The Big Goodbye

by Element Christian Church
This is James, and if you haven’t heard yet; I’m moving to Washington. I have felt this leading for over a year, maybe even closer to two years. Last year I went to Aaron and talked about this call in my life; he and the elders gave me the freedom to explore. After almost a year, and some craziness, I found a job I’m really excited about: I’ve been hired as the director of High School Ministry at Bethel Church in Richland Washington.
 
I was hoping that God would send me to the woodsy forest area of Washington, but He has His own plan and is sending me to the high desert with rivers. To be honest this has not worked out like I planned, my plan put me leaving a few months ago and settled me in the cool forest part of the Pacific Northwest, needless to say it’s been a little frustrating. In my plan failing God has been at work. God has provided better than what I envisioned.  With this post I would like to simply share some of my heart with you.
 
I have served as Director of Youth Ministries at Element for 7 years, and for each week of those 7 years I have looked forward to Thursday night as my favorite night of the week. In my 7 years I have grown a lot…I started this job when I was 19. I have learned a lot, I have failed a lot, and I have loved getting the chance to minister to your children. Sometimes (lets be real) as parents it’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of teenagers to the point that we don’t actually get to enjoy them. Let me remind you; you have awesome kids! The group that we have right now is a fun one, I have loved being involved in their lives and getting a front row seat to watch them grow in their love of Christ!
 
Children are a blessing; we say it often because we forget it often. Let me encourage and challenge you to enjoy the blessing God has placed in your life, lead them, teach them, and grow with them. Your children have been a wonderful blessing to me, and I will miss them greatly.
 
Leaving Element has nothing to do with me being mad at anyone who goes to Element (or especially) the leadership here. I love Element and I love its leadership. I’m excited to see what God has in store for Hailey and me, but I am terrified to leave (not because I worry for Element, but selfishly I’m worried for me). I’m hurting in leaving these great relationships that have developed over the years. I want to thank you for letting me speak the truth of Christ into student’s lives and into your lives.

Many of the students have surprised me with their reactions to the news that I am leaving, because many of them have said that the youth ministry is going to be just fine. A few students said, “We have been learning how to care for each other as you have been caring for us, you left us with a great example and we will be ok.” These responses have brought me the most hope as I get to look back on my time at Element not wondering if I could have done more (there is always more), but I get to look at my time at Element as a season where God used me to grow and develop these students. 
 
As I said, I have been working on moving for just about a year now, Christie and the team has been coming up with plans when I step out of youth. The plan they have is a brilliant one (and I’m not just saying that because that’s the right thing to say when you leave). I truly believe this plan is the best option for Element and our ministry to you, your children, teenagers, and all the families that come to Element.  
 
With the plan there is going to be some restructuring, with all restructuring there will be hick-ups because it’s a time of growth, Element’s ministry to families is growing, please be patient and helpful in this stage of growth. Ultimately I believe these changes will platform Element, and you as parents, to better minister to youth and children so get involved!
 
There is so much to say, but I’ll end with these two things; 1. God is very good and I can’t wait to see what He does through Element and our ministry to Santa Maria. 2. Thank you for being patient with me as I have grown.
 
I will truly miss you all and the family that Element has been. 
 
Humbly,
James.
             

Spamalot What Is Your Quest

by Jonathan Whitaker
"What is your quest?”...”To seek the Grail!" 
 
In my attempt to treat my wife to an evening of culture, I recently took her to see a local production of Spamalot.  For those of you not acquainted with the finer works of the Broadway stage, Spamalot is a theatrical adaptation of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  If you are a fan of the movie, you won't be disappointed.  The play is exactly what you'd expect.  It has all of your favorite characters and scenes, but they are now set to music.  A song from Life of Brian even makes the bill. 
 
I am sure, for those of you who have not seen the musical, it is a safe bet you have at least seen the film.  The rest of you, seriously, get Netflix and join the human race.  Regardless of which camp you fall into, you should understand one important point about the plot: King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are on a quest from God to find the Holy Grail.  The Grail, just so we are all on equal footing, is the cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper (Matt. 26:27).
 
In the play as in the film, when King Arthur is given this quest, God appears in the clouds in all of His kingly regalia, complete with flowing white beard.  As any of us would do in this same situation, the knights commence groveling and averting their eyes (Matt 17:1-13).  That's when God gives King Arthur his purpose: to find the Grail.  Arthur is to use his quest to set an example in dark times. 
 
The irony was not lost on me that -- much like God does for King Arthur in the play -- Jesus set each one of us on a quest as He ascended into the heavens.  That quest is to make disciples of the nations and baptize them in His name (Mark 16:15-19).  And we, like the Knights of the Round Table, often find ourselves on many "holy" misadventures that distract us from the quest to which we were charged. 
 
