It's A Question of Definition

by Aaron
I’ve been wanting to talk about something for awhile, its more like a soapbox type issue for me so I have been waiting until I can work it in on a Sunday morning...but that won’t happen for awhile so I am going to blog about it.
 
Sunday morning I was talking to a young man, by young man I mean over 18 but under 21, the type of guy who should have a job but doesn’t. He applies for jobs (online) but spends more time playing video games than actually looking for work or thinking of his legacy. He is like most young men today and I have told him this stuff before, so if he reads this blog it will not be a shock.
 
As we are talking he tells me about this new video game he is playing, a side mission of this game allows you to train your dog to poop on your neighbor’s lawn…he thinks this is funny. He also has the strategy guide for this game on his lap while he plays this video game, and it is probably the most interest he has shown in a book the entire time he was in school.
 
Now, please don’t think I am pointing at this young man as if to say, “look how terrible he is,” I point it out because it is something that our culture encourages…it is a matter of definitions. What I mean by that is today we are allowing ourselves to be defined by what we consume rather than the legacy God calls us to leave.
 
We are defined by:
  • the car we drive,
  • the job we have,
  • the person (or amount of people) we date,
  • the clothes we wear,
  • the video game we play,
  • the house we live in,
and a million other things.
 
It is why we can think it is funny to spend valuable time training a video game dog to poop on someone’s lawn in a fake world, all the while ignoring the legacy of grace, truth and mercy that should be on display in our life. It is why it can seem perfectly reasonable to someone to not have a job yet find enough money to get a new smartphone so they can talk to everyone online, because it defines them.
 
Deuteronomy 6:6-8 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise….V20“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes…you were to say V24 …for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. God always wanted His peoples focus to be a good legacy, but our focus today is ourselves and what we consume…and not our legacy.
 
Not only must our hearts change, but our lives must change as well. A legacy is what we need to leave, not just for our children, but also for our family, friends, neighbors, nation, and world.
 
Think bigger; think about what comes after you.

It doesn't end here....part 2 coming next week.


Spinning Wheels

by Aaron
Do ever feel like you are just doing the same thing doing the same thing over and over doing the same thing over and over in your life and yet everything is still the same and nothing changes? Maybe a bit like a rat in wheel that runs and runs and never goes anywhere (much like a person on a treadmill)? I admit that I have felt that way recently, partly because I have become so busy that my focus has become getting the next thing done and never looking up.
 
I was driving through Santa Maria just a few weeks ago and thought of all the streets that would get me where I needed to go quicker, with less traffic lights, and less people…just to get my ‘stuff’ done. As I was driving I actually looked up and saw the hills that ring the valley we live in and I was taken back at how beautiful the central coast truly is. It made me start to think about how I am trying to get things done with out the intrusion of people who will mess up MY plan…and yet God made us to be a people who are intimately involved with others. 
 
I took another, albeit mental, step back and thought about how much easier it would be for God to get stuff done with out the intrusion of people messing it all up, and yet He uses us anyway. It kind of puts a different perspective about slowing down and noticing not just the creation around us, but also the creatures around us. We serve a God who is worthy of worship and honor, yet it is when we worship ourselves and/or others that we begin to feel like we are spinning our wheels…because we think they are OUR wheels.
 
In Romans 1:25 tells us about humanity, that they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! This wasn’t just true in Paul’s day; it is true in ours as well. We have made ourselves the center of our lives, we have become consumed with ourselves, and so feel like we are spinning our wheels because we aren’t getting ahead to where we want to be…we have made it all about us.
 
How about the next time you feel restless, the next time you want to convince yourself something is OK when you know the scriptures speak against it, or you feel like you are spinning your wheels, take a step back and look around. Look around at God’s word, His creation, and His creatures and see why those wheels are spinning…and maybe whom you are actually worshipping. Maybe the rat wheel will stop; then you can step off and surrender all of your energies to His ambition for your life.
 
Worship and serve the Creator and not the creation.

Baptism Stories - September 1, 2013

by Element Christian Church

Last Sunday was our Baptisms, and we had 8 people 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.

