True God, False Faith

by Aaron

This is my second blog where I wanted to delve a bit deeper into something I talked about in an updated Gospel Class that we called The Weekender. The original point of our Gospel Class was to give people who were considering making Element their home a quick primer on basic theology and the reasons Element functions the way it does (from our mission to our vision in how we accomplish God’s call as a church). This year we decided to streamline the course by holding a Friday night/Saturday morning class. In streamlining the class, there were certain things that became condensed, and one of those was a section we call “Creation and Sin.” I wanted to write a couple of short blogs to round out some of what may have gotten lost in the class. Since this is the second of these blogs, I want to write about what we call “The Fall.”

In Christian theology “the fall” references humankind’s rebellion against God by trying to “live our own truth” and ceasing to trust Him. Now you may be thinking…what? I wasn’t there! However, Scripture’s portrayal of Adam and Eve represents how all of humanity would respond in that situation. We all buy into lies about our identity and about God. In that sense, even though we were not there shortly after creation, we are responsible for the effects of the fall and can witness our own brokenness today. God had essentially given us the entire world as a gift, calling us to steward and take care of His creation, and we (in no time at all) did our best to destroy it. God called us to trust Him for what was good and true, and we bought into a lie that God was not as good as He claimed to be—that we could be more than we were created to be. We distrusted God (as we still distrust Him every day) and we did the one thing He commanded us not to do. In so doing we fell from relationship with Him into sin. As those who fell, there was/is nothing we could do to restore relationship with a holy and eternal God, so God Himself came to us to bring us back to Himself.

God coming for us ultimately leads to the proclamation of good news. The first proclamation is in Genesis 3:16 right after we fell. In Genesis 3:16 Jesus promises that He (Himself) would be the one to pay for the penalty of our rebellion…this is the essence of the Gospel. Jesus takes our death upon Himself and gives us His life; He takes our sin and rebellion and gives us His righteousness with God. In the Weekender I kind of blazed through this on the way to the session about salvation, but I want to take a step back and talk about what happened in the fall because it still relates to our lives today.

In the creation narrative, we see that God is creator and there is a distinction between Him and the creation. As I wrote in the last blog, God is self-contained. He is A SE (from Latin…this is where we get the word Aseity). He is dependent upon nothing, while creation (and humans particularly) is dependent upon our creator epistemologically (knowledge) and metaphysically (reality). This is why when God says we are to trust Him for what is good, there is no good that can be understood apart from Him. When the fall takes place in Genesis 3, there is a de-creation, a reversal, of what God did in Genesis 1-2. The order God created unravels and we are still living in the dysfunction that remains.

How? In Genesis 3 the serpent becomes humanity’s guide for the “good,” as humans eat fruit that was forbidden to them. Under the serpent’s advice, we dismissed the authority of God. In creation, the order (in terms of authority) went God, man, woman (who was created equal), creatures. In the de-creation of the fall, the serpent lies to and tempts the woman, the woman gives some fruit to her husband (who then eats) and we see a reverse cycle of whose authority we trust to determine our lives: serpent, woman, man, God. John Calvin wrote about how we turn aside from God’s truth to falsehoods: “…the first man revolted from God’s authority, not because of Satan’s blandishments, but also because, contemptuous of the truth, he turned aside to falsehood. And surely, once we hold God’s word in contempt, we shake off all reverence for Him.” The fall happened because we ceased to revere God for who He is; I would say that the same thing still happens in our world today.

In the fall we tried to shrink God from who He is. D. A. Carson wrote, “The true God is holy; He is unique, and cannot, by His very nature, tolerate those who try to relativize Him. We are not gods; and by death we learn we are only human.” In the fall God warned us that if we sin, we will die; part of what death does is blow away our pretentions. The most striking difference in today’s world is not between those who have “faith” and those who have none; it is between those who have true faith and those who have false faith. Adam and Eve didn’t become atheists and refuse to believe in God (God came walking in the garden, calling out to them). Instead, they left the true faith for a false faith that was centered on themselves and not God. Adam and Eve still sincerely believed in the existence of God, but in false faith, sincerity is not the issue—the truth of who God is is the issue. Mike Ovey writes, “…the truth or falsehood of the faith turns not on whether the person who has faith is sincere or not, but on whether the belief that person holds is true to the reality of the person of whom he or she believes it.” False faith believes lies about God. In this case, Adam and Eve chose to believe God wasn’t enough for them.

False faith today, culturally speaking, believes lies about God that are rationally and ethically justified by our own standards. False faith will treat what God does as bad, when He is clearly shown to be good. It argues that the legitimate sovereignty that God has over His creation is not legitimate. False faith treats God’s loving warnings as bad commands—calling His goodness into question. When we have false faith, it obscures and distorts who God made us to be; it continues to degrade our relationship with God and pushes us farther into the fall.

There are questions that we must ask that come out of the ways we diminish God:

  • In what ways are we listening to authorities, other than God, in our life?
  • In what ways are we adhering to false faith, rather than looking for who God has revealed Himself to be?
  • In what ways are we continuing to live in the lie that began the fall in the first place?

We naturally, because we are born into sin, run from God and toward false faith. It is why salvation comes from God’s hand alone. The Gospel is the good news of God’s rescue of us from our own lies and falsehoods we have adhered to. If God had not been for us, we would have never known restored relationship with Him again. Eugene Peterson translated Psalm 124:6 as Oh, blessed be God! He didn’t go off and leave us…when the entire world went against us, because of our own choices, God comes for us.

Psalm 124:8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  

Aseity, Unity, Simplicity, Trinity

by Aaron

A couple of weeks ago we led an updated Gospel Class that we called The Weekender. Our Gospel Class eventually grew from an original 7-week course to an 8-week course as we refined our vision over the years. The point of the Gospel Class was to give people who were considering making Element their home a quick primer on basic theology and why Element functions the way it does (from our mission to our vision in how we accomplish God’s call as a church). Since people tended to have “life” happen to them and couldn’t make all 8 weeks, this year we decided to try something new and streamline the course by doing a Friday night/Saturday morning class.

