Word of Encouragement and Prayer from Mike Harman

by Mike Harman

Reading from Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Another Coronavirus Blog?

by Aaron

Please forgive me if you think I am hopping on the pandemic bandwagon of the Coronavirus. Everyone is talking about this (many with very different views) and it needs to be addressed from Element because we are getting lots of advice from lots of people. There was a great article on the Gospel Coalition website recently by Joe Carter where he quotes a scientific American article from Bill Hanage and Marc Lipsitch that speaks of 3 levels of information:

A. What we know to be true – where infection is, how it is spread.
B. What we think is true – interpretation of facts and transmission of those interpretations.
C. Opinions and speculation – what they call “the effects of extreme social distancing.”

Carter writes, “In talking about this issue, we should make every attempt to base our opinion on category A, be hesitant about putting too much weight on category B, and be clear when we are referring to category C.” Our goal at Element as we prayerfully make decisions and respond is to utilize the above criteria.

Whether or not the current situation is defined as an outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic will change depending on who you get your information from (different organization define pandemic differently). Shutting things completely down may work in an outbreak or epidemic stage, but during a pandemic it could hurt more people as goods and services can’t get to those who need them the most. A Gospel-centered response must assert itself in the midst of fear…which is what I want to talk about.

Believers in Jesus are living in the same level of anxiety and fear as everyone else, meaning we are sharing the response of others to what is often merely “opinions and speculation.” Please don’t misunderstand me, there are precautions that should take place (Element is starting to take some of those), but we must also be Gospel focused in whatever our response becomes. 1 John 4:18-21 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Between 250 and 270 A.D. a plague devastated the Roman Empire to the point that upwards of 5,000 people died every day (it was called the Plague of Cyprian). Eric Metaxas notes that, “The plague coincided with the first empire-wide persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius. Not surprisingly, Decius and other enemies of the Church blamed Christians for the plague.” That claim obviously wasn’t true because Christians died from it…and unlike everybody else, they cared for the victims of the plague, including their non-believing neighbors.

Throughout church history Christians have had the opposite reaction to pandemics than the rest of the world. Historically, they have run towards them to offer healing and hope amidst the fear and chaos. This is documented with the Antonine Plague, the Black Plague, and even Ebola. Rodney Stark wrote, "Christians stayed in the afflicted cities when pagan leaders, including physicians, fled.” Metaxas quotes Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, that an "epidemic that seemed like the end of the world actually promoted the spread of Christianity." By their actions in the face of possible death, Christians showed their neighbors that "Christianity is worth dying for."

Today we are centuries, and in some cases millennia, removed from these plagues, and yet the same truth of Christ’s rescue of us should remain preeminent in how we ultimately handle outbreaks like Covid-19. The people who are hit hardest are the elderly who cannot get out of their homes as easily as they used to. While we should be careful not to spread the virus, we should also understand that love calls us to reach out and check on those most vulnerable around us. This may look different depending on your neighborhood, and could include a myriad of things from sharing from a stockpile of toilet paper, offering to run an errand for someone, delivering a meal, or simply calling someone who may need comfort in isolation. We follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding because God’s love for us should prompt us to run toward people--even as everyone else runs away. Running toward the less fortunate confounds those in the world who think it is strictly a government’s or NGO’s job to help people. Many times governmental agencies give up just when people need help the most.

Please understand both what I am saying and not saying. Yes, take precautions, but don’t let whatever happens in this world override God’s call in our lives to love another. We are to be driven first and foremost by the Gospel and God’s intervening rescue of us. Social media can stir you up to believe all sorts of things, but like Hanage and Lipsitch say in their post, “The virus does not read news articles and doesn’t care about Twitter.” 

Let us be those who care for those around us in love and not fearful reaction.

 

What Is a Reasoned Response (Covid 19)

by Kelly Borjas

I remember a few months ago seeing news coverage of the Coronavirus in China: people lined up around the block for masks, a husband in full protective gear to care for his infected wife. At the time, I gave it a passing thought. Honestly—it was an “I’m sorry for them and glad we aren’t dealing with that in America.” Then I moved on with my life, to my plans, problems, and my celebrations.

Flash forward, and the impact of the Coronavirus is felt and seen worldwide. As my husband said, it feels like a wave that is coming. News, social media, conversations, politics, even churches are responding to this pandemic. In my life I can recall two defining moments that seem on par with the magnitude of this situation: 9-11, and the economic collapse in 2008. The same feelings and behaviors emerged during those times: fear, speculation, uncertainty, and a drastic shift in daily behaviors.

I find myself trying to figure out how to respond as a Christian. As a Christ-follower, my hope is secure in what Jesus says and has done. However, that doesn’t negate the need to act responsibly. Honestly, it’s overwhelming and inundating. Please note, this blog is absolutely not a commentary on what medical measures to take, that’s not my specialty and I won’t claim to have an educated stance on the matter. It is, however, an attempt to make sense of the reality that our society as a whole is wrestling with this topic and we cannot avoid it. Do we stock up on food? Do we need extra water? Do we stop attending events? De we cancel trips? Even closer to home, my son had a cold this last week. The what-if thoughts took hold in my heart, and the fear wants to take root. We may all differ on how to respond in preparation, but I believe there are a few key thoughts as Christians that we can apply to our lives.

No part of this pandemic is a surprise to God. He is sovereign and in control, on the throne, and won’t be conquered by anything. That’s also true of His love for us. Romans 8:35, 37 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or, danger, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life or angels, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Translation: not even the Coronavirus will separate us from the love of Jesus! I need that daily reminder to calm my soul and orient my heart, especially when the fear takes root and starts to grow.

This is also a reminder of both the great freedoms we’ve enjoyed, and how much we’ve been spared from other devastating events. Until now, we have had the freedom to take trips, attend events, and gather together without a second thought. Now, gathering with others is a carefully-meditated decision. Have I ever really stopped to appreciate this? No, and I hope I remember that ability when our lives return to a “normal” pace. On a smaller level, we had a trip planned for months that we had to cancel, a reminder to me (planner Kelly) not to hold so tightly to my agenda and plans, and to be thankful for both the big and small moments, even when they change.

A couple weeks ago a tornado occurred in the middle of the night in Tennessee, reminding me that none of us knows how our days are numbered. This is humbling for me: how many times have I read news stories of hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and more, and barely paid attention? All too often. Now we’re faced with this pandemic and I realize none of us is exempt from natural disasters or trouble. The Bible says, “a man’s heart directs his steps but the Lord directs his ways” (Proverbs 16:9). Instead of thanking the Lord for each day, I move forward like I control my life. I don’t control my life. I can make plans, but God still directs my ways. 

Where does that leave us? I think it leaves us with the truth. These are uncertain times that require a response. Each of us may differ in what that response looks like, but we need to remember where our hope lies. Jesus said, “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It’s okay to be prepared. In fact, I think that’s even our responsibility. God gave us brains, research, and the ability to make wise choices. Yet, in our preparation we cannot assume we control the outcome. We must hold this situation with open hands: make wise choices, but trust that the Lord is in control. It’s a time we need to remind ourselves where our hope lies, and that our hope is not in any particular outcome or circumstance. Our hope lies in God, who is the “Alpha and the Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). May we remember our God is in control and has overcome the world, and let our lives be a reflection of that truth, even as we face difficult and uncertain circumstances.