Take King Arthur for example.  Here is a man who was the leader of the band, the man who received the primary instruction from God, yet he often found himself far from the path on which he started.  Shortly after consulting a blind oracle, King Arthur found himself lost in a dark forest embroiled in an epic struggle with the Knights Who Say Ni.  After matching wits with the fearsome Knights of Ni, Arthur uses all of his skill to produce a shrubbery, which appeases the Knights.  Now, I don't mean to suggest that Arthur was not devoted to the task of finding the Grail, but his efforts, noble as they may have been, didn't get him any closer to his goal. 
 
Like Arthur and the Knights of Ni, Christ followers devoted to the Great Commission of Jesus often find themselves engaged in Godly side quests that don't get them closer to their charge of winning souls.  What do I mean?  Christians do a lot of good for a lot of people.  We give money to the poor, we work in food pantries, we lead Bible studies, and we are generally good citizens; all good things.  However, as noble as those quests are, what they aren't is the quest that Christ charged us with: to make disciples of the nations, teaching them to obey all He commanded and baptizing them in His name. 
 
So, what can we do about it?  First, keep fighting the side quests! Give to the poor; lead a Bible study; slay the Black Knight; defeat the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.  But when you do, remember that all of those good works need to serve the Gospel. Take the time to tell people that Christ died in their place when you are out on your side quests. You will have to be brave, like Arthur and his Knights (except Sir Robin). The Gospel is offensive and its enemies are many.  However, you need not fear your enemies, because God promises to go with you on your quest (Matt 28:20, Ps 23).  Arm yourself with the Word of God, because like Excalibur, it cuts right to the marrow of those whom God has called. 
 
Let me encourage each of you: God has called you by name. You are on a quest.  Be brave like Sir Lancelot when he took Swamp castle, so his steed Concord would not have died in vain.  In our case, be brave and obey Christ to tell others about the gospel, because Jesus died that we might live. 

Pray for our youth at camp this week

by Element Christian Church
Our Jr. High & High School students are away at camp this week. Here is a picture of them leaving early Monday morning. We ask that you keep them and their leaders in your prayers this week and as they return on Friday

Download Volunteer Opportunities Workbook

by Element Christian Church

Download Volunteer Booklet

Did you miss the Volunteer Information Workshop we had a few weeks ago? Interested in knowing some of the many areas around Element we need help with? Jesus is gracious and good, His work on the cross in service to us teaches how to be servants ourselves. Element "happens" because so many people sacrifice financially and also give of their time and talents. Most of what happens around Element is done by volunteers, and for that, we thank you! 

We've put together a booklet that has some of the common areas of service at Element, with brief descriptions as well. You can download it by clicking on the link above. If you're interested in checking out any of the areas, you can either fill out this online form, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or fill out the paper form in the booklet and visit the Welcome Center on Sunday!

We truly are grateful to all of our volunteers, and for you for considering how you can help us take the Gospel further!

Important Conversations

by Jonathan Whitaker
Recently, I stood in a pulpit in small town rural Virginia.  Staring at me, as I gathered my composure to give my talk, were most of the living relatives on my father’s side.  A sense of deep relief washed over me as I began to eulogize my grandfather, who lay next to me draped in the American flag.  I smiled because we have a God who saves, and because of an important conversation I had with this man whom I loved, I knew that he was with the Lord. 
 
Two years ago, when I was serving with you at Element, I received a call from my dad.  He said, “Son, your grandfather is in the hospital and he may not be with us for many more days. You should try to call him if you can.”  My grandfather was 92 at the time.  For me, he had always been there, and it seemed like he would always be there.  What would I say to him?  I knew Jim Whitaker as a moral man, a good provider and a loving grandfather.  I knew that after he retired from the Air Force he worked as a gentleman farmer for 50 years in central Virginia.  He was a hard worker.  I knew that he had struggled with alcohol for a period in his life, which he blessedly overcame.  But there was one very important thing I didn’t know about my grandfather: was Jesus Christ his savior?
 
I was a wreck.  How could I let a man I love pass, without introducing him to Jesus?  I have shared my faith with hundreds of strangers, but the thought of confronting my own grandfather about the state of his soul was terrifying. I had considered this dilemma before; I even prayed that God would send someone to talk to him, to get through to him, to lead him.  As I cried thinking about the hopelessness of dying without the sweet salvation of Jesus Christ, I started a conversation with God.  I asked, “God why won’t you send someone to minister to my grandfather?”  The answer came softly and swiftly.  God’s reply was clear: “I send you.” My answer came when I turned on the radio, and KLove was on, which Jennifer will tell you, I don’t listen to KLove that often (I must have been driving her car).  On the radio a young woman gave her testimony about how glad she was that a stranger had given her the gospel; of course she was glad, she was saved! I felt that God told me then and there that I had nothing to fear. 
 
God made a promise to Israel through the prophet Isaiah that applies to all who serve the Lord, and should give us strength when He sends us to proclaim the Gospel. “You are my servant; I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand”  (Isaiah 41:9-10).
 
When I got home, I called my grandfather at his hospital bed.  He answered the phone with a weak but clear voice.  I told him that I loved him and wanted to be with him in heaven.  I told him that Jesus was my Lord and savior and that I believed in His sacrifice for my sins.  Before I could go on, my grandfather stopped me and said, “I have believed those things for a very long time.”  I had never known that about my grandfather, but in an instant God gave me peace.  It turns out the Holy Spirit had been at work answering my prayers long before I was even alive to pray them.
 
