Concise Karma

by Aaron

I was talking to a few people the other day and one for them said the strangest thing (well a lot of my friends say strange things), but this had to do with karma. Something about what goes around….

Karma is the concept that there are deeds that you have to work off in order to attain an enlightened state. Karma refers to the debt of one’s bad actions, which must be atoned for by your own actions.

In Hinduism, Prabhupada taught that even if you desire a sweet ball (this is a piece a candy) you have to come back to the material world to take another body (because the desire for something, in and of itself, is considered wrong); in other words, you have to work it off. Part of the problem is that true Buddhism and Hinduism do not even distinguish between desire and action.

The difference in Buddhism and Hinduism essentially comes down to the issue of karma. In true Hinduism there is no way to get out of the cycle rebirth. The Buddha didn't like this so he found a way to get off the wheel of samsara (the karmic cycle)…unfortunately you have to have the right vocation, right speech, right views, right aspirations, right mindfulness, right effort, and right concentration to make it…AND EVEN IF YOU HAVE ALL OF THOSE you then need to be born a male and into the right social caste.

It seems impossible because it is.

This is why as Christians we believe in Jesus, not karma. We are accountable for our actions to a Holy God, not an impersonal force of the universe. We have a personal God who became a person to save us from ourselves, because no matter how many lifetimes we ever lived through, we would never get it right.

Yes, our actions have consequences, but there really is a way out of the misery we find ourselves in: Jesus. He doesn't hold us to a cosmic karma wheel of reincarnation (you get 1 life Hebrews 9:27), we don't have to work off our sin, and we don't need to beg, scrape, or plead for forgiveness, we simply trust, by faith, that Jesus paid it all - once for all.

So let's stop throwing out stupid karmic ideals and lift up the greatness of Jesus and what His actions have done for us.

No Comment

by Aaron

I find it odd that people only seem to comment on our blogs when I mention something like A&E, HGTV, or 9th grade algebra teachers. It so weird that we get all excited and comment on things that do not have a whole lot of lasting value (well, except for Mrs. Chiado).

We should be excited about Jesus, what God is doing not just in our lives, but also in our entire world. We should comment and comment and comment and say things like “yes, forgiveness is awesome,” “I would love me some grace,” and, “I want to love like that!”

In all honesty, some of you may even be afraid to say anything in a comment section for fear you could “say the wrong thing.” Well, don’t worry about that, we want to know what you are thinking, what the blogs inspire you, and if you are crazy we can always delete it and pretend like we never got the comment.

So comment up, let us know your thoughts (unless you live online, then we probably already know what you think).

Oh, by the way, how about that Superbowl (trademarked by the NFL) huh?

At The Moment

by Aaron

I have had a wonderful thing happen to me in the last 24 hours, I can breathe again. I have had a nasty cold and it shut off my sinus cavity for over 4 days. Last night, as I was going to bed, it actually opened and I could breathe through my nose the glorious flow of air that we all need to survive. 

It was overwhelming to me; the sense of hope that came back as I actually realized my condition of not being able to breathe wasn’t permanent (and no, I am not being overly dramatic).

It made me think of all the times that Jesus has saved me from myself. Times when I was overwhelmed and drowning, so to speak, and yet He came and saved me. Isaiah 59:1 tells us “Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear…”

Too often we are all guilty of assuming that God sees and interacts with the world as we do; but He doesn’t. Our entire experience is one of sinus pressure; never fully being able to breathe right, then God graciously redeems us and sets us free. Being born again means we can experience God and creation as He intended, but we are still awash in all of our memories of when it was hard to breathe.

God knows this about us, He understands this about us, and yet when He gives us freedom He doesn’t let us wallow in our old places. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come…” (2 Cor 5:17) You can breathe again; you can hope again, all things are made new, including you. Breathe the breath of life given to you by God and live a new life, not the old one.

Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

A Face For Podcast

by Aaron

Maybe you have noticed the few couple weeks that there are some cameras at Element. This is NOT for my vanity, it is to meet a request. Many people have been asking for a video cast of the messages, rather than just audio.

Now, I have a hard time with this because I have a hard enough time looking in the mirror at my ugly mug (face). I would much rather have myself as audio only…because you can leave it up to your own imagination if I have combined stripes and plaids on any given Sunday.

We have a couple of guys who decided that they would like to take on this ministry to video cast the sermons. Much to my chagrin it is now happening. They will first be posted on our Vimeo page, then, maybe, one day, on a video podcast as well. There may be some hiccups in the beginning, so don't expect FOX type quality…but we hope to get there.

So, if you notice I am combing my hair more, or I am better color coordinated, that's why. Also, if you see cameras around, please don't think we are taking ourselves too seriously, we are actually trying to be servants, meeting a need, and trying to give God glory in the process.