In streamlining the class, there were a couple topics that became condensed. One of those was who God is in His person and the other was the fall of humankind (into what we call sin). These two things have been running through my heart and head in the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to write a couple of short blogs to round out what may have been missed in the class. Let’s first talk about God (you know, because God is always first).

When we speak about God, we speak about God’s shared and unshared attributes. God’s shared attributes are the ones that He shares with His people. This includes Spirit (we have a spirit because God gave us life), Holiness (God gives us the gift of being set apart for His purposes), Love and Goodness (we love because He first loved us), Truth (we can know and live in the truth), Justice and Righteousness (we know true righteousness and just because they stem from God Himself), Mercy (God doesn’t give us what we deserve, He gives us grace and we are to show that same grace to others), and Beauty (God creates in beauty and allows His creatures to also create works of beauty).

God also has attributes that He does not share. These would be His Omnipresence (God is everywhere at all times), His Omniscience (He has complete and perfect knowledge of all things), His Omnipotence (He is all-powerful and able to do all that He wills unopposed), His Immutability (God does not change because He is perfect), His Eternality (God has no beginning or end and is not bound by time), His Sovereignty (God is supreme in rule and authority over all things), and His Aseity (God is sufficient in Himself and does not need anything from creation (including us) to complete Him.

All the above may be review and could lead you to ask the question, “Why this blog?” The answer is that there is another point I wanted to make regarding God and His attributes…all of this is only relatable to us when we understand that God is within a Trinity and His unity is correlative only to Himself. All the complexities of the attributes above stem from God’s person—which is unity in Trinity. I hope I am not confusing you.

While God Himself is unity in trinity, He made the world in diversity; sometimes that diversity causes us to misunderstand God’s Aseity. As created beings, we are dependent upon things outside of ourselves for life, but God Himself is not like us. Let’s take something as simple as love…if God were not a unity in Trinity, then what would be the object of God’s love? Us? The world? John Frame wrote, “…love in the fullest biblical sense by its very nature reaches out to another, not merely to the self.” That means if God was not a Trinity, He would then need someone or something else to love to be God. Frame writes, “On a Trinitarian basis…God’s love is both interpersonal and self-contained.” God’s love is a love among the Father, Son, and Spirit—it is not dependent upon anything else.

The reason the Trinity is so important a doctrine is that it guards God’s Aseity. Without God being a Triune God, He would be dependent upon the world. As Frame writes, “Trinity…guards the personality of God: He is not blank unity, which would be impersonal. Rather, He is a unity of persons.” Michelle, who I have proofread these blogs, responded with these words after reading the above paragraph, “And—if I’m understanding this correctly—He would HAVE to love us/creation, right? Which would not only compromise His omnipotence, but also detract from the goodness that…He actually chooses to love us of His own free will.” Correct, but it would compromise His Aseity as well.

This is a doctrine that theologians call God’s “Simplicity.” God is not made up of the attributes listed above because there is nothing in Him that is independent of His person…every good thing we know stems from who He is. If you take God’s goodness, for instance, that is not an external thing that God focuses on in order to be good. Goodness is not an attribute that God conforms Himself to; goodness comes from God Himself. If goodness came from outside of God, then goodness would essentially be another god (a second deity) that God would conform Himself to—He would cease to be God. Cornelius Van Til has been quoted as saying, “Denial of God’s unity of simplicity violates God’s unity of singularity.”

Hopefully you can see why I am sharing this in a blog. This whole discussion, while fascinating to me, could take us into the weeds if I were to do it in class. Suffice to say, a proper understanding of God’s simplicity, unity in Trinity, and Aseity tells us that there is not any “non-being” (attributes) that have/had any power over God. Logic, ethics, truth, mercy all come from His person and are just some reasons why we worship and ascribe worth to who He is. It is why we are a people who are lost and broken without the God who made us. We are dependent and He is sufficient in Himself yet chooses to love us; that is a great God!

 

Pumpkin Killing Invite

by Element Christian Church

October 24th, 1:30-4:00pm, at Orcutt Hill Picnic Grounds!

You are invited to come out for a fun afternoon with Element, as we kill some pumpkins! Everybody can pick and carve a free pumpkin, play games, and eat pumpkin pie (burgers and hot dogs also available), and watch pumpkins be shot out of a canon!

Click here to download invite & map to the Picnic Grounds.
 
Want a turn-by-turn video directions? Click here!

We do need help setting up and cleaning up or help running the games, so please let us know if you can! Signup here to help!

 

Pumpkin Killing 2019 Recap Video:

 

Pumpkin Killing 2018 Recap Video:

 

Pumpkin Killing 2016 Recap Video:

 

Pumpkin Killing 2015 Recap Video:

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 Delta as much as possible. The staff have asked us to host a Holiday Store for a week in December. Many of the students come from difficult circumstances and have very little means to buy Christmas gifts. In previous years, Delta has offered a free store where kids can go to “shop” for themselves and/or shop for a gift for someone else. We love this idea! The Delta staff has said that letting students get a Christmas gift for someone else, helps change their perspective on the Holidays! 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 happy to provide a space for the store and to help collect items! 

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 in the past, ended up getting gifts for each of the girls who were still involved.
  • One boy's father was homeless, and the boy didn't have any money to get him anything but he 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 7-10th, 2021 during school hours. We are looking for donations of NEW or very slightly USED items that are in clean and working order. Some items Delta has received in previous years that have been a success: 

High Priority:

  • Blankets, Towels & Toiletry Gift Sets
  • 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
  • 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 5, 2021.

