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:

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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.

 

Adopted

by Holly DeKorte

Maybe it is because I teach English Language Arts, maybe it is because my parents nurtured my imagination, or maybe it is because books and I have always been friends. Whatever the reason, God often speaks to me using metaphor. He pulls me into a metaphor and shows me how it communicates something about His nature.  

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing one of His greatest metaphors. Lizzy*, a little girl who I mentor, invited me to be present for her adoption. No longer would she be a foster child, she would now be a daughter.  Lizzy was orphaned by neglectful parents, now she would be adopted by a loving mom. Over the year that I had mentored Lizzy, there was some confusion as she was moved from one foster home to another. Being new to mentoring, I hadn’t understood the process, but I now appreciate how God was working in Lizzy’s life. This adoption was something to celebrate.

I entered the Santa Barbara County courtroom behind the family and their close community. Lizzy was asked to sit in front of a microphone with her eyes on the judge, next to her adopting mother. Her little sister, who was also being adopted, sat on her new mother’s lap. The family, including other adopted children, a child in foster care, grandchildren, and a biological daughter, formed a semi-circle facing the judge.  

The judge stated the names of the individuals present as witnesses to the adoption. He then pulled up the paperwork proving that the cost of the adoption had been fulfilled. As part of the proceedings, he stated the enormity of adoption and how it was his responsibility and privilege to ensure that Lizzy and her sister were in the right home. The judge asked Lizzy if she wanted to be adopted and Lizzy stated that she did. Her adopting mother told the judge about a recent conversation in which Lizzy was excited about the adoption, but hadn’t understood that the adoption was forever. She thought that the adoption would end when she turned eighteen, like foster care. The judge explained to Lizzy that once she was adopted, she was a part of the family forever; her mother would always be her mother. He then repeated the question and asked Lizzy is she agreed to this. She replied, with an emphatic, “Yes!”  

Lizzy’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) was asked to give testimony about the family. Then the family members gave examples of the adopting mother’s love and of her character. The witnesses were also invited to testify to the character of the mother and the safety of the home.  

As I was welcomed to participate in the adoption, I began to see it from an entirely different perspective. Instead of a man in glasses on the judge’s seat, I visualized God the Father. But, curiously, not only was He in the judge’s seat, He was also seated in the mother’s chair. It wasn’t Lizzy seated next to Him, it was me. I heard a voice say, “What is the cost of Holly’s adoption?  Are you, the adopting father, willing to pay it?” There was a silence. “The cost,” said the voice beside me, “Is my own Son. His nail pierced hands are proof that he died for her; the nails held my Son to the cross so that this child could be mine. She can sit in my presence because my son’s righteousness was given to her. The cost is fulfilled.” 

Again, the voice from the judge’s seat asked, “Is there anyone here who can advocate for this girl?” An advocate stood, but not the CASA worker as I expected. It was a man dressed in white with scars on his hands and feet. His gaze held mine. “I am the Father’s Son and I am her advocate. I can tell you; she needs a new identity. She was lost, and now she is found; she was dead, and now she is alive. I have made a way for her to her to be adopted by my Father.”

The judge’s voice now addressed me. “Is this agreeable to you?  Do you want to be adopted?” A lump caught in my throat. I asked, “But don’t you think I need to do something in order to be adopted?  Shouldn’t I prove that I’m good enough, sweet enough, pretty enough, to be called His daughter?”

A soft chuckle came from beside me. “Don’t you see?” asked God the Father, “It’s nothing that you have done or will do that pays the cost of your adoption, it’s what my Son has done. The adoption is my gift to you. Do you want to be called my child?”

I thought about my sin nature: the envy, the pride, the jealousy, the anger. I wanted that nature to die; I wanted a new identity. I answered, “Oh yes!  I want to be your child, but...what if I wander away or what if I do something so shameful that I can never come home?”

Once again, I heard a soft chuckle.  “You will be mine forever; I have ways of pursuing you and of calling you back home. I love you so much that I sent my Son to die in your place. You get a new nature, a new name. You get to be my daughter and I will never leave you or forsake you.” 