Viva La Camera.

DON’T FREAK OUT

by Aaron

I am happy to say that I have been busy at work mapping out the book of Genesis for the coming year…unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your mindset) it isn’t going to make it the year; it is going to be a year and a half.

We never want to sell a book of the bible short and it seems that this is the length it simply needs to be. It is what it is, and it is oh so good. The actual length, when all is said and done, is 73 weeks (plus the very few special one off weeks in the midst of it, like Easter).

I am through writing 34 weeks of Genesis now (so almost half way).

One of my friends asked me if we were covering every verse, and my answer was “of course.” I mean, what else would a people as neurotic as Element do?

Genesis will be fun, informative, and give all of us a better picture of what God has been doing all along: saving, redeeming, restoring, and making His name great.

So, in 2013 when the website STILL says “Current Sermon Series: Genesis” you can be excited all over again because every week will be something new, something old, and something amazing.

I hope you are ready for the ride.
Aaron

DON’T BE A SPOILEY-SPOILARTON

by Aaron

Ok, seriously, will everyone stop trying to tell me the latest bit of information on every new movie that is coming out? Does every movie trailer have to show me the ending before I even see the movie?

I love all things Christopher Nolan and I am totally excited about 2012’s The Dark Night Rises, but I feel as though I can’t go anywhere without someone trying to spoil it for me. Why can’t we just wait until it comes out and watch it? Why do people have to sneak onto a movie a set to and try to steal the script to post to everyone to read? Is our need to be in control and have information so overwhelming that we can’t enjoy a story without having control of the end?

This has been a problem since the mankind was first made. “Don‘t eat this fruit, trust me,” is what God says to man…But what does man do? Eats the fruit and doesn’t trust. It seems, for us, letting go of our lives and trusting Jesus is something we all refuse to do. Can we really trust him for the remainder of our lives? Has He really filtered all things through His hands before they come to us?

The answer is: yes.

I know a stupid little blog isn’t going to change you much, but at this time of the year if I could get you to start thinking about God’s promise of hope and redemption more, it could actually help. We know the end, it is Jesus; all things begin and continue in Him. Truly “the end” is not the end in Him.

When life is overwhelming, it will not overwhelm Him. Take comfort in the fact that our Great God loves you, has laid a course for your life, and though we don’t know where it is going, He does…He has always been there.

Oh, ya…and if you haven’t see the Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis is DEAD.

THE 99%, A CHRISTMAS TALE

by Aaron

I am part of the 99%...but what do I mean by that? I mean I have a Christmas Tree: it is plastic, came in a box, had lights already hung on it, and doesn't smell like anything except dog slobber (after years of use). I also have some presents under my tree, Christmas lights on my house, Christmas music on my Ipod, a big red bag that I haul presents around in on Christmas (seriously), and a joyful expectancy of what the season brings.

I am part of the 99% who love Christmas.

But who are the haters, the naysayers, with no sort of holiday cheer? I can only find scattered reports of various news stories.

  • Like the guy who complained that a Christmas billboard was left up too long and wrote an editorial about how it was stirring "inappropriate emotion" about making him feel guilty for not spending time with his loved ones.
  • The campaign that encourages people who walk into stores that are NOT playing Christmas music to find the managers and thank them.
  • A proposed extra tax on Christmas Trees.
  • Even Twisted Sister (the band) who came out with a Christmas album. I mean seriously, they must really hate Christmas.


We must Occupy Christmas. If you are part of the 99% who love Christmas, stop treating it like a holiday and live your life as if every day is Christmas Eve. Stop buying into bogus statistics that tell you that suicide rates go up at Christmas, it's a lie, they actually go down. Don't be another person who makes the season too long, too false, too commercialized and just simply too much. Make it about hope and life and truth and mercy and grace that came into the world to save us from our sin.

Bring the 1% to our side…the side that says, "yeah Christmas." Remember what the Dr said (that's Suess), "And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"

So go buy your fake trees and cover your house in lights. It's Christmas for Pete's (I mean Jesus') sake.

PECCAWHATWHOZIT - Part II

by Aaron

Last week we looked at the question: Could Jesus have sinned? (give in to temptations). The long winded discussions that actually wrestle with this question of "was Jesus able to sin?" is called, "peccability" (or impeccability), from the Latin meaning "sin."

The conclusion was: could Jesus be tempted? yes. Could Jesus sin? no. In this blog I wanted to look at the ramification of what this truth means for us.

What are the practical ramifications that flow from this understanding of Jesus relationship to sin and temptation?