What important conversations are you waiting to have?  My grandfather lived two more years, but he could have only lived two more hours.  None of us know the hour, but, for those of us who love the Lord, while we are here we can’t waste a minute. For everyone who calls Jesus Lord, believing in His resurrection, God is faithful to save.  If you are waiting for the right time to tell someone about Jesus, don’t wait; now is the right time. If you are waiting to confess your sin and ask forgiveness from God and those you’ve hurt, don’t wait; now is the right time.  If you are withholding forgiveness, don’t wait; now is the right time. Trust God. You can be assured that He has gone before you in what may be the most important conversation of your life.  “Fear not, for I am with you.”

Cinderella’s Closet March 14th

by Element Christian Church
Cinderella's Closet is an event organized by the students of Orcutt Academy High School and hosted by Element Christian Church. It started with a Gospel Community serving and loving the students of their community. Cinderella’s Closet serves senior High School girls to give away prom dresses, shoes, accessories, and select services to help them realize a childhood dream: prom.  It is open to all girls in the area going to prom in our area. Girls are invited to view, try on and take home dresses from 10 am until 3 pm.

New and gently used formal dresses, shoes and accessories are donated by the community and given away once a year to any high school girl who wishes to participate. Last year we had about 200 girls come through our doors; it is our hope for at least 400 this year!
 
You may be thinking to yourself: How can I help (let us give you a few)?
  1. You can donate time - We need people who can do hair and make-up workshops, Fairy Godmothers, set up, and clean up crews.  
     
  2. You can donate items – We need dresses, shoes, or accessories that are taking up space that you will never use again…we WANT them! 
     
  3. You can donate services - There will be several raffle drawings throughout the event for things like prom-day hair do’s, nails, etc,. 
     
  4. You can go shopping - There are many, many dresses in the area thrift stores, consignment shops, and garage sales; in many cases (if you talk to the owner of the store) they will cut a deal!
 
If you can help in any of these, or other creative ways, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Donations can be dropped off at either Orcutt Academy School during school hours or Element Christian Church on Sundays.

Let's All Give Up in 2015 (Part IV)

by Jonathan Whitaker
Ok, sorry this is a long one.  But you have come this far...
 
Jesus is Lord!  By faith you declared Christ's Lordship on the day you were saved by God's grace.  But, what is faith?  Faith is "...the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).  Logically, there must be an object of that hope and a cause for that conviction.  In our case, it is the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, by which He conquered death and took his seat at the right hand of the Father in heaven. (Mark 16:19) 
 
Our hope in the Lordship of Christ is grounded in the fact that He has proven worthy of His title as Lord.  You and I know that because Jesus is Lord, we are immeasurably blessed.  The only sane response to the Lordship of Christ by a redeemed sinner is nothing short of obedience. 
 
Hebrews 10:26-29 (paraphrased) doesn't mince words with believers: " For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins...How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?"
 
These verses aren't saying that you can lose your salvation.  Just as you could not earn your salvation with your works, you cannot lose it for your sin (Eph. 2:8-9, Heb. 10:19-22).
 
The fact remains that when Christ followers deliberately choose disobedience over obedience to Jesus, we make His sacrifice seem ridiculous. Take that one step further: not only do we deserve judgment because of disobedience, but we are incapable of assuaging God's judgment by our works.   Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousnesswere through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." (Gal. 2:20-21)
 
Sounds like a Catch-22. God has given us the law to obey. We cannot fully obey it, and even if we could, we would still fall short of righteousness. There must be something more. 
 
There is. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." By the same faith that saved you, Jesus can transform you into an obedient servant.  Remember that faith has to have an object.  As stated above, the object of saving faith is the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day (Rom. 10:9).  What about faith that allows us to be obedient to Christ?
 
This question reveals God's great love and provision to all who believe. "You shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:5-6). Loving God is the object of our faith that compels the believer to be obedient. 
 
From ancient times believers have demonstrated their faith, not by works, but by trusting in God's work. 
  • "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead," (Heb. 11:17-19)
  • "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." (Heb. 11:24-26)
  • "By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies." (Heb. 11:31)
 
The common tie among all of these ancient believers is not the work that they accomplished, but what God did. "...God was able..." "...the reproach of Christ (was) greater wealth..."  Even Rahab, a prostitute, not even a Jew, believed the promises of the God of Israel. Her faith not only saved her life and demonstrated the condition of her soul.
 
It is worth noting that all of these people lived long before Christ. Two of them lived before there was a law, and yet they were saved through the same means by which you and I are saved: faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
 
Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3 tell us that Abraham (simply) believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.  If none are righteous except for Jesus and there is no other name by which we are saved, what must that mean (Rom. 3:10, Acts 4:12)?  It means that Abraham believed God would save him because he could not save himself.  Abraham believed God the Son would die for his sins.  While he may not have understood the particulars of how God would save him, he had faith (looking forward) that God would save him (Heb. 11:8-10).
 
