often we do just the opposite by not being cold and refreshing in Jesus’ name.
Be hot with passion for Jesus, be cold and refreshing for Jesus, live the life purpose of anyone and everyone that calls Him “Lord:” MISSION. Glorifying God and being a disciple of His in the world by having your life centered on the amazing heat given off my God’s passion for His people in Gospel, but also the refreshing coolness of the stability and hope that comes from the Gospel as well.
Created on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 08:25
Written by Aaron
Here is a big question for you, especially coming out of the Prodigal God series, "what is a practicing Christian?" There are so many ways and qualifiers to that question. Is it based on performance? Is it based on how many Bible trivia questions you can get right (I mean the shortest verse in the bible question really depends on what translation you are reading)? Is it faith and how that faith is lived out? What is this elusive creature we would like to view in its native habitat known only as the "practicing Christian?"
The way Barna research describes them, they are people who go to church services at least once a month and say that their faith is "very important to their lives." How about that? Seems like they just described every single person involved in a cult across not just the United States, but also the globe. Do you see how hard it is to define this?
According to Barna Research, Intervarsity, and the American Bible Society those who call themselves "Christians," and meet the above criteria, have a few things in common about the bible. First, is that they believe the bible is their top source of moral truth, outranking church and parents both. Sadly that outranking is only 36%, compared to church at 16% and parents at 14%. What that tells you is that there are 64% of "practicing Christians" who believe there is greater moral authority somewhere "else."
Second, is that they are more likely to believe the Bible is the word of God, a staggering 96% believe this. This 96% also believe that the Scriptures contain everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life. Sadly, again, only 46% of the "practicing Christians" believe the bible should be taken in a literal manner. It seems dropping from 96% to 46% based on those two questions is a little bit of a head scratcher.
If we take a step back and ask ourselves a different question, it might help. That question is, "what is salvation?" The bible defines salvation and as deliverance by God FROM God and his wrath. Romans 5:9-10
tells us Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life
. Our God is loving and forgiving while at the very time He is Holy and righteous. Our sin against Him causes His wrath to burn because of his righteous holiness, but His grace and glory cause Him to seek and save His lost children.
We don't understand how God can be both of these at the same time without being schizophrenic, because we don't know how to be more than one thing at a time. When we are mad…we are mad, when we are happy…we are happy, we find it near impossible to have wrath and love burn at the same time. Because we view God as being "just like us" we diminish who He is in His grace and Holiness. This is why, to be a "practicing Christian," that lifestyle must begin from a place of humbleness.
Humility allows us to stand amazed at the goodness and grace of God for rescuing us, humility puts us in a place of trust with Jesus when our views and His conflict, and humility lets us worship Jesus through even the toughest of circumstances because we know that in areas that we don't understand, He is still sovereign.
Don't get me wrong, we are not saved by humility, we are saved by grace through faith…And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8-9
). We are saved by GOD, beginning to end, but if we want to live as practicing Christians in our natural habitat, that habitat is humility. It will allow us to honor Jesus in ways where we trust His words when we read them, gather with other believers to worship Him corporately, and surrender our wills to his on a moment to moment basis.
Created on Tuesday, 03 March 2015 11:06
Written by Michelle Gee
The old has passed away, the new has come…Team Gee has bought a house! Let me tell you, home ownership definitely
has its perks over condo ownership. For instance, no more long treks out to the carport in the rain…uphill….both ways. No more questionable noises from our neighbors upstairs. No more inane laws from our power-hungry HOA. It’s been pretty exciting for us to discover new blessings in the midst of this transition. The downside, however? Boxes. ALL the boxes.
Jon and I try to live simply, and yet, I am amazed at the crap (am I allowed to say that on this blog?) we have accumulated over just a couple years of marriage. I mean, we found out we had Season 1 of Everybody Loves Raymond in our office—still in the original packaging. Neither one of us has ever seen the show. Neither one of us WANTS to see the show. How does this happen?!
This whole move has been such a great reminder of the need to stand back, take a deep breath or two, and assess the clutter—and not just in a physical sense. It’s been interesting to tangibly go through this process during the current sermon series at church
, as we embrace conviction, repentance, and the resulting joy offered to us by Jesus. As co-heirs of the Kingdom (Romans 8:16-17), our lives have been completely uprooted and dramatically transformed. Such a change (similar to a new home) offers us the perspective to see what just doesn’t belong anymore. Sometimes, if we want to continue growing in our relationship with Jesus and our understanding of the Gospel, we need to let go of the crap, and understand that it pales in comparison to what is offered in Christ. Through repentance, we lay it at Jesus’ feet, and trust that He is enough for us.
This move has also underscored the importance of community in life. With all the disarray at home, it can be tempting to shield friends and family from the chaos, to wait for the day when we’re “completely” settled in, and then
share our home with others. I think it’s easy to have this attitude toward life sometimes, “I’ll let others in once I’m cleaned up.”