  • Because Jesus faced real temptations and successfully endured those temptations as a real man not yet glorified He was and is “the author of eternal salvation.” We are told that Jesus had to be “made perfect,” and in order to be “made perfect,” Jesus had to “learn obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8-9). Jesus became like Adam (except that where Adam failed, Jesus triumphed). (Rom. 5:19).
  • Because Jesus faced real temptations and successfully resisted those temptations as a real man not yet glorified He can be our example and pattern for resisting the temptations we face. Sometimes it is difficult for us to view Christ as an example. We think of Him in His majestic divinity. Consequently, we view Him as a kind of superman—impervious to the kind of temptations we face. But the Scripture does not place Christ in a totally different category than us. Instead, the writer to the Hebrews encourages believers to look to Jesus, "the founder and perfecter of our faith " (Heb. 12:3). True, Jesus was not plagued with the remnants of a sinful nature as we are. Nevertheless, we should not view our Savior as some kind of super-human being whose experience was totally foreign to ours.
  • Because Jesus faced real temptations and successfully resisted those temptations as a real man not yet glorified He can fully sympathize with us in our struggle against sin (Heb. 2:18; 4:15).

J.C. Ryle said: “The sympathy of Jesus is a truth which ought to be peculiarly dear to all believers. They will find in it a mine of strong consolation. They should never forget, that they have a mighty Friend in heaven, who feels for them in all their temptations, and can enter into all their spiritual anxieties. Are they ever tempted by Satan to distrust God 's care and goodness ? So was Jesus. Are they ever tempted to presume upon God 's mercy, and run into danger without warrant? So also was Jesus. Are they ever tempted to commit some one great private sin for the sake of some great seeming advantage ? So also was Jesus. He is just the Savior that a tempted people require. Let them flee to Him for help, and spread before Him all their troubles. They will find His ear ever ready to hear, and His heart ever ready to feel.”

Most good Bible teachers believe that the Bible teaches that Christ, as God, could not even potentially sin. His human nature was always in submission to his divine nature. Therefore the possibility of sin must be ruled out; but that does not mean that he only overcame temptation by relying on that nature. We believe he overcame sin IN HIS HUMANITY as well.

Leon Morris states, "The main point is that, though Jesus did not sin, we must not infer that life was easy for him. His sinlessness was, at least in part, an earned sinlessness as he gained victory after victory in the constant battle with temptation that life in this world entails."

We have a Great God who understands all we go through.

PECCAWHATWHOZIT - Part I

by Aaron

I was recently asked a question by a friend of mine that I thought would be good for all of you budding scholars of theology. It is one that people have asked for ages…

Could Jesus have sinned? (give in to temptations)

Most people just say "no" and leave it at that and walk away, but is it intellectually honest to say no without wrestling with the issue?

Jesus, in the incarnation, was fully God and fully man (we call this the Hypostatic Union). While God, as God, can never sin or be tempted…could Jesus, as a man, in human flesh, be tempted. I think the honest answer would have to be yes. In His humanity Jesus knew temptation. In Hebrews 4:15 we are told that our great High Priest (Jesus) was tempted in every way that we are yet was without sin. This is something we are told…it is not guessed at or inferred, it is plain in the text.

We are comforted because Jesus knew temptations but never gave in to them. He knew greater temptation than anyone who has ever lived precisely because He never gave in to make it stop. Jesus remaining sinless is an amazing feat, which, in my opinion, reinforces His claims to be God.

The long-winded discussions that actually wrestle with this question of "was Jesus able to sin?" is called, "peccability" (or impeccability), from the Latin meaning "sin."

Jesus (in His humanity) grew and matured; Jesus could "grow in wisdom" (Luke 2:52) and He could "learn obedience" (Hebrews 5:8) during when he took on human flesh. This seems to lead credence to the idea that Jesus could be tempted…but could Jesus sin?

Most of this argument can go back to the understanding that Jesus was not merely a man. He was (and is) also God the Son. Since God cannot sin (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; James 1:13, 17), we can conclude that from the standpoint of His deity, Jesus was not able to sin (or impeccable). But, I personally, don't think Jesus overcame temptation by simply relying on His divine nature. As a man, Jesus knew the filling of the Spirit "without measure" (John 3:34). But He resisted the devil and became obedient unto death as a man.

Wayne Grudem says it well in his great book on Systematic Theology, “The moral strength of [Jesus’] divine nature was there as a sort of 'backstop' that would have prevented Him from sinning in any case (and therefore we can say that it was not possible for Him to sin), but He did not rely on the strength of His divine nature to make it easier for Him to face temptations.” (pg 539).

So, could Jesus be tempted? Yes. Could Jesus sin? No. At least that is my humble opinion. Next week in the blog we will look at the ramifications of what this truth actually means for those who call themselves Christians.

