Premarital Sex Part III

by Aaron

Today's blog is meant give you a few more statistics (read them together with the last two weeks and it will all make sense). There are many people who speak of the virtues of 'sexual freedom' by which they mean free to have sex with any THING at any TIME. When the scriptures speak of 'sexual freedom' it is in the context of marriage; totally free in marriage with your spouse.

As I said last week, these statistics are to make you think, it is not ammunition to become self righteous. I firmly believe that marriage is NOT the answer, Jesus is. There is nothing before, or higher than, Jesus. Only by following Jesus we will begin to value what he values…and marriage will be restored.

  • 43% of US children live without their father [US Department of Census]
  • "Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families...those boys whose fathers were absent from the household had double the odds of being incarcerated -- even when other factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence were held constant." (Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University cited in "Father Absence and Youth Incarceration." Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.)
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes. [Criminal Justice & Behaviour, Vol 14, pp. 403-26, 1978]
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of the Census)
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (United States Center for Disease Control)
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
  • 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January, 1985, p. 28]
  • Fatherless boys and girls are four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems. [US D.H.H.S. news release, March 26, 1999]
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
  • Boys who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely that those in father-present homes to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity.(P.L. Adams, J.R. Milner, and N.A. Schrepf, Fatherless Children, New York, Wiley Press, 1984).
  • In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed "greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households." (N. Vaden-Kierman, N. Ialongo, J. Pearson, and S. Kellam, "Household Family Structure and Children's Aggressive Behavior: A Longitudinal Study of Urban Elementary School Children," Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 23, no. 5 (1995).
  • Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes. (One-Parent Families and Their Children, Charles F. Kettering Foundation, 1990).
  • Only 13 percent of juvenile delinquents come from families in which the biological mother and father are married to each other. By contrast, 33 percent have parents who are either divorced or separated and 44 percent have parents who were never married.
  • The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father and triples if he lives in a neighborhood with a high concentration of single-parent families. (A. Anne Hill, June O'Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States, CUNY, Baruch College. 1993) 

I know, a lot of statistics. The purpose is to remind you that Satan is a liar and God has always told the truth. Let's trust Jesus for that truth and offer hope and healing to the rest of this world. 

We, at Element, do not divorce the ideas of marriage, sex, and children like the rest of our society does. We not only would like to see wild, passionate, nail biting sex saved for the context of marriage, but we would also like to see children saved for it as well.

Premarital Sex Part II

by Aaron

Today's blog is meant to go along with last week (and next week). Just read them together and it will all make sense. I simply wanted to give you some statistics about living together, kids, premarital sex and the effects it has had on our society. There are many people who speak of the virtues of 'sexual freedom' by which they mean free to have sex with any THING at any TIME. When the scriptures speak of 'sexual freedom' it is in the context of marriage; totally free in marriage with your spouse.

As I said last week, we at Element do not divorce the ideas of marriage, sex, and children like the rest of our society does. We not only would like to see wild, passionate, nail biting sex saved for the context of marriage, but we would also like to see children saved for it as well. 

I am going to give you a lot of statistics (we have broken this into a 3 week blog because of all the stats). These statistics are to make you think, it is not ammunition to become self righteous. I firmly believe that marriage in NOT the answer, Jesus is. There is nothing before, or higher than, Jesus. Only by following Jesus we will begin to value what he values…and marriage will be restored.

  • From the years 1978-2008 in the United States people living together rose 500%.
  • Over 90% of Americans will marry, over 40% of those end in divorce, 60% of those divorces involve children.
  • 1/3 of births today are to single women
  • 1/4 of single women ages 25-39 are cohabitating (living together) with their "partner."
  • Fully 1/2 of all cohabitate at some point
  • 1/2 of all marriages are preceded by living together
  • Adults 20-24 are most likely to cohabitate
  • About 40% of cohabiting women have children with their partner, many of which are unplanned pregnancies.
  • It is predicted that 40% of all children will at some point live in a cohabiting household.
  • Almost two-thirds of teenagers believe (66% boys; 60% girls) that it is a good idea to live together before marriage.
  • Those who cohabitate have a 75% higher divorce rate (some studies are showing closer to 90%).
  • Those who live together before marriage are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • Cohabitating women are 200% more likely to be beaten and sexually assaulted than married women.
  • Cohabitating women are 9Xs more likely to be murdered by their partner than married women.
  • Virgins who marry are less likely to divorce (37% for men,  24% for women)
  • Virgins who marry stay married and are happier and enjoy more sex.