When people of faith trust Jesus to be Lord, He makes them very useful for the Kingdom.  Abraham, Moses, Rahab, Joseph, Jacob, Paul, Timothy, the list is endless, all submitted to Christ's Lordship and out of their faith Christ accomplished mighty works through them.
 
On the day of your salvation Christ began a new work in you.  And you can be sure that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6). Will you faithfully trust Him?  In 2015, I hope you will join me as I seek to yield my will and desire and place my faith in the Lordship of Christ.  Surely He can do a better job with my life than I can.  

Let's All Give Up in 2015 (Part III)

by Jonathan Whitaker
I have a question for all of you teachers out there, if I were to go to your school today, where would I find my permanent grade-school record?  The permanent grade-school record is the single most important document in the record of a human's life.  We are taught from a young age that if we mess up, step out of line just a bit, the consequences would be a mark on our permanent record.  We all know it's out there, serving as an open indictment against each one of us.  Worse yet, everyone knows the intimate details of your record. your teachers know it, your parents, your boss, your in-laws.  The only escape from your permanent grade school record is death itself…Sweet release!
 
Hopefully by now we all know that a mark on our record was a farce, an empty threat, used by adults to scare us straight.  But, to our core as humans we know that there is a standing record against us.  That record, as most of you have already guessed, is sin.  We are born with a sin nature; we are selfish right from the womb; sin is inevitable.  Sin is the real permanent record... or is it?  Well that all depends, is Jesus your Lord?
 
I offer you the permanent record conundrum because I want you to understand blessing, true blessing from its deepest, most elemental meaning; the blessing that comes from having the biggest burden in your life removed from your shoulders, permanently.  Isaiah 43:25 says, "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins."  
 
When Jesus is Lord of us He removes the greatest burden in our lives: sin.  We may not feel it from day to day, but remember that the wages of sin is death and once we are dead, we face judgment (Rom 6:23, Heb 9:27). For believers, the reality is that we no longer have a sin burden, Jesus has removed it from us (but He doesn't stop there).  In fact, not only are we free from the consequences that we deserve, but He also burned the record.  "I will not remember your sins," that means there is no nagging about what you did ("sure I forgave you, but I will never forget"). Your sin is forgotten, as if it never happened.
 
What a great deal.  The only thing closely comparable to this level of amnesia in my life is when Jennifer asks me to do the dishes.  You want to talk about a spiritual level of forgetting something, man that's it. 
 
We no longer have to fear the sin-burden that was killing us. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters I will be with you...when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you" (Isaiah 43:1-2). Some of you (you know who you are), will read Isaiah and say, "but he was addressing Israel," and you are right, he was, but take heart! Our Lord is the Lord of a new covenant, and to us he declared, "I will remember their sins and their lawlessness no more" (Heb 10:17).
 
Christ, the Lord and Creator, was the only sacrifice that could lift the burden of sin. Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by a single offering, He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." When you and I trust Jesus as our Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, then we are among those who are being sanctified. The natural response to a person who has blessed you is gratitude. So naturally, the same is true for us with respect to Christ, we understand the true meaning of blessing because of the Lordship of Christ.
 
For the believer, there is only one right response to Christ's blessing: obedience.  Christ did not save us for our sake; He saved us for His sake (Is 23:25).  We use the terms, "bought us with His blood," and "paid our debts," etc.  So when Isaiah 43 says, "you are mine," do you know what it means?  We are His.  We literally are His possession (Ex 19:5).
 
That puts a different spin on it.  As a response to grace we should want to obey Jesus, but as His possession He should expect us to obey.  My kids belong to me, and yes I love them and am generous with them, but I also expect them to do what I say.  Sometimes they surprise me and bless me with obedience because they want to please me, but even if they don't I still expect obedience.  As we are His possession, Christ should expect the same of us. 

As I conclude I want you to meditate on obedience as a response to grace.  Hebrews 10:25-30 says, "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”..."The Lord will judge his people”…”It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The ellipsis (...) in this paragraph should give believers pause. 

Remember, as a believer your permanent record is expunged. The days of choosing sin and death are in the past.  Just as Jesus was faithful to forgive and forget our sin, He should rightfully expect our obedience.  How strange to Jesus that His precious ones, bought with His blood, would choose sin over obedience. 

These stern words are not meant to scare you to the straight and narrow, but if they do, great.  Just as God knows that we are incapable of saving ourselves, He knows we are incapable of even obeying Him.  Like salvation, God has also made possible our obedience. 

Join me for one last blog about 'giving up' because I have good news, by faith, Christ has transformed the lives of believers throughout history.  Our works are worthless to God.  Our faith in His finished work is a precious thing to Him.  Here comes the real New Year's resolution: in 2015, I want to yield my life in faith to the Lordship of Christ.

Read Hebrews chapter 11 and you will understand what I mean.  