Premarital Sex Part III

by Aaron

Today's blog is meant give you a few more statistics (read them together with the last two weeks and it will all make sense). There are many people who speak of the virtues of 'sexual freedom' by which they mean free to have sex with any THING at any TIME. When the scriptures speak of 'sexual freedom' it is in the context of marriage; totally free in marriage with your spouse.

As I said last week, these statistics are to make you think, it is not ammunition to become self righteous. I firmly believe that marriage is NOT the answer, Jesus is. There is nothing before, or higher than, Jesus. Only by following Jesus we will begin to value what he values…and marriage will be restored.

  • 43% of US children live without their father [US Department of Census]
  • "Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families...those boys whose fathers were absent from the household had double the odds of being incarcerated -- even when other factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence were held constant." (Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University cited in "Father Absence and Youth Incarceration." Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.)
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes. [Criminal Justice & Behaviour, Vol 14, pp. 403-26, 1978]
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of the Census)
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (United States Center for Disease Control)
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
  • 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January, 1985, p. 28]
  • Fatherless boys and girls are four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems. [US D.H.H.S. news release, March 26, 1999]
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
  • Boys who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely that those in father-present homes to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity.(P.L. Adams, J.R. Milner, and N.A. Schrepf, Fatherless Children, New York, Wiley Press, 1984).
  • In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed "greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households." (N. Vaden-Kierman, N. Ialongo, J. Pearson, and S. Kellam, "Household Family Structure and Children's Aggressive Behavior: A Longitudinal Study of Urban Elementary School Children," Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 23, no. 5 (1995).
  • Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes. (One-Parent Families and Their Children, Charles F. Kettering Foundation, 1990).
  • Only 13 percent of juvenile delinquents come from families in which the biological mother and father are married to each other. By contrast, 33 percent have parents who are either divorced or separated and 44 percent have parents who were never married.
  • The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father and triples if he lives in a neighborhood with a high concentration of single-parent families. (A. Anne Hill, June O'Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States, CUNY, Baruch College. 1993) 

I know, a lot of statistics. The purpose is to remind you that Satan is a liar and God has always told the truth. Let's trust Jesus for that truth and offer hope and healing to the rest of this world. 

We, at Element, do not divorce the ideas of marriage, sex, and children like the rest of our society does. We not only would like to see wild, passionate, nail biting sex saved for the context of marriage, but we would also like to see children saved for it as well.

Premarital Sex Part II

by Aaron

Today's blog is meant to go along with last week (and next week). Just read them together and it will all make sense. I simply wanted to give you some statistics about living together, kids, premarital sex and the effects it has had on our society. There are many people who speak of the virtues of 'sexual freedom' by which they mean free to have sex with any THING at any TIME. When the scriptures speak of 'sexual freedom' it is in the context of marriage; totally free in marriage with your spouse.

As I said last week, we at Element do not divorce the ideas of marriage, sex, and children like the rest of our society does. We not only would like to see wild, passionate, nail biting sex saved for the context of marriage, but we would also like to see children saved for it as well. 

I am going to give you a lot of statistics (we have broken this into a 3 week blog because of all the stats). These statistics are to make you think, it is not ammunition to become self righteous. I firmly believe that marriage in NOT the answer, Jesus is. There is nothing before, or higher than, Jesus. Only by following Jesus we will begin to value what he values…and marriage will be restored.

  • From the years 1978-2008 in the United States people living together rose 500%.
  • Over 90% of Americans will marry, over 40% of those end in divorce, 60% of those divorces involve children.
  • 1/3 of births today are to single women
  • 1/4 of single women ages 25-39 are cohabitating (living together) with their "partner."
  • Fully 1/2 of all cohabitate at some point
  • 1/2 of all marriages are preceded by living together
  • Adults 20-24 are most likely to cohabitate
  • About 40% of cohabiting women have children with their partner, many of which are unplanned pregnancies.
  • It is predicted that 40% of all children will at some point live in a cohabiting household.
  • Almost two-thirds of teenagers believe (66% boys; 60% girls) that it is a good idea to live together before marriage.
  • Those who cohabitate have a 75% higher divorce rate (some studies are showing closer to 90%).
  • Those who live together before marriage are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • Cohabitating women are 200% more likely to be beaten and sexually assaulted than married women.
  • Cohabitating women are 9Xs more likely to be murdered by their partner than married women.
  • Virgins who marry are less likely to divorce (37% for men,  24% for women)
  • Virgins who marry stay married and are happier and enjoy more sex.


The above statistics come from 4 major sources:

  • LIVING TOGETHER: Myths, Risks and Answers By Mike & Harriet McManus, 2008 (Howard Books).
  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • Studies summarized in Marriage and Family by Olson, DeFrain and Skogrand, 2008 (McGraw-Hill).
  • For a list of more than eighty works about current trends and the effects on sexuality and emerging adults (including links whenever possible), you can visit one of the researchers’ websites here: http://bit.ly/chmjlX.