For questions and comments, or to contact us about donation delivery, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 805-310-4229. Thank you very much!

Q&A: Watchman Nee

by Aaron

Question: I was hoping you could answer a quick question... Do you know anything about Watchman Nee? We are going to a new, very small church. The "what we believe” section looks good, but they are reading these Morning Revival books all together and the books give an almost cult vibe (95% seems biblical and 5% seems weird).

Answer: Sometimes when people ask about historical Christian figures, we tend to overlook the bad and only focus on what we perceive as the good. A.W. Tozer was a terrible husband who ignored his wife, yet his writings are quoted by the most devoted of husbands. David Livingston neglected his family and only met a couple of his children when they were older, yet he is still beloved by good fathers. Watchman Nee was a courageous man who taught the gospel as best he knew it…and yet his theology was not always the greatest.

This always becomes the problem when people fanatically follow any man other than Jesus Christ. Whatever “weeds” that idolized person got stuck in, those who follow too closely also get stuck in those weeds. Did Watchman Nee preach the Gospel? Yes, as he said in his book The Normal Christian Life, “Righteousness, the forgiveness of our sins, and peace with God are all ours by faith, and without faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ none can possess them.” There it is…we are forgiven and restored by the work of Jesus Christ alone, yet other writings of his (even in the same book!) confuse the issue.

The problems emerge the deeper you look, and I think this probably goes for any man or woman today. I am sure if I went through some of my old sermons, I would be thinking, “What did I even mean by that?” When you get deeper into Watchman Nee’s work, you find that his views of the Holy Spirit, sanctification, baptism, and sin have some serious errors. He believed church denominations were sinful, interpreted scripture as allegorical where he should not have, and seemed to teach perfection can be achieved in this life in what we do.

Some of the issues may be cultural. As a Chinese man, born and raised, there will always be some cultural distinctions that will look odd to us. If we were trying to put a label on Watch Nee, I think he would be described as a Christian seeking some form of mysticism (which again, could be cultural). He doesn’t come out and say that faith can cure sickness, but he gets very close to it in The Normal Christian Life. Many of the things he says should give us pause…consider the following: “One thing is certain, that any true experience of value in the sight of God must have been reached by way of a new discovery of the meaning of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. That is a crucial test and a safe one.” What is a “new discovery” if the faith has been “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3)? How is it “safe” to go around thinking that only true experiences of value come finding something new, rather than delving deeper into what has been revealed? The person who edits my blog posts before we post them even questioned me on this saying that as they (personally) grow in Christ their greatest moments are when something comes that is “new.” I think the difference, based on Nee’s writings, is that his “new” borders on new revelation and not illumination of the Spirit.

In terms of baptism, he wrote, “What are the conditions to be fulfilled if we are to have forgiveness of sins? According to the Word they are two: repentance and baptism.” It seems sometimes his gospel message became clouded if baptism is also required for salvation (in his opinion). He then goes to explain, in a bizarre way, repentance and baptism: “Here then are two divinely appointed conditions of forgiveness—repentance, and faith publicly expressed. Have you repented? Have you testified publicly to your union with your Lord? …If you have fulfilled the conditions you are entitled to two gifts, not just one. You have already taken the one; why not just come and take the other now? Say to the Lord, ‘Lord, I have complied with the conditions for receiving remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, but I have foolishly only taken the former. Now I have come back to take the gift of the Holy Ghost, and I praise Thee for it.” Again, he seems to understand salvation from the quote earlier, but here muddies it with pointing to our works and a mystical union with the Holy Spirit.

Personally, I think there are better people to read in terms of discipleship than Watchman Nee. If the church you are attending uses his book(s) as tool to grow together, but realizes Nee was only a flawed man, it could be fine. If, on the other hand, they have a fanatic zeal for Nee that deifies him and won’t critically look at his life, that becomes an issue.

Hope that helped.

What Happened to the 12 Tribes of Israel?

by Aaron

Currently, at Element, we are going through the minor prophets (the last 12 books of the Old Testament Scriptures). These 12 “Minor Prophets” are written during a (roughly) 500 year time frame that covers the fall of the northern 10 tribes of Israel (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Joseph, whose tribe was divided into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh), the captivity of the 2 southern tribes of Israel (Judah and Benjamin), and their eventual return to rebuild their temple.

I gave a very brief summation of what happened when the Kingdom of Israel divided in 900BC last week. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, comes to power and wants to tax and force labor upon all of the tribes, which causes the nation of Israel to split (10 northern tribes called “Israel” and 2 southern tribes called “Judah”). The question came up on Sunday as to what happened to those 10 northern tribes. We know the southern tribes returned to rebuild the temple and Jews were actually called “Jews” because of JUDAH, but what happened to those northern 10 tribes.

This question has been asked for a long while, some even call the northern 10 tribes the “Lost Tribes of Israel.” First, they are not lost as God knows where they are, the book of Revelation says they will give an account. What happened historically is that most of the people of the Northern Kingdom were killed in the Assyrian invasion or deported as slaves. The few that did escape remained in the land and intermarried with people from Cutha, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (peoples who had been sent by the Assyrian king to inhabit Samaria). This also led to a lot of animosity between Israel and Samaria where the Samaritans were considered “less than” Israelites and were outcasts for intermarrying.

There are some crazy stories (we would call them myths) of those northern 10 tribes. One says the Danube river was named for the tribe of Dan. There are those who teach what is known as British Israelism who say all Anglo-Saxons are actually Jews. There are people in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Ethiopia who all claim Jewish ancestry of some sort. Mormons taught that Native Americans and Polynesians were from a lost tribe.

