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.

IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT PART II

by Aaron

It seems that no matter where you look, there are either "prophecies" or speculations about the last days and when the world is going to end.

Second, reading and understanding scripture... Please read last weeks blog (part 1) in order to continue to this so it all makes sense.

As for interpreting the word of God, here are some simple principles (regarding the "end" or anything else). The following is adapted from an article that I read by Matt Slick.

The Bible is God’s Word. But some of the interpretations derived from it are not (like the end times garbage). There are many cults and Christian groups that use the Bible, claiming their interpretations are correct. Too often, however, the interpretations not only differ dramatically but are clearly contradictory. This does not mean that the Bible is a confusing document. Rather, the problem lies with those who interpret and the methods they use.

We need, as best as can be had, the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting God’s Word.

We must approach God's word with care, humility, and reason. The Bible is inspired by God and is addressed to His people. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand what God’s word means and how to apply it.

On the human level, to lessen the errors that come in our interpretations, we need to look at some basic biblical interpretive methods.

  1. Who wrote/spoke the passage and to whom was it addressed?
  2. What does the passage say?
  3. Are there any words or phrases in the passage that need to be examined?
  4. What is the immediate context?
  5. What is the broader context in the chapter and book?
  6. What are the related verses to the passage’s subject and how do they affect the understanding of this passage?
  7. What is the historical and cultural background?
  8. What do I conclude about the passage?
  9. Do my conclusions agree or disagree with related areas of Scripture and others who have studied the passage?
  10. What have I learned and what must I apply to my life?

Matt. 24:40, "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left," (NIV).

1. Who wrote/spoke the passage and who was it addressed to?
Jesus spoke the words and they were recorded by Matthew.  Jesus spoke them to His disciples in response to a question.

2. What does the passage say?
The passage simply says that one out of two men in a field will be taken.  It doesn’t say where, why, when, or how.  It just says one will be taken. It doesn’t define the field as belonging to someone or in a particular place.

Read more

IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT PART I

by Aaron

Q: So there has been so much said about the end of the world recently. It seems that no matter where you look, there are either "prophecies" or speculations about the last days and when the world is going to end. I know what I believe, but I wanted to know your thoughts regarding all this speculation we are hearing. Oh, and I hope you are prepared because the world is going to end on May 21st.


A: Well, I think I will answer this in two parts. One about the end time speculation, and two maybe a primer on how to study your bible.

First, end times...

I have two people I really love getting married on May 21, so I hope I hope the end of the world waits another day or so.

All the speculation really bothers me because it does nothing but hurt the message of the gospel of Christ. The modern church is so caught up in prophesies and trying to identify if "this person" or "that person" is the anti-Christ that many lose sight of the REAL Christ in the process. Jesus said WE WILL NOT KNOW the day or hour so why in the world do we keep trying to prove Him wrong when we know He is always right?

The current slate of doomsayers are predicting May 21, 2011 as judgment day. They call it "awesome news" that the world will be destroyed. The ad campaign has been estimated to have cost more than 3 million dollars so far.

The spearhead of the May 21, 2011 date is Harold Camping. Camping previously had predicted that the world would end on Sept. 6, 1994. When it didn’t, he blamed it on mathematical error (because we know that the scriptures are all about math and not about Jesus). This time he believes the new date because of the proper "mathematical calculations" and "clues in the Bible."

Personally I believe the scriptures teach that God is NOT going to destroy His creation on May 21 or any other day. It says in Romans 8:19-21 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. God loves this world He made, He doesn’t want to preside over its demise, He plans to make it right again. Redemption is the redemption of all creation. The Jewish Idea was restoration, redemption of creation, making it into what it was intended to be.

There is a reason God never gave us a time and a date about the end of the world...the reason: WE ARE CRAZY. God calls us to be a people of simple trust and faith in Him and what He is doing, not second guessing Him or trying to conform Him to our narrow little view.

Ralph Tone wrote on the Baptist Press website. “Jesus left no doubt about the futility of playing the dating game when he told his disciples three times in Matthew 24 not to go there.”