Scripture, however, tells us that we’re never finished, but as believers, enjoying God’s work in us through the process of sanctification: “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”—Philippians 1:6
If we wait until we are “complete” to enter into community, we miss out on the beauty of Gospel-centered community—community that sees the brokenness and “incompleteness” of our lives, yet acknowledges the unending hope found in Jesus. And sometimes, God happens to use those people we let in to speak into our lives, to tell us what shouldn’t have a place anymore. Through this process of Gospel living, done in community, discipleship happens—we become more like Jesus. When we remember who we are in light of the Gospel, we can enjoy growing together each day.
Created on Sunday, 22 February 2015 08:15
Written by Element Christian Church
As I mentioned on Sunday, this is a short blog that ties into Sunday’s message about living on mission verses our cultural definition of tolerance.
We have constantly reiterated that “Mission” is the life purpose of a person who believes in Jesus. Our mission is first to glorify God and then to disciple one another. We disciple each other by leading each other to submit every aspect of their life to Jesus as we:
Serve on Mission – Followers of Jesus serve those around them like Jesus came and served. We long to be serving on mission, not just with others, but also in our community. Serving on mission together brings people into Gospel relationships and Gospel community with one another.
Develop Gospel Relationships - Gospel relationships are centered on our understanding of the Gospel itself. As we grow and understand the deep truths of God our Father, Jesus coming to rescue us, and the Holy Spirit's power in and through us, our relationships will begin to demonstrate Gospel fluency. Discipleship naturally takes place in relationships when those involved obey the call of Jesus to live the life of the Gospel.
Invite into Gospel Community - Gospel community grows up around a people serving on mission with Gospel-centered relationships. Everyone is at a different stage on the path, but we are all growing together, in both worship of Jesus and intimacy with each other, as the Gospel calls us forward (sanctification).
All three of the above goals in discipleship stand in contrast to our modern view of “tolerance.” Tolerance today means letting anyone
and far from keeping our mouths shut about it, we are called, by our culture, to also approve it.
When living the truth of the Gospel in relationships there are many times we must stand up for, and up to, people who are destroying their lives. Standing up to people is not only loving; it is also true tolerance because we are standing up for people’s true humanity even when they refuse to stand up for their own. Jesus hates how sin destroys people, He hates how sin gets it’s hooks in us and convinces us that it is the only true freedom, and I believe that He grieves how today’s definition of tolerance is broken lives full of broken relationships tacitly approved by the masses.
There is a great article I mentioned on Sunday, that we are linking to below by Timothy Keller titled, “Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age.” Many people hate the idea of Hell, but we have already relegated much of our cultural landscape to reflect its values judgments while being blind to fact that we have done it.
The only way that we will begin to live redeemed lives and have a redeemed culture is living on mission. Going out into the culture, not hiding in a bomb shelter, not mirroring culture, not merely coexisting, but bringing the true Hope and Good News only found in Jesus to a sick and desperate world. I hope the current series is helping in that regard, I also pray that in the end you too will live on mission in true tolerant gospel centered relationships.
Created on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 15:44
Written by Element Christian Church
Have you ever pulled into a parking lot looking for a space and couldn’t find one? Have you ever driven by a car that was taking up too much space so you couldn’t fit on either side of them? That brings me to this photo I took in the Costco parking lot at the end of 2014.
Who in the world parks likes this? Seriously, taking up two spots? There isn’t even enough room to park one of those tiny SMART cars next to this truck.
Here’s the thing, that’s actually my truck, I took up two spots of prime parking lot real-estate…but the question is “why?” Well, I thought it would be a great way to illustrate how quick we are to judge.
People at Costco, and most other stores for that matter, refuse to put their carts away. I once had someone put their used cart right under my passenger side fender; I didn’t see it and smashed it into a car next to me as I backed out (yes I left my name and fixed their car). Other people try to be somewhat conscientious and put their cart into the center divider (which doesn’t help). I have also seen people simply put their cart right behind someone else’s car hoping that “someone else” will be forced to put it away for them. By and large though, most carts are left right in the middle of an empty parking spot…and such was my predicament.
I parked the way I did because it was between a whole mess of shopping carts left by people too busy to put them away. After I parked, I took all the carts and put them in the cart corral (which was no more that 30 feet away mind you) and then took this picture to make a point. The point is, we are prone to judge too quickly,
if you pulled in and saw a truck taking up 2 spots you might be tempted to judge and think someone (namely me) is a total moron.
Proverbs 18:17 says “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him
.” Proverb 18:13 “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame
.” What we are being told is that we should not be too quick to make judgments about situations, or others, when we only know one side of the story.
People do this on places like Twitter and Facebook all the time. Someone will make a comment about how someone was mean to them and everyone will jump on the bandwagon of hate against the perpetrator of said offence without ever knowing more than half of the story. In reality, we should be slow to anger and slow to judge, as most people do not live their life with evil malice in the front of their thoughts twenty four hours a day.
There are times when others hurt us, but we do not know the circumstances behind their reactions. There are times when we hurt others and have no idea that we have hurt them. In all situations we should be a people who always error on the side of grace and not judgment or malice. Who knows, maybe someone was trying to park between two shopping carts you left in a stall (metaphorically speaking).
Let’s offer more grace and less judgment this year.
And just so you know, the answer is “no.” After I put the carts away I didn’t move my car, I did all the hard work of cleaning up the cart situation, I figured that gave me a few minutes of lackadaisical parking.