The above statistics come from 4 major sources:

  • LIVING TOGETHER: Myths, Risks and Answers By Mike & Harriet McManus, 2008 (Howard Books).
  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • Studies summarized in Marriage and Family by Olson, DeFrain and Skogrand, 2008 (McGraw-Hill).
  • For a list of more than eighty works about current trends and the effects on sexuality and emerging adults (including links whenever possible), you can visit one of the researchers’ websites here: http://bit.ly/chmjlX.

Where does the bible say premarital sex is a sin?

by Aaron

I get this question a lot and decided it is probably just better if I answer it here, so it is always available to anyone. I hope this answer isn't long and drawn out (but it may get that way in the end). 

Most of the time people who have any supposed theology background and say "I don't believe that the bible ever condemns premarital sex" are also the ones who think smoking pot is ok as well. I never hear these same people try to argue about how God calls us to worship more fervently or love others more honestly, all of their arguments tend to go toward sin and things that they want to do and yet try to say God is OK with it. 

There are singular verses we could quote (like Gal 5:19-21). In Galatians, as well as other places, "sexual immorality" is the word porneia and means "illicit sexual intercourse." Porneia also covers a whole broad range of sexual sins (it's like the junk drawer for sexual sin so we can't find ways to get around it). God knows our hearts are evil and we constantly try to find ways around what he said, so Paul gives us one word that covers IT ALL. You can also see Mark 7:20-23, 1 Cor 6:18=20, 1 Cor 7:1-5, 1 Thess 4:3-5.

But truly, it is also not possible to answer this question with one verse because the full idea is fleshed out in the entirety of scripture.  Moses, Jesus and Paul all state the same words about the union of a man and a woman, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Eph 5:31). Our culture wants to focus on one thing: Sex. Everything is about sex…so we ask the question about premarital sex. We try to divorce sex from everything else scripture adds to the idea of sex.

Sex, marriage and children are all connected in scripture. They are not individual entities.

  • Marriage is the covenant between two people where we bond ourselves with oaths of connection
  • Sex is where, after we have bound ourselves to each other in covenant, we now bind ourselves physically
  • Children are what come out of this covenant and physical union.

While marriage, sex, and children are all connected it does not mean a couple who cannot have children cannot be happy and have a full life together. It simply means that children are also a product of the marriage union in the same way sex is. As sexuality is to be enjoyed, so are the children that come from it. Part of what we would say is that as sex should be saved for marriage, AND so should children.

That is not to say that children born outside of marriage are not a joy and have any less value than children born in wedlock. But statistics bear out that children who have a mom and dad do better in school, relationships and life.

Element longs to be a church that brings redemption to many broken things, including our current cultures ideas of sexuality and raising children. We want to come along side of those who need healing and hope, and be God's hand to the searching and lost. We will do this by never shrinking back from the truth and hope that Jesus calls us to.

SCRIPTURE: DIDACTIC

by Aaron

My 9th grade Algebra teacher was one of the neatest ladies I have ever met. She had  a different outfit for every day of the school year, she genuinely cared about students, and she loved math with a passion. She loved math so much that she almost made me love it to (I say "almost" because I still hate it, but I did come close to changing my mind because of her). 

Her name was Mrs. Chiado.

Being a great teacher is a gift…it is a gift that scripture itself has. Scripture is what we call DIDACTIC. Meaning, it was intended for instruction and that itself instructs. This is why Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. The words of God are alive, and being alive it can teach us on a continual basis.

Scripture covers almost every topic we can think of, and those we can't. It is never static or frozen, it is always moving in the direction of the glory of God; yet so many people who claim to be Christians never pick it up except on a Sunday morning.

I believe part of this reason is that many people fail to understand what scripture is intended to do (hence these last 3 weeks of blogs). Some people never read it...but others, and this may get me in trouble, read it too much. Yes, some people read it so much that they never DO what it actually says. Scripture is not about how much you can get through, it is about how much gets INTO you.

So please, pick it up, read it for all it's worth. You will come to love it and love Jesus more. Get a good bible commentary and a good theology book to go along with it (I would recommend Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology). You will begin to see the scriptures come alive.

And might I even say scripture is a better teacher than Mrs. Chiado, because it made me love it and Jesus more than I can ever explain.