Warren Gage, dean of faculty at the Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, said, "I think there's a very clear scriptural reference that no one knows the time in the end. May 21 is not circled on my calendar. And I'll be looking forward to Sunday, May 22.”

The goal of Jesus' teaching was never to get us out of here and go to some other place, it is for us to live as light in the world making a difference IN this place. So don't give away all your stuff, go into debt, drink the grape juice or wear the tennis shoes (and tin foil hat) of the doomsayers.

I am sure I will see you Sunday morning May 22.

ARE 'LAMENTS' FRENCH AND MINTY? PART III

by Aaron

I never intended to write a part 3 to the Lamenting blogs that came out at the beginning of Lamentations, but I thought it was appropriate after last Sunday. If I couldn't get the words out, or make sense, maybe this will help.

God has never forgotten His people. In the middle of our pain we sometimes accuse Him of doing so, much like a child accuses a parent of hating them when they can't have candy for dinner. As I shared on Sunday, I am not a parent, though I have really wanted to be. My wife and I have tried for years (and years and years)...so I actually wonder how a parent feels when their child says crazy things like "you don't love me", "you hate me" or even "I hate you."

On one side I am sure it's humorous, as when my friend's child Mason thinks that when his parent's let someone else play with one of his toys he will never get it back and he goes into full meltdown mode (if you have never seen it, it’s pretty funny). But when words like "I hate you" come out, even though they are stupid and untrue words, and a parent has to know, it still must sting a little. There has to be something in the back of a parents mind that says, "look, I know you are a child...but really, after all I do to make sure you are safe, fed, loved, cared for...really?"

When I hear people say things like, "I don't believe in Jesus anymore," I think, "really?" I wonder how God thinks, or even feels, about that. His Son, the only way for us to be redeemed, sacrificed out of love so we no longer need to be lost and alone...and His kids think they are so smart and can handle life on their own and say "I don't believe in Jesus."

There is tragedy in the world, unimaginable pain, a sense of hopelessness and loss...and yet we say to the only one who brings meaning to our pain, covers our hopelessness, and makes sense of the loss...we say to Him, that we don't need Him? What we are acting like are spoiled kids who cry: God didn't give me candy for dinner, therefore He does not exist; when we know in core of our bones that He does exist.

Sometimes when people say words of lament like this, it is because of some 'feeling' they used to have but no longer do. But love is not based on feelings, it is based upon choice. Our God chose to love us and seek us when there was nothing lovely about us. Romans 5:8 ...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God's love is action, it rescues His children, God remembers, pays attention, and sees His child and will bring him home (Lam 5:1).

As we approach Easter let us remember that our God has not, nor will He ever, forget His children. Even in the midst of hardship and suffering, which is central to a Christians understanding because of the cross, God does not promise to spare us from it, but will walk through it with us, holding His child, never letting go.

Throw the tantrum if you need to, but God will remember you, He has always paid attention, and sees you as you really are. God's words are not iffy truths to take or leave, they are the very words of life.

What a great God...Happy Good Friday; and Easter.

Hole In Our Gospel

by Aaron

Q: I just finished reading the book "The Hole in our Gospel" by Richard Stearns. This was the most impactful book that I can remember reading; it has such an incredibly convicting call to action that I cannot do it justice describing it. What do you think about it?

A: There is a couple things about David Stearns book (and sorry, it seems I wrote a book in reply). First, yes, yes yes, Christians should be doing something about the worlds problems. I talk about this all the time, so please don't misunderstand my reply. David Stearns is a great guy with strong calling, I think World Vision is doing an excellent job; they are worth while to support…

But there are problems with what is called the 'Social Gospel.' Many times, in order to get into countries World Vision will partner with a government and agree to never talk about the gospel of Jesus (like in India).

They have followed secular humanist priorities which view injustice and physical need as man's primary problem when, as Christians, we are to understand these as symptoms of a much deeper spiritual crisis that exists in communities unable/unwilling to care for their own people. With so much emphasis in the media on the issues of poverty & injustice it is certainly easier to follow their lead rather than stand as a prophetic voice and point to the spiritual crisis that is the deeper issue and offer the solution of Jesus.