We don’t want to get into all the conspiracy theories, we want to look at the Bible. In looking at the bible we see that after the Babylonians conquered Assyria many northern tribes reunited with Judah (2 Chron 34:6-9). When the southern 2 tribes were deported to Babylon they most likely reunited with many of the northern tribes who were already in captivity. When Cyrus allowed the rebuilding of the temple, many from all 12 tribes would have returned under the banner of “Judah” or Jews.

Many Israelites never returned to Israel and stayed in foreign countries; they became known as the Diaspora. James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. John the baptizer, and his parents were from the tribe of Levi. The Apostle Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin. In Luke 2:36 you meet the prophetess Anna from the tribe of Asher.

The 12 tribes are out there, known to God, but the greater question is what is God doing with them? He fulfilled the law in Christ, He brought an end to temple sacrifice in Christ, and Jesus is now our great High Priest. The point of the Scriptures is not Israel or the 12 tribes, it is Jesus. I was talking to an Israeli believer last year and an American asked him what it would be like when Jesus returned and restored Israel’s borders (which is a very westernized Christian question to ask). My Israeli friend said, “when Jesus returns there will be no need for borders so there won’t be any.”

That’s a great perspective.

2021 Element Questionnaire

by Element Christian Church

We Want Your Feedback

We want to hear from you!

Send us your feedback by filling out our questionnaire! Two ways to fill it out...

  • Online form can be found here.
  • Download PDF here. Fill it out and send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A Sad Epilogue

by Aaron

Last week we put out a blog explaining this word I used as a sermon title, but never explained: Nehushtan. Nehushtan means Bronze Serpent (the Great Brass); it is what the Israelites called the bronze serpent on the pole that Jesus references in John 3:14-15 that refers back to Numbers 21:8-9.

In the Old Testament book of Numbers, chapter 21, the Israelites begin to detest God’s daily provision over them in the form of food from heaven called Manna. As a result of their complaining God sends fiery serpents into Israel’s camp that bite the people, injecting them with venom, and they begin to die. The venom resembles our sin. The whole episode shows that what was happening in the Israelite’s bodies was what had already happened in their hearts. There are parallels to our own lives in that many times we only recognize what is killing us when we finally get sick.

What is killing us is our sin, but many times we do not even recognize our sin until our lives start to fall apart. This could be losing a job because we are not thankful for our job, only resentful. It could look like a relationship falling apart because we are too centered on ourselves and cease caring for others. It could be our walk with Jesus never seeming fulfilling because we are looking at our own fulfillment rather than worship of Christ. We tend not to notice the venom in our hearts until we get sick, just like the venom from the serpent.

When the Israelite’s recognize their sin, they ask Moses to intercede on their behalf to God. Numbers 21:8-9 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” God teaches His people that what is going on in their heart is reflected in their bodies by the venom running through their veins, but He will make a provision for them because He loves them. They did not believe God was all they needed until they realized He was all they ever truly had.

As I said last week, Jesus speaking the words of John 3:16 only makes sense in terms of the Bronze Serpent from Numbers 21. It really is a great story of God’s blessing and provision as it would ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus Himself. BUT…there is a sad epilogue. Rather than worshipping God for His provision, they started to worship the provision instead.

What I mean is that the Israelites started to worship and bow down to the bronze serpent, the one that was put on the pole by Moses.

Apparently, the Israelites kept it as a reminder of God’s provision, but then it morphed into something more. It morphed so much that in 2 Kings 18 it is another of one of the false images that Israel made offerings to and worshipped. In 2 Kings 18 a young man of 25 becomes King of Judah (the southern kingdom in Israel). He systematically went through the land and got rid of all the false places of worship, including the Nehushtan (2 Kings 18:4).

Today, we look back on the Israelites and their short-sightedness, but we still do exactly what they did, worship false things in place of God Almighty. Instead of trusting in God’s provision, many people today worship the symbol, like a cross (which was an instrument of death, just like the serpent). When God saves people there is an emotional outpouring of gratitude, but many continue to long and search for the next emotional outpouring rather than the God who saved them. I have been to Israel and have seen people worship, kiss, and cry over what they believe to be rock Jesus was laid upon in His tomb for those three days after the crucifixion. We so easily lose focus of the one who saved us for a mere symbol and that should not be.

I want to be positive and reassuring today, not simply pointing out our flaws. I want us to be encouraged to worship our God in Spirit and truth. May we be a people who trust in God’s provision and worship the One and Only True King. May we set aside our symbols and trust in the One who was lifted up, died, and rose again for us. 

 

Nehushtan

by Aaron

If I asked you what the most well-known verse in the bible is, what would you say? Today, in our culture, it may be “judge not,…” but I would say the most well-known (if not cited in its entirety) is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV). The sad part is that we have pulled that verse out of its surrounding context in such a way that we miss the deep theological background of it.

In our Bibles, the translators have broken up certain areas of scripture by sections, to help readers see what is taking place in the text. There are some places where this is VERY helpful, and some places where it is not helpful…at all.  And one of those places is in John 3:16.

Most modern translations break John 3:16 into a separate section, as if it is a new thought, but it is not!

In John 3, Jesus is having a discussion with Nicodemus about being born again in order to help Nicodemus understand that citizenship in the Kingdom of God (salvation) is not based upon our first birth, where our nationality lies, but a new birth, which we can’t bring about for ourselves.  He’s trying to show that no one gets to “heaven” on their pedigree or their merits. He says in John 3:13 “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man,” meaning “No one can make it on their own.”

Jesus then goes on to show who DOES “make” it: 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. THIS THEN moves to verse 16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” These verses show God’s provision in saving us, which is Jesus, lifted up on the Cross. The PROMISE is that we will not be condemned but saved as we look at the PROVISION (Jesus). We do not need to look at Jesus in the same way the Israelites had to look at the bronze serpent, but understanding this Bronze Serpent helps us to understand what it means to look to Jesus.

