Baptism Stories - April 6, 2014

by Element Christian Church

 


Last Sunday was our Baptisms, and we had 7 people show their faith by being baptized! If you didn't make it, or missed reading the stories, this week's blog is simply a link to them. Please read them, be excited for them, and always stand amazed at the goodness of our great God.

His Will Not Mine.

by Jonathan Whitaker
This week I got that old familiar feeling, that nervous tension in my stomach that means only one thing… it’s time to move again.  Jennifer and I have been at this a long time, both of us were Air Force Brats, Air Force Officers and Air Force Spouses, so we have said our share of goodbyes.  Some are harder than others.  This one was a Duisey.

For us, leaving our friends at Element, the people we serve along-side, people with whom we share our lives, people who have become aunts and uncles to our little chicks, was truly as hard as leaving family.  For the simple fact that you have become our family.

So, now I have a problem.  I want to serve God, but I want to do it by serving all of the people I love at Element.  It seems I have two options in this case.  First, I could sulk and tell God, “I wanna be with my friends in Santa Maria.”  Sure, why not, I had a good run there, I could just quit my job and move in with James and Hailey!  Or, I could do what I did the last time I left a group of people whom I loved… I can trust that God is sovereign and that He has a plan that is already in the works. 

How do I know this is true?  Well, because of you.  As I left San Antonio, a place I love, in Texas, which is home to 90% of our blood family, I prayed that God would give my family a home, community and a mission in Santa Maria.  I think we can agree that He did just that. 

In his greetings to the Roman Church, Paul expresses his deep desire to minister to them,  “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.  For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—  that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:9-12.    Element brothers and sisters, I am Paul and you are my Rome. 

As God was faithful to give you to me the first time, He will no doubt have a fruitful ministry awaiting Jennifer and me in Washington DC.  This has to be the case, or He would not have excused me from the important work that you are doing at Element.  For this same reason, I know that he will bring us back to you.  On a side note, next time we see each other, we will all be older, fatter and grayer, so everyone just be cool, alright!

Here is my blessing over you.  Keep up the pace, forge strong bonds with one another, be kind and forgiving, don’t let the sun set on your anger with one another, become a community of the Gospel that God can use to accomplish His work in Santa Maria.

For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.”  Romans 16:19

Signing off,
Jonathan & Jennifer Whitaker

We'll Miss The Viper-Stache

by Element Christian Church


It is with deep sadness that we said goodbye to one of our Elders and his family this weekend. Jonathan & Jennifer Whitaker, you have truly been a blessing to Element over the past four years. We will miss you dearly. Thank you for your friendship, love, encouragement and devotion to this little church family. Thank you for getting involved and sharing your life with us, for showing us what it means to lead by serving and giving it all you got. We pray many blessings on your journey and that God will use you at your next assignment to bless another church like you have us. 

We love you, 
The Element Staff
 
#GoodbyeWhitakers #viperstache

Blessed Are

by Element Christian Church
Today's blog comes from the wisest person who ever lived:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
 
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
 
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
 
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
 
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
 
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
 
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

If Trash Cans Could Speak

by Aaron
The other day I was driving home from one of my jobs (I can’t remember which one, but that is not the point). As I drove down the streets adjacent to my house the sky was becoming darker as the clouds for the coming storm started overshadowing everything. It was then that I noticed the green garbage cans in front of everyone’s houses.
 
Our trash pickup is scheduled on an every other week rotation; one week it is normal trash and recycle, the next week it is normal trash and green waste. This particular morning I had put out my regular waste and recycle waste, but as a drove home I noticed that all my neighbors had put out their regular waste and their green waste. I thought, “Look at that dummy, he put out the wrong can.” A little farther down the street I saw another and thought, “another dummy with the wrong can.” As more and more people had their green cans out I began to realize that either everyone else was the dummy, or I was.
 
Sadly, as seems too often the case, the dummy was me (or “I” or however that punctuation and grammar stuff works).
 
Many times we need that subtle reminder that as much as we think we are right, we can many times be completely wrong. We can get so upset at others that we tend to lose our way and begin to wrongly assume things about them that are not necessarily true. We can judge motives based upon how we interpret them and not how the person intended them, we can get angry over a perceived slight that was never there, and we can think every else is the dummy with the wrong trash can on curb when the reality is that it is us who are sub-par in our memory.  Philippians 2:3 reminds us Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
 
Sometimes we all need a reminder of our fallibility because we can get so self-righteous that we don’t even notice how we might be the only people who got the trashcan wrong. Its is a humble thing to realize who the real dummy is, it’s me, its us, but those are also the people Jesus uses because we realize we don’t have all the answers, only He does.
 
