Created on Tuesday, 28 June 2016 10:27
Written by Aaron
I try very hard to look at the bible objectively, to teach you as best as I can so you would see the Scriptures as they were meant to be seen, but I also know that is an impossibility. I don’t say that to diminish your trust in my teaching, or your trust in the Bible, I say it because we must be careful to read OUT of the Bible what God wants said, and not IN to the Bible what we want it to say.
I recently had an experience of running into someone I haven’t seen in a couple of years. They had become “hyper-spiritual,” and I do not mean that in a good way. They had begun to look for numerical patterns in the bible (we call this numerology), they took picture of the clouds for signs from God, and they believed that when everyone “really” trusted Jesus they would all agree with him. It’s easy to dismiss someone like this as crazy, because they talk crazy, ask questions they don’t wait to hear the answers to and instead talk over you, and become very adversarial, but I know my calling as being a witness for Jesus is to always steer people back to Jesus.
The bible's focus isn’t about numerology; the bible's focus is Jesus. When we get caught thinking God has hidden messages in the Bible we miss the main point of why we have the scriptures at all.
As I said, our experiences so shape how we read and interpret the Scriptures, that is why we must always come back to prayer and listening to God’s Spirit. Christopher Hall has written a great article about this when writing a review of Randolph Richard’s book: Misreading the Scriptures with Western Eyes. Our culture will help us see some things very clearly, but can distort other things all together.
In the article they point out that something as simple as the parable of the prodigal son, “when 100 North American students were asked to read the parable and retell it, only six mentioned the famine the prodigal experiences away from home
.” Americans forgot the famine and the hardship that pushed the young man to return home because, as the author suggests, that “most Americans simply have not experienced terrible famine.” They did the same passage with 50 Russian readers “42 out of 50 mentioned the famine.” In their cultural history World War 2 brought famine and starvation that has rooted itself deeply in the Russian consciousness. Both of our cultural contexts determine what things stand out to us in a passage of scripture.
I used to go to a bible study where the leader would have us all read through a passage from the Bible and then say, “what does this mean to you?” If I was in an ornery mood I would start right in by being a loud-mouthed sarcastic participant, but if I wasn’t “in a mood” most of the room would stay quiet for a few minutes before someone would eventually say, “to me this passage is saying_____.” People would start to answer, but not out of any source of knowledge from the scripture, they would answer out of their heart (which usually resulted in less learning and more ignorance).
Don’t misunderstand me, I think it is great to talk about how Scripture impacts our hearts, it is great to ask what a passage means, as Hall says, “to make the individual Christian the starting point for interpretation and the center of a text's meaning—the Western pattern—is problematic.” In the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes
they point out two main dangers with it:
One, if we as a people make ourselves the center of the search for truth in a passage of the Bible, we will skew things in our own direction and miss what the text is actually saying. We will, as I said earlier, read in to the text the things we want instead of allow the text to examine and change us. The author says, “This…leaves us basing our Christian life on less than the full counsel of God."
Two, the me or “I” centered approach to looking the Scriptures confuses two words: application and meaning. We must understand that we are not the focus of biblical texts, Jesus is. We are made in the image of God, Jesus did come to save us, the story of redemption includes us as God’s people, but we must always first ask how a passage reveals Jesus. If our first question is “how can I apply this to my life” we will keep skipping the meaning and be self-centered on application (not that application is a bad thing).
A major problem with how the church in America has taught the Scriptures is with a very man centered view. We tend to make people the point and not God who made people, revealed Himself, and calls us into relationship with Him. When we make the Scriptures man centered we will assume there is hidden messages, secret codes, and if we simply can find the right codes to live than we will have all we have ever dreamed. But if the Scriptures are about who God is first it will change our whole view and we will begin to realize that Jesus is the author and finisher not just of our faith, but of the Scriptures as well.
Let’s not forget Jesus’ words in John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Created on Tuesday, 21 June 2016 16:38
Written by Element Christian Church
Big News for Planting Roots
this month! The first is that we have entered a lease agreement with our landlord to rent our current facility one more year (until January 1st, 2018)! This should give us the time needed to build our permanent home.
The second is that we've received the plans from our Civil Engineers and have submitted them to the city for plan check. If all goes well, we have the potential to start moving dirt within 4-6 weeks!
Please pray for our continued process and thank God for His providence in working all things out for His Glory.
Here's our updated Planting Roots Giving numbers...
Created on Tuesday, 14 June 2016 00:00
Written by Aaron
If you just read the title of this blog and thought, “Did Marianne’s cat walk across Aaron’s keyboard?” the answer would be a resounding, “No.” Sometimes I get in these moods where I want to just write something for the fun of it…that usually means something no one else really cares about, like theological words and phrases.
