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.

Q&A: Yeast

by Aaron

I have a friend who just started reading the Bible for the first time in her life. Today she asked me why did they not use yeast in bread in the beginning?  I told her I would find out and get back to her... So, can you tell me why?

I assume she means in temple worship or Passover because the Hebrews did use yeast in their bread making.
 
During Passover the Jews are to rid their homes of yeast as a representation of getting rid of sin, or putting off sin. The actual Hebrew word actually isn’t even “yeast” it is “leaven.” Yeast would be impossible to get out of your house because it floats around in the air, leaven is what they would add to bread to make it rise and give it shape (like a starter for sourdough).
 
During Passover Jews were to rid their homes of leaven; today, in strict sense, that would even include cake mixes in your pantry as it includes not yeast, but leaven (in a sense). Directly after Passover the Jews celebrate the feast of unleavened bread (we use unleavened bread for communion called matzah).
 
Some people think Jesus was teaching His followers to get rid of yeast when He says in Matt 16:5-6 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Jesus goes on to say this teaching is not in reference to yeast/leaven, but the false teachings of the religious leaders (verses 8-10). Some translations use the word yeast instead of leaven and make the text lose all meaning what-so-ever; The Message says it like this “On their way to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring along bread. In the meantime, Jesus said to them, "Keep a sharp eye out for Pharisee-Sadducee yeast."…it makes no sense this way and The Message just lost the message of what Jesus was saying.
 
Again, leaven was used many times to refer to sin in our lives, how it rises and transforms us. The call in the scriptures was never to “get rid” of yeast (as a matter of fact they would drink wine during Passover and yeast is necessary in the fermentation process to make wine). The Old Testament only referred to leaven and it was only for 7 days, not the entire year.
 
And (Romans 6:14) you are not under law but under grace. It is wonderful to live in true freedom…don’t be afraid to make good, yummy, baked bread.

Q&A: Mark 4:5-41

by Element Christian Church
in FAQ

I am reading in Mark chapter 4:35-41.  This is the story of the big storm on the lake with Jesus sleeping and the disciples freaking out, then Jesus calms the storm.  Jesus is upset with them "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" Mark 4:40   I am a little confused with this. I understand we are not to worry because He is in control, but I thought we were to cast our cares upon Him (and the disciples did go to Jesus with their problems). It is just a question that has bothered me and when I read it again I decided I'd ask. 

There are a couple of things going on here.

Mark’s Gospel moves very fast, so at this point they had been with Jesus for a while, but the reality of who Jesus really was had not sunk in. The word for "afraid" from Mark 4:40 is a word that describes timidity or dread. In Revelation 21 it is used of Christians who give up under pressure (essentially they are considered cowards). It is when something so terrifying happens that you want to wet your pants and run away.
 
In Mark 4:41 when it says they were filled with "fear" it is the where we get our word "phobia" from.
 
Essentially, there is a great storm that is tossing their boat around like it is nothing and Jesus stands up with great authority and tells the storm to be quiet. There was something about how Jesus revealed Himself to them in this moment that they had not experienced before. They raise the question, "Who is this? That even the wind and the seas obey Him?" The implied answer is "He is the God who made it all."
 
Think about these people who had been taught about God their entire life, and now Jesus is standing in front of them revealing Himself by quelling a storm, that could wreck ocean liners, with a mere word. To have that type of power displayed makes you realize how powerful God actually is and it freaked them out, just like it would us. There is a natural awe and dread that comes along with actually seeing the power of God. Jesus' rebuke of them was more of a "don't you run away and hide, don't cower when I reveal myself." It gave them a stronger and healthier understanding of Him.
 
Secondly, Mark was writing his gospel to Romans, it is very action oriented, and Romans want to know "did Jesus get the job done." This story would have a huge impact on those facing persecution in the Roman church. As Walter Wessel noted, "It assured them that the strong Son of God would go with them into the storm of opposition and trial." Essentially, there was nothing to cower from because it all rests in Christ's capable hands.

GoBags Santa Maria

by Element Christian Church

GoBags Santa Maria

In Northern Santa Barbara County, many children must be removed from their homes each week and placed into the care of Child Welfare Services for their safety. Sometimes it is temporary, and sometimes it is permanent. In all cases, there is not much time to take any items from home they may need or want. 