Welcome to the poor in spirit club.

One of "thems" weeks

by Michael Reed
Well, it is one of "thems" weeks where there is a lot going on, but the crowning jewel of this week is that Sunday Daylight Savings begins. Which, we all know what that means... we set our clocks FORWARD an hour (on Saturday night) and lose what feels like five hours of sleep, but more importantly, Aaron will be grumpy on Sunday. 
 
Grumpiness is ok though, we have a lot of great things happening this week, so check them out if you are depressed like us about the state of exhaustion that will occur on Sunday...
  • This Wednesday Element University starts at 6:30pm in the Sanctuary!
  • Saturday is Cinderella's Closet from 10am-3pm, let any girls know who could be blessed by a dress for prom!
  • Sunday, right after each service, we will have our Baptism Class in the "Office" Classroom. You don't need to signups, just come check out what it means to be baptized, and what you need to do to be baptized, and ask any questions you might have. We hope it won't be more than 20 minutes long. 
Lots of stuff happening, but we hope you remember Jesus is Lord over time, stands above it, and so we thank Him for for every night of sleep and every day we get to be a part of what He is doing in and through Element.

 

Q&A: Communion in the Creeds?

by Aaron

Why isn't Communion, the Eucharist or the Lord's Supper, mentioned in the creeds of the church?

This could be a very short answer, but I will do my best to string it out a bit.
 
The Nicene Creed came about in 325AD and it was essentially a way to combat Gnosticism and the Arian controversy. Building on this creed, other creeds came along from different counsels, 381 Constantinople, 451 Chalcedon. The creed(s) were essentially baptism confessions of faith and they were intended to show right belief before baptism. This is why the creeds were packed with as many tenants of the faith as possible in the smallest space.
 
They were not intended to be an exhaustive exposition of every aspect of the faith and life in the family of Christ.
 
The church, for a very long time, also would not let anyone partake in communion until they were baptized as a confession of faith. This also shows why communion is not mentioned in the creeds because it came after baptism.

Today there are some churches who will recite the Nicene creed before communion, as part of the confession. 

Q&A: Nicene Creed and Baptisms

by Aaron

In the Nicene Creed, one of the most quoted and respected creeds, it says, "We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins." What does that mean? Did they believe baptism saved a person?

One of the things that we, westernized people, like today is what we call distinctions. We are constantly trying to separate things into their smallest details; wood is made up of fibers, fibers are made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of quarks. These distinctions have also made their way into theology (which is a blessing and curse at times).
 
First, the early church believed that ONLY Jesus saves us, not baptism, but baptism was still related. Today we see baptism in 2 parts, one is the act of baptism where we identify with Jesus in an outward display by being 'baptized' in water, the second (or the first) is the spiritual side where the Spirit takes us and places us into the family of God. Where we differentiate these two things, the early church did not, they were seen as being essentially part of the same act. It is why you see when people believed, in the early church, they were immediately baptized. It wasn't that the water baptism saved them, it was the fact that it was all a response to salvation and considered one act.
 
Acts 8:35-39 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. In this context it all became one essential act. 
 
The Nicene Creed is referencing both the physical act of water baptism and the spiritual reality of new birth; it is baptism in its ideal consideration. Water does not wash away sins, but the church, through the Creed, was making a statement about what God does for those who have faith in Christ.

One commentator says that in Acts 2:38, where the Creed draws its wording from, the word "for" should be understood (and could be translated as) "with reference to."  The reading would be "be baptized with reference to the remission of sins."

The historic context would be the sacramental union of the sign, water baptism, and the thing that is signified is the washing of our sins and the engrafting into Christ. 

Mixed Messages From A Cookie Box

by Element Christian Church
I had a strange thing happen at work the other day…

A co-worker of mine mentioned that her daughters, who attend a Christian school in town, were selling chocolate bars as part of a fundraiser. She brought up the possibility of bringing the box in, but was hesitant, since the box clearly displays the name of the school and its church affiliation. After another co-worker and I told her that wouldn’t be a problem, she mentioned that the box also has the phrase, “Saving the world from sinners.”

This was when I cringed.