 

Missionary Stories: Royal Family Kids

by Holly DeKorte

If you were asked to describe a “good” childhood, what might you say?  Some of you might mention summer evenings playing catch with a father or mother, afternoons swinging in a hammock and reading a book, baking cookies with a beloved grandmother, splashing in a pool and drying out in the sun, homework help, and nightly prayers with parents.  You might have had such a childhood.  Sadly, many children grow up wondering where their next meal will come from or how they can avoid the next blow from a parent’s hand.  These children have had their childhoods stolen away from them.  It is not good.

All through scripture, God tells us of His heart for the vulnerable, specifically for the widow, the fatherless (orphan), and the sojourner.  God’s law provided specifically for the widow and orphan through granting justice, food, and rights, by forbidding oppression and stinginess and by including the fatherless in the community. (See Deuteronomy 14: 28-29, 16: 10-14, 24: 17-21, and 27: 19). God’s word also promises that He hears the orphan’s cry, He watches over them, and places them in families.  In Psalms 27:10 David declares that though his father and mother have forsaken him, the Lord will take him in.  This is God’s heart: to welcome, love, and father the fatherless.

What does this have to do with stolen childhoods?  Aren’t these verses reflecting the orphan crisis in developing nations? We Americans tend to think of the orphans overseas and we miss the orphans right under our noses: children in foster care.  These vulnerable children face hunger, abandonment, abuse, helplessness, and possible child trafficking.  Christians have the responsibility to involve themselves in orphan care locally and internationally.  God calls His followers to specific good works, not to earn salvation, but to carry out His heart here on earth and to bring glory to God.  Paul puts it this way, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advanced for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10.

Maybe you are hearing God’s call to join Him in caring for vulnerable foster children.  What are some practical steps?  Some of you might consider praying about becoming foster parents. Pathway Family Services is a good place to start: pathwayfamilyservices.org

Others of you might see the need, but might not be able to foster.  Fear not!  There are specific ways to get involved in local orphan care.  Because abuse started in a relationship, it is often repaired in a relationship.  Enter Royal Family Kids (RFK).  This organization began nearly 30 years ago to “help interrupt the cycles of neglect, abuse, and abandonment of children in foster care.”  Royal Family Kids is a worldwide organization that works with the government, businesses, and local churches to provide foster children a week at camp.  It’s more than just a camp. It’s a chance to point children to Jesus, to give them unconditional love, shower them with gifts, and to create a sense of true family. 

The past two summers, I have been a camp counselor.  Counselors are responsible for two children at all times and are partnered with another counselor and two other children to make a cabin group.  Additional staff members standby to offer love and support to anyone who needs it.  My first summer I remember wondering how much of an impact one week at camp actually makes.  That year, the little girls in my cabin taught me the impact.  One girl asked me to braid her hair every day.  I am certainly not the best hairstylist, but she craved a gentle hand that said, “I care.”  Even now when I see her at RFK Club (the year around mentoring program), she says, “I miss that summer when you would braid my hair.”  Another girl, who was sometimes detached, often walked beside me that first year.  One day, I said to her, “You know, there is a song that includes both of our names.”  I sang it to her and she gave me a very quizzical look. One year later, I was sitting with the same girl while she slowly finished dinner and she turned to me and said, “I still remember our song.”  She hummed a few lines of the old English tune and then smiled.  What impact does a week have?  Little moments that seem inconsequential matter greatly.  If little moments matter, then imagine the impact the Gospel has on these young lives.

This year, the Santa Maria camp is June 14th-19th.  Volunteers 18 years and over are needed.  Male and female counselors, photographers, media workers, and prayer partners are in high demand.  For every counselor who attends camp, two foster children are also able to attend.  Home Team positions are available for people who might not be able to get away for a week.  If you love writing letters, your gifts are needed!  The campers receive mail every day from members of the Home Team. 

There is a thorough application, background check and interview process.  For additional information and to begin the application process contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you feel God calling you to minister to orphans through Royal Family Kids, please know that you’ll never be the same.  He will develop and shape you in ways that you could not imagine.  God’s hand and heart is for the fatherless. 

 

A Good Story

by Kelly Borjas

I love a good story, so much that I write fiction as a hobby (my own story world with characters in crisis, opposing goals, redemption, and of course a romance). This week I was confronted with the negative power words can bring; FOUR times in two days!  These experiences reminded me how important it is to be mindful of what I say. Obviously, God’s teaching me a lesson! However, by Wednesday, my Bible reading plan took me to Revelation 12:11, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

The blood of the Lamb overcame Satan, sin and death. This is so powerful, especially after we studied in Element University how God’s plan includes the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22: without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins). Jesus shed His blood, and that work overcomes Satan! This may be my new favorite verse in the Bible; it’s the ultimate conclusion to the problem of sin. But why is a testimony important? A testimony (a good story) is sharing the gospel, the good news that proclaims Jesus to the world.

Thinking about these verses has made me consider how powerful our individual stories are. Each of us has a different story, and when we have a life-changing personal encounter with Jesus, it cannot be refuted. God uses us and our stories—our changed lives—to showcase His plan and work. This can be the moment we believe in Jesus, or small moments throughout our lives. In fact, at our women’s Bible study this week, various women shared how God has spoken to them; I sat both encouraged and in awe at how majestic God is.

As we’ve studied Acts, we see how Paul engages with the culture. It begs the question: what’s our current culture? Arguably, our culture responds well to stories. Movies, shows, books, and even commercials contain some element of storytelling. Stories paint a picture—of what was and what can or will be. A character is changed throughout the course of a story. We are relational human beings, and the power of stories resonates with us. In our current combative culture, building relationships and authentically sharing the change in our lives oftentimes has more of an impact than mere words or arguments (think of the diatribes on social media, or the protestor holding signs on a street corner. They typically turn people away, as opposed to towards their goals). As Christians, the true power of our story comes at the point where Jesus intervenes in our lives. Where He rescues us. Without redemption, a story falls flat and leaves us hopeless. 

We are called to have an answer for the hope we have in us (1 Peter 3:15). At their worst, words hurt and divide. However, at their best, words express the most beautiful of stories; the most important topic on which we ever communicate. Whether written or verbal, I am reminded of the power of our stories and testimonies and how words can be a tool to paint the picture of redemption—the moment Jesus saved us, and the moments throughout our lives where we see Him work. As we build relationships with those in our community—friends, coworkers, neighbors—our story is a reminder to know where Jesus has changed our lives and to be able to express that to others.

 

Prayer, Discernment, Guidance

by Kelly Borjas

Have you ever said something you wished you wouldn’t have said? It’s happened to me, all too often (let’s be honest: I’ve never been accused of not saying enough). When this happens, though, I leave a conversation with a sick-to-my-stomach feeling until I make the situation right.

My past weekend was an odd one. On Friday night, there was an issue on my heart I couldn’t let rest, an urge to pray for a situation. When I finally texted the person I needed to speak to the next day, it was confirmed: they had needed prayer, and there was no doubt the Holy Spirit was both prompting me to pray, as well as reach out. That night, four people came to Christ. I was left with a feeling of humbled awe—the Lord of all creation would use me in a small piece of His redemptive story to show His great love. Then, a couple of days later, I was annoyed with something and made a point to express my opinion.  In that situation, I said my thoughts, leaving with a bitter taste in my mouth. My comment did nothing to help the situation. Even worse, my husband (who tends to be a steady guide for me) cautioned me against saying anything. Did I listen? No. I felt my opinion was too important and went in, verbal guns blazing.