Where does the bible say premarital sex is a sin?

by Aaron

I get this question a lot and decided it is probably just better if I answer it here, so it is always available to anyone. I hope this answer isn't long and drawn out (but it may get that way in the end). 

Most of the time people who have any supposed theology background and say "I don't believe that the bible ever condemns premarital sex" are also the ones who think smoking pot is ok as well. I never hear these same people try to argue about how God calls us to worship more fervently or love others more honestly, all of their arguments tend to go toward sin and things that they want to do and yet try to say God is OK with it. 

There are singular verses we could quote (like Gal 5:19-21). In Galatians, as well as other places, "sexual immorality" is the word porneia and means "illicit sexual intercourse." Porneia also covers a whole broad range of sexual sins (it's like the junk drawer for sexual sin so we can't find ways to get around it). God knows our hearts are evil and we constantly try to find ways around what he said, so Paul gives us one word that covers IT ALL. You can also see Mark 7:20-23, 1 Cor 6:18=20, 1 Cor 7:1-5, 1 Thess 4:3-5.

But truly, it is also not possible to answer this question with one verse because the full idea is fleshed out in the entirety of scripture.  Moses, Jesus and Paul all state the same words about the union of a man and a woman, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Eph 5:31). Our culture wants to focus on one thing: Sex. Everything is about sex…so we ask the question about premarital sex. We try to divorce sex from everything else scripture adds to the idea of sex.

Sex, marriage and children are all connected in scripture. They are not individual entities.

  • Marriage is the covenant between two people where we bond ourselves with oaths of connection
  • Sex is where, after we have bound ourselves to each other in covenant, we now bind ourselves physically
  • Children are what come out of this covenant and physical union.

While marriage, sex, and children are all connected it does not mean a couple who cannot have children cannot be happy and have a full life together. It simply means that children are also a product of the marriage union in the same way sex is. As sexuality is to be enjoyed, so are the children that come from it. Part of what we would say is that as sex should be saved for marriage, AND so should children.

That is not to say that children born outside of marriage are not a joy and have any less value than children born in wedlock. But statistics bear out that children who have a mom and dad do better in school, relationships and life.

Element longs to be a church that brings redemption to many broken things, including our current cultures ideas of sexuality and raising children. We want to come along side of those who need healing and hope, and be God's hand to the searching and lost. We will do this by never shrinking back from the truth and hope that Jesus calls us to.

SCRIPTURE: DIDACTIC

by Aaron

My 9th grade Algebra teacher was one of the neatest ladies I have ever met. She had  a different outfit for every day of the school year, she genuinely cared about students, and she loved math with a passion. She loved math so much that she almost made me love it to (I say "almost" because I still hate it, but I did come close to changing my mind because of her). 

Her name was Mrs. Chiado.

Being a great teacher is a gift…it is a gift that scripture itself has. Scripture is what we call DIDACTIC. Meaning, it was intended for instruction and that itself instructs. This is why Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. The words of God are alive, and being alive it can teach us on a continual basis.

Scripture covers almost every topic we can think of, and those we can't. It is never static or frozen, it is always moving in the direction of the glory of God; yet so many people who claim to be Christians never pick it up except on a Sunday morning.

I believe part of this reason is that many people fail to understand what scripture is intended to do (hence these last 3 weeks of blogs). Some people never read it...but others, and this may get me in trouble, read it too much. Yes, some people read it so much that they never DO what it actually says. Scripture is not about how much you can get through, it is about how much gets INTO you.

So please, pick it up, read it for all it's worth. You will come to love it and love Jesus more. Get a good bible commentary and a good theology book to go along with it (I would recommend Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology). You will begin to see the scriptures come alive.

And might I even say scripture is a better teacher than Mrs. Chiado, because it made me love it and Jesus more than I can ever explain.

SCRIPTURE: COMPLETE AND EQUIPPED

by Aaron

Whenever I get something from the store that requires assembly at home, I have a deep sense of dread. The dread doesn’t come from the tiny wrench or the horrible instructions they give you in the box that de-maculates you…it comes from the fact that anytime I put something together I inevitably have pieces left over.

If you were to walk in my back yard and want to use the BBQ Grill, it is AT YOUR OWN RISK because, YES, there were pieces left over. Nothing is exactly complete or equipped to operate exactly as it was intended.

Humanity itself, in a sense, is in the same boat as my BBQ Pit (or ceiling fan or book shelf or car stereo or any number of things I have put together)…it is incomplete and ill equipped because of our sin. Our sin has marred God’s image in us so that we are not all that humanity was intended to be (and we look for the day when all creation is completely redeemed). This is why we study the scriptures.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Paul uses two words here that are extremely important: complete and equipped.