This “short and sweet” phrase may seem harmless enough—just a tool for cute kids to use while spreading joy through delicious chocolate, but this is yet another example of poor theology rearing its ugly head. I couldn’t help but wonder what my non-Christian, spiritually ambiguous co-worker thought of that phrase—the world needs to be rescued from people like ME? Too often, this is the mentality of evangelical culture…it is us (the good guys, the “saved,” the churchgoers) vs. them (the bad guys, the sinners, the non-churchgoers). Maybe it’s just me, but this seems to strongly contradict Biblical passages like:
  • …For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… [Romans 3:23]
  • All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way… [Isaiah 53:6]
  • Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned [Romans 5:12]
Another thing that immediately stood out when I heard this phrase was the assumption that sinners (people) are the enemy. We know from Scripture that is not true: “ For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” [Ephesians 6:12]. Who are our enemies, then? Satan, sin, and death…and Jesus has victoriously conquered them all for us through his death and resurrection.

As fellow sinners, we should be going out into the world—loving ALL people (as Christ first loved us) and sharing the joy of our true enemies’ defeat. After all, what could be any sweeter than a message like that?

This blog is from the computer of Michelle Gee, one of our newer worship leaders.

The Theological Danger of Email Forwards

by Aaron

I recently received an email forward, because some of you have too much time on your hands and you think I do too. The email forward was a little PowerPoint show that was meant to be funny, but it was more perplexing to me than funny.
 
It started off with things like "In the beginning God created the Heavens and earth and populated it with broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and…vegetables." It goes on to say "then using God's gifts, Satan created…ice cream and…donuts." God creates salad and Satan makes fatty dressings, God brings running shoes and Satan brings a TV remote, God brings potatoes and Satan makes French fries, and God may have made ground beef, but Satan makes McDonalds.
 
As I read this I grew more and more frustrated because, even as a joke, this seemingly 'funny' forward reinforces the exact idea that I think Satan wants to people to believe: God creates boring stuff and Satan makes all things better. This is the lie all the way back to the Garden. God couldn't possibly be as good as He said He is, God would never give people the ability to make hamburgers or ice cream, only Satan could do that. The lie is: "don't trust Jesus for joy, he wouldn't know joy if it sat in His lap, only I, your friend the Devil, brings bliss."
 
We forget that the scriptures warn us against this type of thinking.

  • James 1:16-17 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…

We forget that everything good COMES from the hand of God.

  • Psalm 103 :2-5 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

 
It is the same old thing, the devil speaks lies, we believe them, pass them around, and joke about it. How about we think and live in the truth that says, "if Ice Cream is awesome, it is because Jesus is awesome. If hamburgers, remote controls, salad dressing, and desserts are amazing, it is only because our God is amazing." Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart…Why? Because Jesus is good and we can rest in that hope.
 
Ultimately, all of our joy should stem from the fact that our God sought us in our lost state, while we were sending email forwards, while even misunderstanding Him…and died for our sins and rose to raise us to new life and relationship in Him. 
 
That's some reason for joy.

Q&A: John 14:14

by Aaron

I have a relative who has been grilling me about some verses and brought up John 14:14, which he says can't be true since we clearly don't get everything we ask for from God. Do you have any insight?

Do I have any insight? I have an opinion about everything. In context let's start in verse 12, John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."
 
This is one of those sections of scripture that is constantly taken out of the context of what surrounds it by people who believe that God is a genie in a bottle whose every desire is to give us what we think we want. Notice the verse starts out speaking of Jesus' work in the world and us being a part of it. Jesus' work continues, and grows even greater, because of the sheer amount of people involved in His work. This is why today the Gospel is not confined simply to a bit of real-estate that we call Israel (or even the Middle East). Because of what Jesus has done, and is doing in His people, good is happening all around the world. As the Gospel Transformation Bible says "our work for Jesus is really our work with Jesus." 
 
When Jesus says, "ask for whatever you want in my name," He is not saying, "Want a car? Say 'Jesus name.' Want a smaller waist line? Say 'Jesus name.'  Want to win the lottery? Say 'Jesus name.'" There are some very off base people today who tell you exactly that, but instead of whacking God like a piñata, I think we ought to whack them around a bit (with good theology).
 
In the context of the verses, the types of prayers that Jesus is referring to are those that further His work and bring glory to the Father. Most of our prayers today are about our own self-glorification (God give me a man, give me a woman, give me a house, get me a job, give me straighter teeth, and/or make me smarter). Jesus says that the prayers, in this context, that He answers are ones that honor God. We are to make it about His glory, His honor, and His gospel.
 