What’s the difference between these two scenarios? I’ve wrestled with this for the majority of the day, and come to two conclusions: 1) pride, and 2) the Holy Spirit’s guidance. When are comments helpful and productive, and when are they destructive and divisive?

I’ve been on the side of not following the Holy Spirit’s promptings: knowing I need to reach out to someone and not doing it, finding out later they needed encouragement and I didn’t reach out. I’ve also been on the side of saying something I shouldn’t, feeling guilt and remorse. And, in the most beautiful of scenarios, I’ve been able to see God work through His timing when I respond to His perfect promptings. How are we supposed to know the difference? What does that look like in real life?

There’s only one conclusion I can come to: prayer and discernment, coupled with trusted guidance. Ironically, it’s not a step-by-step process, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: when I move in the Spirit, I have life and peace. When I move in the flesh it’s destruction. The fruit of the Sprit is “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”  (Galatians 5:23). If I’m honest about some of my reactions, I lack self-control. And, when I react out of my flesh, I experience the opposite of peace. However, when I follow the Holy Spirit, the by-product is an inexplicable peace, a rightness in my world, and a humility at how great God is. What should I do? Pray before I speak, and if it’s an issue that may need to be addressed, seek wise counsel. (Imagine a world where we all thought before we spoke or commented! How many conflicts could be avoided?!) When I pray, wait and listen, and—if needed—seek counsel, results are different. 

I wish I had a formula for Christian life. I wish I had a guideline of when to speak, and when not to speak. Yet, God doesn’t give us that magical solution. What He does give is His Holy Spirit. It’s in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). I find myself wondering: if God gave me a simple formula, would I need Him? If He gave me the boxes to check, would I rely on His guidance? I don’t think so, honestly. I would probably rely on my own self sufficiency and ability to fulfill a set of guidelines. What am I left with? I’m left with the mess of a rule-following perfectionist personality who will never be able to follow rules perfectly. I fail. I sin. Enter the beauty of the gospel and the work Jesus accomplished: the good news that I don’t have to figure out this life on my own, I don’t have to do it perfectly. He did it for me. It’s the inexplicable mystery of God’s grace that humbles me. He uses sinful humans in His redemptive purposes, creating a dependence on Him that we couldn’t find on our own. I pray I learn from my mistakes, accept the grace I’m given, and move forward in a dependence on the Holy Spirit to share the gospel of Jesus, in whom we live and move and have our being.

 

Missionary Stories: Brian & Bailey Pruett - Philippines

by Element Christian Church

The following is a story from missionaries we support in the Philippines: Brian & Bailey Pruett. Click here to read more about who they are and what they do.  

The smell of freshly painted rotor blades was blowing out the hangar’s exhaust fan into the stifling, tropical air. A fresh paint job was imperative after flying through one hundred hours of pulverizing rain and salt air. My inspection was nearly finished, and it was time to eat lunch and re-group before reassembling the helicopter and signing the logbooks. I was ahead of schedule and anticipated a relaxing lunch in our climate-controlled spare parts room.

“Bing.” Just as I sat down, Skype broke the silence. For me, the Skype alert tone is more “Imperial Death March” than cheerful alert. This sound, in the middle of the day, often means things are about to get messy. With significant apprehension, I looked at my phone and saw the message, “Anyone there? We have a bit of a situation here.” Below that message it showed Lynne was typing…and typing…and typing. It felt like an eternity as I waited to hear what was going on. Was she taking a long time because of slow satellite internet connection, or was it something serious? I decided to prepare for the worst.

I quickly called Bailey to alert her that something was going on. She handled the Skype communication as she normally does. She would contact me once she had assessed the situation. I turned Skype notifications off so I could focus. I reviewed my checklists and notes while I quickly swallowed my lunch. I had to decide if I could safely put the helicopter back together and do an emergency flight before sunset at 5:33pm.

It was now 1:15pm and pieces of the helicopter were neatly organized on shelves and service carts in the hangar. I was working alone because my partner and his family were in Texas on a well-deserved furlough. I still had to do a gearbox oil change, install the interior inspection covers and seats, cowl the engine compartment, and do an engine compressor wash. It would be tight but I could do it all, including the paperwork and test flight, without rushing if I could work steadily and without interruptions.

While I worked on my plan, Bailey handled all the other logistics. She chatted with Lynne, a veteran missionary of more than 25 years who lives deep in the jungles of the Philippines. She and her family live completely off-grid – no roads, no doctors, no access to the modern world. They planted a church in the jungle many years ago and are now translating the New Testament into the Banwaon language. This is vital to equip leaders in the Banwaon church with the tools they need to stand on their own for generations to come.

“Lynne said that Stevie fell and broke his arm badly. He is in shock and is in a lot of pain. Can you get him to the hospital today? Weather in the village is ok but Lynne can see rain coming from the east.” Bailey’s text was efficient and had all the information I needed. It was urgent, but not “life threatening.” What was perhaps most critical was getting to Lynne and Stevie quickly because of the anxiety they would be under with an injury like that in such an isolated place.

“I’ll try my best. I’ll have to be airborne by 4:15 to do it today,” I replied. Bailey encouraged Lynne that I was doing all I could to make it happen by the end of the day and that we would get her son to the hospital. Bailey stayed online with Lynne to encourage her and chat a bit to help keep Lynne’s mind off of the “what-if’s.”

The helicopter inspection came together nicely. The ink on my final signature dried quickly on the logbooks but the fresh paint on the rotors was going to have to “take one for the team” today. I went into the bathroom and cleaned up as best I could. I was a sweaty mess as one always is when working in the tropics. I didn’t bring my flight uniform to the shop that day, but that wasn’t important now. I figuratively took my mechanic hat off and put my test-pilot hat on.

“I’ll be ready in 30. Weather update?” I texted to Bailey. While I waited for Bailey to relay an update to me from Lynne, I fueled the helicopter and gave it a final pre-flight inspection. It was 3:45pm and I still needed to do a test flight and check for oil leaks. I sat down in the pilot seat, checklist in hand, and fought the urge to rush. I purposefully, slowly and methodically started the engine while reminding myself, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Mistakes in this phase of my work could kill people, not save them.

Flight with Fog

“No clouds on the ridges, dark to the East. If you can get across the mountains, you can land at the helipad. It won’t hold for long,” Bailey’s text came in. Not a good report, but not bad for the time of day on our island in the South China Sea.

I flew for 15 minutes testing all the systems and flight characteristics of the helicopter just like I would do on any other test flight. Everything checked out fine. “Thank you, Lord,” I said in relief as I landed. I left the helicopter running as I stepped out and, with a light and mirror, gave the engine a thorough check for fuel and oil leaks. All good. “Thank you, Lord.” I signed the test flight papers and switched hats again.

Now I was a medevac pilot. I shifted myself into the right frame of mind to deal with the tropical rain showers, jungle mist and thunderstorms I would encounter as I would fly across miles of dense mountain jungle to get to Lynne and Stevie. I had to remind myself that I wouldn’t let the urgency of the situation lure me into a death-trap of terrain and weather.