 

What's All The Fuss?

by Aaron

It’s the oddest thing when I run into Christians, who claim to be followers of Jesus for years, and yet have never been baptized. Please don’t take that as a judgment against you if you haven’t, I am simply stating that it puzzles me because it is one of the concrete things, written in black and white, that Jesus specifically said to do (or at least told his disciples to be doing).
 
Matt 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
 
Baptism is more than just a show; it is more than an awkward few moments in front of people in pool, it is more than simply another step in the life of Christian. Baptism is a public acknowledgment, in front of a body of people (that you believe are family), that you publically identify with Jesus and his calling. It is a celebration of life and hope.
 
In the early church the identification with Christianity in Baptism could also get you killed, so it was a deeply moving event. As time progressed all sorts of extraneous beliefs got laid upon baptism, such as believing that baptism forgave sins. In the later second century, and for hundreds of years, people waited until they were near death to be baptized so they could get the most sins forgiven.
 
Theologically speaking, ALL of your sins were laid upon Jesus at the cross; baptism doesn’t make God forgive you more, like you more, or love you more. Baptism is symbolic in that you understand what it took for God to declare us righteous in His sight. Jesus’ death (symbolized in the burial as we are submerged under the water), and rising to walk in resurrected life (symbolized by us coming back out of the water) is what makes us righteous before a wholly holy, wholly good, and wholly loving God.
 
Baptism is also an event that is meant to be shared, so we invite all of you to come and celebrate with us this coming Sunday…and if you would like to be baptized its not too late to sign up, we would love to celebrate with you.

Baptisms & Labor Day BBQ 9/1/13

by Element Christian Church


Join us September 1st at 1pm at 1371 Solomon Road. To learn more about baptism, click here. Baptisms are not magical, but they are a deeply spiritual event that reflects the work Jesus has done in our lives and for that we celebrate when we see life transformation within our church family!

We will then be having a BBQ afterwards in celebration. We are combining with Labor day. Kids are welcome to swim after baptisms!

What to Bring: Element is BBQing Tritip, making bread & beans, beverages. We ask you bring the following if your last name begins with:
  • AL - Desserts - (Few dozen)
  • MZ - Salad - or Side Dish

Other items to bring:

  • Folding chairs
  • Sunscreen
  • EzPopup tents
  • Lawn games
  • Extra Cookies
  • Pool Floaties
  • Swimsuits/Towels

Conscience VS Holy Spirit

by Aaron
Last Sunday we talked about the Stupid Summer misconception that our Conscience Should Be Our Guide, I am so surprised only one person asked me what the Holy Spirit's role was in all this. I tried to keep the message simple, expecting more people to ask, but only one did (she is very astute). So, I will answer her question and hopefully help you along the way.
 
As we talked about during the message, our conscience, like all of us, has been contaminated by sin. It is why Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 says he doesn't trust his own clear conscience. When we are brought to life (spiritually speaking) by the grace of God, we are told that the "old self" (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 2:15, 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-11) has been put to death with Christ, but not necessarily "the flesh." There is a difference because "the flesh" continues to wage war in us versus what God desires.
 
The conscience is something we have nurtured for years before being remade and renewed by the Spirit of God, which means there will be many times God's Spirit and our conscience are at war (not all times, but some times). Our conscience, because it has been with us from the beginning, will many times try to find ways to condone or excuse our actions when they are sinful. Essentially our consciences don't go away when we follow Jesus, but they are now subjected to the Spirit of God.
 
A good way to tell the difference many times between conscience and Holy Spirit is that the Spirit of God will NEVER contradict the WORD of God. Over time the Spirit of God will also renew and reshape our conscience as we WASH it in the word of God. This is why sometimes I believe people are torn in a decision because God's Spirit in us is pulling one way and our conscience the other.
 
Charles Stanley once wrote, "When you became a Christian, a change began to occur in your conscience. The basic moral code that everyone has at birth started to be overhauled. The Spirit of truth took up residency in your heart. Then, whether you were aware of it or not, He immediately set about to reprogram your conscience. Whereas before you had a general sense of right and wrong, the Holy Spirit began renewing your mind to more specific and complete truths (1 Corinthians 2:10–13)."
 