When they remove a child from a home they often don’t have anything in which to place the child’s belongings, if they even have time to get any. Whatever items they can take quickly may go into a black trash bag. A black trash bag should never be a child’s suitcase. 

In order to make this a better experience for the children, GoBags Santa Maria is purchasing bags and collecting personal care items for these children – we hope to collect and assemble approximately 600 bags, 200 for each age group: Baby, School age and Teen. 

GoBags ListSocial Services workers have told us that they would rather carry a stack of 20 GoBags in their trunk for the children than use the black garbage bags. The Social Workers could then grab a gallon-sized zip loc bag filled with personal items appropriate for the age of the child they were picking up that day. They have compiled a “wish list” of items they know children need and want - Click here to download.



You can drop off your donations at Element on Sunday mornings or at the Stuff the Bag event on May 11th at Element.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.


 

Baptism Stories - April 14, 2013

by Element Christian Church

 


Last Sunday was our Baptisms, and we had 20 people baptized! If you didn't make it, or missed reading the stories, this weeks 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.

This is Baptism

by Element Christian Church


Learn more about Baptisms here.

Celebrating Baptisms & a "Nacho" Average Church Potluck!

This Sunday, April 14th at 1pm at 1371 Solomon Road. 

What to bring? If your last name begins with the letter:
  • A-L: Cooked taco meat (ground beef or shredded beef or chicken)
  • M-R: Grated/Shredded Cheese or Nacho Cheese & your favorite Salsa
  • S-Z: Beans - Refried (or however you like them on nachos) & and your favorite Salsa
Chips, Nacho Add-ons, Water & Dessert are provided!

What else to bring?
  • Chairs - i.e. lawn chairs, camping chairs, beach chairs, or a blanket.
  • Something to drink.
  • Swimsuit & towel if you want to go swimming afterwards.

Five Years!

by Element Christian Church
This Easter Sunday represented the Fifth Anniversary of Element Christian Church. Our first official service was Easter, 2008. At Element we believe God's blessings come in a multitude of ways, many of which we do not expect. So, here is a look over the past five years and the goodness of Jesus... 

Five Years! Thank You!

Click here to view the entire Five Year Info-graphic

Share your favorite Element Story or picture on our facebook page!

 

A Passion Week Remembrance

by Aaron
  • Hebrews 10:1-4 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
  • Ezekiel 16:63 Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD.’”
Our first Parents, at the dawn of humanity, believed they knew better than God and rebelled against Him and so broke relationship with Him. Since that time it is in our nature to be evil, to fight against God, and to try to make ourselves the final authority on right and wrong.
 
God, in His great mercy, did not leave us to our fate of a perpetual hell that we had brought upon ourselves, instead He starts forth on His plan to redeem mankind and bring His children home. God comes to a guy named Abraham to restore relationship and He promises to bless Abraham. In the New Testament Paul reminds us about this blessing and says Galatians 3:14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus.
 
God's blessing begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus comes and all nations are blessed through Him.
 
We, through ATONEMENT and what is called ‘new birth,’ become children of the promise. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died…The gospel is considered "good news," but by itself, Jesus' crucifixion would not be considered good news. But there is a deeper theological understanding of the event, this is why Paul uses the word "for" to move us to the implication "for" us…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. That is why it is good news, Christ's death and resurrection is the only hope we have ever had.
 
ATONEMENT is the language of love, hope, and restoration, atonement weaves the scriptures together, and atonement was what Jesus made for us at the cross.
  • Hebrews. 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
  • Romans 3:25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
  • 1 John 2 1-2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…
  • 1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins
Jesus dies in our place as our perfect Lamb. We do not have pity or feel sorry for Jesus, Jesus even says in John 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This means that Jesus is no mere victim, He was on a mission to save us. We must look at ourselves and realize why Jesus had to die. You and I are so bad that Jesus had to die to bring us back to God. Which means we grieve over our sin and rebellion against God, but rejoice in His great goodness and redemption.
 
It is about Jesus' glory which brings atonement for us because He really is that Good. You and I are invited to remember atonement, propitiation, and the mercy of God this week because nothing is more important.
 
He loves you more than you could ever imagine, now live a life that loves Him back.