I strapped back in, took a deep breath and prayed as I picked up my checklist and unlocked the flight controls: “Here we go, God. Thanks for getting me this far. You know the weather I need to have in order to continue this flight, and I’m counting on you to give it to me, or not. I won’t push it. Please let Lynne and Stevie know you’ve got this under control.” With that, I lifted off and flew away toward the mountains.

As I approached the mountain pass, I could see that God cleared and held open a literal corridor in the rain that was just wide enough to pass through, like Moses at the Red Sea. When I arrived, Lynne and Stevie, who was clearly in a lot of pain, climbed into the helicopter while it was still running. Lynne’s husband, Albert, and I loaded their bags. They are veteran flyers and knew just what to do. I don’t think I was on the ground for more than 5 minutes before we were airborne again.

We landed back at the hangar at 5:20pm. Bailey met me with dinner at the hangar knowing I had a lot of work left to do to clean up. She then took Lynne and Stevie to the hospital where she had already arranged for them to see a doctor. Bailey and the kids enjoyed time with Lynne and Stevie over the days that followed. They provided a much-needed connection to the rest of the world for them since they normally live in such isolation.

This is just one example of what a day can bring for us. We use a helicopter as a tool to support church planters who work at the ends of the earth. We support many missionary teams like Lynne and her family with medical flights, groceries, construction materials, transportation, and encouragement. Planting a self-sustaining church across cultures in the Philippines is a task that takes many, many years. Without the helicopter, missionaries could not sustain life and ministry in the deepest, darkest corners of the earth long enough to teach, translate Scripture, and disciple new believers. What a privilege it is for us to serve in this way and to be a part of God’s plan to reach the World with His Good News.

Meet the Pruetts, Missionaries in the Philippines

 

Legend or God?

by Sarah McCool

This is Sarah McCool and this is my first ever blog. For those that have known my husband, Brandon, and I for any length of time will find it no surprise that my first blog is about Kobe Bryant, or is it? To some, it seems silly, but to most, fans or otherwise, the world has come together in a moment of stunned silence as we recognize the loses that occurred over the weekend of January 25-26, 2020. For those unfamiliar, Sunday January 26th Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and 7 other passengers lost their lives in a helicopter crash. The loss of a legend like Kobe is sad in itself, but to also lose his daughter and two of her teenage friends (all of whom are barely on the brink of exploring those awkward teenage years ) in the same accident is heart-breaking. ,. Parents with kids left behind, spouses who will never see their loved one again, it puts a lump in my throat every time I think of it.

I sat in church service on Sunday as my phone went off with a text, then another, then a phone call, then more texts…I knew something was happening. When I finally checked all the alerts and saw how many people were concerned about me because a celebrity died, it sent me on a journey for a few days of realizing just how I had let this figure (celebrity) become so important in my life. I shared with a dear friend how silly it seemed to shed so many tears over a celebrity;  a man I had never met. My tears were not simple tears of sympathy, but sobbing in my husband’s arms having trouble catching my breath. I then started justifying my emotions with how the name Kobe Bryant brings so many memories flooding into my heart. Some of the only happy memories I have left of my dad are of us watching basketball games together or going to games together at the Forum and the Staple Center. I have memories of my dad and I defending Kobe to my Mom, who I think just loved to root against us, as if he were our family member. Later in life, Kobe and the Lakers were the first thing I found in common with the man I would end up marrying in a wedding decorated in purple and gold;  we even introduced our Wedding Party like a starting line up using the same music the Lakers use to announce theirs.

I had a friend jokingly say, “I’m sorry your priest died.” Ok, we all know that friend was Aaron. I couldn’t help but laugh as I had to acknowledge the pedestal that I have put this human on. All these memories I cherished I felt had to die because he died. That’s when I realized how easy it is to have someone jump from a legend to a god in our heart. When I hear about idolatry and false gods, I think of golden calves and Zeus. Or maybe more relatable today: money, material things, or children. But did I really turn a celebrity into a god? I mean, I wasn’t REALLY worshiping him (or was I)? I tied all these memories of my life to this human and ultimately believed because he was dead, my memories were gone with him. I kept waiting for reports to come out that there was a mistake and everyone else was dead but not him. I quickly realized how immortal I thought he was.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with admiring someone for their hard work, their skill, or even their legacy. The problem is when your respect for that person begins to dictate your beliefs, like mine with the memories. Without realizing it, I began believing this person would always be part of my life (even though I never met them). I found myself empty when he wasn’t alive any more. EMPTY! I would say that I had indeed changed part of my identity of being fulfilled with Christ to feeling empty without this celebrity. I put more on this human than was intended for a human to bear, celebrity or otherwise.  The truth is that  regardless of who they are: your kids, your spouse, a parent, or even a celebrity, they are human. 

Human beings are feeble, breakable, and unsurprisingly mortal. When a person is no longer there and you are destroyed because they take all of your hopes with them (including your identity), that’s when they’ve become a god.

But here’s the most amazing thing as a believer in Jesus, we know there IS someone immortal that we can put all of our hope and faith in. For the early disciples, when Jesus died, they also felt like they had lost everything…but then Jesus rose from the grave in fulfillment of all that God had promised. Because of the resurrection Jesus’ death, far from stealing our joy, gives us a reason to be joyful. He has covered us with His grace to walk us through the hard times. He covers us with forgiveness when we stumble and reminds of who He is when we put someone in front of Him. He is the reason we get to love and He sends us to spread His love. Our job is to comfort those who are in pain and extend His love on His behalf. He is to be glorified above the Kobe’s, the Princess Diana’s, the Mother Theresa’s. When we have a proper perspective of who Jesus is we get to help people see they can have hope past pain and loss…and just as Kobe would, get back to work (see, I couldn’t resist one last pedestal).

I will still cherish the sweet memories of my Dad and I bonding together in those basketball moments and attach a certain degree to #24 (one of Kobe’s jersey numbers, yes, he had 2). I will still call “Kobe” any time I throw something towards the garbage in an attempt to make it in some sort of “goal.” I can still mourn and share sadness in a situation that is truly tragic, but I don’t need to wallow in it. I can move on. I can celebrate what has been given by the true God and hopefully also help you move past the false gods that you set up in your life.

Gospel Present

by Aaron

I am sitting in a hotel next to the Sea of Galilee in Israel as I write this short blog. Because of the time difference I tend to wake up at 3am every morning right now and today is no exception.

Aaron and Marianne in Israel

It is interesting that I am here in Israel because, while I love the history of what God did in the world, I also feel like we miss the point if we only focus on broken ruins of where God was and not what He is still actively doing in the world today. One of my friends has an uncle who led tours in Israel and invited my wife and I to go at cost, my wife said we should go, so we came (not that my jet lag is her fault).

On this tour we are mixed with a whole group of pastors from other churches, mostly from the southern United States. As the days have progressed, I have noticed a difference in how I view God’s promises and the call of Jesus differently, in a cultural context, than many of the other people on this expedition. As an example, someone asked our guide what the original borders of Israel were that were given to Abraham verses what they are today, a perfectly valid question with no ulterior motives. Our guide said, “further east and further south,” it was a nice dodge of not stepping on a landmine for American Christians (I almost applauded him). Another question came on the heals about Israel’s aspirations to reclaim all of that promised land, to which the guide said that he believes it would be impractical based on the political climate of the world. One last person then piped and said, “when Jesus returns, He’ll give it to you.” Our guide was gracious and said, “when Jesus returns there will be no borders.” 