SCRIPTURE: COMPLETE AND EQUIPPED

by Aaron

Whenever I get something from the store that requires assembly at home, I have a deep sense of dread. The dread doesn’t come from the tiny wrench or the horrible instructions they give you in the box that de-maculates you…it comes from the fact that anytime I put something together I inevitably have pieces left over.

If you were to walk in my back yard and want to use the BBQ Grill, it is AT YOUR OWN RISK because, YES, there were pieces left over. Nothing is exactly complete or equipped to operate exactly as it was intended.

Humanity itself, in a sense, is in the same boat as my BBQ Pit (or ceiling fan or book shelf or car stereo or any number of things I have put together)…it is incomplete and ill equipped because of our sin. Our sin has marred God’s image in us so that we are not all that humanity was intended to be (and we look for the day when all creation is completely redeemed). This is why we study the scriptures.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Paul uses two words here that are extremely important: complete and equipped.

  • Complete is the Greek word artios and means fitted. It is kind of like when you find that perfect pair of pants that you never want to wash because you don't want them to change at all because they are just right; that is artios.
  • Equipped is the Greek word exartizō and it means to be finished. It is like a house that get's built and everything is done and furnished…it is finished.

What Paul is telling us is that the Scriptures are what we need so we can be fitted perfectly to God's calling, and that by studying them we will also become finished so that we naturally live out every good work our Great Savior has for us. The function of being complete and equipped is for the purpose of good works.

Our Great God does good works and He intends for His people to do the same. He has given us scripture so we can be fitted and finished for these works.

It is like what Augustine heard when God called him at the age of 32, "take and read." Augustine, after years of living in debauchery, picked up a Bible and the passage it opens to is Romans 13:13-14. The scriptures spoke truth in his life, Jesus changed him and he became one of the greatest theologians Christianity has ever known.

SCRIPTURE: ALWAYS NEW

by Aaron

For the past few weeks I have been working on our sermon series for next year, Genesis. As I am going through how we will teach it, many things strike me I didn’t even notice the last time I taught through it. It brings me back to the understanding that we, as God’s people, must be those who are constantly immersed in His scriptures.

We are told that He breathes out the scriptures.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We are also told that God’s words are alive.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The reason we can come back to the same scriptures we have read a hundred times before, and still learn new things, is that His scriptures are alive. In Genesis 2:7 we learn that man only has life because God breathed into Him. God’s breath IS life. That same vibrant life we have is also found in the scriptures. 

Over the next couple weeks, on Element’s blog, we will briefly (and I do mean briefly) look at what the scriptures are to do for us and why it is so important to study them…and re-study them.

Ultimately, we read the scriptures because they are all about Jesus. God breathes out the scriptures, but they are not the life we are looking for…Jesus is the life we need. John 5:39 Jesus says to the religious leaders who forgot this essential truth, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me… The scriptures point to Him, so in the effort to know the scriptures we should never lose sight of Jesus, the one the scriptures are about.

INNIE OR OUTIE?

by Aaron

I had a very interesting question posed to me at Element today, one that actually led to someone deciding to leave Element as their home church. The question essentially came down to scripture and whether we allow God’s word to dictate what we hold as truth verses our own experiences.

Essentially the person I was talking to had an experience that has caused them to view certain scriptures a certain way. They were explaining a text to me, from the King James Version, and telling me how the English Standard Version has it all wrong.

Now, I can have a conversation about translation style, which texts are used in the translation, translating committees…all that stuff, but what this person had a problem with was that the text from the ESV didn’t agree with them. I tried to explain the team of scholars behind the ESV and the Greek text verses the Latin Vulgate, but none of it mattered because they simply liked the words the King James Version used and it had nothing to do with correct translation at all.

Today in service I talked about letting God search us deep into our core, one of the ways He does this is through His Word. We must be a people who allow God’s word to CHANGE us, to read out of a text what it was meant to say, and never to read INTO a text our biases and prejudices.

If you have ever had a question about what Element teaches or believes I would like you to understand this: we will be a church that is grounded in God’s word as tightly as we can be. That means that we will allow God’s text to speak to us, to change us, to be our rule for life and faith…we will do our best to never read into a text what is not there.

I know this is not a popular stance to take in our world of individualism today, but we must base our lives on the One who is unchanging, Jesus, and not upon the changing winds of our experience.

FORGIVE OR FORGET OR…

by Aaron

The question came up last night at GC if forgive and forget is biblical?  Or is forgive and don't forget it biblical?