Easter Services 2013

by Element Christian Church
Easter Times

 

Easter Services

Saturday, 6pm (Nursery Care Only)Sunday: 8:15, 9:30 & 11:00am (Full Children's Programs)

You are invited this Easter to Element Christian Church as we look at the Theology of Easter.

Good Friday March 29, 2013

by Element Christian Church
Good Friday Service

Good Friday

Friday, March 30th at 11:00PM, Childcare is not available

This service is designed for those who already believe in the atoning work of Christ, and is simply a reminder of the humbleness we should live in as we remember the sacrifice that our Great God gave as He suffered and died for us.

MEN MEN MEN MEN MANLY MEN MEN MEN - MEN (PART 4)

by Aaron
True masculinity can be summed up in the whole idea of headship. In order to not make this blog too long I encourage you to go back and read the last 3 entries.
 
The best place to see the issue of headship happens all the way back in Genesis. God first makes man and gives man instructions about life in garden and life with Him. The man is supposed to impart these to his wife (like a good sage), but when the serpent questions the woman about God the man doesn't fight him (like a proper warrior) and so his relationship to his wife is undermined (like a bad cultivator).
 
We read in Genesis 3:6 that they both eat the forbidden fruit, the woman first, then she gives some to her husband verse 6She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.Here you see Adams failure as a man. He was just standing there, doing nothing when he should have kicked the serpent in the head and protected his wife.
 
After they sin against God, the man and woman all of a sudden know evil, they have committed it. It is important to note that the only thing the man and woman got from eating the fruit was knowledge of evil as they already had all the good. God then comes walking in the garden in the cool of day and the man and woman try to hide themselves behind some bushes and trees like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. Then we read in verse 9But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?"
 
Here are the questions: Who did God call? The MAN. Who sinned first? The woman.
 
This illustrates the issue of headship and responsibility. Men do not get the excuse of “it's not my fault” because it is still our responsibility. A man is called to love Jesus enough to fix the messes that come into his home. This is why men must know the scripture and love God; it is how a man will know how to fix his own messes and his families and insert himself between Satan and his family.
 
In this moment Adam should have been crying out to God, God should not have had to call out for Adam. He should have grabbed his wife and repented, but instead he runs like a coward.
 
Headship is a concept repeated throughout the scriptures. In Ephesians 5:23 Paul reminds us For the husband is (not could be/should be/might be) is the head of the wife as Christ (Jesus) is (not could be/should be/might be) the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. We do not get to vote whether Jesus get’s to be in charge, He IS in charge. As Jesus is head of the church, the husband is head of the home and Christians spend too much time arguing if he should be.
 
The better question is: is he a good husband like Jesus or a bad husband who is not like Jesus? "Head" does not mean "boss," men do not get to boss their wife around. Headship means LIKE CHRIST. Jesus has a bride, the church…husbands have a bride, their wife. True masculinity says a man treats their bride like Christ treats the church. Real men will pursue their wives like Jesus; Jesus doesn’t sit back and wait for us, He pursues us. Jesus pursues relationship with us in the same way a husband must be relentlessly committed to relationship with his wife. That means men go first.
  • Repentance YOU go first
  • Reconciliation YOU go first
  • Work needs to be done YOU go first
This is the good news of the gospel; GOD is on a rescue mission for His men (and women, but for the purposes of this blog we are talking about men).
 
The wonderful thing about the fall in Genesis is that in Genesis 3:14-15 God promises to send Jesus to save us all. Many times when you see God walking in the flesh in the Old Testament it is Jesus. So in Genesis there is a strong possibility that at this point Jesus is promising Himself.
 
In the New Testament Paul wants to help us understand the issue of headship better:
  • Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
  • 1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
  • Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
 
The wonderful thing about Jesus is that He took headship and responsibility for the human race. He took responsibility for our sin Romans 5:8-11 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
 
Who takes headship and responsibility for us? Jesus. That is why we live as His men, under His banner, understanding His definition of masculinity. We need humility and surrender so Jesus can show us how to be a cultivator, warrior, and sage. The world needs better men and by God’s grace we can be those better men.

