Here We Go.

by Michael Reed
Over the past several months the staff at Element have been diligently working to prepare for Planting Roots. This last Sunday we presented both the Planting Roots journey, as well as the conceptual designs for the new building. We know there are a lot of questions, concerns, and fears, but we also hope there is a lot of excitement and eagerness as well. God has already been doing an amazing work with Element and we want to see it continue.
 
If you missed Sunday’s rolling out of Planting Roots, you can listen to the forum here, and watch the video:



Also, make sure to grab your Journey Guide this Sunday because Planting Roots officially starts next week. We ask that you would commit to going through the daily devotions, leading your family through the Family Devotions, and getting together with your community and asking them the tough questions you may not usually ask.  
 
You can check out www.elementroots.org for all the information and to download a digital copy of the Journey Guide.
 
We know Planting Roots sounds like a lot, but prayer is a huge part of the journey. We are simply asking you to commit to the process and to ask God, “what is it you would do through me.” Only with His blessing, and us all pulling together in being faithful, will we accomplish the vision laid out in front of us.
 
On September 12th, Element will have a night of prayer and music and we collectively, and individually, seek to hear God's voice. Feel free to come and leave this event as you wish. We will start with some music in our current sanctuary at 6:30pm and then move over to our property where we will pray over the land (where we will have our current plans mapped out).
 
Thank you for going on this Journey with us as we Plant our Roots. 

The Aerial View

by John Warren

When I was young I wanted to be big. I would walk around and say to adults, "how's the air up there?" It wasn't that I was short, I simply wanted to be taller, I wanted to know what the world looked like from a higher perspective.
 
As a child my parents took me to Washington DC. I loved seeing the different monuments that had been erected in honor of presidents, soldiers, and statesmen. Everything was big, but nothing was as cool to me as the Washington monument. The monument is one of those places you can go inside and peer out and see what everything looks like from above. It was amazing and I could see a lot farther than I thought possible. Everything looks freakishly small when you are up that high, but you also get a good sense of geography (where the other monuments are) and scale (the size of that giant swimming pool).
 
I've been honored to serve on the board at Element Christian Church since it's founding, and more recently as the chairman.  I get a different perspective on how Element is being used by God and how Element uses the resources He has given. Sometimes board chairman is like being a janitor cleaning up messes, but more often I usually get to see some of the stuff that will come your way before others (like a backstage pass to your favorite band). Seeing things like the architect’s plans for a new building, our upcoming Stewardship Journey: Planting Roots, is all very exciting!
 
At the end of 2013 we purchased the vacant lot next our current facility and our entire board, including me, went through a roller coaster of emotions. The internal questions ranged from, "How awesome would it be to have our own building!" to "Wait, it costs how much to get water connected?" to "Are we sure about this?" to "God can't really be asking me to put my finances on the line" and finally "yes, God, I'll follow you." I believe it was clear that God has called us to Santa Maria to be hope in our current community.  When we purchased the land it was with total faith, and hearts surrendered to Jesus, because we wanted to continue to serve Him and this valley; eventually planting more churches in the surrounding towns (and world).
 
There is something else I learned on top of the monument when I was a kid: you can't live up there.  I remember asking if I could, but my parents told me it wasn't a reality. You can't interact from up there because people are on the ground. It is nice to get an overview, but on the ground is where we can actually be useful. As I said, sometimes I get to see some of the stuff early, the aerial view, but I'm so much more excited to be on the ground with all of Element. I love that we are called to be on mission where we are, to see the revelation that Jesus is showing all of us, and be led to give as He has called.
 
Element is starting a new journey, it is sort of the nature of how Element works. When we go where God leads, it usually changes everything up. Today that means moving forward with a building, but why? You can tell by our current accommodations that the nursery has been expanded and moved five times, there are doors where there were not doors before (or no doors where there were doors). The truth is we outgrew this building a long time ago, but we refused to let that stop us. 
 
As chairman, I've been able to prepare for the Planting Roots journey a bit longer than most. I've done research, interviewed consultants, been in the meetings, and prayed for guidance, but one thing I am certain of though, God can and will use the journey to change our hearts; I know this because I have experienced it. 
 
Where Element ultimately ends up will only be by following Jesus, and that will happen with prayer, generosity, and sacrifice. I've been praying for months that you and I would get a glimpse of the perspective of God, a heavenly view, but then, like Him, we would come to live life on the ground, serving, giving, and loving. I encourage you to let go of anything that might keep you from hearing God during this journey and to commit to joining us over the next few weeks of Planting Roots. The question we all want to ask during this journey is, “Lord, what is it you would do through me?”
 