I found the guide’s statement brilliant and the some of the responses by our group odd because it kind of missed the point of what Jesus said to do in the world.

The Gospel, in its raw form, is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus lived the life we could have never lived, one of goodness and perfection. On the cross Jesus took our death upon Himself and gave us His life, He took our sin and gave us His own righteousness. We get to be reconciled to God because of what Jesus did and that is good news (the Gospel). Today people and churches tend to fall into one of 3 categories in regards to what the Gospel is and does.

  • Gospel Past – This would be where you hear phrases like “remember the good old days, we need to go back to when men were men, pews were long, and everyone loved the King James Version of the Bible.” I jest, but you get my meaning.
  • Gospel Future – This is when churches spend all their time talking about what God WILL do ONE DAY. He will come back, crush enemies, rapture us, and all sorts of other things.
  • Gospel Present – This is where I think we all NEED to be. A church that understands our rich and deep heritage that has been handed to us from the past, a hope of what God will truly do at the return of Jesus, but a present attitude that sees that the Gospel is good news for today and every day because it means reconciliation now.

When Jesus rises form the dead the disciples ask Him in Acts 1:6 “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” This is kind of like the guy’s statement in our tour group, “when Jesus returns you will get the land.” It is a Gospel future mixed with a gospel past attitude that misplaces Jesus work in the world to only be for our perceived benefit and not good news for all of the lost. When the disciples ask Jesus this question about their own borders He responds with (Acts 1:7) “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” That is a nice way of saying, “no, and you missed the point about the restoration of the true Kingdom of God.” So Jesus then says (Acts 1:8) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

What Jesus does is reminds them what the Gospel will bring, relationship with God that results in God’s Spirit indwelling us. God’s Spirit will indwell for the purpose of speaking the Gospel as a present reality to all the world now. He is saying that the results of the Gospel in our lives is peace with God which can (and hopefully will) result in peace with one another. We need stop asking God, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel…make America great again…destroy the infidels…bring back family values?” And start to live in the present mission which will speak of God’s reconciliation of the world; it is WHY God gave us His Spirit and power. We do not need to have our focus be the ruins of an ancient society, or a future of bloody destruction where everyone finally realizes “we were right;” what we need is a present reality of the true and living God offering us hope and restoration to Himself by what He Himself did in the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

It is not just for us, it is for all people.

Element University 2020

by Element Christian Church

Click Here to listen to teachings and download notes.

Join us Wednesday Evenings for a 9 Week Course, starting January 29th at 6pm-7:45pm, feel free to bring your dinner. We will have Childcare and Kids programs up through 5th grade. You don't need to sign up to come, but we are trying to plan for childcare. If you are bringing children please fill out this form so we can be fully staffed.

Element U (U stands for University) is our effort to educate you by intensive classes that will give you a greater knowledge and understanding of the gospel and the culture around us.

Element U: The Unfolding Mystery of Redemption: God's Gracious Plan to Redeem the Human Race. 

The Unfolding Mystery of Redemption: God's Gracious Plan to Redeem the Human Race.

It is a series of lessons that present the plan of salvation as an unfolding story through the Old Testament and the Gospels. The journey through the Scriptures is not is not just a Bible Overview or Bible History course. We will not stop off at every story, but will highlight the events that are particularly helpful in preparing people’s hearts for an understanding of the good news of our Redeemer’s work.

Our Plan is to take 9 weeks to walk through the Story, discovering how God "unfolded" His plan to the human race.

As the story unfolds, it reveals the Power, the Love and the Holiness of God, as well as the devastating consequences of sin, and our helplessness to save ourselves. Little by little, through the connected
stories, we will slowly but clearly see everyone’s need for a Redeemer/Savior.

In the Old Testament We’ll see:
- the qualifications required of the Savior,
- the predictions of what the Savior would be like,
- and specific things that the prophets said would identify Him,

And then we’ll go to the New Testament Gospels, and take a look at the Man called Jesus, and consider Him as a candidate for the position of Redeemer.

As we do, we see how Jesus uniquely fulfills both the Requirements and the Prophecies, and we gain a firm foundation for our Faith in Him as our only hope for redemption.

Our hope is that we will all come away with a clearer understanding and appreciation of our own firm foundation, and also gather some great tools that will help us share the story with others.

We invite all GC's to take a break from their traditional Notes Night to attend. For questions, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Lone Pine Island

by Holly DeKorte

You might have had someone in your life say to you, “I’m a Christian, but I don’t go to church.”  What is your response to that statement? Do you want to throw Bible verses in the person’s face, do you want to shrug and let it go, or do you want to engage with the person and have a meaningful conversation? For years, I have struggled with my response. My face would show skepticism, disbelief, and sometimes even anger. My words would take on a Hermione Granger like tone and my volume would rise. My arms would cross and I perhaps would even take a physical step back. Or, perhaps more dangerously, I would lean too far to the other side and respond with a “That’s cool.” Now, however, I am equipped with a story that shows a better, more loving response.

About a month ago, Mr. Smith came to dinner. He is a man well into his nineties and has been a close family friend since my mother was a child. The Smiths befriended my grandparents when the two couples moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s and attended the same church. My grandparents transplanted themselves in sunny California, leaving their eastern ties behind, and the Smiths were uprooted from snowy Canada. Mrs. Smith recently passed away and my mother has made sure that Mr. Smith is still a part of our family. During dinner, Mr. Smith launched into a story about a tree, a lake, and the logging industry.

The Smiths have a cottage on White Lake in Ontario, Canada. Once, many years ago, a logging company rerouted the lake and by doing so, flooded a piece of land close to the shore. An island was created, cut off from the mainland and the pine forest. One pine tree survived and lived its life alone on the island. This isolated tree became stunted even as neighboring trees on the mainland thrived. It never grew very tall, because without the protection of larger trees, it was prone to attracting bolts of lightning. The other pine trees dropped needles and cones, self-fertilizing the soil. The birds made homes in the forest and also provided nutrients to the trees. Winds would sweep across the lake and the little tree was left to brace itself while the pines in the forest protected each other. Without shelter and nutrients, the lone pine pressed on, standing by itself for years until it finally succumbed to a violent storm and fell. Mr. Smith, being of curious mind, rowed out to the island and counted the rings of the small, secluded tree. It was well over 100 years old, but tragically, it never lived up to its full potential. 

While Mr. Smith told this story, I realized he was giving me a response to those who call themselves Christians, but who don’t attend a church and involve themselves in a community of believers. Was the pine tree still a tree even outside the forest? Yes! Is a Christian a Christian even if the person doesn’t attend church? Sure. However, is it healthy to be a Christian and not attend church or to insert yourself into community? No. We speak of “the storms of life” sometimes flippantly, yet anyone who has lived a decade or more certainly knows that no one is safe from a squall. The Holy Spirit certainly is our Helper and sees us through life’s storms, but He uses His people to help in His work.   