On Sunday, May 2, 2021 I spoke on these verses and called the message Nehushtan, but never once used the word. Someone texted and asked why I called the message Nehushtan, and I couldn’t believe I forgot to even say it. Simply enough, Nehushtan means Bronze Serpent (the Great Brass); it is what the Israelites called the bronze serpent on the pole, and what Jesus referenced in John 3. In Numbers 21. The Israelites were detesting God’s daily provision for them: the miraculous food from heaven called Manna. As a result of their complaining God sends fiery serpents into Israel’s camp. God is not over-reacting; He is trying to teach the people that what is going on in their heart is now reflected in their bodies by the venom running through their veins.

These serpents bite people and they begin to die. When they recognize their sin, they ask Moses to pray for them:  God’s answer and provision is in Numbers 21:8-9 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”

God uses this moment to teach them what their deeper condition is, the thing that is destroying them: the venom of sin. They have all been bitten by sin and as a result there is now a deep dissatisfaction with every aspect of their life. When they realize their condition, God provides a way for them to be saved, and it is simply by looking at this Nehushtan that Moses puts up on a pole…it is God’s provision. God is saying, “Here is a representation of your sin, and my remedy for it.  Whoever looks at MY provision will find deliverance from death, and healing from the venom”

In John 3, Jesus reminds us all that what God had Moses do with the serpent was a foreshadowing of what He would do to remove OUR venom of sin: He (Jesus) would be lifted up. Now, we must look to the Son who has been lifted up because there, on the cross, our own sin was placed and dealt with. We can’t be saved by our first birth or by any self-concocted remedies, any more than the Israelites could save themselves. But we can be saved, and our lives can be restored to relationship with our creator God because of Christ’s sacrifice in being lifted up. Nehushtan was/is a crazy story that shows what God does in order to save us all.

May we be a people who trust in God’s provision and may we never take Jesus for granted!

 

Good Friday 2021: Lent Reading

by Element Christian Church

Join us on page 89 of our Lent Journey Guides as we read through the curated verses together. Feel free to pause as needed and take communion with elements you have at home.

- For Lent/Job Information and Journey Guides (www.ourelement.org/lent) - DOWNLOAD PDF Lent Journey Guide (https://www.ourelement.org/downloads/2021/2021_lent_life_job.pdf)

Watch Easter Sunday's Livestream Here

Element Re-Opening: What you need to know

by Aaron

With modified services and at 25% capacity, we are open for on-campus services.

Join us Sundays at 8:15a, 9:30a & 11a with programs for children at the 9:30a & 11a services (with limited seating). Please see below for more details regarding pre-registering your kids for class and other guidelines.

For those joining us virtually, we will still be streaming during each of our 3 service times and offering the message for On Demand viewing throughout the week.

eKids Changes:

The biggest change that families need to know is that our class sizes must adhere to 25% capacity.  That means there is very limited space and you must preregister to be sure to get a space.  You can register on your phones using the Church Center app available in IOS and on Google Play, or you can register by going to ourelement.churchcenter.com. Registration for Sunday opens the Friday at 8 am.  If you register and the class is full, you will be given the option to be put on the wait list. If someone cancels, you will receive a notification that you are now in the class.   For complete instructions, watch this video. You can also register via your computer. If you sign up and are unable to attend the class, PLEASE CANCEL YOUR REGISTRATION! We want to be sure that everyone who wants to come to class, has the option.


If you don’t preregister, you have a couple of options.  The first option is come to church and watch the service outside on our large screen TV.  We will have fire tablets for your kids to play games on as well as coloring pages to keep them busy while you enjoy your church family as well as the service.

Your second option is to check in with efamily using the Non-registered line at the check in station.  If a space is available, we will check you in right there on the spot. If there are no available spots, we will take your name and cell phone number and invite you to hang out on the courtyard or wait in your car.  If someone does not show up by 10 minutes past service start time, we will text you to come check in.  If there are still no spots available, we will text you that information as well.  Again, feel free to watch the service on our courtyard with your kids in tow.

Before you enter the buildings with your children, efamily staff will check everyone’s temperature and ask that you sanitize your hands.  Adults are required to wear masks at all times.  Children above the age of two are encouraged to wear masks, but not required.  All of our volunteers will be masked as well, and they will have the same temperature and sanitizing protocols prior to them entering any building.

For the time being, we WILL NOT be serving any snacks in the classroom. Please make sure your child has been fed a good breakfast prior to coming to church.  Volunteers are also not allowed to take kids to the bathroom, so please take your child to the restroom before entering the class.

If you aren’t comfortable returning to the campus, that is totally fine!  We will continue to offer the lesson boxes and videos that we have created throughout the quarantine. The children at church will be doing the exact same thing at church that is available at home, so your child will not miss out on anything except being in the classroom.

Episode 26 of 'Talking Element' Elder Take Over. Element Elders Answer Your Job Questions.

by Element Christian Church

Questions Discussed:

- Job…Blameless and upright?

- I know there are many times throughout the Bible when we clearly see God's wrath like in Sodom and Gomorrah or on the whole Earth when He flooded the earth.  In those instances, the Bible says there were no righteous people.  It was just.  But, most of the time, it seems like God plays more of a passive role in our lives meaning that He allows bad things to happen in our lives rather than making or causing these things to happen.  With Job, it feels like bad things were happening and God actively plays a part in Satan's actions against Job.  "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?"  God even acknowledges to Satan that Job was a "blameless and upright man".  How is this just?  Are we possibly missing a piece of the story that would offer more context or is it simply a cultural difference?

- When you said God is in complete control and Satan can only do what God permits Satan to do… how are we to reconcile that statement of God’s control/sovereignty with God not being the source or author or cause of evil (which James 1:13-14 and 1 John 1:5 are clear to present)? This seems tough to reconcile given our lesson in Job where God’s decision to permit Satan to touch Job’s possessions and family resulted in the death of servants and Job’s children (and presumably friends at the party, etc)…

“It still doesn’t answer why God allowed Satan to have his way with Job’s kids and life, but no harm will be done with him.”