Something else I read while researching this message said that it is like the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in our hearts in the same way that Christ intercedes for us in heaven. The Holy Spirit is like the "Co-Regent" of the Conscience (John 16:7), He is a conscience renewer (Romans: 12:2) and He is a conscience washer and regenerator (Titus 3:5).

We must understand that our consciences are pliable but the Spirit of God does not change. The conscience can be an extraordinary gift, but it has no standard on its own. The Spirit of God, on the other hand, is God and as such has a standard of life and holiness; the Spirit's standard won't change, and when rightly listened to, can change the conscience. The Spirit is the external standard of holiness in the sinner as well as the saint.
 
The renewal process of our conscience takes place every time we read the Scriptures, attend a worship service, integrate into a Gospel Community, memorize a verse, or pray. The Holy Spirit uses all this input to change how our conscience evaluates every opportunity, thought, invitation, word, and deed.

Jesus Is A Liberal?

by Aaron

I get some bizarre emails from some bizarre people (that would be you). People are always asking my opinions on things I really have no idea about (like stocks, cars, unladen weight of European swallows), but every once in a while I get a question about something I do know about (cookies, Jesus, or Spiderman). I was kind of happy this week when someone asked me this question, "I just saw a bumper sticker that said, 'Jesus was a liberal,' what do you think about that?" Now that is something I can answer because they asked, "what do you think about that," and if I know anything, it is that I have opinions about everything.
 
For a very long time people have been trying to attach Jesus to their cause to give it validity; these causes can be good, like the abolition of slavery or the civil rights movement, or they can be bad like burning people at a stake for opposing views or trying to justify slavery. Almost every cause has a "god" attached to it in one form or another to try to make it more valid. It seems as though most people can't hold their opinions strongly enough without dragging God into it.
 
So what do I think about the bumper sticker? I think that if you are liberal and you have to drag Jesus into it, maybe you don't have enough conviction in your cause to begin with. This is also true for conservatives who say the same things, so don't think I am only picking on one group of people…I am picking on everyone (it's fun).
 
The point of following Jesus means we follow Jesus, we don't make Him follow us. We do not get to say, "I like this set of beliefs, therefore Jesus must like this set of beliefs." Maybe Jesus sees the things you like as idolatry, maybe He is sickened by how many things we tolerate as healthy today that are destroying us, maybe Jesus is calling us to repent of ourselves and our causes and actually follow Him and the things plainly laid out in the Scriptures.
 
In 2014 we will be going through the Sermon on the Mount, and I am going to steal my own thunder by taking the wrap up to one of my messages…but in Joshua 5 God's people are entering into the promised land and we read  Joshua 5:13- When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” There's the question. War is coming and Joshua asks "whose side are you on?"
 
V14 And he said, “No;"  No is the word "neither." "Which side are you on, you have to choose side A or side B." And God says "I choose option C." V14-15 And he said, “No but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
 
Our impulse is to say, "whose side are you on," but Jesus is on His own side and we must understand His holiness because only that will give us the larger perspective that we all need. 

Q&A: 1 Corinthians 15:29

by Aaron

Can you explain I Corinthians 15:29? It was used at a funeral service that I attended over the weekend and I'd never heard it before.

I have to wonder, were you at a Mormon funeral? Mormon's have a practice of baptizing themselves and others for those who have died. The Mormon Church has claimed this verse as the reason they do so (1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?).
 
In the practice people will go to their Mormon temple, appropriately dressed, and adopt the name of a person who has died and then be baptized for that person. There are numerous records of people having been baptized for Princess Diana, Barak Obama's mother, Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter), Elvis, Adolph Hitler, Gandhi, Anne Frank, and even Pope John Paul II. Mormon teenagers have been baptized for Shakespeare and Einstein as well. Mormons do this because they believe baptism is part of the requirements for salvation and now these people can enjoy extra spiritual benefits in the afterlife.
 