Joy began leaping up from a place deep inside.  Suddenly, I was surrounded by others. “These are your brothers and sisters,” God the Father explained, “I have also adopted them and called them my own.”  The voice from the judge’s seat asked, “Who can give testimony to the adopting Father’s character?”

The witnesses, my brothers and sisters, began speaking. “He is good. He is not tame, but he is good,” said one. “He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” said another. “He counts the tears you cry,” testified a brother. “He sees your walk of shame as you come home and runs to welcome you back. Then he throws a party for your homecoming,” a sister said. “Wow,” I thought, “This is my Father and I get to be his daughter.”  

I glanced at the faces of my brothers and sisters, then back at the man in white, and over at God the Father. “Clearly, something is troubling you,” the judge said. “Well,” I slowly replied, “I don’t look or behave like God’s Son.  I don’t look like His other adopted children.  Their skin color is lighter or darker, their hair is straighter or curlier than mine, their eyes are blue, green, or black.  How will the world know that I, too, belong to my Father?”  

God the Father leaned over and placed a kiss on my head. “This is my seal, my guarantee that you belong. You have my Spirit in you to comfort and guide as you begin to look more like my Son. It’s not an easy process, but you are not alone. Your adopted siblings are also sealed in my name and are also undergoing the same transformation. You will need your adopted family to help you, but most importantly, you need my Spirit who is your ultimate Helper.  He will remind you of who you are and of my words and promises.  Whether you eat, sleep, drink, work, play, or rest, He will be with you.”

A little girl’s voice pulled me from my reverie.  “Am I adopted yet?” Lizzy asked into the microphone. The courtroom exploded in laughter.  The judge with glasses looked down at her and said, “Not yet, you’ll know when you are.”  He leaned back in his chair and said, “My findings are that Lizzy and her sister are being placed in the best situation possible. This is what ought to be shown on the nightly news; people who are willing to take in a lost child and make the child their own.  You were formerly Lizzy Smith, now you shall henceforth be Lizzy Marie Jones.”  The judge turned and asked Lizzy’s mother for a formal signature in his presence.  “Lizzy, you are now adopted,” he said.  The courtroom exploded in applause, the certificate of adoption was presented to Lizzy, pictures were taken, and Lizzy was hugged by countless arms.

I walked out of the courtroom into the blaring sunlight and smiled.  Adoption should be celebrated. As God’s children, we should be celebrating what He has done: He has called us to Himself and adopted us as His sons and daughters, He gave us a new name and a new identity, we belong to Him and our lives reflect His glory.  May our lips be ready to share the good news and testify to His character. He is a very good Father.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Hope In The Hopless

by Kelly Borjas

I’ll never forget when I was younger, living in Colorado, the massive pain of the Columbine Massacre—the images and news coverage; the sheer horror. A couple years ago, I woke up to the news on my phone of the Las Vegas shootings, and shot out of bed, remembering I had a friend there for the concert where the shooting took place. She had to flee the event, watching the carnage play out in front of her while her husband worked to help the wounded. Just a couple weeks ago, I heard about the Gilroy incident and I was cut to the heart about a little boy passing away—a little one close to my own son’s age.

Honestly, I can hardly even read or follow these news stories as they induce a fear inside me. Today, my parents are taking my kids to the movies, and the thought goes through my head: will my kids be safe? What if something happens? My first reaction is to want to avoid anything that could be dangerous, especially for the safety of my kids, but if I play this logic out—where can I go? Where is a guaranteed safe place, away from any harm? Not a movie theater, festival, concert, public building, school. It’s not just shootings I need to think about—I’m not even guaranteed a safe drive on the freeway to work today; yet I can’t hide out in fear. That’s not living.

This past weekend, my husband and I had a getaway with our best friends, without our kids. As per usual, we talked about everything in our lives. I remember after one of the mass shootings, talking to these friends about how I would logistically get my kids to safety in the event something happens (run, hide, fight—what mother wants to think this way)? My friend has four kids; her husband is a police officer. We all want the answers and the solutions to these problems that are so prevalent in our society. Is it the guns? The mental health? Social media? Not catching the signs of these behaviors sooner? We ask the questions; we can’t find the answers.