In many cases getting the money out has caused World Vision to neglect the local church in many countries. The church on the ground should be trained and led so they can begin to meet these needs AND the people have a place to learn about Christ.

Today there seems to be a relationship between Christian aid organizations and the American Christian donor that is not good. The donor get's to sacrifice a bit of their wealth and lifestyle and feel better about themselves because they are staying in line with a humanistic, yet biblically uninformed conviction that poverty and injustice are mankind's worst enemies and can be solved without the God of the Trinity.

In turn, the Christian aid organization gets to receive the donor’s dollars with few questions asked...and even takes pot shots at the Church and claims it's being prophetic in doing so!

Neither seems interested in each other's transformation. Neither seems interested in transforming communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ and thereby truly helping the communities solve their own problems for the long term. Transforming communities through the Gospel takes time and involves face-to-face relationships based on human interaction that results in discipling people.

It's a lot easier all around for Christians in America to simply throw money at the world's immediate problems rather than be prophetic and involved sacrificially in addressing the spiritual roots.

Many books like this are basically an extended argument for supporting an organization that is doing a job that the church should be doing (it’s a pretty veneer that wreaks of poor ecclesiology).

Yes the book could be great reading for motivation but it is only HALF of what people need to understand in terms of helping change the world. We need to be involved with local people on the ground, who love Jesus, so not only are people fed…but they are also FED.

If that makes sense.

We support clean drinking water to Indonesia, giving aid and training to get girls out of prostitution in Thailand, getting medical supplies and education to orphans in Haiti, and are looking at how to expand into helping get clean water to some remote tribes in Central America.

I don't want to sound callous in what I am writing to you. I mean, it really does no good to say to a starving kid, "you need Jesus" because they don't care when they can't see past their hunger. But on the other side if you feed them and never teach them how to provide for themselves and, in the end, never introduce them to Jesus, we just did the biggest disservice to them.

So, I think, we support local ministries on the ground (like Element does)...ministries that do both of those things. That is where a church should be able to be trusted with money. That they are seeking the best way to give that money away to those in need in the best way possible.

Many churches don't look for the best way to do that...but I think Element does. Could we do better, of course we could, but I think we are heading in the right direction.

That's my 2 cents.


PS...To give you a better idea of what I am saying (and so you don't think I am hating on World Vision). There is an excellent section from the Desiring God 2010 Conference led by Kevin DeYoung about mission/missional...and the world that I would like to share with you.
http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/rethinking-missional-reconciling-the-mission-of-god-and-the-mission-of-the-church#/watch/full

Something Better Than In The Middle?

by Aaron

I have never intended to jump on this bandwagon in written form but so many of the people who attend Element have asked me to comment that I guess I will...I am talking about Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins. Many people believe that Rob Bell is now teaching a form of Universalism (Universalism teaches that all people will be saved/redeemed regardless of what they have done or what they believe, from Hitler, to Stalin, to you and me).

I got the book last night, have read the majority of it, and have two opinions about what people think of Rob Bell. One, is those who think he is a heretic; well, he is NOT as unorthodox as they would like to portray him. Two, is those who love him, well, he is NOT as orthodox as they would like to portray him.

Rob Bell, as best I can explain it, is like the area of a water melon where it turns from pink and yummy to white and rind(y). You don't really know where the watermelon stops and the rind begins. A little rind changes the flavor a bit, but a lot of the rind is terrible. That is the problem with Rob Bell, you don't know where he is watermelon and where he is rind.

In the book he sets up arguments that all evangelicals would, hopefully, reject, and then spends much time saying why they are wrong (in a witty sort of way). Other times he makes assumptions about what people think or feel and then shows how and why they are ludicrous....this is all very much like the rind of the watermelon.

There are other times when he is talking about Jesus’ view of the world, various Greek verbs, the redemption and hope for the world and these are right on...very watermelon like.

These two sides seems to pop in and out of each other so much that the orthodox parts no longer seem so orthodox and the unorthodox parts seems less unorthodox. It is dangerous on one hand but could be very helpful in talking to others about volatile issues on the other. It is so hard to explain that my explanation sounds like it doesn't explain anything.