But, and you probably know this is coming, the Mormons are incorrect because that is not what this verse is stating. We must always be those who take the scriptures in context. 
 
In Verses 1-19 of 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is recounting the facts of the resurrection, the reality that it happened and the hope that it gives us. In verses 20-23 Paul speaks about the order of the resurrection:

  • Christ was first, raised in a glorified body
  • Next will be those who are His at His return

 
Verses 24-29 talk about Christ's return and His destruction of death.
 
Paul is making an argument about the resurrection and how essential it is for believers to understand and believe. North of the city of Corinth was a city named Eleusis where a pagan religion practiced baptism for dead people (though not with the same connotations as Christian baptisms, obviously) to guarantee a good afterlife. The Corinthians were always being swayed back and forth by other religions (much as people in America are today); they were in the center of an economic world power that a large mass of foreign people frequented. The Corinthians would have been fully aware, and possibly influenced by, the practices at Eleusis.
 
One the arguments that people made against Christianity (as they do today) is that Jesus didn't rise, and so our own personal hope of a resurrection in Him is worthless. So in one verse Paul not only calls the practice of being baptized for the dead useless, but says if the "dead are not raised why also are they immersed on behalf of them." (Literally the Greek text should be translated as THEY). He is NOT saying "we" are baptized for the dead, he is saying the detractors and those who oppose the message of the gospel are being baptized for the dead and it would be stupid to be baptized for the dead and not believe in a resurrection.
 
Read all of 1 Corinthians 15 in context (at least verses 1-29) and it will make a lot more sense. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…

Dads. A Father's Day Interview.

by Element Christian Church


On Mother's Day 2013 we interviewed Jessa, Amanda, and Pam as part of our service. We then thought, "wouldn't it be amazing to interview their husbands as well?" Well, the guys were game, just not in front of everyone. The video was incorporated into our Father's Day 2013 service, but being broken into 2 distinct parts. Here, on the blog site, we have edited them together to make one longer video about the wounds we experience as children and the redemption that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings. Watch Matt, Nathan and Doug share their stories about what they learned from their dads and what it means to be a son of God, their Heavenly Father, whom we all can call, "Abba, Father."

Mother's Day Q&A #1: Priorities

by Element Christian Church


After our panel discussion on Mother's Day, Pam, Amanda, and Jessa hung around to answer some extra questions that were texted in to us. 

"As a single mom, how do you cope with the struggle of putting your husband before your children, especially when your child came before your husband?"
 
Mother's Day 2013 at Element Christian Church

 

Q&A: Matthew 25:31-46

by Aaron

What does Matthew 25:31-46 mean when Jesus says “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Is He calling the people on His right His brothers, or is He talking about actually clothing, feeding & visiting Christian brothers? I had always thought (and probably wrongly) that it was a 'least of these' statement that would include non-believers. Also, how does it (if it does) apply to mission? 

This is a huge concept that I think incorporates almost everything you asked.
 
Matthew is written with a Jewish mindset and is constantly answering questions (sometimes unasked or unwritten) in regard to the Kingdom of God. Many Jews understood Daniel 2, 7, and 9 in view of God's plan to restore the Davidic kingdom in the Messiah. What they didn't grasp was the nature of that kingdom, which would not be political like Rome, but it was a kingdom of sacrificial service; this is seen in places like the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6.
 
Throughout Matthew's gospel there are distinctions of obedient and disobedient Jews. They are wheat and chaff, wise/foolish builders, fertile/unfruitful soil, wheat/tares, and sheep and goats. Matthew is not writing to translate Jesus' ministry into 21st century Western Christendom, He is writing to convince and reassure Jews that Jesus of Nazareth really was who He claimed, the anticipated Messiah.
 
When coming to Matthew 25 the setting shouldn't be ignored. Matthew 25:31-46 is about Jesus as not just the Jews inaugurated King, but everyone's King. It will be Jesus who divides the sheep from the goats, it will be Jesus whom the sheep have served, and it is these sheep who live in the Kingdom of God. The interesting thing is that the sheep did not know they were serving the King by serving His "brothers" which seems to indicate that yes we are to serve other believers, but also everyone else as well. It is like Paul says 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.
 