- Why, since God had the ability to create us and allow us to live in heaven, did he instead create us and allow us to live on earth, knowing there would be pain and suffering and hurt and heartache? All of that could have been avoided if this step was skipped.

- Is there more scripture on God allowing Satan having his way like he does with Job?

 

Watch This Week's Livestream Here

One For the Bereaved

by Michelle Gee

Early in the pandemic and initial shutdown, I heard a story on NPR about a teacher that ran a marathon in his backyard for charity. It was fun and inspirational enough to remind me of the resilience of human beings, the incredible stamina of the human spirit. I read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (a Nazi concentration camp survivor) shortly after and felt a renewed hope in the ability to cope and overcome adversity. While the pandemic introduced new stressors, there was a novelty in learning to adapt that was, I daresay, exciting. It was enough to propel me forward on exhausting, challenging days, as I looked forward to the return of normalcy.

Now, a year later, I couldn’t feel farther from that mindset. The fatigue from this prolonged season of adaptation feels all too much.

During this season, I’ve struggled to recognize what is left of my faith since much of the trappings have been stripped away. While I’ve always been taught that faith in Jesus is larger than Sunday morning gatherings, a beloved church building, or any other act in itself, I’ve come to realize just how much these rituals meant to me. Scripture encourages us to gather, sing, confess, and pray together for a reason—these corporate acts cannot save us, but they certainly bolster our walk with God. The redeemed life is not without its ongoing challenges.

I have been blessed in that I have not had to go through this Covid-19 journey alone. There is still community, for sure, and there is still access to Scripture, worship songs, and other resources for encouragement—all reasons to be thankful. However, the loss of nearness is a tangible loss I have continued to process.

I am grieving.
I imagine you might be, too.

I find myself less interested, these days, in triumphant stories about mere humans overcoming the struggles of living in a pandemic. I’m less interested in cute anecdotes when I’m ready to scream from overstimulation in my own home, where the walls feel as if they’re closing in on me each day. In addition to the pandemic, we’ve witnessed bitter division that has left me reeling with grief over the state of the American Church.

I sat on a beach with my husband one recent Sunday morning and these thoughts, and accompanying tears, came pouring out of me. We were enjoying a brief respite from the usual, crazed pace of our lives, and the stillness was enough to allow these uncomfortable thoughts to surface. I felt such pain and embarrassment as I confessed that these days, I sometimes question whether Jesus is as real as I had thought, whether the Gospel truly offers a hope that can sustain me, if I even have faith at all.

It is hard to share these things in print (on the internet, of all places), until I remember that at its core, the Church is a family—broken and dysfunctional, but at its best, loving, accepting, and honest. In the midst of such upheaval, we need to create the space for such hard truths to be expressed. I am here to remind you (and myself) that these feelings do not disqualify you from experiencing relationship with Jesus.

On the beach that morning, after I was out of tears and all I could admit was, “I am trying to trust that Jesus has me,” I was reminded of a story that felt especially compelling.

There is one verse in Genesis 3 that, in my experience, is often overlooked. It follows Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and the resulting curses He delivers to Adam, Eve, and the serpent. Before they are cast out of the garden forever, Scripture tells us, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21, ESV).

As this verse interrupted my grief that morning, I reflected on how Adam and Eve must have felt immediately after the fall. For them, any notion of nearness was gone in an instant; in one singular act, they had done away with the most intimate, harmonious relationship they had ever known, and not even for just themselves—for all of mankind. I thought of how broken they must have felt, how alone and ashamed…left reeling from the trauma of death and separation from their God, and the newfound distance within their own marriage.

And then…God clothes them—not with leaves or synthetic fabric, but with the skins of a slain animal, a beloved creation named by Adam himself. In a beautiful place that had not known death, a place now tainted by the disobedience of humans, God got His hands dirty for the sake of the very people that wronged Him. He knew they couldn’t bear their own shame, so He embraced the ugliness of death to ensure they would be clothed.

I can’t express how much relief the reminder of that provision brought me in that moment. I was reminded of how God moves toward the brokenhearted, how these feelings of distance have been present since the very first humans rejected God, and how the story of God has persisted in spite of Adam and Eve feeling so very far from Him. When my faith felt so small and so faltering, God met me with the compelling beauty of who He is—who He has always been.

I am still becoming acquainted with this little faith of mine, disentangled from the things I must go without, that I miss dearly. I feel less sure-footed without the rituals that have been so encouraging to me over the years. In moments of doubt, however, God shines through my own insecurity and reveals He is the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).

In a similar season of doubt during my college years, a dear friend introduced me to R. S. Thomas, a Welsh poet that also happened to be an Anglican priest. To this day, he is one of my favorite writers due to his stark honesty; he demonstrates a faith that was rocky and yet beautifully anchored by a trust in Jesus, even when it felt grim.

I leave this poem with you today, hoping that wherever you are, even if you are feeling so far from God, you would know you are not alone. As we progress through Lent together, and make sense of what is left when so much is stripped away, I dare you to press in to Jesus with your discomfort and doubt, to let Him meet you in that very space.

The Absence by R. S. Thomas

It is this great absence
that is like a presence, that compels
me to address it without hope
of a reply. It is a room I enter

from which someone has just
gone, the vestibule for the arrival
of one who has not yet come.
I modernise the anachronis

of my language, but he is no more here
than before. Genes and molecules
have no more power to call
him up than the incense of the Hebrews

at their altars. My equations fail
as my words do. What resources have I
other than the emptiness without him of my whole
being, a vacuum he may not abhor?