Let's All Give Up in 2015 (Part II)

by Jonathan Whitaker
Have you ever felt truly worthy of something?  Most of us married guys would look at our wives and say, "I'm lucky to have her."  But few of us, if we are being honest, believe we are worthy of such a wonderful creature.  It's true: you and I are slobs, and she is an angel sent from heaven (most likely to endure us as some sort of punishment).  If you work hard for 40 hours a week and fulfill your obligations to your employer, certainly you are worthy of a paycheck.  What about your salvation: are you worthy of that? 
 
When Christ is our Lord, the scripture tells us we are worthy, but not by our own merit.  (Col 1:11-14).  Christ is worthy to be called Lord, and because He is worthy, we can be made worthy through Him. 
 
How does one go about becoming a lord?  It's like the peasant woman from Monty Python said, "How did you become king? I didn't vote for ya!" There are a few ways.  First, you can inherit your title by hereditary succession.  Second, you can be declared lord by the authority of the one who is in power.  A lord can also claim the title by winning a great victory.  Christ, interestingly enough, is qualified as Lord on the merit of all three avenues I just described.  And no, Aaron, the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur had nothing to do with it.
 
As Son of the living God, Christ is worthy to be called Lord.  He is heir to the majesty on high (Heb 1:2). If God and Jesus were like earthly father and son, Jesus would qualify outright as the first born of many brethren to assume the title of Lord (Matt 3:17, Rom 8:29). Our earthly affairs in no way compare to the already established Lordship of Christ as God the Son.  However, Matthew chapter 1 covers all the bases and establishes that by His birthright Jesus should be the political king of Judah.  Take a minute to read it.  Had the Babylonian Captivity never taken place, Joseph would have been King on the throne of Judah when his adopted Son Jesus was born.  Whether by His heavenly or earthly lineage, Jesus is worthy because of his heredity. 
 
Jesus is also qualified to be called Lord because God, the creator of Heaven and Earth and the ultimate authority, bestowed that title upon Him. Philippians 2:6-11 says, " Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Because of Christ's obedience to God the Father, God saw fit to impart His Son's lordship by divine decree.  Jesus is worthy because God said He is worthy.
 
If you did your homework from last time, you already know the third reason Jesus is qualified to be called our Lord.  As the winner of the great victory over sin and death, Jesus has become our Lord and Savior. 
 
Hebrews chapters eight and nine are a tale of two covenants.  The first covenant was made between God and Israel, when God brought them out of slavery in Egypt (Heb 8:9). The history of Israel has been rebellion against this covenant.  Before we start feeling high and mighty, we must realize that we have also run roughshod over God's law.  The second, more excellent covenant is enacted by Christ and supersedes the old covenant. 
 
Anyone who has ever attempted a study of Leviticus can tell you that the law is vast and complex.  In Hebrews eight and nine, Paul reveals that the law (old covenant) was merely a copy or shadow of heavenly things.  When God instructed Moses to construct a tent from a pattern, each intricate piece was a brush stroke in a portrait of God's plan of salvation.  That portrait was never intended to save men from their sins, but to point to the One who would.  In Galatians, we learn that those who rely on the works law are condemned by it (Gal 3:10-11). The work of a man has never saved anyone; on the contrary, Christ's New Covenant is accomplished by Him and has the power to save men (Heb 8:10-12).
 
Work is clearly not the currency of salvation.  Ancient Israel understood this.  Under the old covenant, the Priests would make offerings for the sins of the people using the one thing that does satisfy sin debt: blood (Heb 9:22). Temple sacrifice was a bloody affair, necessarily so, because it was merely a picture of a salvation to come, not salvation itself.  If the blood of goats and bulls could satisfy sin, then temple sacrifice would be a footnote in the Bible.   As it stands, the only blood that would satisfy the eternal condemnation of sin was the blood of God Himself (Heb 9:14).
 
Because Jesus quenched sin with His own blood once and for all we can be glad.  His death ended the bloodshed forever and secured a great victory.  With His victory in a battle we could not have won, over a foe against whom our weapons were insufficient, Jesus is worthy and rightfully our Lord…and because He is worthy, all who believe that God raised Him from the dead and call Him Lord are worthy.

Let's All Give Up in 2015 (Part I)

by Jonathan Whitaker
Ok, ok, ok, I know what you have come here for. You have come to get the Element New Year's resolution blog.  It's the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, and naturally you expect a blog about making a resolution that matters for the Lord.  Well that is what you are going to get, but not exactly.
 
This year, instead of making big plans to change a habit or start a program, I think you should just resolve to give up.  Yep, give up.  More accurately, I think you should give up your plans, your will, your desires, and submit.  Submit to the Lordship of Christ. Don't act so deflated. The day you followed Jesus as your Savior, when you believed that God raised Him from the dead, you agreed to this arrangement.  Part of salvation is declaring to the world that Jesus is Lord...of you. (Rom 10:9) Today is the day to follow through on your commitment.
 