I could list the multiple theological issues I have with the book (and there are many), I could list the multiple other things that I love his explanation of (there are a few), but that again can lead to why the book could be dangerous.

In the end, if you have a good head of theology on your shoulders, know what you believe, this could be an interesting book for you to read. If you have a hard time determining what you hold as truth and find yourself easily swayed by crafty arguments, I would stay away from it.

Whatever you think about Rob Bell, he is a marketing genius. All the hoopla about the book has made the pre-release sales skyrocket to half a million...

...that is some pretty smart marketing for watermelons.

ARE 'LAMENTS' FRENCH AND MINTY? PART II

by Aaron

Lamentations was a book many attribute to the prophet Jeremiah. Many believe that after witnessing the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah could not contain himself and wrote these 5 poems of lament.

There are essentially 3 players in these poems:
The Narrator - This person starts off an impartial observer but breaks down later in the book as he looks at Jerusalem's pain at being cast down.
The City - She is seen as a woman that goes from the extremes of Harlot/Whore to Virgin daughter.
The Gehber - He is a man who has seen the destruction up close and personal.

The 3 characters help us understand what it means to reflect and grieve. That God does offer healing but this healing, most often, takes place within community.

One of the recurring questions from the book is "who can heal you?" In the New Testament, when Jesus arrives on the scene, this question is plainly answered then as it is today. Jesus redeems, He heals, He renews, He restores. As we go through the book you may have many questions about the misery of not only the book, but also the hard times in your life. Scripture is constantly pointing somewhere, to someone, who can heal us.

If you are taking this journey through the book of Lamentations with us, awesome...if you are trying to figure out why, well, the answer to the book of Lamentations is Jesus.

ARE 'LAMENTS' FRENCH AND MINTY? PART I

by Aaron

At Element, starting this week, we will be taking 6 weeks to look at the book of Lamentations. Many people have asked me "why?" so I thought I would let you know.

Our lives are woven through seasons. Birth, infancy, adolescence, teenage, marriage, middle age, old age, death, and resurrection. Seasons of religious holidays as times of reflection and feasts were held in the Jewish Calendar:

In Biblical times, the following Jewish religious feasts were celebrated :

• Pesach (Passover) – 14 Nisan/Abib (sacrifice of a lamb), 15 Nisan/Abib (Passover seder)
• Shavuot (Pentecost) – 6 Sivan
• Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) – 10 Tishrei
• Sukkot (Tabernacles) – 15 Tishrei
• Hanukkah (Dedication or Lights) – 25 Kislev (instituted in 164 BC)
• Purim (Lots) – 14 Adar (instituted c. 400 BC)

These are based on the ancient names for months (from the Babylonian calendar):

1. Nisan (March-April)
2. Iyar (April-May)
3. Sivan (May-June)
4. Tammuz (June-July)
5. Av (July-August)
6. Elul (August-September)
7. Tishrei (September-October)
8. Cheshvan (October-November)
9. Kislev (November-December)
10. Tevet (December-January)
11. Shevat (January-February)
12. Adar (February-March)

Later, with the advent of Christianity, the church also had a liturgical calendar:

1. The liturgical year begins with Advent, the time of preparation for both the celebration of Jesus' birth. This season begins about 4 weeks before Christmas and lasts until 24 December (Christmas Eve).

2. Christmastide and Epiphany follow, beginning with First Vespers of Christmas on the evening of 24 December and ending with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

3. Lent is then celebrated (which starts about 6 weeks prior to Easter). Lent is period of purification and penance which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday.

4. Good Friday marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, which includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. These days recall Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples, death on the cross, burial, and resurrection.

5. Then you have Pentecost which is a seven-week liturgical season of Easter that immediately follows the Triduum, climaxing at Pentecost. This feast recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' disciples after the Ascension of Jesus.

6. The rest of the liturgical year is commonly known as Ordinary Time.

This year we will do 6 weeks of reflection through the book of Lamentations, come into Easter, and then take 3 weeks to look at the Spirit. It isn't as long or as full as the liturgical calendar, but I thought it would be nice to give you a taste.