MEN MEN MEN MEN MANLY MEN MEN MEN - MEN (PART 3)

by Aaron
In this short blog series we have talked about what God called men to be originally:
  • Men were meant to be Cultivators.
  • Men were meant to be Warriors
  • Men were meant to be sages.
We also looked at how the fall has effected all of us in how we relate to our original calling. Then we looked at why God brought promises of hardship after the fall and that true restoration comes only in Jesus.
 
In our world today, the gifts of cultivator, warrior and sage are still hardwired into men, but we have miss-used them because we misunderstand them. Let me give you 3 ways men misuse these gifts:
 
Some men abuse their masculinity and become bullies looking to lord power over others like Adam who blamed God and his wife for his own sins.
  • Proverbs 16:29 A violent man entices his neighbor and leads him down a path that is not good.
  • Proverbs 19:26 He who robs his father and drives out his mother is a son who brings shame and disgrace.
  • Proverbs 24:1-2 Do not envy wicked man, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.
  • Proverbs 28:15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked man ruling over a helpless people.
  • Proverbs 29:10 Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright
Men who misunderstand masculinity will hate men who live righteously. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul reminds us that man is the glory of God, being a bully and abusing power is NOT the glory of God.
 
Some men avoid their masculinity to get along (like Adam) who sat quietly and idly by while Satan declared war on his God and wife.
  • Proverbs 3:27: Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.
  • Proverbs 23:20-21 Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
  • Proverbs 29:21 If a man pampers his servant from youth, he will bring grief in the end.
Many men today will not stand up for what is right and true because they are too worried about what others will think, or how hard it will be to live faithfully and consistently.
 
Some men abandon their masculinity to get away (like Adam) who fled from his God and wife when he sinned. Some men will get all fired up about righteousness and then realize it is a lot of work and quit like a man who says "I love you" to his wife and a few years later cheats on her or divorces her.
  • Proverbs 11:3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
  • Proverbs 24:10 If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!
  • Proverbs 27:8 Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home.
True masculinity honors its commitments. A marriage is forever and men will take responsibility for their home because it is their responsibility.
 
Next week we will wrap this up looking at the issue of headship.
 

...And the Winner Is...

by Element Christian Church
Congratulations to David Stovesand - Champion of the Moe-Karting Race day extravaganza. Check out the highlight video below, and be on the look out for the next MOE event coming this April. 

MEN MEN MEN MEN MANLY MEN MEN MEN - MEN (PART 2)

by Aaron

I wrote last week how living true masculinity is very hard to do, especially when a man hasn't lived this way in his past. It could take a family a very long time to get used to the idea of a man beginning to lead rightly…but men must NOT give up. They must press forward because it is part of our calling. From the book of Genesis we talked about 3 simple (though albeit very difficult) things God created men to be:

  • Men were meant to be Cultivators.
  • Men were meant to be Warriors.
  • Men were meant to be sages.

Because of the fall, sin has infected all the things we were called to be.

  • Because we sinned the ground itself has been cursed – Men now have opposition to their efforts to cultivate and rule over what we were supposed to steward and care for (his dominion - Genesis 3:16b, 3:17-19).
  • Because we sinned the testosterone God gave men to stand against suffering, fight evil, defend truth and justice, and protect the weak and vulnerable (especially women and children - Proverbs 31:8-9; 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:10-18; I Timothy 1:18) has been turned upside down. Men now use what was meant to be good to fight against what is good and do great evil in the process.
  • Because we sinned we have turned being a sage into being a shaman. Instead of teaching truth most men teach lies to get what they want, rather than the truth that is so desperately needed.

God hands out promises of toil and pain because of our rebellion, but why? The answer is simple, because God loves us. The ground fights men because it reminds us of how WE fight God. God loves us and wants us to understand hope and surrender.
 
Given the choice to do it again, we would all sin and fall. Today we still think God is inadequate and that we know better than Him how to live our lives (the lives He has graciously given to us I might add). We all think God is trying to keep us from something. Should I drink that, sleep with them, flip them off, be patient, not think everyone is an idiot. We have all placed an "it" in our lives above what God calls us to.
 
We have all sinned and our shame stands in the open just like we were naked, like Adam and Eve. But Jesus takes our sins upon Himself, reconciles us to Him, and makes living our true calling an actual possibility. How do men become real men again, Jesus. This is the promise of Jesus.