Forgiving is not forgetting, it is honoring God in all things first. We so often think life is about us, but life is about God and His glory. When God get's glory our hearts find freedom and joy by living the right way we were made. So we forgive, but also in forgiving it means that we don't give people "blank checks" because it only causes more harm to them than good.

Let me give you some parameters about forgiving:

  • Forgiving is not condoning - You are not condoning someone’s actions or abuse by forgiving. Forgiving is setting someone free, in the depths of your heart, to resolve for YOU to live free from bitterness and anger.  This is different than condoning what someone did.
  • Forgiving is NOT forgetting - If someone hurts you 20x’s in a row, it doesn’t mean YOU FORGET...some people are toxic and dangerous and you may need to set up strong boundaries to keep them away.  What you are doing is setting them free to not have anger against them (but you CAN STILL REMEMBER and not be in a room with them again). Forgiveness is the state where our own heart resides in – it doesn’t mean you continue to get abused, gossiped about, or lied to...you forgive, you become well...
  • Forgiving does not always mean reconciliation - Forgiveness doesn’t mean you will be friends again; it doesn’t mean everything goes back the way it was. It takes 2 people to reconcile, where forgiveness only takes you.
  • Forgiveness is a different issue than justice – It is OK to call the police on people whom you have forgiven. If someone breaks in to your house, forgiveness is not “you want my stereo too…” Forgiveness is when you stop harboring evil intent for them (even WHILE the police haul them off).

We must also understand that:

  • Forgiving is personal. You forgive people (not institutions or businesses).
  • Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness takes time to process through, but we DO process through it. If you have carried garbage for years it is hard to forgive in 10 minutes.

Some people get suckered into the “you’re supposed to forgive me, let me back into your life.” Sometimes you have to say “no” because that is the best way to protect yourself or your family while also extending the love of God.

Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. He says "don’t use their behavior to excuse your own." If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

I believe Paul brings God into the issue of forgiving because forgiveness is honoring God in all things first. We lay everything at His feet so we can pick up and live His life. That's the beauty of the gospel.

I would also recommend that you listen to the message we did during the Esther series about revenge and forgiveness: http://www.ourelement.org/media/messages/sermon/10178-esther-part-09-revenge-and-forgiveness

Standard of Beauty?

by Aaron

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO (OR DID YOU DO) TO START MAKING YOUR WIFE YOUR STANDARD OF BEAUTY, SO THAT YOU'RE NOT JUST SAYING IT, BUT IT BECOMES REALITY?

As many things do, in love and marriage, this is also a choice that we make. For me, personally, I was convicted one day of not treating my wife as I should. I wasn't serving her but felt that she should always be serving and giving to me (as well as a bunch of other things...I get convicted by God A LOT).

In the process of this conviction I realized that much of my problem was that I placed many things of worth and value a head of my wife in terms of value as well as beauty. Realizing this was not right I started to, very consciously at first, make a decision that everything (except Jesus) would pale in comparison to her. Anything that popped it's head up, first went consciously through the filter of my wife in my mind. Any picture, any person, any object was first set up next to and lower in scale to her in my mind and heart.

At first this was hard because our culture tells us to value things that it considers valuable. The problem is that our culture is temporary and things it once thought was attractive no longer are (mullets, parachute pants, eating arsenic to give you pasty white skin, powdered wigs, and boy bands just to name a few). As people we must have a constant that never changes, this is why scripture constantly points out (in places like Hebrews 13:8) that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. He is our constant, in theology we call this immutability. See also Malachi 3:6; Exodus 3:13-15; 2 Timothy 2:13; James 1:17

In the same way we are to see our spouse as our beauty.

This doesn't mean that we overlook sin or flaws, but when it comes to our value of beauty all things will filter through them, in our minds, first.

-Aaron

John Gottman's markers of impending divorce

by Element Christian Church

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbJPaQY_1dc

http://www.gottman.com/49853/Research-FAQs.html

If you had to summarize Dr. Gottman’s 35 years of research into two key findings, what would they be?

  • Happily married couples behave like good friends, and they handle their conflicts in gentle, positive ways.
  • Happily married couples are able to repair negative interactions during an argument, and they are able to process negative emotions fully.


What If…? Gospel Community Brainstorming! Part II

by Element Christian Church

So, How?

How can we share life together?

Eat together, play together, walk the dog together, celebrate together, relax together, paint the living room together, jog together, rejoice together, mourn together. Babysit for one another, serve one another, make time for one another, share your possessions with one another.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.”

How can we share life intentionally for the gospel?