  • Complete is the Greek word artios and means fitted. It is kind of like when you find that perfect pair of pants that you never want to wash because you don't want them to change at all because they are just right; that is artios.
  • Equipped is the Greek word exartizō and it means to be finished. It is like a house that get's built and everything is done and furnished…it is finished.

What Paul is telling us is that the Scriptures are what we need so we can be fitted perfectly to God's calling, and that by studying them we will also become finished so that we naturally live out every good work our Great Savior has for us. The function of being complete and equipped is for the purpose of good works.

Our Great God does good works and He intends for His people to do the same. He has given us scripture so we can be fitted and finished for these works.

It is like what Augustine heard when God called him at the age of 32, "take and read." Augustine, after years of living in debauchery, picked up a Bible and the passage it opens to is Romans 13:13-14. The scriptures spoke truth in his life, Jesus changed him and he became one of the greatest theologians Christianity has ever known.

SCRIPTURE: ALWAYS NEW

by Aaron

For the past few weeks I have been working on our sermon series for next year, Genesis. As I am going through how we will teach it, many things strike me I didn’t even notice the last time I taught through it. It brings me back to the understanding that we, as God’s people, must be those who are constantly immersed in His scriptures.

We are told that He breathes out the scriptures.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We are also told that God’s words are alive.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The reason we can come back to the same scriptures we have read a hundred times before, and still learn new things, is that His scriptures are alive. In Genesis 2:7 we learn that man only has life because God breathed into Him. God’s breath IS life. That same vibrant life we have is also found in the scriptures. 

Over the next couple weeks, on Element’s blog, we will briefly (and I do mean briefly) look at what the scriptures are to do for us and why it is so important to study them…and re-study them.

Ultimately, we read the scriptures because they are all about Jesus. God breathes out the scriptures, but they are not the life we are looking for…Jesus is the life we need. John 5:39 Jesus says to the religious leaders who forgot this essential truth, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me… The scriptures point to Him, so in the effort to know the scriptures we should never lose sight of Jesus, the one the scriptures are about.

INNIE OR OUTIE?

by Aaron

I had a very interesting question posed to me at Element today, one that actually led to someone deciding to leave Element as their home church. The question essentially came down to scripture and whether we allow God’s word to dictate what we hold as truth verses our own experiences.

Essentially the person I was talking to had an experience that has caused them to view certain scriptures a certain way. They were explaining a text to me, from the King James Version, and telling me how the English Standard Version has it all wrong.

Now, I can have a conversation about translation style, which texts are used in the translation, translating committees…all that stuff, but what this person had a problem with was that the text from the ESV didn’t agree with them. I tried to explain the team of scholars behind the ESV and the Greek text verses the Latin Vulgate, but none of it mattered because they simply liked the words the King James Version used and it had nothing to do with correct translation at all.

Today in service I talked about letting God search us deep into our core, one of the ways He does this is through His Word. We must be a people who allow God’s word to CHANGE us, to read out of a text what it was meant to say, and never to read INTO a text our biases and prejudices.

If you have ever had a question about what Element teaches or believes I would like you to understand this: we will be a church that is grounded in God’s word as tightly as we can be. That means that we will allow God’s text to speak to us, to change us, to be our rule for life and faith…we will do our best to never read into a text what is not there.

I know this is not a popular stance to take in our world of individualism today, but we must base our lives on the One who is unchanging, Jesus, and not upon the changing winds of our experience.

FORGIVE OR FORGET OR…

by Aaron

The question came up last night at GC if forgive and forget is biblical?  Or is forgive and don't forget it biblical?

Forgiving is not forgetting, it is honoring God in all things first. We so often think life is about us, but life is about God and His glory. When God get's glory our hearts find freedom and joy by living the right way we were made. So we forgive, but also in forgiving it means that we don't give people "blank checks" because it only causes more harm to them than good.

Let me give you some parameters about forgiving:

  • Forgiving is not condoning - You are not condoning someone’s actions or abuse by forgiving. Forgiving is setting someone free, in the depths of your heart, to resolve for YOU to live free from bitterness and anger.  This is different than condoning what someone did.
  • Forgiving is NOT forgetting - If someone hurts you 20x’s in a row, it doesn’t mean YOU FORGET...some people are toxic and dangerous and you may need to set up strong boundaries to keep them away.  What you are doing is setting them free to not have anger against them (but you CAN STILL REMEMBER and not be in a room with them again). Forgiveness is the state where our own heart resides in – it doesn’t mean you continue to get abused, gossiped about, or lied to...you forgive, you become well...
  • Forgiving does not always mean reconciliation - Forgiveness doesn’t mean you will be friends again; it doesn’t mean everything goes back the way it was. It takes 2 people to reconcile, where forgiveness only takes you.
  • Forgiveness is a different issue than justice – It is OK to call the police on people whom you have forgiven. If someone breaks in to your house, forgiveness is not “you want my stereo too…” Forgiveness is when you stop harboring evil intent for them (even WHILE the police haul them off).