"You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am." (John 13:13)  "Lord" is a word that has lost some meaning in the parlance of our times.  Our closest modern use of the word is in reference to the English landed gentry, sort of a Lord Grantham, Downton Abbey arrangement with very dramatic maids and butlers. "Lord," in the sense "Jesus is Lord," means the one to whom full and unwavering allegiance is owed.  Your Lord is the one to whom you submit your will implicitly, yielding your desires and plans to His care and direction.  When you sing, "I want more of You and less of me" on Sunday morning, submission to the Lordship of Christ is what you're singing about.
 
I have been reflecting on my own submission to Christ as Lord of my life, and I want to encourage you to do the same. Starting next week, I hope to show you some important truths about our Lord Jesus found within Hebrews 8-11.  As I study these verses I am continually stretched and challenged, as you will be in your walk with Christ.  These chapters make a few things very clear: Jesus is worthy to be called Lord, because He is Lord; we are blessed; and as a Christian there is no other choice besides total submission to the Lordship of Christ.  Egad! I know, heavy.  I will do my best.
 
Should you choose to give up like I have, here is how to prepare for the next installment, first, read Hebrews chapter 8. These verses help establish why Jesus is Lord.  As we read, let's pray for understanding of the text and conviction about the state of our submission to our Lord.  We will consider submitting to what Jesus commands of us as Lord: to love the Lord our God with all of our soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Are you and I obeying our Lord's commands with our thoughts, with our finances, with our actions? 
 
John 13 recounts the last supper when Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.  When Jesus begins to wash the feet of his disciple Peter, Peter rebukes Jesus saying, “You shall never wash my feet.” Thinking he was being noble, Peter rejected the Lordship of Christ for his own concept of righteousness.  Jesus told Peter (and us) that if He did not wash Peter’s feet then he has no share with Him.  Jesus shows us that if we submit to Him, He will accomplish the work of making us righteous.
 
Submission to the Lord is not about righteousness through works, nor is it about beating yourself up. Submission is about obeying God, who loves you and willingly paid your penalty. Submission is the avenue by which our old life passes away and we are made useful to the Kingdom.
 
The Prophet Samuel told Israel when they asked for a King that they dishonored God.  When we place our desires over God's will, we make ourselves king (1 Sam 10:17-27). Submission restores Christ to His rightful place as Lord over our lives and is the foundation of a personal relationship with Him.  All of the “work” we have done for the Lord to earn our righteousness is counted as loss, when compared to the awesomeness of knowing Him. Submission is the way we can know our Lord intimately (Phil 3:4-11).
 
See you next time in Hebrews Ch 8.  Now let's all "GIVE UP in 2015".

What's In A Name (Merry Christmas Part 2)

by Jonathan Whitaker

One of the features of the small towns throughout America is Main Street.  Without fail, Main Street in any town, in any state is the home of city hall and a collection of traditional Christian churches.  Sure in Santa Maria you have Broadway, but the concept is the same.  The center of small town culture is that main store-lined thoroughfare that heads straight through town.   
 
We in the season of advent, the time of expectation when we symbolically wait upon the arrival of the Lord.  Main Street will be trimmed and decorated. It will play host to parades and pageants, and each Church along its route will set up a nativity scene.  As you are out admiring the bunting of the Christmas holiday, take time to consider the name of each of the churches that line Main Street.  In any town you will have churches named Calvary, New Covenant, Bethel, or Salem.  For the most part we are satisfied that these names sound sufficiently churchy and never give them another thought.  But, a lot can be communicated by a church's name.
 
Somebody deliberately named a church Calvary.  Calvary was both a place of sadness and great triumph for Jesus and for us as His Church.  But Calvary (also Golgotha) is translated as, "the place of the skull". (Luke 23:33) What an ugly and awful name.  Why on earth would you want to be associated with a hill where executions were committed? Because on a very sad Friday, Jesus our Lord, willingly took the full wrath of God the Father in our place (1 John 4:10).  In that light, the "place of the skull" takes on a different meaning, and Calvary becomes a name we should solemnly remember.
 
Consider why a congregation would name their church Bethel.  Bethel is nothing more than a heap of stones in the desert where the Hebrew patriarch Jacob slept one night.  That seems kind of random.  But, Bethel means "God's Camp".  Bethel was the place where God began to draw Jacob's heart toward his future as the father of the nation of Israel. (Gen 28:10-22) A church that would be named Bethel, signifies that they believe that their congregation actually belongs to God and His will is greater than theirs.  Bethel is a place where we humble ourselves and pray to God, "Your will be done."
 
Salem means "peace".  In Genesis, Abraham was greeted by the Priest and King of Salem (Gen 14:17-24).  A church named Salem, reminds us at Christmas that unto us was born Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and that we are a people of peace (Isaiah 9:6).
 
When a church calls itself New Covenant, we should think of Hebrews 8:8-12.  The Lord says he will establish a new covenant with His Church, when He will write His laws on our hearts, we will be His people who will know Him, and He will remember our sins no more.  What an opportunity we have to remember God's goodness just by driving down Main Street! 
 
