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.
Created on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 11:07
Written by Element Christian Church
I know, 2014 was a little while ago now, but one of the things I find most interesting about getting some distance from the previous year is how wrong we are about certain beliefs we feel we are so right about. I think understanding our limited vision can help us, hopefully, put less stock in what we think we know and actually trust Jesus more than our own feelings.
Here is an example of a statistic from 2014: Global poverty is on the decline, but almost no one believes it. Over the last 30 years the percent of the worlds people living in extreme poverty has decreased from 52% to 21% (according to the world bank as reported by Barna Research group). 84% of Americans say they are unaware of that fact, the reality is that 67% of Americans believe it has increased in that time period.
Another sad fact about global poverty is that, statistically, concern about global poverty has declined from 21% to 16%. I believe part of the problem is that we believe nothing can be done about it and that all of our efforts come to nothing. We see more ads on TV today for hunger and poverty than ever before, it leaves us feeling hopeless.
Can I honestly say that I do believe it is all hopeless…without Jesus. Without Jesus why would anyone care about anyone else? If survival of the fittest is how the world works, shouldn't we assume that we are just more fit than anyone else? Without Jesus, compassion, hope, service, and offering grace to one another simply makes no sense. This is why I believe 68% of adults in the United States do not believe it is possible to end global poverty in the next 25 years. While I think it will be difficult, I do believe we can make a pretty good run at ending global poverty.
Even with the good news of the decrease in poverty, it still means there are 21% of people in the world in extreme poverty. With all the work that has been done getting clean water to so many places there are still 1.4 billion that need access to clean water. This is why Element supports multiple efforts locally, and around the world, to end suffering.
Now, imagine with me all suffering in the world was ended, would everyone be OK? The answer to that is no. The Gospel we preach has two facets to it, we meet physical needs, but also (and I would say more importantly) we meet spiritual needs. Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? This truth is something that many forget when trying to simply alleviate suffering. Man has a sin and death issue that is deeper than mere physical necessity. The truth is that we are far from relationship with God without Jesus, His atoning work on the cross, and His life giving resurrection.
Celebrate that poverty is down, have hope that it can/should be eradicated, but never (ever) divorce it from the fact that people need to hear, live in, and know the grace of Jesus as well. The grace of Jesus is extended to people in the alleviation of suffering, but you cannot properly care for others without the WHOLE Gospel. Love others enough to share with them all that Jesus calls us to, the Gospel is not simply social change, it is about real heart and life change that begins and ends with faith in Jesus.
Created on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 09:23
Written by Mike Harman
I’ve been around “the church” for a long time; I began trusting in Jesus over 40 years ago. I started tithing (giving 10% of my income) very early on in my new life as a Christian. Over the years, the commitment to live this way grew simultaneously with my trust in, and love for, Jesus. A joy of living generously emerged toward God, the church, non-profits, and other people. Don’t think I have it all dialed in; I still struggle with money, material desires, a want for comfort, and an appetite for self-gratification, but through these many years, God has taught and enabled me to faithfully share what He has shared with me.
I’ve been through a number of building campaigns, so when Planting Roots was first being discussed, I honestly dreaded another one. I’d given before and made commitments based on what I thought was the leading of God, only to question later why I was doing this extra giving. After the years of seeing churches struggle, staff members be underpaid, ministry be underfunded, and an emphasis on buildings, I’d grown jaded. I was tired of hearing talk of, and requests for, money. I judged what I’d believed were misuses (and misappropriations) of funds for the sake of structures. My feeling became that of: if everyone would tithe and live generously toward God, the church would have enough money to support facility, ministry, and staff.
It just makes logical sense to me (as if what I think or come up with as logical means anything). The icing on my cake of cynicism was a several years ago during another church’s campaign to purchase a new organ, which seemed laced with guilt and coercion. Statements were made to the effect of, “If we are going to worship God rightly, we need this new organ.” Special offerings and pledges were taken, and my heart and mind began to close. My giving beyond tithing shifted to the many worthy causes, ministries, missions, and people outside the “church.”
I did not warmly receive the idea of Planting Roots when we first started. You could even say I had some dread and dismay, but as one of the elders, I figured I’d better get behind it and come up with some commitment to give. Deb, my wife, and I began a process of figuring out what we could do, what we could make affordable. Through the Planting Roots journey, Sermon on the Mount preaching series, devotional, and Gospel Community participation, our hearts were softened. Our enthusiasm for the ministry of the Gospel through Element, the awareness of lives needing rescue and transformation, and our sense that God was up to something all began to capture our hearts. Our conversations went from, “We can afford this” to, “Can we afford to do this
?” to, “How about this much? Wouldn’t it be fun to do this
?” to, “I’d sure like to be able to do this
…wouldn’t that be amazing
?” And so the journey began, the course was set, and now here we are…three months in.