One of the purposes of church is for nourishment. Every Sunday, we hear the Word of God preached from the pulpit. As our understanding of scripture grows, God changes our hearts. The Holy Spirit, through our pastors, shapes our thoughts, feelings, and actions as we feast on the Word. Think of sermons as fertilizer for your soul. We also feast at the Lord’s Supper. The physical act of receiving communion is supposed to be done in community as we, together, remember Jesus’s death and resurrection. As a high school student, my father would take me with him on shut-in communion visits. We would visit the elderly and the sick members of our church to pray, talk, and take communion together. Sometimes, the church comes to you.

Another reason that a Christian attends church is community. Thinking about Lone Pine Island and the tree isolated from the forest is rather depressing. We are not meant to be that tree, struggling alone to fend off lightning, wind, rain, and snow. Ultimately, God shoulders our burdens, but He has given us the church family to assist. Do you ever visit the deacons in the back for prayer? Do you ever share your burdens in a Gospel Community? If so, you know that your brothers and sisters are joining you in your grief and helping to carry your burdens. Paul instructs the Corinthians to “Greet each other with a holy kiss.” 2 Cor 13:12. In our cultural context, that would be a hug or, perhaps, a handshake. Some people go an entire week without physical contact and might depend on their brothers and sisters at church for it. 

Mr. Smith kept a bit of wood from the lone pine’s stump. One day, my father will make something beautiful out of it. Perhaps, you have been hurt by the church. Guess what? I would venture to say that most of us feels the scars from a church experience. We are a supernatural family, being made holy so that we become more like Jesus, but in the meantime, we hurt each other. Remember, God redeems all things, even the pain, and that ultimately, the church will be perfect. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of what it means to be a church, and who is our High Priest:  

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”   Hebrews 10:19-25 

Maybe you feel like a lone pine.  Jesus, by His sacrifice for our sins, has made it possible for us to approach the throne of God.  He has made us clean and given us a spiritual family.  We, at Element Christian Church, would love to come alongside you, to love and encourage you.  Find your forest and grow in it!  Your presence matters. For those of you who are planted in church, look for the lone pines in your life. Invite them in to community and offer them your friendship. God uses us all in the process of growth! 

Delta Holiday Store Recap

by Element Christian Church

Christmas for Kids (CFK) was a program Element started a year after planting as a church in 2008. Christmas for Kids’ goal was to provide for families and kids in need in our community that may have fallen through the cracks and didn’t get support from other organizations and/or the government. We loved this ministry as each year we were able to provide two meals and take kids shopping for Christmas gifts for themselves.

When Element moved to our Bethany property, two things happened. First, we quickly realized how much of a need there is for the students who show up every day next door to Delta High School.  Secondly, the family who spearheaded CFK was no longer able to organize and run the program. While we felt called to bless the students next door, the first couple of years, as we were building trust with the faculty, we simply provided movie tickets as a way to wish the students Merry Christmas. This year, we partnered with one of the teachers who runs the HOPE club to put together a free Holiday Store for the students to be able to ‘shop till they dropped’ for either themselves or for family/friends.

It was an amazing week. Thank you so very much to all of you who helped donate items or serve the week of to make it happen.

Shawn, the teacher over the HOPE club, put together a Delta Holiday Store in 2015. They hosted it on campus and focused mainly on clothes. Here is a picture of what it looked like.

Original Delta Store in 2015

Shawn had a vision for expanding the store and having more resources for students and asked if we would be able to host it for them; which we were glad to do. The HOPE club actively helped all week: setting up and maintaining the store, greeting all students as they arrived and explaining the why and how the store worked, and they passed out “HOPE notes” (an encouragement letter) to each student. We expanded the store to include more household items such as toiletries, kid’s toys, baby items, Christmas décor, shoes, and so much more. We even had a coffee table that kids fought over. Here are some pictures of our gathering room the first day. 

Element Store 1 Element Store 2 Element Store 3 Element Store 4 

Element Store 5 Element Store 6 Element Store 7 Element Store 8 

Roughly 80% of everything went. The store opened and all students came on Tuesday and “shopped.” The rest of the week we opened it before and after school. Some teachers brought their entire classes over, where some brought individual students who needed more time.  It was great to hear excitement as students would say, “I got my little brother (sister, cousin, etc.) something this year, I have never been able to do that before!”

It was eye opening how much the students wanted/needed basic items such as toiletries (including toilet paper), towels and blankets. We couldn’t keep them in stock. We had several people offer to donate more and replenished these items several times, and always ran out.

Toiletries 1 Toiletries 2 Toiletries 4

Toiletries More! Towels More

We were also able to bless the students by offering a gift-wrapping station where they could wrap gifts they wanted to give. Many used this service and interacted with volunteers who wished them a Merry Christmas.

Gift Wrapping 1 Gift Wrapping 2

Lastly, we raffled off decorated Christmas trees, we had 8 in total, to those students who didn’t have a one this season. The kids who won were all very appreciative of the trees and were genuinely excited. One girl who one a tree actually gave it to a friend who she knew needed it more than she did. It was encouraging to see the student’s generosity grow from being part of the Delta Store. 

Tree Give Away - Kid Happy Decorated Trees 1 Decorated Trees 2 Decorated Trees 3

Tree Wrapping 1 Tree Wrapping 2 Tree Delivery

The students were appreciative and thanked Element several times. At this time our plan is to provide this store again, taking all we learned this year and applying it to next year’s store as there are always ways to improve.

For Element it is great to see the heart of our original Christmas for Kids continue even though it looks completely different now. In the end we were able to provide Christmas gifts to 300+ High School students, as well as give them the opportunity to give gifts to others, and we pray provided some hope for each of them.

It is called the HOPE club because the teachers and staff want to provide hope and encouragement to all students at Delta through giving and sacrifice. It’s our prayer that each and every student saw their needs being taken care of and come to know that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice as He gave His life for them – the ultimate gift. We look forward to continued relationship and ways to serve the students and staff at Delta. If you would like to get involved serving the High School, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

(Note: We do not have permission to post pictures with students) 

The Morning After

by Kelly Borjas

The Monday after Thanksgiving started—and all I could see was my to-do list. Piles of laundry, recovering from company, cookies to bake for school performances, Christmas cards to send, presents to buy, and a smattering of holiday events (interrupted by an out-of-town wedding in the middle of December). It’s a ridiculously busy time of the year. Then I think about all the things I have coming at me to soak up Advent, remember what Jesus did for us, be present, focus on what matters. I felt overwhelmed at the contradiction. How am I supposed to stop and focus on Jesus when I am running a hundred miles an hour to accomplish everything in the month of December? To clarify, I love all of these things. Truly, I love watching a Hallmark movie and writing Christmas cards, basking in the glow of a lit Christmas tree, baking cookies with my kids, buying presents.

I went for my morning run that day, and prayed, asking the Lord how I was supposed to juggle everything and still keep Him at the center of our lives. At the end of the run, I saw a rainbow in the sky. Before you think I’m over spiritualizing, I had a realization. After God instructed Noah to build an ark and flooded the earth, He gave a promise that He would never flood the earth again. A rainbow is a sign of that promise. A reminder. That rainbow reminded me of something Steve said in his sermon last Sunday: God always does what He says He is going to do. He’s never flooded the entire earth again. God did what He said He would do.