What should we pray for? How about:

  • Salvation for those who need Jesus.
  • Courage that we wouldn't be timid about the Gospel but speak with and LIVE with boldness.
  • Healing for those who are hurt.
  • The health of His church.
  • Opportunities to serve one another.

It seems as if almost no one prays, "God, give me opportunity to serve others."
 
Prayer is about changing the heart of God's people, not changing God. When you begin to pray for others your heart towards them will melt…I think this is why we are told to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
 
Again, in context, Jesus follows verse 14 by saying John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments." It sounds to me like He is reinforcing that we should be a people who are about His work in the world, not our own selfish wants and desires. Love for Jesus has everything to do with what we pray about, how we live, and how we partner with Him in the world.

A Great Big Thank You

by Aaron
When I was growing up, occasionally my grandmother would send me a Christmas or birthday card with five dollars in it. I would promptly take this five dollars and run down to the local convenience store and spend it all on bubble gum and candy. I know that today five dollars doesn't buy a lot of bubble gum and candy, but when I was a kid it was almost more than I could carry (yes, I am old).
 
I was very excited for my candy, it was instant gratification, and I could eat it all and no one could get mad because I bought it with MY money. I was so excited for my candy that I actually forgot to ever send my Grandmother a thank you…for years. Eventually the fact that I always forgot to send a thank you made her decide to stop sending me five dollars at all.
 
I know that none of you are my grandmother, if you were it would be awkward because she died almost 18 years ago. Even though you are not her, I did want to send you a thank you note. You have been more than generous to Element over the last year. In a culture that has seen giving drop to charitable organizations, you have not only helped Element meet our budget, but also exceed it. Your support is one of the main reasons we could afford to buy (well, finance anyway) the field next to Element.
 
The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:3-5 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I know I am not Paul, but I do feel the same way, I am thankful and grateful for you.
 
As we say every week, giving is part of our worship, it is why we give you the opportunity every week, and many of you are worshipping Jesus faithfully and fruitfully. So, thank you, and here is to a hopefully expectant 2014. I am excited to see what Jesus will do in and through all of us.

Scheduled Service

by Aaron
This is the first real blog entry of 2014, the idea for it (which I will call crazy) came from riding around in my friend’s car. His car is older and has a computer HUD (heads up display) that was probably the best thing you could buy in a car (if it was a 1996 Grand Cherokee).
 
I was asking a lot of questions about this HUD, I seem to do that a lot. As he answered my myriad of questions he also informed me that a lot of the sensors are bad so the HUD doesn’t always know what actually works and what doesn’t. About two minutes into the car ride the computer brought up another notification that said, “perform service.” I started to laugh to myself because if none of the sensors work, then you should probably perform some type of service.
 
I also thought how convenient it would be for our souls to have some sort of HUD that could identify all of our bad sensors and remind us to perform service.  In 1 Timothy 4:1-2 Paul says Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared
 
Having no ‘sensors’ in us seems to lead to a seared conscience, which leads to insincerity, which puts us squarely in the realm of devoting ourselves to living life the way a demon would; opposed to God. The best way to avoid all this, when our lives have been surrendered to Christ, is to "perform service."
 
Our God came in the person of Jesus, as a servant, and calls us to serve as well. In Luke 22:26-27 Jesus says, But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Jesus knew that one of the aspects He placed in us, to get our eyes and minds off of ourselves, was to be intimately acquainted with service.
 
So, in 2014, perform service, not because we are loved based on our performance, but as a response to what our great God has done for us.

Christmas Presents Made Of Coal

by Aaron

I know we hear that song during Christmas where Santa has a list and checks it twice to see who is naughty and nice like a capricious sky fairy waiting to give away all of his left over coal to those who are bad. But seriously, have you ever thought about what that really means?
 
We see the cartoons about elves making all kinds of presents for all the “good” kids, but if all the “bad” kids get lumps of coal, where does it come from? Does Santa own his own coal mine where he forces the “bad” elves to work away long hours of the day and night to mine the black rocks to give to bad kids? Do those elves ever get out of the mines, or are they lost "Lord of the Rings" Dwarves who begin to go insane for lack of sunshine? Is there an organized movement for better working conditions? Do they get free parakeets to tell when the air becomes toxic? There are so many questions, and I have never seen the cartoon that would explain it, so I do not know the answers.
 