 

A Job Blog

by Mike Harman

How does it sit with you that God gave Satan permission to wipe out Job’s life (Job 1:12 & 2:4-6), a man who was blameless and upright? We are told Job feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1 & 8.)  We even see that Job's response to his loss was to worship God, not charging God with any wrongdoing, (Job 1:21 & 22. Job 2:9-10).

Did Job have a profound understanding of God's Sovereignty, of God's character being both good and just?  Was Job ahead of his time knowing that the world he lived in was fallen, not functioning as designed, and filled with corruption and situations of injustice?

I've been reading through the Old Testament book of Isaiah and there are some verses that help anchor me when questions about God's character & sovereignty arise (There are undoubtedly many more in the Bible.) Check out:  Isaiah 40:13-14 & 27-28, 45:5-7 & 9-10, & 49:15.  Also Psalm 115:1-3. & 125:1-2.

A strong belief in the theology of God's sovereignty can provide us with a sure foundation for the trials of suffering and challenges of life, none of which even begin to touch Job's loss and suffering.  I understand that our stories are not a points of comparison weighing whose story is worse (or most difficult, or best, most blessed , or  "successful").  Each of our stories are unique, personal, and overseen by God so that we might seek and find Him, so that we would be redeemed and restored to His design and purpose. (Acts 17:24-27)

Is the theology of God's detailed sovereignty a cop-out to life’s hardships and the choices and decisions we make?  Absolutely not. The scriptures are clear that we are responsible and accountable for our decisions and choices, yet God's story and power over-arches our stories. Our stories are made by the decisions and choices we make, as well as the actions of others too, yet nothing happens without God; He has ultimate power and authority.  My brain tilts when I try to wrap my head around man's choice, man’s personal responsibility, and a God who oversees all our lives with detailed sovereignty.

Some acquaintances who coauthored a book speaking about free will said:  “No one knows exactly how God's sovereign intention meshes with our decisions, but there is enough revealed truth to believe they comfortably coexist without damage to either.”  If we don’t hold to God’s soveiregnty we then would have a capricious and malevolent god ruling over us…and that is not the God of the scriptures. Either God is really God or there is no god at all and it’s all on us.

In speaking on the scriptures, Paul Tripp in his book "What Did You Expect", page 62 says:  There is no collection of wisdom principles more stunningly insightful than what can be found in the pages of scripture.  Of course, this would be true, since the book was written by the hands of men who were guided to write what they wrote by the one who created everything about which they wrote.  It is only the Creator who could have such a powerfully insightful and practically transformational origin-to-destiny perspective as the one found in the Bible. Only He is able to have a perspective not limited by time and space and the bias of sin.  Only He is able to speak from the vantage point of creation intention.   Who could possibly know more about the world He created and the people He designed?


God's word really does open up to us the mysteries of the universe.  It really does make us wiser than we could possibly ever be without it.  Yet, having all this, it is important to reflect on how sad it is that we don't take more advantage of the wisdom God has given us.  It is sad we don't think His thoughts after Him.  It is sad that we don't require ourselves to look at life (always) through the lens of His wisdom.  It is sad that we swindle ourselves into thinking that we are wiser than we are.   It is sad that we aren't more irritated by our foolishness and more motivated to seek His wisdom.

I think we would lack intellectual integrity to not consider and wrestle with Job chapters 1 and 2.  We would do well to sit with th e questions as we consider, ponder, and inviting God into our wrestling with who He is and how the scriptures have revealed Him.  If we don’t take time to work through the hard issues  we risk misunderstanding God and settle for a god that we’ve fashioned to suit us, a god of our own making and understanding, that fits our life, situations, and experiences.

There is a God as revealed in the scriptures and I am not Him.

It is important that we honestly consider the questions in Job against God being good and just, questions that also consider suffering and "injustices" in the world. How else can we face our suffering? We must know God is with us as we sit with family and friends in their questions and experiences of suffering. Only by working through this ourselves will we be able to offer honest love, care, and wise Biblical counsel that actually helps one another and does not give trite answers and platitudes (God's got this. God will never give you more than you can handle. All things are good in God.  God is good in all things).  Platitudes may sound good and may even have some truth to them, but they usually provide more of an easy answer and means for us to not get dirty or walk with those going through and struggling with God's character and sovereignty.

God came to live in our midst, struggled and suffered in every way like us so He could come along side us, so He could provide the way for our rescue.

In learning and growing in our trust of God's character and sovereignty we need to be honest about our situations, circumstances, and hearts that causes us doubt and uncertainty.  Let us be those who are honest with God and those in our trusted community.  God knows us, from the beginning to the end.  He is more interested in our growing in trust than getting to the destination, as how we get there is often of greater importance.  In His goodness and grace God will get us where He needs and wants us, home with Him as redeemed and restored image bearers.

 

Is it the Gospel?

by Kelly Borjas

I got off the phone with a friend today, burdened by the call. We discussed the impact and wreckage of 2020 in so many areas. If I take a step back, many circumstances and conversations in this past week have circulated around this topic: marriages struggling, businesses floundering, friendships changing, political division, racial tensions. It seems like this past year has been a bomb that exploded, exposing hurts, disappointments, and disillusionments. My husband and I have faced our own challenges in this past week in managing a conflict—one that would have been significantly easier without the barriers imposed by our COVID world.

It makes me think: how do we respond? As I prayed about how to respond to a particular situation, I was reminded of one thing: to focus on the Gospel. So this blog…is about the gospel, written as a reminder for myself; a reminder to seek Truth.

Our world is so complicated with frustrations heightened in this tense climate. People are using the name of God to justify certain actions. Political views are branded, labeled, and claimed in the name of God. If you do or don’t speak up/post on social media/attend a specific event, etc. you’re either for or against certain ideologies. In some cases we are told we are not even Christians if we do not make a statement on any given particular topic (or forward a Facebook post to all of our “friends.”).  How do we, as Christians, engage in this type of environment? I believe the answer is to start with the Gospel and try to approach each situation with that as our foundation.