Each one of you who profess Christ as your Lord and Savior is just like those old Main Street churches.  Your lives are on display for everyone to see as they go about their busy days.  Like those churches you have a name written upon you by which you are known to all who pass by.  Is the name written on you a name by which you want to be known?  This Christmas season, consider writing the name "Love" over your life.  1 John 4:7-21 tells us that by our love we will be known as the servants of God.  Who ever loves has been born of God and knows God. 
 
As Christ's Church, love should be our banner.  Advent season provides us a perfect opportunity as we wait upon the Lord, to consider our identity as His Church.  Are we harboring hatred in our hearts? Do we love ourselves above others? Do we love others above Him? 1 John 4 asks how we can hate a man whom we have seen, but love a God whom we haven't seen.  No, we have been given too much by our Lord to continue harboring hate in our hearts.  We have only one option: love.
 
I hope as you walk down Broadway or Main Street this Christmas season that God will give you opportunities to show that the name written over His Church may read “Element,” but it is translated "Love".  

Getting Our Hands Dirty (Merry Christmas Part 1)

by Michelle Gee
A few months ago, Jon and I came across a man outside a market in town. He seemed desperate as he stood by his bicycle and frantically looked from one person to the next, and we were horrified to see that he, a grown man, had defecated himself. We approached him to see how we could help—as you can imagine, the smell was absolutely unbearable. As we spoke with the man, we could hear the embarrassment in his voice as he described his need to get home. We weren’t quite sure what we could do to help, and then asked if we had room in our car for him and his bike. We physically didn’t have the room, but I couldn’t help but feel relief and then disgust at my own reaction. In that moment, I realized, I had been more concerned about my own comfort and car than a human being created in the image of God. I wonder…if we would have had the room, would we have given him a ride?
 
We live in a culture that allows us plenty of excuses to say “no” in situations that are inconvenient for us or uncomfortable. We are independent, autonomous beings with the freedom and right to pursue pleasure at almost any cost, as well as guard our own wellbeing and happiness.  The more we understand the Gospel, however, these excuses vanish; we are confronted with the truth of a God who relentlessly pursues people.
 
Philippians 2:5-7says:  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
 
How scandalous is it to think that the God of the universe would humble himself to be one of us? What love and passion must have driven God to execute this plan. Knowing the darkness and brokenness of the world we live in, he still eagerly ran toward it in the only effort to save us. He became a human being clothed in filth—much like the man Jon and I met must have felt—and he did it joyfully (Hebrews 12:2—“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”).
 
If we are to reflect Christ in word and deed to the world around us, what excuse do we have for not getting our hands dirty? We are co-heirs of a Kingdom that breaks into darkness and floods it with light, transforming what was once broken with the truth of Jesus Christ. At what costs are we willing to live this way? I want to challenge you…
 
What areas of darkness have you been avoiding out of inconvenience/discomfort?
How can you go toward them and flood them with light?
As the body, how can we encourage each other to engage with the dirtiest, most broken aspects of the world?

When Turkeys Drive

by Element Christian Church

Thank you for making the Turkey Drive for the Central Coast Rescue Mission a huge Success! Your Generosity brought them over thirty turkeys! These turkeys could be seen driving around town all afternoon on Sunday and will go to serve hundreds of people in need of a good Thanksgiving meal this holiday season.


Element Time [From the Illustrious Jonathan Whitaker]

by Jonathan Whitaker
I have a super power.  I know you’re skeptical, but it’s true. Ask my wife, Jennifer.  I have known for many years that I have this special ability, and it never fails… lines form behind me.  Yes, that is my secret super power.  When I arrive at a restaurant, movie theater, theme park, or anywhere people queue in lines, a line that wasn’t previously there will appear behind me.  It is a phenomenon, and I am not making it up…lines form behind me.  In fact, the longer I sit here typing this, the more likely it is that a line of people will start gathering adjacent to or directly behind me.  I am a human velvet rope.  I hope to only use this power for good. 
 
If I take an honest look at my so-called super power, there are probably personal habits which I practice that result in lines forming behind me.  For example, I arrive early to most destinations, which tends to put me ahead of the crowd.  I wake up early in the morning for work, so my lunch hour is 11 a.m. instead of the more traditional 12 p.m.  As a result, the 12 o’clock lunch crowd arrives just after I get my order in at the counter, and thus lines up behind me.  Another explanation is that once I get to my destination, I take my time and that means folks just have to wait. 
 
So, it may not be much of a super power, but my military upbringing has made me a neurotic schedule-keeper; if I am early then I am on time, if I am on time I am late, and if I am late… so help me.  This has long been my mentality for schedule-keeping.  Now imagine the first time I encountered ‘Element Time.’
You all know what I am talking about.  Element Time is the five minutes that our congregation runs behind the rest of the population of the Central Coast of California.  We are a geographical oddity.  Sunday services are scheduled for 8:15, 9:30 and 11:00, so naturally we get started promptly at 8:21:33, 9:35:17, and 11:06:03.  Yet somehow we always finish the service on time.  This means that we are able to accomplish one hour worth of worship, announcements and preaching in 55 minutes.  And, for some reason, it works.  In fact, it works well.   Sure, Aaron has to preach at the pace of a Barrett Jackson auctioneer, but the worship is powerful and the messages are Biblical, scholarly, and most of all, Christ-honoring.
 