Also, I think coal might even be worth more money in today’s economy then some of the other gifts those elves make. It almost seems like it would be better to be bad so I can get the coal…for free.
 
I am thinking of so many new ways to get Christmas animated classics to out TV screens to answer the hard questions: Rudolph the Black Nosed Reindeer, Black Christmas, It’s a Charlie Black Christmas…I think we could redo any classic to reflect the coal giving of the season.
 
Our lives become ludicrous when we start basing our worth on the naughty and nice list, on presents verses coal. If we make Santa into our God, then he is a very legalistic God indeed (with some very questionable business practices). This is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the real Christmas hope is completely different from our man-centered view of Christmas. The real Christmas is based solely upon God’s mercy and grace.
 
Titus 3:4-6 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
 
We don’t get coal, we get the gift of grace. This gift of grace is supposed to change us, from the inside out, into Children of God who reflect Jesus to the world. This Christmas, don’t be about the presents or the coal, be about the grace and truth of a God who tossed the list aside at the cross and extended to us the gift of relationship and grace. 

Ho Freakin' Ho Ho

by Aaron

That is probably a terrible way to start a blog as some people think "freakin" is now a bad word. Well, it's not a bad word, Jesus has told me so in a dream after I ate lots of cookies and went into an altered state called: sugar coma.
 
I really want to ask you in this blog if you feel overwhelmed by the holidays. For me I think I do…and I didn't even realize it, until yesterday. Every year I have been really trying to get into the Christmas swing by putting more lights on my house and bringing blinding light bulb cheer to all my neighbors, but last year I got lazy and never took my lights down. I know it is a major holiday faux pas, my wife tells me I am a redneck for doing it, but I think I am just tired.
 
This year I went out to plug in my lights, which were a lovely red and white last year, only to find that the sun had bleached my red lights and turned them all orangish-pink. Normally I would be horrified at this turn of events, but this year I am tired and busy so I just shrugged my shoulders and left them on. I will not switch them out, my neighbors will have to live with my half hearted ho ho ho (or ho freakin' ho ho) this year. 
 
I could write this blog about 6 ways to gain that Christmas cheer, 5 spiritual lessons from Christmas lights that have faded, or even 10 reasons to love your neighbors by taking down your Christmas lights at the end of the year, but I don't want to, I'm tired. Christmas is a short jump away and I would rather spend my time enjoying life with Jesus, my friends, my family, and my wife (who told me just to leave the lights up another year and they should be bleached white by that time).

John Wesley once said " Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can."

I guess that's a good Christmas admonition, but I like the Apostle Paul's even better in Galatians 6:10 "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
 
I really do think decorating, bringing cheer and joy to those around us is important, but spending time connecting and investing in people is more important. So this year, if you have to pick between lights on your house or spending time with Jesus and friends, choose Jesus and friends…but if you have an extra hour, do the lights too (and replace them if red has turned to pink). 

Dads And Chicken Death

by Aaron

Today one of my friends asked me a question that I think would be good to write to you (at Element) about. My friend and his wife got some chickens (just a couple, not a whole farm) to be able to produce eggs and teach their daughters a bit about caring for farm animals. Over the last few days it has been bitterly cold over night (by “bitterly” I mean under 30 degrees). When he went out to see the chickens this morning the smallest one, Sunflower, was dead.
 
Sunflower was one of those chickens that ended up as the runt, skinny, small, but with a great personality. It would run up to you, hang out with you, and even sit in your lap when you were in the back yard…but Sunflower was also the weakest chicken in the bunch. My friend asked me how to talk about death to his 6-year-old daughter. Does he tell her Sunflower is in heaven?
 
I thought this was a perfect teachable moment for a father to talk about the truth of the Gospel with his daughter. I told him that he needs to talk about death in a real way, a way that doesn’t minimize what happened to Sunflower, and then help his daughter to understand that the pain she feels is hatred toward death and sin.
 
I said the he should explain that in school they will try to teach her that death is just a natural part of the “circle of life,” but the truth is that the pain she feels proves that it isn’t. Death is our enemy, we despise death, and we hate death because death is the result of sin. I told him that he then gets to talk about the greatness of Jesus because Jesus died and rose to defeat death for His people. Though our bodies may still be decaying, Jesus saves us for eternal life.
 
1 Corinthians 15:53-58 reminds us:

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 
Through the death of Sunflower, the Gospel gets to be proclaimed; it’s helps his daughter not only understand the vileness of sin, but also the strength, majesty, and love of Jesus who died the death we should have died to give us His life.
 