When the Magisterial Reformation of the church occurred, some wonderful bits of theology were emphasized to the “common” people. The reformers (like Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Simmons) wanted normal everyday people to understand more of the truth of the scriptures. This resulted in an emphasis on what were known as the “five solas
.” The word “sola
” means “alone,” but unlike getting lost in the woods, this use of “alone” means “by itself and no other.” Here’s an explanation of each of the five solas:
Sola Fide – Faith alone. We are justified before God by faith alone. (Rom 3:28)
Sola Gratia – Grace alone. We have no claim upon God and He saves us by His grace. (Eph 2:8)
Solus Christus – Christ Alone. There is no human achievement that takes the place of Jesus and His work. The Reformers loved to say over and over, “Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.” (Acts 4:12)
Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone. The Bible is our authority, not Popes, churches, traditions, or councils. When men contradict the Scriptures, we are to remain faithful to the Scriptures. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone belongs all glory. God does all things for His glory and so should we. (Romans 11:36—For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.)
If you would like a more in-depth (but still brief) explanation, you can check out this short article on the Gospel Coalition website: (https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/scottysmith/2007/12/03/the-solace-of-the-reformation/
When we say “sola means alone,” it means by itself in a good
way…not in an eating-lunch-by-yourself-kind-of-way. These things alone are sufficient for a fruitful understanding and practice of the Gospel. The Protestant church has held these solas
as foundational to who we are in a “deep rooted faith in God” kind of way, but some people forget that Martin Luther added a sixth sola while defending himself at the beginning of his time as a reformer.
On October 31st
(What? Halloween?), 1517, Martin Luther wrote his famous 95 Theses that he nailed to a church door in Wittenberg. These words were mainly to combat the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church. (Indulgences were pardons you could buy to make up for your sins). The posting of questions was not something new, and most historians agree that Luther was shocked that his 95 Theses caused the stir that they did. However, we’re glad today that they had such a strong impact. Luther’s challenge to the Church was to essentially change its ways, because Jesus alone (Solus Christus) paid for our sin.
On April 26, 1518 (no one ever said the Church was fast at doing anything), Luther was called upon to defend himself and he did so in what we call the Heidelberg Disputation. In this disputation, Luther laid down the principle of Crux Sola Est Nostra Theologia
(“the Cross alone is our theology”). Luther, in this sola,
was not discounting the birth or the resurrection of Jesus; he was directly combating the idea that you could buy your way into God’s graces. He was saying that Jesus alone (Solus Christus) paid for our sin at the Cross (crux sola).
Luther pushed for an understanding that all human history comes to a head at the cross of Christ and that without a proper understanding of the Cross, we will misunderstand everything else (even the other 5 solas
). I think for us, an understanding of the centrality of the Cross is also more important than most people realize. The Cross is where Jesus paid for our sin. The Apostle Paul uses many metaphors for this:
For those who get focused on the temple, he uses the words sacrifice or atonement (Rom 3:25)
For those who love the law, he uses the word justification (a legal term)
For those who love relationship, he uses the word reconciliation
Scot McKnight wrote, “The metaphors Paul chose determined the problem they addressed: if the word is redemption, the problem is slavery; if the word is sacrifice…the problem is sin…; if the word is reconciliation, the problem is alienation.”
The cross is the means of liberation, reconciliation, justification, and atonement for our sin—not the church, not men, not worship, not law—only the work of Jesus through the Cross.
We are a people who must understand Christ’s sacrifice in a sola
type of way. If we do not understand the Cross, we will preach a false gospel that elevates people as being central AND ALSO begins to slowly demonize God Himself for requiring a sacrifice of us. Our sin required a sacrifice, but God Himself stepped into human history to BE that sacrifice. This is why “justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone
” changes everything. The truth of these words is given to us throughout the entirety of Scripture (Sola Scriptura), and God is the one who gets all the glory (Soli Deo Gloria)…but an understanding of the Cross of Christ (Crux Sola) is what brings it all into proper focus.
Created on Tuesday, 07 June 2016 14:20
Written by Aaron
The start of this blog is more of a public apology to Eric Djafroodi. If you were at Element last Sunday morning, you know that I gave him the longest section of Scripture to preach on in Element’s history. As I was sitting at his practice run-through (AKA 1st
service…just kidding), I wanted to reemphasize something that stood out to me from Eric’s (Stephen’s) message—the idea of speaking intelligently into our cultural contexts.
If you were to read through Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7:2-53, you might walk away thinking that it was the strangest message you have ever heard, that certain points didn’t land, and that the Gospel wasn’t clearly articulated. All of those things would be false, because Stephen perfectly articulated the truth of the Gospel in a context that was highly relatable to his audience: the Jewish ruling council (the Sanhedrin). The Sanhedrin were not concerned with transgender bathrooms, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, gun control, three strikes laws, or any laws other than those handed down in the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Torah).