We have a lot of material coming your way and we don’t want you get overwhelmed. If you have questions, concerns, comments please don't hesitate to ask, we want to be as open and encouraging as possible. If you are confused, excited or just unsure what to do with all of your emotions, please don’t hesitate to share those questions and feelings with your leaders.
 
This is a journey we are all called to travel. There's something better than building and living in monuments, it is living as God's church together.  Let's start Planting Roots.

Individual Sin, Community Redemption

by Jonathan Whitaker
Not sinning is not the opposite of sinning. Wait, what?!  If that were true, the day a new believer was baptized it would be the responsibility of the church elders to lock that individual in an anechoic chamber and remove all possible temptations to sin.  The opposite of sinning is being transformed into the loving image and character of Jesus Christ.  Transformation comes not by mere abstinence, but by the redemptive salve found in the service of others.
 
Paul called his sin affliction a "body of death." (Rom 7:23-24).  Paul knew what we all experience as we struggle with sin.  Sin does not just cause bad feelings, broken relationships, shame, and doubt; sin causes death.  It is no wonder Paul suggests that believers fight fire with fire.  He says in Colossians 3 we are to put our sin to death: "Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." 
 
The problem with sin is that it is an addiction you cannot overcome by abstinence, and it will kill you from the very first time you use it; but for believers, death has a cure. "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Col 3:3-4) God is great!  For those of you who proclaim Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, your old nature has died and your eternity is secure. 
 
Why then do believers go on sinning?  Is it to test how much grace Jesus is willing to dole out?  I sure hope not!  Although I'm grateful that He has grace to spare, because I keep on sinning.  Perhaps saved people keep sinning because we don't accept Jesus' redemptive gifts.  Redemptive gifts are the tools that Jesus gives to believers to transform our formerly useless sinful selves into useful workers for the kingdom. 
 
Jesus told us to be holy as His Father in Heaven is holy.  The only way we can hope to be Holy is if Jesus makes us holy.  One of the redemptive gifts that is available to all believers -- and it is the central ministry of Element -- is community. 
 
Not sinning is not the opposite of sinning. Colossians 3:12-13 says, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive."   Paul tells us that a major avenue of redemption for sins of the flesh -- adultery, immorality, idolatry -- is not abstinence from those things, but loving service of others. 
 
Built into community is an opportunity to love.  It is love that transforms a believer's character.  Love replaces the old sins, which formerly brought death, with attitudes and actions of righteousness.  Community gives the believer a venue to be like Christ.  How can we be compassionate like Jesus, if there is no one in our lives on whom to bestow compassion?  How can we bear with fellow believers if we do not first fellowship with believers?  Paul tells believers to forgive one another, which is key to understanding the forgiveness by which Christ saved our souls.  If you don't live in community with other believers, you don't give them the opportunity to offend you, so who will you forgive?  
 
It is hard to understand the full measure of God's grace if we insulate ourselves from God's people.  Imperfect as we may be as Christ's Church, He still loves us.  We are a gift to one another.  We give each other the chance to learn and experience the love that defeats sin.  If I love my brother, I cannot slander him with my mouth, lust after his wife with my mind, or covet his possessions; love simply will not allow it. To love my brother, I must get to know him, and once I experience true brotherly love, I will have experienced Christ.
 
In practical terms, it is difficult to commit a sin with a brother in your presence holding you to account.  The Holy Spirit reflected in a brother in Christ has a powerful restraining effect.  If lust is the sin that plagues you, you will find it difficult to act on it in the presence of a fellow believer. 
 
A funny thing happens when believers gather -- they start to worship God.  In both word and deed, when believers gather, God tends to be glorified.  I think this happens because in community, we all experience true relationships and love.  Colossians 3:14-15 says, "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful."
 
Not sinning is not the opposite of sinning.  Love is the opposite of sinning.  In God's perfect law of love He tells us to love Him with all of our heart, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  It is hard to love people if you live under a rock, and impossible to experience true redemption if you never work out your salvation through service.   

Grace For Y'all Part 2

by Jon Gee
Hello everyone, this is the other half of team Gee. I want to echo what Michelle said in her post about Redemption Group Training, that it would be intense. We knew we would be confronted by our sin and we knew we would have to be vulnerable in front of strangers, what we did not know is how profoundly we both would experience the Holy Spirit’s love, grace, and power. 
           