MEN MEN MEN MEN MANLY MEN MEN MEN - MEN (PART 1)

by Aaron

Many men today are not worthy of respect because they do not understand or know their own calling to masculinity. Many times this comes about because they have never been taught what a man actually is, verses what a man is not. Most television stations and movies send messages that say a man is someone who can fight off 10 ruffians, run a full marathon, make love all night long, and run a successful business all in the same day.
 
Trying to live up to an ideal that is not attainable has destroyed most men's view of masculinity, and in turn, most men's view of women. The truth is that scripture constantly teaches that a man is someone who loves Jesus and follows through on his God given commitments. A man cares for his family. A man leads, loves, and guides them even when it is hard. A man accepts his shortcomings and seeks to grow past them while leading his family in a way that reflects Jesus.
 
Living true masculinity is very hard to do, especially when a man hasn't lived this way in his past. It could take his family a very long time to get used to idea of a man beginning to lead rightly…but men must NOT give up. They must press forward because it is part of our calling. What you see, from the book of Genesis is that God created men to be 3 simple (though albeit very difficult) things.

Men were meant to be Cultivators - God created men to cultivate an untamed land into a garden after the prototype of Eden (Genesis 2:5-8,15). This tells us men are created for work, challenge, competition, and the pioneering of new frontiers. Masculinity will be cultivated as men create and cultivate things to their optimal abilities. If a man gets bored or doesn’t love God he will cultivate sin.

Men were meant to be Warriors - God created men to rule on His behalf and therefore God’s enemies are to be man’s enemies. When Satan attacks, the man is supposed to fight; but most men fail to fight and go along with the crowd (Genesis 3:1-15). If a man doesn’t realize how God made them, they become a warrior towards women and wuss to those things he is SUPPOSED to fight.
 
Men were meant to be Sages - God created men to receive knowledge and wisdom and teach that to others, especially their wives and children (Gen 2:9, 2:16-18; Proverbs 4:1-4, 1-9; I Corinthians 14:33b-15; Ephesians 6:4).  This means that men must know their bible. Proverbs says if boys don’t get wisdom from their fathers, they get it from other men…and they may be getting lies.
 
Next week (in this blog) I would like to look at how the fall has affected masculinity and what we should be doing about it (and what Jesus has done about it).

Are you smarter than an eKid!?

by Element Christian Church

Are you smarter than an eKid!? Take the memory challenge! Memorize the following verses. If you can memorize them all, you’ll get the prize! Yes, that’s right, bragging rights over your 5 year old -- Good job you! Memorize the verses this month, and recite them (from memory) to your gc leader or at the Welcome Center! Download the verses here.



Is God a Community?

by Aaron
in FAQ

Is God a community? I've really been struggling with this idea lately. I looked up the definition of community in the dictionary and it defines community as:

 1: a unified body of individuals: as
a: state, commonwealth
b: the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly: the area itself <the problems of a large community>
c: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location
d: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society <a community of retired persons>
e: a group linked by a common policy
f: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests <the international community


The definition of community as defined in Merriam Webster's dictionary doesn't seem to actually apply to God. Can you help me here? Because nowhere in the Bible does it actually say that God is a Community, and just because God is a Trinity doesn't mean you equate that with "community," because when you look up the definition of community, it doesn't fit. When you say this, do you have a different meaning of community in mind then what the dictionary defines it?


Answer:
1) The dictionary is not a theology book.
2) If a dictionary doesn't define it correctly, that doesn't make our statements untrue because we explain our definition on a regular basis.
3) If we took the definition for community from the dictionary then Gospel communities wouldn't be Gospel communities because that definition doesn't fit.
4) You even said "nowhere in the Bible does it actually say that God is a Community, and just because God is a Trinity doesn't mean you equate that with "community." Well, the word TRINITY isn't in the bible so does that mean God cannot exist as one?
5) Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema "the Lord your God is ONE" is a term of a cluster of grapes. One cluster, many grapes. It is a nourishing, life giving RELATIONSHIP of community. Just as a man and a woman become ONE (same word) Flesh, God is ONE.
 
Rest assured God, in Himself is a community. For a greater understanding of this, I would recommend Tim Chester's Book A Meal With Jesus.

Becoming Anglican?

by Aaron
in FAQ

Question: Have you ever considered becoming Anglican? Are you familiar with the books by Robert E Webber? It raises some interesting church history/theology questions for churches.