Purgatory or Bust

by Aaron

Understand, what follows is trying to be fair and is not meant to be Catholic bashing in any way. My community group had a question about purgatory. Without going into all the arguments various Catholics will use for purgatory, I am going to try to use strictly what is from official church statements.

Purgatory, in the Catholic Church, is a place where believers go, after death, to undergo final purification before entering the presence of God.

It is interesting to note that Purgatory, as a place, was not part of Catholic church doctrine until the 15th century. Purgatory as a PLACE is still not considered official church doctrine...it is believed to be a state of the soul. To a general audience in August 1999, John Paul II laid what this looked like to him (you can read it here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/1999/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_04081999_en.html.

The Trentine Creed of Pius the IV in 1564 states "I constantly hold that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls therein detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful."

The Second Vatican Council, p. 63, says, "The truth has been divinely revealed that sins are followed by punishments. Gods holiness and justice inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life and, above all, through death. Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments."

The official Catechism of the Catholic church states it like this " All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." (1030). You can read it here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P2N.HTM if you want.

A lot of Catholics will point to many verses for purgatory, but the only one listed in the Catechism is from 2 Maccabees 12: 45-46  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.

Maccabees is what is known as an apocryphal book. It was not part of the original canon of scripture. The one reference the catechism used is to a book that was later added (in the 1500's) to sacred scripture after the protestant reformation had taken off.

According to Roman Catholic Doctrine, a person may be in a state of grace, BUT he may not enter heaven until he is purified from sins that were not dealt with on earth (ie: Baptism remits sins committed up to that point, but prayers, indulgences, penance, absolution, and the Mass are means by which the sinner is able to expiate sins committed after baptism...see the blog about the ESV to get an understanding of expiation). If sins are not remitted, after death he must suffer the flames of purification until he is sufficiently cleansed and pure so as to enter into the presence of God. Additionally, intercession can be made by Catholics on behalf of those who are presently in purgatory. This is also done through saying the Mass, certain acts of penance, saying the Rosary, or by indulgences where the benefit is applied to the dead in purgatory.

The length of time that someone must suffer in this state is never known, but it is considered to be proportional to the nature and severity of the sins committed. Therefore, it could be anywhere from a few hours to millions of years.

What is the protestant view of purgatory? Well, it doesn't exist.

Problems with the Doctrine of Purgatory

1. It is not explicitly found in the Bible.

2. It implies that the righteousness of Christ does not cleanse from all sin.

3. It implies that justification is not by faith alone.

4. It implies that there is something we must do in order to be cleansed of sin.

On the cross Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30). In the Greek, this was an accounting term which meant a debt was paid in full. If the payment for our sins was paid in full on the cross, then how could purgatory be a reality; especially when the scriptures don't mention it and even contradict it? In Hebrews 9:27 we are told that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment"

Purgatory is a doctrine that makes the Cross of Christ insufficient by requiring the person to undergo suffering in order to be made worthy of being with God when it is JESUS who makes us worthy of being with God.  We are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), not by faith and works (Rom. 3:28)

This answer is not meant to be a dividing place of ammo between protestants and Catholics, too often we like to bash each other rather than coming together.  I know many Catholics will disagree with my assessment and problems of the doctrine of purgatory,  they will cite church Fathers, the apocrypha, and various biblical references to fire and purification...they are coming at it with a bias...

...BUT,  I too, come to the argument of purgatory with a bias, my bias is Jesus and His work for us on the Cross.

Core Values

by Aaron

On January 27th Element had a church meeting to discuss where we are today and where we are going in the future. Part of what I talked about in the beginning was Element's core values. I don't know how many have ever read our core values so I thought we could post them for you.

Element Core Values

Jesus – Everything we do is about Jesus. At Element we can ‘do’ many good things but if we lose focus that Jesus is what those good things are about, then we have lost everything.

Meaning - God calls all people to a life of meaning. As people created in God's image we all have purpose, but many have never recognized their purpose because they have not realized their life in Christ. Meaning for our lives can only be found in the person of Christ.

Beauty - God loves lights, colors, sounds, imagery, and creativity. The Scriptures tell us that God surrounds Himself with beauty and so should we as the church. This includes art, decoration, good music, great colors and vivid imagery.