By trade I am a therapist, and on a daily basis I see people who are suffering, broken, looking for fulfillment, and trying (with varying degrees of success) to change.  As a result, I assumed what we would experience at the Immersion would be similar; I couldn’t have been more wrong. When the Holy Spirit shows up all we can ever really do is underestimate Him because there is nothing so big as the power of God. In three short days I saw miracles being worked in my life, Michelle’s life, and the lives of the men in my group.
           
What we learn at Redemption Training sounds like what you hear in church service on a given Sunday, but what Redemption training does is enable the understanding to penetrate into all aspects of our life. I came to understand so much better that God is truly good and He alone is necessary and sufficient for joy. I learned how to rest in His glory, trust in his sovereignty, and how to truly repent and experience the forgiveness, love, and grace of Christ.
 
Before this immersion I even thought I had a decent understanding of grace and repentance, but that was a lie. Intellectually I understood the blood of Christ covered my sin, but I was not living as if I believed that. After I sinned, I would dwell in my sins and attempt to atone for them myself by working or trying to spend more time with Christ. When I failed at this (and I always would), my heart would become hard and I would distance myself from God. I believed foolishly that my sin was too great for Christ to overcome, which ultimately belittled the power of the cross. 
 
In my group, I was given the opportunity to repent of my specific sins to Christ in front of men I hardly knew. When I did this I was surprised by how I felt. I no longer felt shame, guilt, despair, or even a skeptical attitude toward Christ’s goodness, but instead, felt a freedom, peace, and joy that I never remember having. I felt loved, and finally understood what it means to rest in God’s presence. Reflecting back on it, it seems so simple and yet I cannot articulate how truly miraculous it was; something changed in how I understand God’s love for us. I have never felt like I have had a more genuine relationship with Christ than I do today. I experienced something I want everyone to have—a true understanding that God loves us and He is more than enough.
 
Convinced of Christ’s love, and now having a deeper understanding of his grace, I am currently emboldened through the Spirit and actually feel passionate about sharing Christ’s love. Since I had previously not been convinced of His goodness and grace, my faith had been something that I only shared if asked about it. However, seeing firsthand the power of God in the immersion, I have been given the courage and understanding to pursue those conversations about faith with others. For example, I did this with my sister, who is currently not a believer, just yesterday, and we had an incredible conversation as a result. I now realize that the more loving act is to confront others with the truth about who God is.
 
As I said earlier, it is hard to articulate what exactly happened at the Redemption Immersion, but God’s love for us is real, and He is SO GOOD. It is amazing how much happened in three days, it was nothing short of a miracle (and they do still happen).
 
As Element prepares to begin launching its own Redemption Groups (that will be 10 weeks and not 3 days) we encourage you to trust in the goodness of God and the miraculous changes He will make in people's lives. If you are interested in hearing more, please reach out to me (Jon), Michelle (the other half of team Gee), Mike Harmon, Eric Djafroodi, or Deb Harman about our experience. 

Grace For Y'all

by Michelle Gee
Team Gee (or one half, I should say) here—at 38,000 feet. I’m writing this on our return flight to California (oh, how we’ve missed you!), after spending almost a week in Texas. Jon and I had the privilege of participating in a Redemption Group Immersion—an experience designed to train potential leaders of Redemption Groups by immersing them in the actual experience. Redemption Groups is a ministry aimed at exposing sin and suffering and placing it within the context of God’s overarching story of redemption, so that participants can understand God’s grace, freedom, and love. This particular immersion took place over the course of three days, and let me tell you, it was intense! What a week! We are exhausted and yet, revived.
 
Where do I even begin? We knew from the start that this would be an intense time for both of us, and that we would be confronted with the stark reality of our sin, but we can certainly say now that we truly underestimated the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace. Over just three days, we each met with a group of complete strangers and were encouraged to be completely transparent regarding the struggles, doubts, fears, and lies we have faced. It felt terrifyingly dangerous to be so exposed, but in that brokenness, we were met with the truth of God’s love and assurance. We both saw lives completely transformed, and our own eyes were opened in astonishing ways.
 
What did I learn specifically? I realized that the shame I’ve imposed upon myself, as a sort of self-penance, is antithetical to the Gospel. In doing so, I have idolatrously made myself a god and looked within for hope for lasting change, rather than relying on the blood of Jesus. In addition, I’ve expected people around me to wallow in their own sin, as I’ve held them to my same standard, and have therefore withheld from them the grace that God longs to show them.
 
I make such a horrible god!
 