Already, I have found myself wondering, “What have I done?” when writing that check. (Maybe you’ve had similar moments.) When I think about the total commitment we made, and the 33 months of commitment remaining, I can find myself feeling stupid or over-extended, lacking in joy, gratitude, and expectation. I then remember what Element is to us, and what it is to so many we see and talk to. Element is not a better church than others, but like others, a church God is uniquely using to reach certain people with the saving grace of the Gospel…and with that reminder, my hand steadies as I sign the check, my heart smiles at the goodness and faithfulness of my God, my worries shrink in light of His generosity, and I am overwhelmed by the scandal of God—that He would choose to not only rescue me, but to redeem me (set me free), and continue His work of restoration in my life.
My prayer today is that we would see the next 33 months as time we are allowed to grow in, and more fully understand, the generosity and graciousness of our God. As we continue to experience His love and trust Him more deeply, may we be able to more accurately represent His extravagance by the way we live in this community and in this life.
Created on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 15:46
Written by Jonathan Whitaker
Ok, sorry this is a long one. But you have come this far...
Jesus is Lord! By faith you declared Christ's Lordship on the day you were saved by God's grace. But, what is faith? Faith is "...the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Logically, there must be an object of that hope and a cause for that conviction. In our case, it is the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, by which He conquered death and took his seat at the right hand of the Father in heaven. (Mark 16:19)
Our hope in the Lordship of Christ is grounded in the fact that He has proven worthy of His title as Lord. You and I know that because Jesus is Lord, we are immeasurably blessed. The only sane response to the Lordship of Christ by a redeemed sinner is nothing short of obedience.
Hebrews 10:26-29 (paraphrased) doesn't mince words with believers: " For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins...How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?"
These verses aren't saying that you can lose your salvation. Just as you could not earn your salvation with your works, you cannot lose it for your sin (Eph. 2:8-9, Heb. 10:19-22).
The fact remains that when Christ followers deliberately choose disobedience over obedience to Jesus, we make His sacrifice seem ridiculous. Take that one step further: not only do we deserve judgment because of disobedience, but we are incapable of assuaging God's judgment by our works. Paul said, "
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousnesswere through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." (Gal. 2:20-21)
Sounds like a Catch-22. God has given us the law to obey. We cannot fully obey it, and even if we could, we would still fall short of righteousness. There must be something more.
There is. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." By the same faith that saved you, Jesus can transform you into an obedient servant. Remember that faith has to have an object. As stated above, the object of saving faith is the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day (Rom. 10:9). What about faith that allows us to be obedient to Christ?
This question reveals God's great love and provision to all who believe. "
You shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:5-6). Loving God is the object of our faith that compels the believer to be obedient.
From ancient times believers have demonstrated their faith, not by works, but by trusting in God's work.
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead," (Heb. 11:17-19)
"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." (Heb. 11:24-26)
"By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies." (Heb. 11:31)
The common tie among all of these ancient believers is not the work that they accomplished, but what God did. "...God was able..." "...the reproach of Christ (was) greater wealth..." Even Rahab, a prostitute, not even a Jew, believed the promises of the God of Israel. Her faith not only saved her life and demonstrated the condition of her soul.
It is worth noting that all of these people lived long before Christ. Two of them lived before there was a law, and yet they were saved through the same means by which you and I are saved: faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3 tell us that Abraham (simply) believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. If none are righteous except for Jesus and there is no other name by which we are saved, what must that mean (Rom. 3:10, Acts 4:12)? It means that Abraham believed God would save him because he could not save himself. Abraham believed God the Son would die for his sins. While he may not have understood the particulars of how God would save him, he had faith (looking forward) that God would save him (Heb. 11:8-10).
When people of faith trust Jesus to be Lord, He makes them very useful for the Kingdom. Abraham, Moses, Rahab, Joseph, Jacob, Paul, Timothy, the list is endless, all submitted to Christ's Lordship and out of their faith Christ accomplished mighty works through them.
On the day of your salvation Christ began a new work in you. And you can be sure that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6). Will you faithfully trust Him? In 2015, I hope you will join me as I seek to yield my will and desire and place my faith in the Lordship of Christ. Surely He can do a better job with my life than I can.