I started thinking: what did God say He would do in regard to a Savior? The Old Testament is filled with God guiding his people and a promised Messiah. At the beginning of the Bible God says His offspring will defeat Satan (Genesis 3:15). He promised Abraham he would be a great nation (Genesis 12:2). He promised a Messiah to be born of a virgin, whose name is Immanuel, meaning God with us. (Isaiah 7:14). This savior would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

The Bible also says this Messiah would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5), and that He would not stay in the grave (Psalm 16:10). There are several other prophesies of this coming Messiah, but these stood out to me. God did what He said He would do! He brought Jesus into the world as a baby—both human and God incarnate. Jesus lived on earth, ministered to people in all walks of life, and then died for our sins, rising again to defeat death and sin. All people are invited into this Kingdom, fulfilling the promise God made to Abraham to make a great nation.

As I’ve reflected on those truths this week, I’ve realized it’s not overly complicated. We don’t need to read every Advent devotional or follow some specific process to be reminded of the meaning of Christmas. Rather, we can simplify. God did what He said He would do. He brought a Savior into the world. Immanuel—God with us. When I think of it that way, it’s life changing. When we’re at school performances or wrapping gifts; when we’re baking cookies or shopping, we can remember the significance of this Savior. In fact, if all I remember is that God fulfills His promises, I can reflect and appreciate His great gift. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace came to the world to rescue sinners. God did what He said He would do.

The Tension of Truth

by Aaron

In a message a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we are called to speak God’s truth as seen in the Gospel by speaking hope, grace, and truth to the world around us. I then received this question the next week and thought we could put it in a blog for everyone. Here is the question: How do we as believers balance the tension of not being judgmental with standing for God’s truth? If standing for truth requires we differentiate right from wrong, how do we keep ourselves from being judgmental or being perceived as judgmental (even if in our own hearts)?

The short answer is you can’t stop people from perceiving you a certain way when they are predisposed to do that…but what we can do is slowly change those preconceptions with a life of grace. The long answer is that sometimes people react poorly to a message of truth because those with the truth do not communicate it in a way that makes sense (and sometimes people have hardened hearts so our words only sound like judgment).

As an example, one of the greatest preachers in American history, Jonathan Edwards, spent most of his career preaching at the Congregational Church of Northampton. At the time this was considered one of the most important towns in Massachusetts. He had a disagreement with a church policy over communion (who should be allowed to partake) and was fired. He then went to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on the American frontier, where he started to minster to a congregation that had many Native Americans in it. When he spoke in the new congregation, he changed how he preached. His words didn’t lessen the Gospel message, but they became simpler.

He changed his way of reasoning and started to use more stories and metaphors. As Timothy Keller notes, “He preached more often on the accounts of Jesus’ life instead of on the propositions of the Pauline epistles.” I have been re-reading an excellent book by Keller called Center Church and it speaks at length about speaking into our given cultures in understandable ways. The truth without judgment. I will quote or rephrase the book at length because I think it is helpful to answer the question.

Center Church points out that “to enter a culture, another main task is to discern its dominant worldviews or belief systems, because contextualized gospel ministry should affirm the beliefs of the culture wherever it can be done with integrity.” The book shows that we should be able to determine 2 types of beliefs in a culture.

  • “A” beliefs are beliefs people already hold that, because of God’s grace, roughly correspond to some parts of biblical teaching.
  • “B” beliefs contradict Christian truth

With “A” beliefs people are already predisposed to latch onto many of the Scriptures teachings, but “B” beliefs are those a culture finds offensive or implausible. When speaking truth we should look for the “A” beliefs; these beliefs will differ from culture to culture. Keller states, “To use an obvious example, in Manhattan, what the Bible says about turning the other cheek is welcome (an “A” belief), but what it says about sexuality is resisted (a “B” belief). In the Middle East, we see the opposite—turning the other cheek seems unjust and impractical, but biblical prohibitions on sexuality make sense.”

What we want to do in speaking of the Gospel is point people to the overlapping beliefs they can easily affirm. Paul does this in his speech in Athens in Acts 17. We spend time building rapport and relationships with people because where truth is found we can affirm it whole heartedly. We can build people’s respect for biblical wisdom this way. “A culture that puts a high value on family relationships and community should be shown that there is a strong biblical basis for the family. A culture that puts a high value on individual human rights and justice should be shown how the biblical doctrine of the image of God is the historical and logical foundation for human rights.” We must take care to affirm “A” beliefs before engaging in the “B” beliefs. We don’t start with the challenge, we start with affirming truth. We show respect even when disagreeing on many “B” doctrines.

When Paul speaks in the book of Acts he doesn’t just go out and put down the Greeks’ love for the mind or Jews’ love for morality; he wants to help them see they are pursuing those things in defeating ways. Valuing morality (as the Jews did) was a good thing, but without Jesus that pursuit of morality leads to judgementalism and weakness. To the Jews, Christ seemed weak, but that weakness brought (and still brings) true power. “Paul does not simply dismiss a culture’s aspirations; rather, he both affirms and confronts, revealing the inner contradictions in people’s understanding.” It is so important for us to understand and enter a culture BEFORE challenging it. “Our criticism of the culture will have no power to persuade unless it is based on something that we can affirm in the beliefs and values of that culture.”

It is much different to challenge the wrong things a culture believes from the common ground of the things they say they already believe. Center Church states, “It is important to learn how to distinguish a culture’s “A” doctrines from its “B” doctrines because knowing which are which provides the key to compelling confrontation.”

Yes, we must be able to judge what culture around us deems as right vs wrong, but we do not need to become ‘judgmental’ in the process. No matter what, in areas where “B” doctrines collide there is always great opportunity for offense and anger, but starting in the common grace of common ground gives us a surer and more tactful approach presenting Gospel truths. Healthy confrontation can occur when relationships are built between people, and honestly human cultures are extremely inconsistent in conforming to what they say they believe…contrast that with God Himself, who stands above all culture, and is always consistent.

 

Upcoming Delta High School Holiday Store

by Element Christian Church

As the neighbor of Delta High School, we at Element Christian Church try to bless and serve Delta as much as possible. One thing that the teachers have asked for is for Element to host a Holiday Store for a week in December. Delta is a continuation school. Many of the students come from difficult circumstances and have very little money. In previous years, Delta has offered a free store where kids can go to “shop” for either themselves if there’s something they need (clothes, accessories, games, etc.) or, shop for a gift for someone else. We love this idea! The teachers say that letting students get a Christmas gift for someone else helps change their perspective on the Holidays, and helps them learn to be more generous. The school hasn't been able to provide the store in the past couple of years due to a lack of resources in collecting items and hosting, so Element is going to step in to help get donations and host the Holiday Store.

A couple quick stories the Delta Staff has shared with: 

  • One year a girl who had been a part of a sex-trafficking ring locally (and wasn't at this time), ended up getting gifts for each of the girls who were still involved, showing them love by giving them gifts.
  • One boy's father was homeless, and the boy didn't have any money to get him anything but was able to get him some new clothes, shoes and a blanket.
  • There was a boy who was able to get shoes for a friend in need who wasn't going to school.

The Store will be held at Element Church December 10 -13th, 2019 during school hours. We are looking for donations of NEW or very slightly USED donations that are in clean and in working order. Some items Delta has received in previous years that have been a success:

High Priority:

  • Great condition teen/young adult clothing
  • Like-new items for Christmas gifting (decor, jewelry, toys, etc.)