Jesus is so, so much better than me, as He wants us all to be free of shame and guilt, as He took that upon Himself on the cross. While processing this with the women in my group, I expressed joy at this realization, but admitted a remnant of hesitation and ultimately, fear—what if I mess up again? I’m sick of disappointing God, others, and myself. One of my leaders lovingly, yet firmly, reassured me: “You get to repent and experience more grace.” Just typing this still brings me to tears. WE GET TO EXPERIENCE MORE GRACE! For too long, I have believed the lie that it is shameful for me to run to the cross again and again, yet this is the essence of the Gospel—I am not ashamed of it anymore.
 
It is now with unbelievable joy that I can admit my complete brokenness and the grace I have received as a result. No longer do I expect or want others to live in shame; I want them to experience God’s grace like I have. I want YOU to experience God’s grace. Through experiencing this grace, I can now love and forgive others the way Jesus calls me to.
 
With such a profound revelation in a single immersion experience, I can’t imagine what else could be revealed in an actual 10-week Redemption Group setting, but I am so eager to find out, and that is why we are so passionate about this ministry. Please, if any of you are interested in our experience, feel free to come talk to us.
 
I could go on and on, but I’ll leave you with this—something we sang repeatedly that cut straight to my core:
 
O, the joy of full salvation!
Sin and death defeated
Glory to His Name!

No, uh…No, Really

by Aaron
Have you ever watched something, done something, or read something that did nothing to enhance God's Kingdom or your life on this earth; something where you walk away saying, "that is two hours of my life on earth that I will never ever be able to get back?" I just had that experience myself about a week ago, I was suckered into watching the movie Noah.
 
Let me just tell you what the movie got right because it is easier than telling you what it got wrong. I can count on one hand, and I could even be missing one of my fingers, and be able to list what was right according to the Biblical narrative (which is where the writer and director said they got their information from):
  1. There is a guy named Noah
  2. He has three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth
  3. There is a boat (ark)
  4. There is a flood
That's it.
 
Aside from the horrible special effects, the bad acting, and the worse theology, it just wasn't even a good movie. There are just so many things wrong with this movie that I am flabbergasted (see, it's a real word) that anyone thought it was any good.
 
Let me simply give you my biggest issue with the entire move, it was predicated on the goodness of a man, Noah, and the tyrant like characteristics of a God, God. In the movie the fallen angels are fallen because they wanted to help man after the fall, they disobeyed God by reaching out to and loving on mankind…this displeased God so He cast them to earth and encased them in rock. If you have ever seenThe Neverending Story, just think of the rock guy with his, "good strong hands" that couldn't even save "the stupid bat," that is what they look like.
 
I love good fiction, but Noah is simply another way for someone who doesn't know the goodness of God to tear down the goodness of God; it is another way to try to get people to think that the God of the scriptures is an irrational tyrant that throws tantrums.
 
In reality, the God of the scriptures is a God who makes a way to rescue His wayward children. After the disobedience of man, when WE brought sin into the world, God promises Himself to come and rescue us in Genesis 3. We were a people with no hope and God came to restore us because of His own goodness.
 
In the movie the character of Noah goes crazy, trying to kill newborn babies because he is convinced that God wants it because God has remained silent. The truth is that God has NEVER remained silent. He has spoken to us through prophets, priests, and kings for millennia, He gave us the scriptures to so we have His words in writing, and most importantly He came in the person of Christ, the clearest revelation the world has ever seen or known.
 
The problem is what we did, and do, with God's clear revelation, we try to get rid of it in favor of our own wants and desires. Roman's 1:21-23 reminds us of the peril we all face: For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. IN verse 25 it is even more clear that they exchanged the truth about God for a lie
 
Noah is a perfect example of that exchange, the truth for a mythical lie that only furthers misunderstanding of a gracious God. It would be good to examine our own lives and see the instances we have exchanged God's truth for lies. These could be in areas of faith, finance, family, friendships, or service. Our culture lives under this horrible lie that God is not as good as He has revealed Himself to be and that Satan is not so bad as he has shown himself to be.
 
How about when something begins to question the character of God we simply trust in His goodness as it has never been false. May we as a people surrender ourselves to His providential grace even when we don't know why the rains come. Let us be committed to trusting God's truth, as revealed to us throughout the scriptures, rather than letting Hollywood dictate our theology.
 

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. 
 

Goals Are Good

by Aaron
I know the World Cup is going on right now and the moment I say “goals” you are thinking of Germany knocking out Brazil, 7-1, but I am not talking about Soccer…I am talking about goals for just about everything in life.
 