Recently, my personal conundrum with Element time has shifted to wistful nostalgia.  I am currently on the church-home hunt at my new assignment in Maryland.  Church services in Maryland lasts for one hour and forty-five minutes, period.  No matter the denomination -- Evangelical, Baptist, Fundamentalist, you name it -- one hour and forty-five minutes.  If Aaron preached for an hour after forty-five minutes of announcements and songs, you would duct tape him to a wall.  Needless to say, I miss Element Time. 
 
Thanks to Aaron, Ryan, James and Michelle Gee, I now have the worship attention span of a gnat.  Look, of course I am kidding -- a short service is not superior to a long service for reasons of brevity, nor is a long service good because you are worshiping longer.  Element Time is just special.  On Element time you get a Biblically dense message book-ended by Christ honoring corporate worship music.  If you have gotten the chance to experience it, you are blessed.  I find that after two hours of structured church, most people have just enough energy left to go home.  I find after 55 minutes of Element Time, you are ready to fellowship with one another in the lobby or over lunch.  That is a good thing.
 
I am now going to shoe horn scripture into my blog so Aaron will publish it.  Jesus probably doesn’t sweat the length or starting time of our service nearly as much as I do.  In fact Jesus ordains situations in our lives where the timing just makes no sense at all to us.  Think about the man born blind from John 9. When the disciples of Jesus viewed his disability, they questioned whether it was the result of the man’s sin or if it was the result of his parents’ sin.  Jesus said neither.   In fact, Jesus then showed His disciples that the man was born blind for this ordained moment in history.  Jesus said the man was disabled so he could be healed.  God the Father orchestrated this time and place so God the Son could be glorified. 
 
Only God can heal the blind.  In His wisdom God chose that this man was to be born blind, so that you and I would have the opportunity to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  A series of events began many years before that day that started with a man being born without his sight and our Lord and Savior being born in a manger.  And at the correct time, by no coincidence, Jesus healed that man, giving us the opportunity to believe that the Son of Man has the power to heal, and therefore the power to forgive sins. 
 
So, lines might not form behind me because of my super powers. Maybe it is just the timeline on which I live my life that results in people queuing in my wake.  The real question is, what am I going to do with that line of people waiting there behind me?  God knew from the foundation of the world that we would all just be waiting there together.  Perhaps He sent me to start a line so that they might know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive their sins. 
 
That is my kind of Element Time. 
 

When We Struggle

by Mike & Deb Harman
Sometimes the circumstances or realities of my life push me to flounder until I remember who God is… 
 
It reminds me of Hagar in the book of Genesis. In chapter 16, she named an area "The God Who Sees" when God met her in great distress. Later, in Genesis 21:8-21, God revealed Himself once more to her in her dire need, this time as "The God Who Hears" (when Ishmael was crying in the desert, God provided a well for water). In the same way, in our lives, God has certainly has both seen and heard us.
 
In addition to seeing and hearing, God also knows us, as demonstrated in the story of the Exodus: “…and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew” (Exodus 2:23-25, ESV). What exactly does it mean for God to “know” in this sense? In Redemption, by Mike Wilkerson, it states, "Knowing here conveys deep, personal, intimate knowledge and pity for His people. He was paying attention and grieving over their plight." William Edgar states, "To be known by God is to be loved, to be in the best place you could possibly be. This is because God now bears the burden, not the people. Knowledge here means full acknowledgement and commitment to intervene." He is “The God Who Knows.” He knows every injustice, painful experience, sickness, and dashing of hope in this life.
 
The Apostle Paul has all of this in mind when he tells us, "So take heart! Though our outer selves are wasting away, our inner selves are being renewed day by day. For this light, momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory. So we look not to the things that are transient, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Zephaniah 3:17 also says, "The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save. He will delight in you. He quiets your soul with His love. He rejoices over you with singing." We are also told in Philippians 4:5-8: "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious in anything. But in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

What is even more amazing is not only does God see, hear, and know us, but in Jesus, He has also acted to rescue, redeem, and restore us; God intervenes in our lives in a most radical way. Hagar and her son were rescued because God acted on their behalf, not because of anything they had done--we are rescued for the exact same reason.
 
Our God, who sees, hears, knows, and then acts, does so because of His character and nature. God is always perfectly good, righteous, and just; nothing touches our lives but through His love. He is fully able, due to His omnipotence, and He is faithful; He is never caught off guard or late. Because of who God is, He always trumps our circumstances; we are not left to the whims of others or to our own devices. In Him, we find comfort, peace, and rest as we choose to trust Him – His character, His nature, His involvement in seeing our situations, hearing our hearts, knowing every detail of our lives, and then acting in our midst (on our behalf).
 
Remember, He is the God Who Sees, Hears, Knows, and Acts.