In the midst of sharing life: serve together, read the Bible together, pray together. Encourage one another, share one another’s burdens, teach one another, correct one another, accept service from one another, accept support from one another, pray for one another.

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

How can we live on mission together?

In the midst of sharing life: Make new friends together, reach out together, learn how to share the gospel together, “understand the times” together, focus your time and efforts together, pray together, be hospitable together, be good neighbors together, challenge one another. Live radical, Christ-centered, counter-cultural lives together.

Matthew 28:19-20 “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."

All of life discipleship and all of life mission

Let your house be a blessing to God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him. Let your dinner table be a blessing to God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him. Let your hobbies be a blessing to God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him. Let your gifts and skills be a blessing to God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him. Let your favorite TV shows and sports games be a blessing to God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him. Let your prayers be a blessing to God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him. Let your lunch break be a blessing to God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him. Let your marriage or your singleness be a blessing to God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him. Let your time and priorities be a blessing to God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him…

You get the idea. Run with it!

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light!”

What If…? Gospel Community Brainstorming! Part I

by Will Flathers

We’ve explained the WHY of Gospel Communities; now let’s look at the HOW.

First and foremost, I don’t want to be too prescriptive here. In boy-meets-girl relationships there are no cookie-cutter instructions (Step 2: Tell your date “I love your dress”), but there are Biblical principles (“Do not stir up love until it pleases” SOS 8:4) and there is wisdom in applying those principles (Now is not be a good time to awaken love, because I don’t have a job). The same goes for Gospel Communities.

The challenge for each of our Gospel Communities is to wrestle with how we are going to live out the imperatives of the Gospel – how we can wisely apply the principles we’ve been looking at in previous discussions. The result will look different in every case, because every Gospel Community is facing a different situation and has different members bringing their unique mix of giftings, personalities, passions, and experiences to the table. That’s the beauty of it! But that’s also the difficulty of it. So with this post, I’m going to try to kick-start your imagination, not define it.

How can we share life together? How can we share life intentionally for the gospel? How can we live on mission together?

Let’s brainstorm a little.

What if you watched Top Gear together with a bunch of folks from your Gospel Community, rather than each on your own? What if you made a point to spend 10 minutes praying before starting the show? What if you invited a friend along too?

What if you made sure that nobody in your gospel community celebrated a holiday alone? What if you made sure that your neighbors never had to celebrate a holiday alone? What if you made a point to regularly celebrate together as a Gospel Community what God has done?

What if you invited someone from your Gospel Community over for dinner once a week? What if you admitted your struggles to them and ask for their prayer and support? What if you invited a neighbor over for dinner once a week? What if you did both at once?

What if your Gospel Community made a commitment to show love to those who our society seems to ignore? What if, when you throw a party, you invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind? What if your Gospel Community threw a party for precisely that reason?

What if you babysat the kids so someone in your Gospel Community could have a date night? What if you made a point to ask them beforehand how you can pray for their marriage? What if you did the same for a friend?

What if you help your coworker become friends with the whole Gospel Community? What if the first time your coworker visits Element, they already know lots of people from the friendships first built at a Gospel Community cookout, or movie night, or murder mystery night, or hike, or…?

What if you took into account your Gospel Community when you decide where to live, what hobbies to pick up, and what opportunities to pursue? What if you took into account the mission of your Gospel Community when you made those decisions? What if you joined a book club with some folks from your Gospel Community so you could meet new people? What if you bought an extra sofa for your living room, rather than a new phone?

What if you stopped by someone’s house on the way home from work for a quick chat? What if you help fold the laundry while you are talking? What if you point someone back to the Scriptures a little bit every day (while folding laundry), rather than wait until a crisis?

The Honeymoon is Over: Welcome to Gospel Ministry

What if your grocery bill goes up? What if you find it hard to love someone in your Gospel Community? What if your Gospel Community wants to focus in an area in which you have no interest? What if your Gospel Community finds out that you don’t have perfectly behaved kids and a perpetually clean house? What if someone newer in the faith rightly rebukes you? What if someone folds your laundry the wrong way? What if someone asks you a question that you don’t know? What if a friend turns their back on you because the gospel offended them? What if progress is slow and no one seems to be coming to faith? What if your group grows, and decides to plant a new Gospel Community? What if you have to say goodbye after nurturing such close friendships?

2 Timothy 2:8-13; “Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

“This is a trustworthy saying:

If we die with him, we will also live with him.