Recently my wife and I hiked down a couple of miles into a volcanic crater…the path down was windy, steep, hot, and a lot easier than the trip back out. The whole time, in the back of my mind, I just kept saying, “as far as I go in is how far I have to hike back out.” Here is a picture of the crater and a small section of the path, but it really doesn’t do it justice.

 As my wife and I started to hike back out we both started to get tired and dizzy, as the altitude was almost 10,000 feet. The steepness of the terrain made taking each step upward a chore, but we knew we had to get back out, if not for lunch then at least for the bathroom. How did I cope? I had goals. Every so far in front of me I would find a landmark and walk towards it, never giving up until I got there. Here is a picture of one of my landmarks.

 

I know, it’s not that impressive, but the point is that I had a goal…and the funny thing is that when I reached the goal I not only felt great about getting there, but I actually wanted to go farther.
 
Why do I tell you this? Because we are a people who have been saved by grace and not works. Everything that makes us acceptable to God is found in the person of Jesus; His righteousness given to us in exchange for our sin, His life given to us in exchange for our death. Even though this great salvation, as a gift, is completely true, it does not negate you and I also having goals. Dallas Willard says, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”
 
Look at what the Apostles Peter and Paul say:
  • 2 Peter 1:5 makeevery effort to supplement your faith with virtue
  • Romans 14:19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
  • Ephesians 4:3 [be] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
  • 2 Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
These are all words that, in our vernacular, would be goals…and good goals at that. Maybe you are struggling with forgiveness towards someone; make a goal to simply start praying for them, no matter how you feel in the moment. Maybe you struggle with being generous or worry about having ‘enough’ all of the time; make a goal to start giving something (and I do mean monetarily, it can always start small). Maybe you struggle leading your family into the knowledge and grace of Jesus; make a goal to simply read the Scriptures yourself and begin to pray before meals with your family. Maybe you don’t know how to love and honor your spouse, make a goal to pray for them and speak kindly to them.
 
We are saved by the grace of God, but He also calls us to live out our faith. If we never have any goals then life is lived in an awkward state of not knowing which direction is forward and which is not. Make some goals, and I am pretty sure when you reach them you will acknowledge 2 things:
  1. You could have never gotten there without the grace of God.
  2. You will see how much farther you can actually go because, when you reach the goal, you will see how much strength and grace you have already received from Jesus in the first place.

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.

Thank You for Supporting Tape Day!

by Element Christian Church


Thank you to everyone who contributed to Tape Day at Element! We raised over 750 dollars to help send kids to camp! Camp will be June 29th-July 4th!




Who Wants Responsibility?

by Aaron

A funny thing happened at Element on a recent Sunday morning, I was making a sermon illustration and it turned out better than I ever dreamed.
 
If you missed it, this is what happened. I showed everyone in the room a 20$ bill, it was easily identified by most people. I then asked who wanted it; I proceeded to give it away to the person who was the fastest on the draw. I then proceeded to tell the person who won the 20$ that they were free to spend it however they wanted, but they need only to remember where it came from: it came from a church and was given to them by a "man of God"…(that would be me in case you were wondering).
 
In our 11:00am service, the young lady who got the 20$, after she heard my words about remembering where it came from, said (my paraphrase), “That’s a lot of responsibility, anyone else want this 20$?”
 
I was almost speechless because I could not have said it better myself. One of the main things scripture teaches us is that EVERYTHING belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). Even the ability we have to think and work to produce wealth comes from God (Deuteronomy 8:17-18 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth).  These types of reminders run all throughout the scriptures, but why does God take so much time to remind us of this?
 
The reason goes back to the creation of mankind. We were created to have responsibility and stewardship over creation.  God gives us things (including money) to steward them for Him…and that is a lot of responsibility, like the young woman at the 11:00 service stated.
 
How much different would we steward our lives, resources, and yes, money, if we first remembered that it was Jesus’ and not ours? Think of how much different our priorities in spending would become if we understood the ‘responsibility’ that our great God has entrusted to us with all that is His.
 
As Element prepares to launch into a stewardship season in a few months, I would think it would be a great place for us to start to reflect on the truth that we have been given a great responsibility (because with great power comes great responsibility).

What is Tape Day?

by Element Christian Church

What is Tape Day? Good Question!



Purchase your tickets to Tape Day 2014 this Sunday!

Imputed Righteousness

by Mike Harman
If we were to read Romans chapters 1-3:20 (which you should, because Romans is amazing)  without an understanding of the gospel, without knowing of our rescue, we could and should come away feeling desperate, lost, and hopeless. It’s a good thing we don’t stop at Romans 3:20, however, because verse 21 says: “But now…..” telling us something has changed. This change is something dramatic and pivotal, as evidenced by those two amazing transitional words, “But now.”
 