In the context of Matthew 25:31-46 there is strong support for Jesus meaning "followers" when he says "brothers," because the King is indicating that whoever did not help the least of the "these" (implying the "goats") did not help Him. But for us, I think it does come down to an idea of helping those we can because we don't know who is or is not a Christian.
 
We must also understand that "helping" someone means that at times we have to say no when the "help" could actually hurt and further addiction. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 Paul speaks about NOT encouraging people in idleness when he says For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
 
There is a lot to Matthew 25, but I would say that as we, as God's people, live on mission we should go with eyes open, looking for opportunity to help. Sometimes needs are global, sometimes they are local, and sometimes they are right in front of us. I don't think any act is too small to reflect the glory and grace of God.

Finish The Mission (A Book Review)

by Aaron

Book Review: Finish The Mission

For years there has been a dichotomy in the church when it comes to what believers are called to be and live. I know of churches who teach every teenager who travel through their youth ministry that they are each meant to be an overseas missionary and that they are somehow less serious of a believer if they do not become one. I also know churches that are so inwardly focused that they do not send anyone out. But today there is a growing trend that understands the “sending,” which we are all called to, as simply local.
 
In 1978 Frank DuBose in his book God Who Sends first used the term “missional,” since then it has become the buzz word for many movements that seek strictly to define God’s mission for His people as merely local (though I highly doubt that is what DuBose intended).
 
Even at Element we encourage and call people to “live on mission.” By that we mean that all of us in a sense are involved in cross-cultural work. When a missionary goes to foreign countries they learn the culture, they learn words that are used to describe “things,” they learn the family and social dynamics…in the same way, we that do not live overseas, have many similar experiences as well. We live, work, and go to school with people who do not know Jesus and so we are also called to missions work exactly where we are.
 
The word “Missions” is rooted in the Latin for “to send” and “missionary” can be understood as “sent ones.” We are all sent ones, but there is a core shift in the American church that is both good and bad when comes to its emphasis for, and on, missions. Where many older churches have placed the majority of their focus on “missionary” meaning “over there,” many younger churches have placed the entire focus of “missionary” to mean “right here.”
 
The truth is that the word means both, and that is the essential push of Finish The Mission (Crossway 2012). Finish The Mission is a book that helps redefine mission in terms of “missions.” It is edited by John Piper and David Mathis and is comprised of 6 chapters by 6 different contributors. I have always enjoyed Ed Stetzer’s insight and found his chapter to be the most helpful, though John Piper’s was excellent as well.
 
For people to think that missions work is only overseas leads to a disengaged people in their own city. Those who attend local churches may even begin to think that what they do with their lives (raising their children, loving their spouses, working their jobs) is not as honoring to Jesus as living in hut, eating bugs, and learning a foreign culture.
 
As I said, I have known churches where everyone was told they needed to find a way to be an overseas missionary, as if that is the only spiritual thing they could ever do…but I have also known churches who lead everyone to believe that the most spiritual thing they could do is to be “in ministry” which, to them, would translate to “work in a church.” How sad it would be if those were the only things people ever saw as “spiritual.” Think about it, there would be no garbage men, no plumbers, no farmers, no loggers, no automobile makers, no one to make your pizza…and ultimately there would be no church and no missionaries because no one would have a any money to support locally and send internationally.
 
We must understand that the jobs people do are deeply spiritual, they are good in the eyes of God. We are told that our God works and values work. All that we do is meant to be honoring to Jesus and is a deep act of worship…this includes our jobs and our homes…and it is all to be lived “on mission.”
 
In remembering our own sent-ness to the culture in which we live, we must never forget that there is also deep calling of having a special vocation of a “missionary” as a person sent to unreached people groups around the globe.
 
Let us never forget one or the other, hand in hand…we are sent and the senders, all for the great glory of Jesus. Let’s Finish The Mission.