We must also understand that:

  • Forgiving is personal. You forgive people (not institutions or businesses).
  • Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness takes time to process through, but we DO process through it. If you have carried garbage for years it is hard to forgive in 10 minutes.

Some people get suckered into the “you’re supposed to forgive me, let me back into your life.” Sometimes you have to say “no” because that is the best way to protect yourself or your family while also extending the love of God.

Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. He says "don’t use their behavior to excuse your own." If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

I believe Paul brings God into the issue of forgiving because forgiveness is honoring God in all things first. We lay everything at His feet so we can pick up and live His life. That's the beauty of the gospel.

I would also recommend that you listen to the message we did during the Esther series about revenge and forgiveness: http://www.ourelement.org/media/messages/sermon/10178-esther-part-09-revenge-and-forgiveness

THE DUD

by Aaron

In the early 1990s (or late 80s) whichever, because it's all a blur; there was a movie that came out called Crazy People. It was a movie that was about many things, but in part it was about truth in advertising. There were some mental patients who started writing ads for major manufactures like "Metamucil: It helps you go to the toilet. If you don't use it, you'll get cancer and die."

I like truth in advertising, I think it is why I like Milk Duds. Why were they called Milk Duds, you ask (I know you are asking)?

Because in 1926 the F. Hoffman and Company in Chicago, tried to manufacture a perfectly round, chocolate-covered caramel candy. What happened was the machines could not turn out round confections so they started calling them "duds" and marketed them that way. 85 years later we still call them Milk Duds.

You may be wondering why I even write this blog today, well, first, Milk Duds are awesome. They rank right up there next to the cookie as one of the greatest achievements of mankind. It is only by sheer grace that a dud turned out so well…because God likes to take broken things and make them soar. I would hazard to say that a milk dud is very close to the heart of God (...I'm just saying...).

Second, because you can come to our Film and Theology Friday's during the summer and get some Milk Duds from the youth snack bar as you watch the movie. I promise they will make the movie much more enjoyable.

The third reason was Michael and I were talking last week about how we haven't had a stupid/fun blog in a while…so here it is. "Milk Duds: the only candy that tells the truth."
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oh…uh, wait. Apparently I am wrong. Milk Duds have fallen into the trap of the world in which we live and have eaten the forbidden fruit and sinned greatly and has fallen. It seems that there is NO MILK in Milk Duds. The Hershey Company, in 2008, changed the ingredients of some of its products, including Milk Duds. They got rid of cocoa butter and started using cheap substitutes. The Food and Drug Administration (because they have nothing better to do than regulate candy) has said that recipes that do not contain cocoa butter cannot be called MILK Chocolate.

For shame Milk Duds…SHAME.

Who would cover the truth to try to get ahead…oh wait…that would be all of humanity.

Creed(s): More Than a Band

by Aaron

What value did the creeds have for the church (during the time that they were created and used the most)?

This is an easy and short answer….maybe.

The English word “creed” comes from the Latin word “Credo” which simply means, “I believe.” The most popular of all creeds is the Apostles Creed, which starts with the words, “I believe in God the Father…”

The word Creed is actually never applied to any protestant denomination. Faith statements that were specific to denominations were called “confessions;” such as the Westminster Confession of Faith (Reformed) or the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran).

In the simplest way possible to explain, the creeds came out of the church formulating a stance against heresies. They believed people needed something they could memorize that could be taken with them so they knew when the gospel was being threatened.

The Nicene Creed came out of (essentially) the Arian Heresy (that denied the deity of Christ). The creed that came out of the council of Chalcedon (Chalcedonian Creed) was about the monothelite (or Monophysite) heresy (where they hammered out the dual nature of Christ...fully God, fully man).

The purpose of the creeds was to make these truths accessible, memorable, and to pass them on. They are great confessions of truth and faith.

Lastly, The Creeds and Confessions produced by the Christian Church over the centuries are not inspired additions to Scripture nor in any way replacements for the words of Christ, His apostles, or the prophets which preceded them.

Peter Kreeft in Fundamentals of the Faith has a Chapter all about Creeds (it’s Chapter 17 in case you are curious).

Chalcedonian Creed (451 AD)

Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul {meaning human soul} and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these "last days," for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.

We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten -- in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the "properties" of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one "person" and in one reality {hypostasis}. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word {Logos} of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers has handed down to us.