If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.

If we deny him, he will deny us.

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful –  for he cannot deny who he is.”

2 Week Mealtime Devotionals for Families

by Element Christian Church

At CTV (Change Their View) this week, our primary goal was to help families learn together, and to equip parents to continue to teach their kids about Jesus and the Scriptures. We compiled two weeks worth of Mealtime Devotions for you to download to go through with your kids either at the dinner table or whenever you can, to keep the momentum! Download Mealtime Devotions here!

How does loving somebody actually make them beautiful?

by Element Christian Church

The wording of the question is out of order because it is not simply loving someone that makes them beautiful, it is HOW you love them.

In our culture we have turned love into an emotion, it is about how we feel. This is why people use terms like "fall in love" or "fell out of love" for justification of divorce. I am not saying that love is NOT a feeling, it clearly is, but if that is all that it is then we are doomed. I mean, I love cookies, but sometimes after eating too many, I no longer feel like I love them...I feel like I hate them because they are destroying my manly figure (and giving me the runs).

By using love solely as an emotion, a feeling, we cheapen it, and lessen what it was meant to be.

What is love besides an emotion? It is a choice. Look at how the scriptures relate to love:

[list class="bullet-1"][li]Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is a commitment type love, not a feeling type love.[/li]
[li]1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This love is action oriented...it DOES THINGS.[/li]
[li]1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. Why do we love? Because He loved us first.[/li][/list]

I believe God does have emotions toward His people, but His love for us is primarily a love of extending Himself, it is action oriented, and of lasting commitment.

How does loving someone in this way make them beautiful? Because it is a choice to SEE them as beautiful even before they are, it is treating them as beautiful even before they are, and it is a love that gives them beauty even before they ever give back.

Eventually you start to truly SEE them as beautiful, because in your heart, mind, and action, they have become that.

THE DUD

by Aaron

In the early 1990s (or late 80s) whichever, because it's all a blur; there was a movie that came out called Crazy People. It was a movie that was about many things, but in part it was about truth in advertising. There were some mental patients who started writing ads for major manufactures like "Metamucil: It helps you go to the toilet. If you don't use it, you'll get cancer and die."

I like truth in advertising, I think it is why I like Milk Duds. Why were they called Milk Duds, you ask (I know you are asking)?

Because in 1926 the F. Hoffman and Company in Chicago, tried to manufacture a perfectly round, chocolate-covered caramel candy. What happened was the machines could not turn out round confections so they started calling them "duds" and marketed them that way. 85 years later we still call them Milk Duds.

You may be wondering why I even write this blog today, well, first, Milk Duds are awesome. They rank right up there next to the cookie as one of the greatest achievements of mankind. It is only by sheer grace that a dud turned out so well…because God likes to take broken things and make them soar. I would hazard to say that a milk dud is very close to the heart of God (...I'm just saying...).

Second, because you can come to our Film and Theology Friday's during the summer and get some Milk Duds from the youth snack bar as you watch the movie. I promise they will make the movie much more enjoyable.

The third reason was Michael and I were talking last week about how we haven't had a stupid/fun blog in a while…so here it is. "Milk Duds: the only candy that tells the truth."
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oh…uh, wait. Apparently I am wrong. Milk Duds have fallen into the trap of the world in which we live and have eaten the forbidden fruit and sinned greatly and has fallen. It seems that there is NO MILK in Milk Duds. The Hershey Company, in 2008, changed the ingredients of some of its products, including Milk Duds. They got rid of cocoa butter and started using cheap substitutes. The Food and Drug Administration (because they have nothing better to do than regulate candy) has said that recipes that do not contain cocoa butter cannot be called MILK Chocolate.

For shame Milk Duds…SHAME.

Who would cover the truth to try to get ahead…oh wait…that would be all of humanity.

Why Gospel Communities? Part II

by Will Flathers

In Part I we talked about What Gospel Communities Are, today we'll look at why Element takes this approach to community...

Why Does Element Take This Approach to Community?

1) Because community is important, and we want to put it into practice! Have you ever noticed how many times commands in The New Testament include the phrase “one another”? We are commanded to love one another, serve one another, be devoted to one another, accept one another, instruct one another, encourage one another, build each other up… and the list goes on and on. I counted 44 occurrences. Those commands are not optional extras – rather, they are fundamental to what looks like to live as God’s family – to bear the family resemblance of Jesus! They are the fruit of the Gospel at work in our lives. GC’s are an excellent context for us to put those commands into practice. Because all too often in larger groups and larger settings, “fellowship” gets downgraded to a shallow chat over coffee; “family” gets downgraded to a theoretical relationship we have with 200 other people we barely know; and the “one anothers” get applied to people we like, but tend to conveniently exclude people we don’t like or people who are not like us.