Many people who call themselves Christians have thought about this, but don’t believe it. Even on our worst day, we have the righteousness of God! This righteousness reveals all my unrighteousness; it reveals my self-righteousness, leaving me totally exposed and desperately in need of help. “But now,” God’s righteousness has been imputed, credited, deposited to my “account” (Romans 4:3). Do we really believe we have God’s righteousness, even on days when we are at our worst? Yes.
 
Romans 3:21-4:25 reveals the “what” of the “But now,” and it’s changed everything.  Romans 3:21-22 says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it (it’s been there all along, not something new, but now clearer) – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”  By believing what is true, by trusting God, through faith in Jesus Christ, He interrupts, interjects into my life the “But now.” I am now able to be reconciled and restored to God.  I am acceptable to God, pleasing to God, now, always, even on my worst day – rescued from myself, from my treason, my adultery, because I have the righteousness of God.
 
What is this righteousness of God? God’s righteousness is His being fully upright and just; it is the combined perfections of God’s character and nature (goodness, faithfulness, sovereignty, absolute power, beauty, creativity, etc.) that vindicate His judgments and actions; these reveal Him to be trustworthy and true.  Some people have said that the Gospel is simply too good to be true, but it is true!  And that is what makes it scandalous: that people like you and me can have the righteousness of God. 
 
How can it be?  To all who believe He gives this  gift!  Humanity lives in absolute selfish rebellion, self-gratifying adultery against God, living in enmity toward Him, running away from Him, bent on doing life our own way, and He comes after us to rescue, redeem and restore us to Himself. Romans 5:8: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Colossians 1:13 also remind us that we are given this exact righteousness before God. It sounds heretical. 
 
I do not live this righteousness out every day, but one day I will, because of what Jesus has done, and is currently doing in me by the Holy Spirit. Philippians 1:6: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

In Romans 3:21-26, Paul articulates how we’ve been made righteous, having been justified by his grace, having been redeemed by the payment of Jesus, and spared God’s wrath by it being poured out on Jesus.
 
This blog only took me two months to write, but in a future blog I’d like to further explore this righteousness of God that is now ours (for those who believe and by faith receive it). Until then, ask yourself if you really believe in God’s imputed righteousness. Are you brokenhearted about your own unrighteousness? Turn to Jesus in faith and believe; trust what is true about you now, since you believed and trusted in Jesus. Believing this will change your life; it will free you from the snares of sin and the smug, proud, alienating attitude of self-righteousness. Believe it!

Circle of the Beatitudes

by Aaron

We spent the last 4 months going through the beatitudes, we are now continuing on to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. As we rounded out the beatitudes a lot of you mentioned that you had never heard them explained the way we talked about them. You also mentioned that the last week with the circle diagram made a lot of sense and opened your eyes, so we thought we would give that to you as a recap blog.


Remember that Hebrew story telling is much different than ours in that Hebrew story telling goes: beginning middle beginning. The story that we call the Prodigal Son starts with the father, then speaks of his boys, then ends with the father (beginning middle beginning). The scriptures do this as well, in Genesis God makes man and tells him to take responsibility for (and have stewardship) over creation. God places man in the garden to partner with Him (not that God needs it, but He loves working with His kids) to create a new culture.
 
In the book of Revelation we are told Revelation 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. The word reign = basileuō and it has the connotations of "to exercise influence or to participate with." There will be a river, trees, city, fruit, healing of nations, proper healed relationships...and they will participate with God forever and ever. This means working with God in stewarding, participating in, and guiding creation. This is what God intended from the beginning. The story starts Genesis and doesn't end, but continues at the end of Revelation.
 
The beatitudes do this as well.
 
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Go to the 'end,' Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It comes full circle. This is only promised that is repeated. Hebrew blessing is not a straight line, it is a loop.

  • We begin "Poor in Spirit," God meets us when (and where) we are nothing and offers the Kingdom of God > This leads to "mourning" because we recognize our sin and we become comforted in His grace > This leads to "meekness" (humility) where we receive the grace of God and understand our inheritance > We then begin to "hunger and thirst" for God's rightness in our lives and in the world and will be satisfied.

When we understand where and how God has met us, we interact with the world around us in a new way.

  • We become "merciful" to others because we have received mercy > Our hearts become "pure" as we look for what God is doing (and wants us to do) in the world. We actually see God moving in places we never noticed before > When we live that way it makes us into "Peacemakers" who live as God's children in the world making the announcement that God has offered peace to us > AND sometimes that peace that we offer can lead to "persecution," but we must remember that we live, and have been given, the Kingdom of God.