What Does ESV Stand For?

by Aaron

Starting this Sunday we are switching the version of the Bible we use at Element from the NIV (New International Version) to the ESV (English Standard Version). The question most ask is "why?"

There are 3 simple approaches to Bibles today and how they are translated.

  • There is the Word for Word translations that try to simply take the text and translate it WORD FOR WORD. Current Word for Word translations would include the ESV, NASB, NKJV, KJV.
  • Then there are Thought for Thought translations that seek to take a section and translate the entire thought in a way that keeps with the original wording but gives you the thought behind it. Poetry makes more sense in the scriptures in a Thought for Thought translation as many of the nuances can be kept. Current Thought for Thought translations would include the NIV, CEV, TNIV, NLT.
  • Lastly, there is the Paraphrase. A paraphrase is a modern attempt to rewrite the scriptures in a way that modern readers can see it in a contemporary light (many times changing some key meaning in a text). A Paraphrase would be the Message, The Story...

The problem with each new revision of the NIV (it has been revised a number of times in the last 4 decades) is that it moves further and further towards a Paraphrase rather than a Thought for Thought translation. For what it is worth Collin Hansen, who serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, likes the 2011 edition of the NIV.

Presently, there are more than 25 English translations. But The English Standard Version (ESV), in contrast to most modern translations, is not entirely "new." The ESV is the product of a rich translation legacy which spans almost 500 years. The modern starting point for the ESV was the 1971 Revised Standard Version (RSV). Over 90 percent of the RSV is retained in the ESV. The RSV was regarded by many as the best modern translation in terms of precision and literary elegance.

The ESV improves upon the RSV in 3 important ways.

The following are from www.evangelicalbible.com where they list the differing aspects of many translations.

First, and most crucial to the evangelical community, is that the ESV corrects key Old Testament passages whose prophetic intent was dulled in the RSV.

Another example of an important correction to the RSV was the translation of the Greek word hilasterion and its cognates (Rom. 3:25, Heb. 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10) which the RSV translated "expiation." The ESV corrected this to "propitiation." Propitiation means to appease the wrath of someone by the substitution of an offering.  Thus Jesus bore the wrath of God that was due mankind.  The righteous anger that was due mankind was placed upon His Son. Christ's sacrifice had the effect of both bearing the sin of man (expiation) and the punishment due man for his wickedness (propitiation).

The NIV and the NRSV both took the "middle ground" and translated hilasterion as "atonement."  In so doing the translators decided not to take a stand on the issue since "atonement" captures both expiation and propitiation. Both the "Message," and the CEV translations have removed the heart of the meaning of propitiation from their respective translations entirely.  (See Romans 3:25)

2. Archaic language was updated. (Thee, Thou, Art, Ye, Hearken, etc.)

3. The ESV translation is more literal than RSV. It attempts, as much as possible, "not to improve on the originals". Most people believe that different Bible translations are simply a function of varying levels of readability, though all roughly similar in accuracy; this is untrue.

Since the middle of the 20th Century there have been a lot new translations whose focus is not transparency of the original languages, but rather to make the "thoughts" or the "meaning" of the text more comprehensible to the modern reader.  These translations (thought for thought) have noble intentions of making the Bible easier to understand, BUT the result has produced translations which compromise the meaning of the text.

We believe that when a person reads the Bible, he should be confident that he is actually reading the words of God, in the form God delivered them to the biblical authors.

 

At Element we would like everyone reading the same trustworthy translation together. If you do not own a bible we will give you an ESV with a custom Element cover. Our free ones aren't the greatest paper quality so don't get them wet or they will expand like that kid in Willy Wonka who ate the Blueberry candy.


Having said all that there are at times problems with a literal Word for Word translation. I will give you some (because they are funny). When translators render a text “literally” without realizing the potential for double meaning it gets funny. In various places the following scriptures have been pointed out:

Gen. 30:35, “But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped …and put them in charge of his sons.” This was corrected in the second printing of the ESV, taking authority away from Laban’s goats: “… and put them in the charge of his sons.”

Luke 17:35 “There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” In today's culture "grinding together" has a totally different meaning.

Prov. 30:26 “the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs;” I think you can see what this actually means.

Amos 4:6 “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities” The Hebrew idiom literally means they had nothing to eat.

Funny right? But seriously, all in all the ESV is one of the best translations out today. The work involved an exceptional team of more than 100 people worldwide, including: (1) the twelve-member Translation Oversight Committee, led by Dr. J. I. Packer as the General Editor; (2) sixty leading Bible Scholars; as well as (3) a sixty-member Advisory Council—all of whom are committed to historic Christian orthodoxy and to the timeless truth and authority of the Bible.

We hope you like the ESV.