2) We want to give everyone the opportunity to use their God-given gifts for the good of the church and the good of the city. GC’s are small enough that everyone is a critical member. Your contributions to your GC are critical! Your input and involvement is vital for the health of the GC! Christian ministry is not just for professionals, or paid staff, or super-Christians; we may not all be gifted speakers or skilled theologians, but the Bible is clear that all believers have a role to play (Ephesians 4:1-16, 1 Peter 4).

3) We want to reach more people. With multiple GC’s, each with their own unique group dynamic and situation, we will be able to reach more diverse sets of people. When John glimpses the throne room of the Lamb, it is filled with people from every nation, tribe and language – a diverse crowd united around Jesus. Imagine if we had GC’s reaching young and old, rich and poor, influential and marginalized in Santa Maria. GC’s are a great way for people to see the body of Christ in action – people who may otherwise never walk into a church building. GC’s are a great way to for us to connect with folks who are new to Element.

4) Conviction. We believe this is how we are called to live as God’s people. This approach is not meant to be a condemnation of other ways of doing church. We are not saying this is the only way! Rather, we are trying to take the principles we see in the Bible and best apply them in our unique situation: Central Coast, California, 2011. We believe that the bar can and should be so raised. Challenging? Certainly. Impossible? Yes – except that we have a God who is gracious, patient, loving, forgiving, and in control, a God who is growing His church and building His kingdom, a God who calls us and equips us. And because of that, we can confidently follow wherever He leads.

In future posts we’ll dig a little deeper and give some ideas of what GC life might look like in practice. But I’ll close with this encouragement:

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:8-11

Why Gospel Communities?

by Will Flathers

So far, we have discussed why community is so important (Part I & II). We saw how mankind reflects our Trinitarian God who is God-in-Community with Himself and who defines perfect community. We also looked at how community relates to the Gospel; how the Christian community is a tool the Spirit uses to grow us in Christ; and how the Christian community is Jesus’ persuasive witness in the world. Now we are going to look at how Gospel Communities fit into the picture.

What are Gospel Communities?

First, we need to define Gospel Communities. Gospel Communities (GC’s) are smaller groups of people (around 8 to 20) committed to each other and to the lost – their desire is to see the Gospel transform lives. Thus, GC’s open their lives to one another (Acts 2:42-46) and are inviting to those who do not know Jesus. GC’s are simply ordinary people doing ordinary things with a Gospel mindset, together.

It’s all in the name – communities of, by, and for the Gospel:

[list class="bullet-3"][li]GC’s are about people loving each other as family – because God has invited us into His family.[/li]

[li]GC’s are about people serving together – because Jesus is our servant-Savior.[/li]

[li]GC’s are about people learning together – because we are given the Spirit of truth.[/li]

[li]GC’s are about caring for each other – because God has richly supplied all our needs in Christ.[/li]

[li]GC’s are about people submitting to one another – because Christ submitted to the Father.[/li]

[li]GC’s are about people worshiping together – because of the cross and resurrection.[/li]

[li]GC’s are about people welcoming others – because God welcomed us.[/li]

[li]GC’s are about people proclaiming the Gospel together – because Jesus first reached out to us and commissioned His church to do the same.[/li][/list]

Fundamentally, GC’s are all about seeing the Gospel advance deeper in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and impact our city. They are all about normal Christians (warts and all) living extraordinary lives together for the Gospel – lives that bring glory to God from believers and unbelievers alike.

Check back next week to see why Element takes this approach...

The Song of Solomon for Singles

by Will Flathers

By Will Flathers

I have the gift of singleness; by which I mean, I am single. So what about Song of Solomon? What about our “Summer of Love?” Is this sermon series merely rubbing salt in the wound? Should I simply save the sermon audio in hopes that I’ll need it someday? In short, no. I offer two personal reasons.

1) To honor God with my dating and marriage

I study the Song of Solomon with an eye towards preparing for marriage. I want to learn in advance what redeemed romance looks like. I want to learn in advance how to love my wife as Christ loved the church. I want to learn how to build and foster a relationship with my wife that is as poetic, servant-hearted, committed, and passionate as one we see in these songs. I don’t want to start from scratch. But three of the biggest takeaways for me have been that romance in marriage is worth waiting for, worth pursuing, and worth holding onto.