Grace and Truth – God is full of Grace and Truth. What God does is true, and as people we do not get the luxury of defining what is and is not. Jesus defines truth, what He has said and does is truth; we follow and obey that truth by becoming His disciples and learning from Him.

Gospel Community – God himself lives in a perfect community of Father, Son, and Spirit and we believe He intends for people to not only experience the community that comes from knowing Him but also the friendships of other people as well; at Element this is achieved through Gospel communities.

Redemption and Redeeming – Our world has been stained by sin and today many of the things God has created as good have been abused and bare little semblance to His original intent. We believe that as a people who follow Christ our duty is to partner with Jesus in redeeming this lost and broken creation.

Mission – All people who call themselves Christians are missionaries in the culture in which they live. Jobs, schools, neighborhoods, and homes are all places that we live and can display the love of Christ to. Jesus came as a man, as a missionary, to us, so we follow His example and live the same way.

As part of Mission, Element believes church planting is key in reaching those who need Christ. New church planting is a major focus of Element Christian Church.

ESV Propitiation

by Aaron

A discussion came up in my Gospel community a few weeks ago about why I like the ESV translation. One of my major things is that it uses the word Propitiation where it should be used. This then triggered all kinds of discussion like "what does that even mean." If you feel like reading, here is my answer.

Trying to make this understandable. I'll give you two words. Propitiation and Expiation.

  • Propitiation literally means to make favorable and specifically includes the idea of dealing with God’s wrath against sinners.
  • Expiation literally means to make pious and implies either the removal or cleansing of sin.

What we have to understand is that the idea of propitiation includes that of expiation as its means; but the word "expiation" has no reference to quenching God’s righteous anger. The difference is that the object of expiation is sin, not God. One propitiates a person, and one expiates a problem. Christ's death was therefore both an expiation and a propitiation. By expiating (removing the problem of) sin God was made propitious (favorable) to us.

I'm trying not to write a book here but where the ESV translates the Greek word 'hilasmos' as propitiation most other modern translations define it as atonement. Why does it bother me? Well, that is a theological question.

  • Propitiation is the work Jesus did on the cross to appease and satisfy God's wrath so sinners could be pardoned.
  • Atonement throughout the Old Testament meant "to cover." The Hebrew word is "kaphar" also "kippur". The same word is used for pitch, when Noah built the ark (Genesis 6:14). Israel as a distinct nation was required every year to offer the blood of an animal for the sins of the nation on the day of atonement or "yom kippur" (Exodus 30:10).

The difference is the death of Jesus Christ was a propitiation for our sins not just a covering. The old repetitive system required under the Mosaic law was done away with and a new covenant was established. The shedding of Christ's blood satisfied once and for all time the wrath of God, which no animal's blood could ever do (Hebrews 10).

Using atonement in place of propitiation renders the death of Christ a perpetual sacrifice, which it is not, it was a onetime event.

ESV

Romans 3:23-25
For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Hebrews 2:17
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2 

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

NIV

Romans 3:25
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

Hebrews 2:17
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The New Living is just terrible

Romans 3:25 
For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

A Door, or the Lord?

by Aaron

OK, ok, I know some of you who read these blogs were raised Catholic so please do not think I am simply Catholic bashing (I mean, seriously, I bash everyone including me).

Yesterday I took a tour of the Vatican, an OFFICIAL TOUR led by an official guide from the Vatican. She was saying things like “mos impourtant” “you like” and “mmmm, yes.” After about 3 hours of her showing us the “most extraordinary, most exquisite, most unique” piece for the 100th time I started to tune her out.

We passed through the Sistine Chapel and headed into Saint Peter’s Basilica, and then she said something that stopped me in my tracks. She pointed to a door to the right of main door of the cathedral and said it was called the “Holy Door.” They open it up in the time of jubilee (the last one was in 2000, the next will be 2025). She told us that if you are a true Catholic, a true believer, you can come during the jubilee and walk through this door and your sins will be forgiven. She also stated that she waited 5 hours to get through it when it was open last.