Stephen spoke in a way his listeners could understand, as should we. Sometimes we get caught up in using “Christian” words (“Christianese”) and forget that many of our co-workers, neighbors, and friends don’t understand words like atonement, redemption, grace, or even hope in the same way that a believer in Jesus would. We must be careful that when we use words we say them
in a way that connects and makes our understanding
clearer by adopting the cultural metaphors around us.
Stephen tells the religious leaders that God is not confined to the nation of Israel because God chose a man named Abraham before Israel was even a country. He then sent His people into the land of Egypt before eventually giving them an inheritance of the promised land. Over and over God is showing them that He is not confined to a space, but that He blesses and intends for those who follow Him to bless others.
Stephen tells the religious leaders that God is not confined to their temple, their holy space. When Moses meets God, it is out in the middle of nowhere and God tells him to take off his sandals because the place where he is standing is holy. What made the place holy? The presence of God made the space holy; the space itself held no special significance. Today we like to make some spaces more holy than others (whether it is a baseball hall of fame, or a Hollywood walk of fame, or a rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame); we need to understand that it is God’s presence
that makes a place sacred and holy.
Stephen then went on to show that any time someone came to show who God was and is in a real way, they ended up being killed for their faith. Stephen showed how the nation of Israel constantly rejected their calling to be a blessing and made the blessing of God all about themselves; they held themselves as a privileged elite in the world, rather than a Kingdom of priests.
So, let’s see if we can connect this to us and our culture…
Like Stephen, we are called to be people who can speak the truth into our current cultural setting in a way that makes sense. What can stop us from doing this in a practical way? Living like the religious leaders Stephen is speaking to. We have a tendency to see the world in our own context, just like the Sanhedrin. We want to confine God to our sacred places, we want to determine who can be eligible for the blessing of God, and we more often than not reject the calling that God has placed on our lives to be a blessing.
I think we should begin to ask where, metaphorically speaking, we need to take off our sandals, because God is moving and working in places we refuse to believe or recognize. I think we need to understand where we have tried to confine God and His work to fit our narrow cultural view. I think we must open our eyes to understand the blessings we have received are blessings that God intends for us to share with others.
When we refuse to live as God’s priests to the world, we are refusing to live the calling of God. 1 Peter 2:9 But you area chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light
. We, many times, are just like the men Stephen addresses; we think because our great God has redeemed us, we are better than others. We think the blessings we have received are somehow because of our own effort, or because we have done something good enough to deserve them…but the truth is that we have been blessed to bless others and give our blessings away.
The biggest cultural push of our day is tolerance for only the things that are deemed tolerable. Laws are passed and people fight for a view that is constantly letting individuals do anything they/we want as long as our hearts say it OK (you can insert the conservative or liberal movement you wish here). How do we speak the gospel into that? It starts with understanding that the scriptures teach that our hearts are wicked and cannot be trusted to be other than self-serving. Beginning to understand how God has made us, how we have marred His image, will begin to bring compassion because we will see the brokenness around us. When we love them as God calls us to we will begin to understand them better, when we understand others better we can speak to the depth of their brokenness as well as ours in a way that is full of Gospel truth and blessing.
Blessing others does not mean letting them get away with everything they want; it is speaking the truth and offering love and hope, while showing how to live a life that loves God in practical ways. How can you love your neighbors? How can you love your friends? How can you love your coworkers? How can you love your family, your spouse, your children? Live out the blessing of God in others’ lives, while not begrudging them for your effort, energy, or trampling on your blessing. It was never yours in the first place. It was always meant to be given away.
Created on Tuesday, 24 May 2016 19:54
Written by Element Christian Church
A couple of weeks ago in his message titled Acts 14: A Hope That Heals Us (Acts 5:12-16)
, Aaron talked about how the gospel speaks directly about God’s miracle of reconciliation in the midst of broken relationships that seem hopeless.
Every day we face situations, circumstances, people, and desires that are broken and hurting that the Gospel can speak good news
into. We get to be His people who know and speak God’s truth into not only our lives, but the lives of those we live with in community. Jeff Vanderstelt calls this being ‘Gospel Fluent’ – a language of redemption in all areas of life. And just like any other language, it needs to be studied and practiced much before it becomes second nature.
The Verge Network has released an eBook called “Gospel Fluency: The Key to Effective Disciplemaking” from one of Jeff’s talks. I want to pull a little from of the ‘everyday situations’ section of that book here.