 
Jesus announces blessing, ONE BLESSING, and the beatitudes tell of the characteristics of one type of people, those who live in the Kingdom of God. The beatitudes are Jesus' way of saying that "when you follow me, and when you become my disciple, when you truly live the gospel and extend grace it will be very hard." We will always need to end up back at the beginning realizing we need to rely on Him for everything.
 
It is there that we remember that Jesus has already blessed us, while He continues to call us into something greater.

 

 

Glory/Fire/Light -- Good Friday 2014 Recap

by Aaron



CS Lewis in the book the weight of glory writes, " Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity." He is speaking of glory for ourselves (he says he doesn't want fame and doesn't want to be a light bulb)…when speaking of God though, neither is ridiculous and both are true. In Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,The heavens speak of His fame, everything speaks of His fame, every knee will bow and every tongue confess HIS FAME.
 
But what about his luminosity?
 
The concept of light runs throughout the scriptures: Genesis 1 starts with light…this light that God separates from darkness. Genesis 1:3-4 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God creates the light and this becomes a metaphor for what God does in lives throughout history. Life begins with God AND LIGHT (light is a foundational element that all life is built needing and it is based in the glory of God).
 
In Genesis 3 we sin/death enters the world, and the light of God is pushed out of our lives in favor of sin and death. When the children of Israel wandered in the desert after God freed them from slavery, He provided a cloud and pillar of fire to guide their way. When the fire moved you moved, if the fire didn’t move YOU DIDN’T MOVE.
 
In Exodus God appears to the Israelites and the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Hebrews 12:28-29 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. The glory of the Lord is like a fire, radiant, bright. We love fire, but fire is also a dangerous thing. We can't live without it, but it is dangerous. Exodus 20:18-19 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die." They can't go away, but they can't get too close.
 
When Moses comes down from the mountain he was glowing with luminosity simply by being near the presence of God.
 
Psalms has light dominate throughout the book (19:8, 27:1, 36:9, 56:13, 89:15, 90:8, just to name a few). The Psalms are all written at the height of Israel's kingdom, soon after they fall into idolatry, turn their back on God and eventually when you reach the end of the Old testament God goes silent for 400 years. 
 
But one night we read Luke 2:8-9 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, (and once again because of this light/glory we read) and they were filled with great fear. In John 1:14 we read And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
 
In John 8 we read about the Feast of Tabernacles (one of the 3 great feasts) celebrating God delivering His people from slavery. At night there were HUGE CANDLABRAS in the temple as there was no electricity. When the sun went down these large candles would be lit and the flames would shoot up to heaven and the temple would be illuminated. JESUS begins to teach in the MIDDLE OF THIS SETTING. John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Musicians play, songs are sung, holy men dance, they celebrate God being light and Jesus stands there and says “I am the light of the world.” People who don’t think Jesus ever claimed to be God are simply wrong...Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” How do you partake in that light? Jesus says YOU FOLLOW ME.
 
The Gospel of John starts John 1:4-5 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. What do we do to the light of world, the glory of God in human flesh? We snuff it out. Because we love our sin more than we love His glory. We want what we want. We are more offended when someone hurts us then when someone tries to hurt God. We hold grudges, and lash out in anger (internally or externally) because we refuse to forgive, like our great God who has forgiven us. We believe we have more right to act like God than God…and Jesus dies to pay for these sins and so much more.
 
This is why Jesus died, to restore us to be the people that God bestows His glory upon. God's glory is not stuffed out, it continues to spread and will eventually cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. How is He doing that now? Through you and me as we believe, receive, surrender and follow the crucified and risen Jesus. As one person becomes redeemed it's like a light goes on, glory shines and spreads, and God is made known one person at a time.
 
God's Spirit is changing us into the people who better everyday reflect God's glory. One person at a time. On Good Friday we gave each person a light bulb to illustrate this. For those who had surrendered their lives to Jesus they were invited to take communion in remberance of what Jesus has done. After they partook in communion they were, one by one, to screw their bulb into the sockets on the table to illustrate "one by one" how the light will grow, illuminate, and eventually become too much to gaze at.
 
It is a picture of the Glory of God covering the world. It was hopefully a small microcosm of display to remind us all what should happen as the church lives on mission for the glory of God. We repent and lay bare the hardness of our hearts as we remember our Lord's body broken and bleeding for us.

Four Letter Words

by Michelle Gee
…and not the kind you’re thinking of.
 