Now, really, I walk through a door and get my sins forgiven? That’s how it works? I mean, Jesus WAS a carpenter and all, so maybe that makes a little sense. But if true, don’t you think God the Father should have sent Jesus a memo that said, “hey, you are a carpenter, just build a door, you don’t need to die on a Roman cross.”

This is one of the many dangers of religion, that we will make it about ourselves and what we do (ie: walking through a door). This line of thinking has been around forever…from Pelagius to Arminius to any number of religious systems that make your salvation about you and not Jesus.

It is ALL about Jesus, period. When we get our eyes off Him we will lose perspective of who we even are. 1 John 2:2 reminds that He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. When Jesus died he said “it is finished” (John 19:30). It is finished means “paid in full” because we can’t pay for our sins by doing anything, only he could pay our penalty.

And finally Hebrews 9:12 (one of the greatest statements in scripture) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. In Hebrews 9:28 it reminds us that Christ was offered once (ONCE) to bear our sins. Your sins have been paid for, you should LIVE in the life Jesus has provided for you.

ROME …if you want to

by Aaron

It seems that men (and when I say men I mean men and women) have a desire to try to make their own names great. We are all so self-consumed with how we look, how we act, how others treat us, if we are getting our fair share…and it’s all selfishness.

We want everyone to know how important we all think we are in our own eyes. This is nowhere more on display to me as I walk the streets of Rome with my wife and our friends Shawn and Michele. We are walking around and looking at the ruins (say that word again, RUINS) of ancient societies.

The arch of Titus, the arch of Constantine, the Roman forum and senate, the house of the vestal virgins, they are all rubble. Every monument people create to display their own greatness crumbles into sand and is then trampled upon by tourists taking pictures to send back to show their friends.

Even the Coliseum, as impressive as it still looks, is a crumbled set of stones (that I cannot believe they let people walk around inside of because it could collapse at any moment).

All we do in our own names crumble, just like coliseum, yet we still continue to think that with us it will be different…trust me, it won’t. This why Jesus told us in John 12:32 that when HE is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself. He was speaking about he type of death He was going to die, but it has greater ramifications as well. We must be those who get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him in order for anything we do to have lasting significance.

John 15:16 reminds us: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. That is what lasts.

A Christmas Blog That is Just For Fun

by Aaron

What is the big deal about egg nog, really? I don't really like eggs (unless they are runny and scrambled) and I have no idea what a nog is or why I would want to drink it.

Eggnog actually came to America from Europe. Eggnog is related to various milk and wine punches that had been concocted long ago in the "Old World". However, as America is won't to do, we spiced it up just a bit. Wine apparently didn't have the alcohol content that we craved so we used Rum in place of wine.

Which leads to another weird question like, who in the world makes punch with wine (don't say Sangria Matt).

In Colonial America, rum was commonly called "grog", so the name eggnog is probably (and I stress the "maybe not so much" portion of probably) derived from the very descriptive term for this drink, "egg-and-grog", which corrupted to egg'n'grog and soon to eggnog.

So, grog...ya, that's doesn't sound like something I want either.

Merry Christmas

Born on Christmas Day

by Aaron

I was listening to the radio yesterday and I found an amazing thing, many radio stations are playing Christmas songs throughout the day. Most of the songs are updated renditions of old tunes with modern twists, but every once in a while a band writes a new Christmas song for the holidays.

It was of the new songs that caught my attention. Some people just think I like to nitpick about theology, and I do, but I also think that if we have wrong theology our view of God will be skewed. Not only will bad theology mean we will misunderstand Jesus, but we will also misinterpret what He is doing through His people in the world today...it could go so far that we could misunderstand what He has done in eternity past as well.

The chorus of this song kept repeating, "Hope was born on Christmas day." At first I found myself humming the tune (off key and very loudly, as I do in the car). But then I started to think how dumb the chorus was because hope was not born on Christmas day, JESUS WAS (unless Jesus changed His name and I didn't get the memo). Seriously, Jesus was born and hope was a very happy by-product. It seems that today we want to only see what we want to see about Christmas, "Jesus is nice to everyone, peace on earth," but our version of peace seems to be different than Jesus'.