Other Items:

  • Clothing and shoes for all ages of people: babies through adults in good condition, new socks
  • Formal clothing: dresses and suits for employment and dances, etc. 
  • Sports shoes: cleats, basketball shoes, etc.
  • Hats, accessories
  • Christmas ornaments, decorations, cards
  • Any type of game, including board games
  • School supplies
  • Home goods: towels, kitchenware, cookware, etc.
  • Household essentials, blankets, candles
  • Baby gear, including strollers in nice condition, car seats for babies

We would appreciate any sort of donation you can make. All donations will receive a tax donation slip. We need all donations delivered/picked up by Sunday, December 8, 2019.

There are other ways to help, we'll need help setting up and organizing, and some people to help with gift wrapping, etc. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Delta Holiday Store - Donations Needed

Pumpkin Killing 2019 Invite

by Element Christian Church

You're invited to this year's Pumpkin Killing! Join us Sunday, October 27th from 1:30-4pm as we Launch, Carve & Eat Pumpkins. Event and pumpkins are free! We will also have burgers, hotdogs, water & pumpkin pie will be available.

Location: Orcutt Hill / Newlove Picnic Grounds.

Watch highlights from this year's Pumpkin Killing!

Click Here to Download Invite & Map

Learn More & Watch Recaps

Watch Turn by Turn Directions to Newlove Picnic Grounds:

:

Membership Has its Privileges

by Jonathan Whitaker

The following blog post is from Jonathan, an Element Colorado Springs Elder, check out original blog post here.


“Membership has its privileges.” This is a phrase I have often heard, but seldom experienced. When I was younger, in a job that had me travel the world on frequent business trips, I was given some good advice by the seasoned travelers in my office: “Choose a hotel rewards and airline miles program and stick with it.” This really is good advice, which I stand by for religious reasons.

Between flying to Asia, Europe, and all over the continental US, I racked up a lot of loyalty points. My goal was to take my family on an all-expenses-paid vacation to somewhere, if not fabulous, at least free.

After Holly was born (my second eldest), I was able to book my first vacation using loyalty points. We flew to Orlando from San Antonio on Delta Airlines for free. Not too shabby. I had top-tier status with Delta, and this ate up most of my points. But, the crown jewel of my frequent traveler treasure chest was my Diamond Status with Hilton! It was my plan to turn a move from San Antonio to California into a once-in-a-lifetime road trip with swanky stays along the way. Unfortunately, the Hilton resort I booked in Arizona did not have Hilton Diamond amenities, so my four years of Hilton stays netted me a Starbucks and a bagel each morning from the hotel grocery. Wah wah... After that debacle, they booked us in the stinky pet room at the Embassy Suites in Lompoc.

I didn’t travel for business for the next three years. My status with Delta now allows me to fly on the roof of the plane with the chicken crates. As I look back, my real problem was that I should have used my travel points when they would have done me some good. Instead, I hoarded them for a future vacation that never happened.

My story of being a Christian is a lot like my story of being a travel rewards member. The status I had was not the status I used. The day we are saved God gives us the Holy Spirit, full access to the God of the universe, spiritual gifts, a mission, and eternal life. It is like getting Diamond Status the day you sign up! You get this fabulous rewards package, and so did I. But, I never used my points!

It gets worse. For two decades I never used my points. I had the Holy Spirit, but I did not find time to get to know Him. And sadly, I never experienced His power. The whole time as a saved person, I knew there was so much more that God wanted for my life. I knew this, because the Holy Spirit constantly convicted my soul…AND I WAS MISERABLE! Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

I was living Hebrews 10:24-25. I had no one to stir me toward good works, because I avoided those people like the plague. I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, because it pricked my heart and made me feel guilty. Well, that is exactly how a person who has been given the GREATEST GIFT in the universe only to squander it SHOULD FEEL!

The turning point in my life was when I submitted to mature Christians, joined a fellowship of believers in a Bible believing church, began worshiping the God of my salvation, and yielded my life to God’s plan. These things only happen when a Christian participates in Christ’s body, the Church.

I want you to have these benefits too. Don’t make the mistake I did. Jesus did not leave you on an island. He is a God of community (hence the Trinity). He wants to commune with you as you commune with other believers. This is why he went to such lengths to establish His church. I mean for crying out loud, he spent weeks church planting after being raised from the dead. I can tell you when I have been raised from the dead, I’m gonna be worshipping God, not worrying about all of you!

To learn more about church membership, click here.

In The Name of Freedom

by Kelly Borjas

I have a love-hate relationship with my scale, and recently it’s been more on the side of hate. When it shows the number I want (or progress), I love it, but when it goes the wrong direction I’m moody and frustrated, fixated on the problem (and myself). I’ve tried a bunch of ways lately to get where I want to be weight-wise: fad diets, extreme exercise, cutting out the foods I love, then I land on some sort of binge of all things chocolate and carbs.

I find myself wondering: why do I care so much? Why do I tie my worth to my body, and focus more on the outside than the inside? Then it hit me: I’ve made an idol out of obtaining this goal, this elusive standard of perfection. I’ve developed unhealthy habits, and tried to find my value in achieving this goal.

There’s an idea Aaron mentioned last year that struck my husband and me: we have freedom as Christians. Yet, if that freedom causes us to be enslaved, it’s not true freedom. In fact, 1 Corinthians says everything is lawful, but not all things are helpful (1 Cor. 6:12). Finding a balance is hard to do; it’s a discipline that requires the Lord’s help. Gluttony or dieting depending on how they are done can both be as much of a sin as anything else, yet I constantly justify them both at different times. I use food as an entitlement, like I deserve some sort of reward. I would guess we all have areas that we struggle to strike the right balance of freedom in the physical world. Am I free to enjoy all foods and drinks and exercise? Yes, absolutely! 1 Timothy says everything created by God is good and nothing should be rejected if received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4). However, if I’m enslaved to these things God has created as a way to find fulfillment or worth, or I’m abstaining out of some type of punishment to myself, I’m not truly free.

Our worth should be found in Christ, and who He says we are. It should be in what He’s done to redeem us from sin and offer us a way of hope. We are free—to live and enjoy the gifts He gives. We have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11). My worth is not found in this physical world, yet the physical world impacts our spiritual lives.

1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” I read that this morning and the pieces fell together. Our bodies are in the physical reality, and what we do with our bodies and how we use and treat them is a way to honor God. Romans 12 says to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. This begs the question: do we honor God in the way we live our lives in all areas (whether we are feasting or fasting)? Are we exercising freedom?

I know someone who battled sexual addiction for many years, and only by God’s grace did this person find freedom from the chains that bound him. This lifestyle impacted the body, but also the spirit. The choices we make are a way to follow Christ and let His work be displayed in us. This applies to food, drink, sex, sleep, and any other way we treat our bodies. Are we stewarding what God gave us? Do we treat our bodies well because they are important? I find there are times where I’m more dominated by something than is healthy, and when that happens I’m no longer exercising freedom. Instead, that’s a reminder to realign my priorities.   

I’m no expert in this, but I am praying for discernment as I change habits and patterns, one day at a time. I put my scale away so I could stop the Yo-Yo of my emotions and instead focus on healthy, balanced choices. I want to develop a lifestyle of discipline and of enjoying the gifts God gives in moderation. When we live in this freedom, we honor God with our bodies, and find true freedom that is liberating.