What an odd question. Will we become Anglican? The short answer is no.
 
My long answer about becoming Anglican and Robert Webber is as follows (it's kind of long):
The Anglican Church traditionally venerates tradition over scripture; this is actually seen very clearly in Webber's writings. He writes romantically (I say that because I can't think of a better metaphor) about tradition, liturgy, and philosophy while seeming to neglect the weight and authority of the scriptures.
 
Don't misunderstand me, I believe Webber has many valid points. He writes that "Seeker-oriented contemporary churches argue that worship does not need to present the whole gospel. The purpose of worship, they say, is to get people in the door. Then, after they have gained a hearing, they present the gospel in small-group settings. This argument may be good marketing but it fails to understand the biblical purpose of worship." Again, this point is valid, but I do not think it applies to Element as we present the gospel every week, and many times more than that.
 
Webber is typical of most post-modern writers today, he criticizes Christianity's emphasis on "creation--sin--redemption" and replaces it with "creation--incarnation--recreation" - He seems to think that the two are mutually exclusive (where I think they go hand in hand). He thinks Christianity also concentrates too much on the sacrificial view of the atonement…he thinks this excludes seeing Jesus as Christus Victor (Jesus as the victor triumphing over sin, death and the powers of evil). In Webber's mind this has led to an individualistic form of Christianity in which people are concerned too much about redemption from sin and not enough about the rescue of fallen creation in the new heaven and earth (the new creation).

I hope you can see my dilemma. Just as Webber accuses the church today of not understanding the fullness of the gospel, he doesn't either because he neglects part of it as well. This is why I have issues with him, because he is so right and so wrong. Webber talks about the "redemption of the whole world," and while I know what that means to me; what does he mean when he says it? In his book Ancient - Future Worship he says:
  • It "has to do with God's rescue of the entire created order and the establishment of his rule over all heaven and earth" (pp. 57-58).
  • "Deliverance is for the sake of the world" (p. 59).
  • He complains that "worship now places greater attention on the individual's condition before God. The vision of God to reclaim the whole world and redeem all flesh and matter through the victory of Christ over sin and death scarcely appears" (p. 77, cf. pp. 90, 94, 96-97, 121).
These statements sound great, I might even make them on a Sunday morning or in a blog, but the issue is Webber never clearly defines the gospel. Is he saying that all mankind, along with all matter, will be redeemed and re-created? If so, then the message of personal redemption is indeed an over-emphasis, in fact it wouldn't be the point of the cross at all. However, if it is believers in Christ that Jesus paid for at the Cross, because of the sacrificial death of Christ, then we ARE saved individually (though our salvation is not meant to be lived in isolation).
 
My largest problem with Webber is that he makes statements like this, "I affirm the Bible as the final authority in all matters of faith and practice...However I draw on the foundational interpretation of the Church Fathers and the creeds and practices of the ancient church." (p. 19, cf. p. 68). In other words, final authority in reality does not rest in Scriptures, but in the church…that is a huge issue because it's wrong.
 
Webber also calls for us to resist intellectual analysis that he believes stems from the Enlightenment and read the Bible as true but "not for truths." In communion he encourages us to free our thinking from reason and science and embrace "mystery." We are to read the Bible "holistically, relationally, and passionately" (p. 125), rather than intelligently and rationally, for, "the intellect always dissects, makes judgments, analyzes, and sifts, but the heart listens, sees, feels, loves, fears, and believes" (p. 127). This is a false dichotomy between head and heart and an overreaction to those who think too much. Even the profit Jeremiah reminds us in 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"

Webber prefers Eastern over Roman liturgy that is centered not around Scripture, but around the Lord's Table; he writes much on this subject. He rejects all the major positions on the purpose and nature of the communion  and claims that the "ancient" view is, "When bread and wine are received in faith, we are transformed. Bread and wine nourish our union with Jesus. It transforms us into his image and likeness" (p. 140). This is not what communion is, it is a remembrance of what Jesus had done. Our redemption and hope…Jesus even said (Luke 22:19) "Do this in remembrance of me."