My friend then asked if he should tell his daughter that Sunflower is in heaven, I laughed and said, “we have no way to know that.” I said the Scriptures are clear that Jesus loved Sunflower because Sunflower was one of His creatures, but that Jesus loves His daughter more and that is what she needs to know.
 
Death doesn’t have to be something Christians run from, it can be the perfect opportunity to help our kids understand that greatness of Jesus...because Jesus IS great!

RIP Sunflower

It's Easier To Be A Zombie

by Aaron
I like the Walking Dead, I mean who doesn’t like zombies being mowed down during the apocalypse. What is easy about being a Zombie is that your life is over, you just walk around looking for something living to eat its brains…that’s it, nothing else.
 
That is how a lot of people treat their walk with Jesus and their interaction with the church. Many people attend Sunday morning’s services and really want nothing else to do with people in the church. Sure we will go to the obligatory mid-week, small group, or other event we feel guilted into, but we would rather live like a zombie…doing nothing for the rest of the week other than meeting our own appetites.
 
As a person intimately involved in church leadership, I am always talking to other staff members, reading books, and finding useful people to talk to about how to get people (read: YOU) more deeply involved in life that is centered on the Gospel. Sometimes I think a lot of people would rather just go to services on a Sunday morning than get more involved in something that lasts longer than a of couple hours a week.  
 
Being involved in the life of other people, while living on mission for Jesus, is not easy and takes up a lot of “our” time; it would be so much easier to be a zombie. Many people in our current culture think Hebrews 10:24-25 (And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near) simply refers to getting together on Sunday mornings…but the truth is this is more than a Sunday morning admonition.
 
The words “stir up one another” actually assumes we are involved in the life of each other. We are to “stir up” each other to “love” and “good works,” we are to “encourage” each other…the only way to do that is to be involved with each other which involves more than a couple hours a week.
 
The question then becomes “why,” why do we live this way? I think Hebrews 10:23 tells us…because Jesus who called us to live this way is faithful. He made us, He knows what we need, He knows why He called us to more time with each other than a couple hours a week…He is faithful (Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful).
 
So, stop living like a zombie and wake up to the true life God has called us in to. Life with Jesus, life with each other, the life of the Gospel.

Q&A: Dating an Unbeliever

by Aaron

I would like to know your thoughts on a believer dating an unbeliever. I've talked to several people of faith, and been looking through scripture, and cannot find anything concrete. Please give me your honest opinion about this.

When you say "people of faith" I am taking that to mean "Christians," there are a lot of "people of faith" of different "faiths" who would disagree with what I'm about to say to you…or ask you, because my first thing is a question (or two).
 
What is the purpose of dating? Is it just to have fun or are you actually looking for something more serious?
 
The reason I ask you those questions is I believe a Christian should date different than everyone else, as everything we do should be for a purpose. If you want to date someone because you like them and you could see it going further, then the question of faith is of utmost importance. I am constantly asking men and women both if the person they are dating is who they want raising their children.
 
Since you are a guy, do you really want a non-Christian woman raising your kids and leading them into what is important? Do you really think faith and trust in Jesus is so little a thing that it doesn't matter? I believe Christians do a disservice to non-Christians when they date them because they act like their faith is not a big deal…like it really doesn't count (until after marriage). This is one of the problems with believers today, they don't think it is important to live with Christ on display in all things.
 
You know what you get when you date a non-Christian, nothing they do should surprise you, but when a non-Christian dates a believer, they really have no idea what they are getting. After a ring and an "I do" a believer turns into a whole other person because NOW they want the other person to start living a faith they have never professed. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul has been answering a few questions when he says these words "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"
 
That verse has many connotations, but I think one we can pull from it is that you have no business dating someone who doesn't believe, it is unfair to them, to you, and any legacy you hope to leave behind you. You are not better than her, your life's priorities are simply different.

The ESV study bible has a great note about the above verse...I have paraphrased it for you here. The image of being unequally yoked is a term from agriculture where you would have two animals unsuited to work together (like a dog and a cat on a bob sled team…it would just be havoc). They will consistently be pulling and moving in opposing directions. Believers and unbelievers have different operating principles and aims. As we constantly point out, this does not mean we do not have any relationships with unbelievers (or else evangelism would be impossible), but we are not to be in partnerships that allow principles or practices contrary to Christ to control us.