If Christian marriage is anything as beautiful as what we read in these songs, then it is entirely worth waiting for; it is entirely worth doing God’s way. Getting a glimpse into the beauty and intimacy of their marriage makes waiting less of a cold, mean rule that excludes me from any fun, but rather a loving rule that makes the gift all the more attractive. The lie of the serpent in the Garden of Eden was that God’s rule was harsh and tyrannical (Genesis 3) – but we know His gracious rule brings abundant life. Now, I realize that every marriage of two sinful people will have its trials and rough spots – we even see that in the songs – but that just seems to lead to new heights. My mom and dad say they are far more in love now than when they began.

It is worth waiting for, but it is also worth pursuing. As a guy, I realize that I can’t let fear of rejection prevent me from pursuing my own beloved. I shouldn’t let selfish pursuits get in the way, either. Marriage is a good gift from God. It is not wrong to desire it (1 Timothy 4) as long as those desires aren’t idolatrous.

And thirdly, it is worth holding onto. From what I’ve read, this book was likely written in Solomon’s early days as king. But something went horribly wrong – he married 700 women and had 300 concubines and they led him far from God. 1 Kings 11 tells us exactly what happened, and it was ugly. Reading these songs is a sobering reminder for me that something that started out so well could go so wrong when we chase after other gods. I never, never, never want that to happen to me or my marriage, so I must fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Hebrew 12:2). And I know that His grace is sufficient for me, thankfully! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Okay, I’ll be honest. I also want to learn how this whole romance thing works; it’s all Greek to me. King Solomon had some great lines. I just need to figure out the modern equivalent to “Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon…” Suggestions?

I am content. And I will try to be content as long as God gives me the gift of singleness, whether that is for a short time or the rest of my life. God is good, and He is working all things for His glory and my good (Romans 8:18-30). Sometimes that truth is easier to cling onto than others, but it is true nevertheless and I can be at peace because of it. But even if I never get married, there is another very good reason for me to learn from Song of Solomon.

2) To be a blessing to others

I want to know how to be a blessing to others; how I can best love others. In learning about marriage and intimacy and romance, I will be better able to pray for married folks, to encourage married folks, to admonish/rebuke married folks, and share the gospel with married folks. Because we are all called to do precisely that (James 5:16, Hebrews 10:25, Colossians 3:16). Even, the couple in the songs have a community surrounding them!

It’s daunting to do that as a single guy. But then I remember that Paul wasn’t married either, but he had a lot to say about marriage!  Now, I am under no delusion that I will be an expert on marriage, but I am convinced that I can and should be ready to help support married couples – love demands it.

Shameless plug for Gospel Communities

In Gospel Communities, you get to see other people’s marriages up close – the good, the bad, and the ugly. When you share life with others, you see their good days and their bad days, just like family. And that is a good thing!

As a single guy, that is a goldmine for me. Because I want to learn from Godly men what servant-leadership looks like in practice. I want to learn from Godly women what loving submission looks like in practice. I want to learn how they resolve conflict, how they honor one another, how they serve one another. It is also a healthy reminder to me that marriage is not always peachy, and certainly isn’t easy. I want to learn from other people’s marriages – even from their mistakes, so I don’t repeat them.

But for that to happen, I must see it! That is why we say we want to “share life together” in Gospel Communities. I was in England last month for a visit to my previous church and was at breakfast one day with my old Gospel Community. Two of my very good friends (husband and wife) had an argument on the way that morning. I knew them well enough to know that things were clearly not right between them when they arrived. Eventually, the husband felt convicted about it and asked his wife for forgiveness. She admitted that she was hurt by his words, but forgave him. They could have waited for the privacy of home. It would have been less embarrassing and less humiliating. But they chose to forgive in public. I observed it, I learned something about marriage from it, and I was blessed by it.

The impetus is on the married couples! It takes openness on their part to allow me to see both the good and the bad. It takes humility on their part to be encouraged or rebuked by someone who has “never been there.” It takes wisdom for them to teach single people about Biblical marriage. And overall, it takes a certain level of relationship within the Gospel Community as a whole so that anyone can (graciously, in love!) challenge them to be better husbands and wives. Is that you? Is that your Gospel Community?

So, all that said, I have enjoyed the series thus far, and am looking forward to the rest of it!