So I circle back to the Gospel:

  • The Gospel is not a political stance.
  • The Gospel is not a social movement.
  • The Gospel is not the prosperity of a nation
  • The Gospel is not the success of a person
  • The Gospel does not require others to meet OUR expectations.

To be fair, a true relationship with Jesus can and should propel us to act in certain ways, to live our lives reflecting God. But now, more than ever, I believe it is crucial to know, define, and understand what the gospel is. If we are not careful and discerning, we could easily get swept into something “in the name of Christianity” that is not the gospel at all.  Even as someone who has been a Christian for much of my life, I have struggled to be able to define the gospel. In fact, for a while I was trying to find a passage of Scripture that explained the Gospel so I could tangibly wrap my mind around it. So again, as I write, it’s an effort to remind myself where to start.

What is the gospel? It is simple and beautiful. It is summarized in Acts 10: 38-43 “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

To put it more simply, the Gospel is the belief that Jesus is God. He was crucified to pay the cost of our sins, but God raised him to life, and everyone who believes in Him is forgiven of their sins and restored to relationship with God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 summarizes as well: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

It is so easy to get swept up in emotion and events or conflicts surrounding us, but as we try to navigate, it is important to first remember what the Gospel is (and is not). Then, when we look at each situation, we can pray for discernment and ask our fellow believers to keep us in check so we can be sure our focus is on the Gospel and not some other narrative. We should ask ourselves: are our actions or beliefs reflective of God’s good news, or is there a different agenda?

In past years, it’s been easy to be complacent about seeking biblical responses to issues (certainly true for me). I’ve so often relied on the sermon at church, a Bible study, etc., to inform my belief system or response to what’s going on around me. However, now that many of our normal ways to engage with other believers are taken away, we must know for ourselves what we believe and why.

My heart is no less burdened by all of the carnage around, but I do take hope in the fact Jesus has overcome sin and offers eternal hope. My hope is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not immediate reconciliation of issues around me. I pray we all first let the Gospel permeate our minds, hearts, and souls, and then use that as our frame of reference for engaging with the world around us.

 

Devotional: Searching for Community

by Jeff Pruett

Scripture:

Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Big Idea: Community is Built, Not Found.

Not long ago, I was talking with a couple from church who were frustrated that they had not been able to find a good community to belong to. They saw the depth of relationship that we had in our Small Group (we call it our Gospel Community) and wanted to join. Of course, I invited them and welcomed them in, but I already knew they would not find what they were looking for.

Why? Because community is built, not found.

Every time I encounter someone on a quest to find community, either in a church body or in a small group, I know they will be disappointed. Community, that sense of belonging and being known and loved, requires time and investment to develop. It requires inviting people into your life, accepting invitations into the lives of others, and being intentional and consistent in showing up again and again.

Just like a retirement account grows with regular deposits and compounding interest, a community only grows with regular deposits of time, trust, and transparency. This is why the writer of Hebrews tells Christians to keep meeting together - to not give up! It is easy to give up when our schedules get busy instead of adjusting our priorities. It is easy to give up when we’re asked to trust others with our true story instead of presenting our carefully crafted image. It is easy to give safe, nondescript answers when we’re asked deeper questions about our heart than we are comfortable answering. But as long as we hold back our time, hide behind an image of ourselves, and only give safe answers we’ll never be truly known or truly loved. The “imposter” that we’ve created, the image we’re trying to maintain, is the only thing that actually receives any love. And we’ll continue to feel alone... because our true self isn’t being allowed to belong to the community.

The God of the universe knows everything (Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”) That means God is not fooled by the “imposter” we’ve crafted as our image. He knows us fully, completely, and knows the truth about our hearts. And He loves us right there. Not as we “should” be - He loves us as we are. But He doesn’t leave us there. He sent Jesus to redeem our brokenness and pay the ransom to buy us back from sin. And He sent His Spirit to live in us and the Spirit teaches us to live authentic lives that grow to match His design for us. The transformation doesn’t happen immediately, but it does happen more and more as we live moment-by-moment trusting Him to lead us (Titus 2:11-14).

All of this has me thinking, if the God of the universe can handle knowing the whole truth about you and still love you deeply enough that He sacrificed His son, is it possible that you could allow others in His family to get to know you too? Are you willing to do the work - to invest the time, trust, and transparency it will take - to build a community with other people in the family of God? It will take regular deposits, and grow slower than you’d like at first. But as those deposits compound you will suddenly look up and realize the community you were searching for has been built through those faithful deposits and you’ll find yourself enjoying the wealth of the meaningful relationships which have been built.

Discussion: Who is one of the most authentic people you know? What makes them seem so authentic? Who is someone in your life who seems trapped behind the image of an “imposter” (maybe even you)? What can you do to invite them to trust God and trust others with who they really are?

Prayer Focus: Pray that God would help you to see yourself the way He sees you; that you would better understand and accept the gift of the new identity He has decided belongs to you. Pray that God would give you the courage to invest regular deposits to build a community that is fully known and fully loved.

Watch/Listen to this Sunday's message on Community, from the series: The Greatest Story Ever Re-Told.

 

Episode 18 of 'Talking Element' – 3rd Wheel Week 8: Walk in the Spirit Part 2 With Jeff and Steve Pruett

by Element Christian Church

This week Michael sits down with Jeff and Steve to 3rd Wheel Week 8: Walk in the Spirit, Part 2

Questions Discussed: 

- How have you come to understand Walking in the Spirit?
- Do you have a specific time you rested in God’s work instead of your own, and how did that look practically?
- Discussion “yielding to God’s will.”

Watch 3rd Wheel Week 8's Livestream Here