Jesus, as God, knows that sin has caused separation between ourselves and God and ourselves and each other. This is why Jesus was born, to take care of the awful state that humanity had done to itself. Jesus brought our sin into the light and exposed it, Jesus called the religious elite who trusted in their own goodness hypocrites, and Jesus had to die because we are so bad.

Yes, I know what you are saying, "it's Christmas Aaron, lighten up, be happy." Well I am happy because Jesus was born...Merry Christmas.

Jesus' death and ultimate resurrection were never to be separated from His birth. It is one event in regards to our salvation. Jesus dies for our sins, rises from the dead to give us new life. It is birth, life, death, and resurrection.

Yes, Jesus offers hope...but He embodies so much more and it is the MORE we should see. It is Jesus we worship on Christmas (and every other day) not hope, love, peace or anything else...because it was Jesus who was born.

What, what...It's like this shirt one of friends just gave me (which I will never wear because I don't do Jesus junk). The shirt said, "Go Jesus, it's your birthday," at least a cheesy T-Shirt got it right.

Merry Christmas, worship Jesus.

And...before you get all uppity with me, YES, I know Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, but it is the day we celebrate His birth.  Let's get it right when we do.

Ho Ho Hummmm

by Aaron

What’s that Mazda commercial? Zoom Zoom Zoom…I thought it was about going superfast in a cheap car, but as I sing the words Zoom Zoom in my head I think it is about Christmas. Maybe instead of Deck the Halls or Joy to the World a more proper tune to sing would be the Zoom Zoom Zoom song as it reflects what we have done to Christmas.

Is it just me or has this Christmas been extremely trying, or tiring, or whatever the proper word is. I find myself not having anytime at all to do anything. Christmas, far from being a time of “Peace on Earth” feels like “Havoc in my Foxhole.”

Surely this isn’t what Christ intended by coming as a baby, living His life, and rising from the dead, was it?

Of course not.

God has always intended for His people to have a time of rest, of recharge, a gathering of focus to reset our eyes upon Him AS OUR REST. In the Old Testament this rest was mandated through law (Exodus 16:26; Exodus 20:8), in the New Testament (Hebrews 4:9-11) we are told that God’s rest is continuing to this day and we are to be those that enter into it. Entering into God’s rest is about hope and grace, neither of which we will understand when we are too hurried.

Hope has always, from the foundation of the earth, been found in our Great God.

Hope and trust in Him brings true rest because we realize we do not have to be in charge or control the world around us. Everything is His, including us, and we can slow down and take time to properly honor our God, as we should: unhurried and unworried.

This Christmas, use the brakes of grace to take a moment to slow down and rest…and in that rest, ask God to reveal Himself to you through His word and His Spirit so you can become who He made you to be: a person of hope and rest.

The Tails of Ales Pt IV

by Aaron

In finishing up this blog on alcohol, let me state this emphatically: SOME OF YOU SHOULD NOT DRINK.

There are two types of sins:

  • UNIVERSAL: these are for everyone, no exceptions. These would include don’t kill, murder, steal, (I think it also includes reality TV and boy bands).
  • PERSONAL ISSUES: these are a matter of conscience. There is not a definitive right or wrong so the Spirit guides your conscience on what is right for you, this is an issue of freedom.

A Christian who is free should not cause someone who struggles, to sin which would mean, be aware when you drink, notice who is around, and always be careful about how much you are drinking. But also those who abstain should NOT look at those who do with contempt. The words “I don’t drink so I am holy and righteous” OR “I do drink and I am mature and have self-control”, thrown back and forth do nothing to move the progress of the gospel forward. The question should be, "Do we participate in the world in a way that glorifies God?".

In History, Saint Gall, the great evangelist to celts, was better known for his brewing than his preaching. Shortly after Charlemagne's reign in 814AD the church became the exclusive brewer for ales beers and ales in Europe. John Calvin, one of the greatest thinkers in the Christian church, had as part of his pastoral compensation package 250 Gallons of wine a year because he threw large parties as part of his pastoral duties.

Never forget God is the life of the party: If you can’t have fun, and not sin, you will never understand God. God threw the first party and he will throw the last one as well…and in the end the Kingdom of God will hold New and Good wine.