I was hanging out with some friends recently, and the topic of personality happened to come up. This subject has always fascinated me—my husband and I even took a whole semester-long course on it in college (yes, we are psychology nerds). I am always amazed to learn about the differences in the way people think, feel, and relate to one another, whether I observe these differences in real life, or read about them in a textbook. I encouraged these particular friends to take the Myers-Briggs assessment, so we could compare and learn more about each other. After they shared their results, I was curious to see if mine had changed since I last took the test a few years ago. My result? INFJ (introverted intuitive feeling judging)—just slightly different from my previous result of INFP (you can take your own Myers-Briggs assessment here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp).   
 
Understanding your own personality can be beneficial, as the insight can help you identify your patterns of behavior, strengths, and weaknesses, but it’s so easy to fixate on what makes you different from other people. As a result, there can be a tendency to have a feeling of superiority or skepticism toward those who are different. How often have you wished that someone would think or behave the way YOU would? Sometimes I feel like so much conflict could be avoided if this was the case, and it’s often easy to fall into the trap of wanting, or even expecting, everyone to understand me. As a Christian, however, the call to love and relate to others is of the utmost importance, as the corporate mission of the Church is to glorify God. The urgency of this calling does not allow us to stand back and wait for others to “get” or accommodate who we are. We are to partner with our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have been uniquely created to serve various roles in the Kingdom:
 
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.. [Romans 12:3-5]
 
Contrary to many personality theories I encountered in college, Christianity does not simply discount our weaknesses (sin) as part of our personality. Rather, through His grace, Jesus offers us redemption and the promise of His continued work in who we are. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” To me, this is just good news on top of the good news! Not only have we been saved from the consequences of our sin, but we have also received the promise of Christ’s sanctification in our lives. There is hope beyond our personality…we are being made more like Jesus!
 
With this understanding, we can view those around us as unique creations with differences to be celebrated, and we can give grace for the weaknesses we observe. Instead of being bound to a four-letter personality, we have infinite hope through our identity in Christ.

The Good Friday 100

by Aaron

I have probably said this before, but I love all things sci-fi. If a new movie or sci-fi show comes out, I have to watch it…the problem is that most of the new shows are horrible, boring, rote, trite, or any other number of adjectives used describe shows that have overused ideas. Take for example this show called “The 100.” It is sort of a Lord of the Flies meets dystopian future after a nuclear holocaust where there are 100 people sent to earth to see if they can survive.
 
At one point there is this guy that no one likes, but he gains an unlikely following and brings mayhem to the struggling culture of survival. He is wicked, heinous, and now murderous, as he wants to kill a 10-year-old girl.
 
After a very lengthy, and not very interesting, build up, the little girl takes her own life to save her friends from this monster. As soon as this happens, everyone’s minds return to reality and this murderous individual no longer has a following. Instead of taking this murderous guy out (by ‘out’ I mean OUT), they ‘banish him;’ which we all know only leads to some future return of this guy at an inopportune moment, to wreak havoc on the fledging society.
 
When I saw this I thought it was a great analogy to the Christian life and Easter. Our sin wants to murder us, it causes us to go crazy and do stupid things that destroy people and relationships around us. When we finally come to a moment of lucidity, when we see things clearly, we know we should kill our sin…but instead we banish it, thinking that is good enough, but in reality we know deep inside sin will rear its ugly head again when we least want it to.
 
John Owen once said, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:12-13 “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

On what we now celebrate as Good Friday, Jesus goes to the cross because sin causes death. Jesus died the death we deserve to die, not just for 100 of us, but all of us. The deeds of the flesh must be put to death, but how do we do that? By becoming alive, living in the Spirit, and walking in His strength…which is the point of Easter. Resurrection takes us from our place of death, where sin left us, and brings us back to life again. Jesus’ death removes the sin; His resurrection brings us to life with Him (and in) Him.
 
The way you kill sin is with the Spirit, it is why Paul says, “by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body.” John Piper says the best way to live in the Spirit is by staying in the Scriptures. Piper’s mother used to say to him, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” It is the same idea; the scriptures connect us with hearing God’s Spirit, which gives us strength to kill sin.
 
In one sense sin was crushed at the cross, it’s demise has been heralded and witnessed at the cross (Good Friday), our hope for real and new life comes in the form of Easter and Resurrection, and the only death we need truly concern ourselves with is the death of the old ways in which we used to walk. For, though sin has been defeated, our flesh still craves it…so be killing sin or it will be killing you.
 
Happy Good Friday.