The Gospel and Finances
When was the last time you counseled someone with finances and you said, "Okay, before we go anywhere, I just need to let you know the God of the universe has all the resources you need today, that you are co-heir with Christ.
Therefore, you are as rich as you could ever imagine. That He who was rich became poor so that in His poverty, you might become rich. So that should make you the most generous and eager to give because you know that even though He lost it all, He got it all back." And let me ask you, do you know much about first fruits? Because see, Jesus is the first fruit of a new creation.
And God was willing to give His own son so that with Him, He might take in everyone else. Do you know that idea of first fruits, that you give the very best that you have, trusting that God will complete what He started in your life?
And you won't have to worry about your provision tomorrow because when you give it to Him and trust Him with it, He will give you everything you need. How will He not also, with Christ, give you every good gift?
The Gospel and Debt
How do we counsel people in the area of finances? They're in debt. Why are they in debt? Because they went somewhere else to find great satisfaction, and they became an addict of a thing that didn't satisfy them. That's what's going on.
They thought that by buying more, I'll feel better. But it didn't make it better, so I kept buying. And I became a worshipper at the marketplace. And what they don't need is better financial counsel first. Rather, they need to repent and turn to Jesus Christ who's the only one who deeply satisfies their longing.
Because if we're not, what we're telling people is Jesus is really good when it has to do with your standing with God and your eternal destiny, but he doesn't really know a whole lot about finances.
The Gospel and Sex
What about sex? The reason why you wait to have sex till after you're married is because you're telling the story of Jesus Christ through your purity. That's why. We don't wait to have sex till we're married so we can have better sex. We wait to have sex till we're married because Jesus is the one who, with His own life, purchased his bride.
And then He said, "I will wait to return to consummate." You want to talk about someone who's waiting a long time? It's been over 2,000 years from my count, and He's doing pretty well at being faithful to His bride.
That's the story we're telling. It's not about you. It's about Jesus. Don't give people counsel about sexuality without helping them to understand the whole point of it is to tell the story of God's faithfulness to His bride.
Read more of Jeff’s words and download the entire ebook at the Verge website here
Created on Tuesday, 17 May 2016 08:27
Written by Aaron
After briefly talking about “The Law” on Sunday, I had a few questions from people that I thought I would briefly try to recap and answer.
The Pharisees taught and lived mostly what was known as the Oral Law, the Sadducees lived more in line with what was called the Written Law. The Written Law was more of a letteral (not literal) view of the Torah, where you lived it word for word. The Oral Law was more about the meaning behind the words of the Law. The oral interpretation was to make the Law more understandable and livable because they knew not everyone, especially foreigners, would understand the Law.
Many of the things Jesus taught lined up with the Oral Law, understanding that the Laws were made for man, not man for the Laws. As an example, if your animal fell into a ditch on the Sabbath the Written Law adherers would say to let it die and not to violate the Sabbath, the Oral Law adherers would say it is ALWAYS lawful to do good and you should pull your animal out.
The word Law can refer to the whole Old Testament, God’s specific 613 Laws found within the Torah, or the Torah itself (5 books of Moses). You find in the books of Moses, 613 Laws that can be broken in 3 categories.
- Ceremonial Laws: these would refer to the temple, the priesthood, the sacrificial system.
- Civil (or Magisterial) Laws: These would be how God’s people were meant to live as residents under His earthly Kingship. The Hebrew people didn’t have a King (except for God) so God gave decrees that ran their governmental system.
- Moral Laws: These would include the 10 commandments (Don’t kill anyone, don’t steal anything, don’t lie, don’t gossip, don’t worship false gods.)
Many Christians today misunderstand what happens when we speak about these Laws today. Some want to take and try to live all of them, which is a strict form of moralism that tends to lead to defeat and failure. If we understand the scriptures as whole everything begins to make more sense.
The Ceremonial Laws were all fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is our priest, Jesus is our sacrifice, Jesus fulfilled all of the ceremonial laws which brings us great freedom in worship. We also do not live in a theocracy, we live in a representative republic, this means the Civil Laws are not intended for us (you can wear a poly-cotton blend, shave your sideburns, and eat shrimp and not be in sin). The Moral Laws are the decrees that represent the character of God and they are still binding on us. Jesus dying to “fulfill the law” (Matthew 5:17) doesn’t mean we now get to lie, murder, and steal from others.
In Romans, the Apostle Paul reminds us that the Law was good, it had an intended purpose: to draw us closer to God. The Law was meant to help us see how futile righteousness is on our own and that we need a redeemer.
As I said on Sunday, our job is to live as God always called His people to live, being a blessing wherever we are. Our job is not impose moralism or to run away from our culture, our job is to live on mission with the good news that Jesus has fulfilled the law, called us into relationship with Him, and is making all things new.