I do agree that there are so many things we will never totally comprehend about our God and His ways (mystery), but Webber's approach abandons the clear approach of Scripture itself and leaves far too much to our own imagination and to what others call "subjective mysticism." Webber is asking us to accept a form of Christianity not emerging from Scriptures but from the practices of men years after God had spoken His final word in the New Testament. This is the same approach that led to corruption in the "ancient" church and ultimately necessitated the Reformation.
 
I hope this makes sense. I personally call myself a believer, a follower, a Christian, rather than taking a label of a particular mode of church called "Anglican." I don't want to limit what God calls me to be and follow just one portion of the gospel, I want to follow all of it.  

Yes, There is Evil In The World

by Element Christian Church
Last Month, in light of the recent shootings, Aaron addresses people's fears and concerns in his sermon It's Not How You Play The Game. Our current society believes our struggle is only against flesh and blood, but the scxriptures teach that evil in the world is much deeper than that. The only thing that makes sense is the scripture's view of the world and the problem of evil in it.


 

The Holy War

by Aaron
Don’t worry, the title of this blog is not calling you to arms to fight something; it is simply the title of a book I read over Christmas break that made me think about Christianity today verses the world of 1682. If you don’t know, James and I both have Goodreads pages where we show you what we are/have read and sometimes write reviews…the following is one such review.
 
John Bunyon (1628-1688) is probably best known for his book The Pilgrims Progress rather than his lesser-known works, one of which is The Holy War (both books are supposed to be allegories for our spiritual life). When Bunion wrote The Holy War he was actually imprisoned for preaching without a license…this imprisonment lasted 12 years. You can see much of feelings come to play as the story unfolds in this book.
 
Mansoul is the name of a city that is under the great king Shaddai. No one can enter the town of Mansoul unless the city opens the gates from the inside.  A couple of the names of the cities gates are the Ear-gate and the Eye-gate; you can see how the allegory is going to play out.
 
Diabolus shows up outside the city and takes it captive by convincing the people that their Good King's laws are unjust. That He gives freedom to do anything except, essentially, disobey Him, these laws Diabolus says are unreasonable. The city listens (at the ear-gate) and opens themselves to Diablolus. As soon a Diabolus enters the city square he says, “I have done indeed this service, as to promote thee to honour, and greaten thy liberty.”
 
This is how our entire culture lives, even those within the church. We think that we should get to decide what is right for ourselves, we twist God’s words to make them say what we want them to say, and everything in the scriptures loses power as we turn the bible into a therapy book and not a book of relationship, hope, and most importantly, truth. We turn it into a book to "honour" ourselves, rather than honor our God.
 
The city falls into grievous sin and the remainder of the book is Emmanuel’s rescue of it. There are some great allegories in the book, but some things that struck me as a throw back to a by-gone era. In the Chapter titled “Serving One Master” the city roots out all those loyal to Diabolus, but the court proceedings sound a lot like witch trials. When the city begins a slow slide back into self-centeredness the passive aggressiveness of Emmanuel is disturbing.
 
I wonder what thoughts Bunyon harbored about Jesus from the words he wrote. Maybe it was part of his mingled Puritan, Baptist, Quaker background. At one point in Bunyon’s life he was so despondent over his past life that he said he experienced mental turmoil and extreme guilt.
 
So, two points…First, would I recommend The Holy War? Of course I would. I have an illustrated edition that would be great to read with kids. The book doesn’t shy away from judgment of sin, our own proclivity to deceive ourselves and how easily we are distracted from serving our true King. It would also be great discussion starters for how the righteousness, justice, and grace of God all go hand in hand.
 
Secondly, after reading this book I think we could all understand better the goodness of God who comes to seek and save us. Whereas when Diabolus wants to enter the city of Mansoul, the city must open itself to him…but after the city is in the control of Diabolus, when Emmanuel wants to enter the barred gates, He busts through them and takes the city.
 
I don’t know if this was Bunyon’s intention of writing the book the way he did, but from a reformed perspective it makes sense to me. Our God breaks downs the walls to save His people and nothing can stand in His way.
 
If you want to have a good discussion with your family, or even looking for a fun, odd, old school book starting a family devotion with your kids; how about this classic…it’s a good place to start.
 
Although, if I was being sarcastic, it would be hard to believe that a towns people couldn’t figure out that Mayor Lust or Mr Self-Love weren’t bad guys from the start. I mean, seriously, I would just change my name.