As I’ve grappled with the intensity of the news in the last couple weeks, I want to find the solution. I would do anything to guarantee a world where we could be safe anywhere, where I could live with certainty in the knowledge that my kids would be safe. As we discussed this topic, we came to the same conclusion: since sin entered the world, evil has been prevalent. We’ve seen it in wars, genocides, terrorism, mass shootings…the list continues on. While our society may be more aware of the news now, and the notoriety of these events escalates, it’s nothing new under the sun. We can’t remove evil.

This is where perspective comes in as a believer in Jesus. I am reminded of the hope of the Gospel. I am reminded that until Jesus comes back, renews and restores the earth, and rules for eternity, we will live in a fallen world. I don’t pretend to have the answers to the issues at hand. Instead, I have to live in the tension of knowing we live in a world of sin and heartbreak of our own making, but that we have THE answer. We have Jesus, who offers redemption, who rescues us from the chains of sin. I’m reminded that the here and now is not our eternity, but that Jesus conquered sin and death for us to live in eternity. He is the Author of Salvation, the Comforter, the Redeemer.

This may seem trite or naïve—I am in no way advocating that Christians remove themselves from places of influence or that we just “give up” attempting to find solutions. We should eagerly seek to apply prayer, intellect, and logic as we engage in these discussions, and critically examine the environment in which we live. However, we need a framework for our beliefs, a worldview that impacts our decisions. It is this unwavering belief in the truth and redemption in Jesus that helps us understand our fallen world and where our hope lies. We engage, even when it is hard and do not have the specific answer to an unanswerable question, we do not shrink back. We have the message of the greatest news the world has ever heard and it can certainly make hope more real even in the midst of pain and loss.

Like so many things in life, living in the tension, the balance, is a difficult place to be. We are caught between the knowledge that “for me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). We can’t stop living, because it’s our lives on earth that point to Christ, grow us closer to Him, give us glimpses of that great joy, but we long for the day of completion. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Friends, let us live in the hope that Jesus brings: the eternal, complete hope. There will come a day without pain and sadness.

 

Lachrymatory (Some Thoughts on Mass Tragedy)

by Aaron

The last couple of years, my wife has been expecting her mother to pass, but her mother comes from hardy stock and continues to fight on. Almost fifteen years ago, the doctors told my wife’s mother that she had five years to live if she stopped smoking and started eating better--she did neither. About five years ago, her mother was mostly forced to stop smoking and could no longer make her own meals and she couldn’t remember a whole lot by then. Last year, the family decided to place her in a full-time care facility, so she didn’t hurt herself and could be looked after 24/7. It was at this time we thought that her death must truly be near.

When the realization hit of the seemingly imminent passing of her mother, I went online and bought my wife a lachrymatory that was made in the late 1700s. I know….a what?

A lachrymatory is a glass or metal vial that is used to store tears that have been shed in love, joy, sympathy, and remembrance. The tear bottle dates back more than 3000 years, when mourners would bury their tears with loved ones to express honor and devotion. Many people think that when King David penned what we now call Psalm 56, it was when he was hiding from Saul in Gath; while there, he says  “You have kept count of my tossings (‘tossings’ refers to restless slumber because we are so bothered by something in our lives); put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8) In Ancient Near Eastern societies, these bottles were well known.

She didn’t know that I bought her this gift. I was going to give it to her when her mother passed as a reminder of the joy and sorrow that was shared with her mother during her life. Instead, I gave it to my wife when she turned fifty a couple of weeks ago as her mother, being cared for by professionals, shows no sign of slowing down.

In ancient Roman times, mourners would not only fill small glass vials, but sometimes whole cups, and place them in burial tombs as symbols of love and respect. There were even masses of women who were paid to cry into "cups", as they walked along the mourning procession. Those who cried the loudest and produced the most tears received the most compensation.

Why do I tell you all of this?

I believe, right now, our nation is at a place where it needs to learn to collectively mourn. There have been mass shootings for senseless reasons (these can stem from ideologies on the right or the left), people breaking friendship and fellowship over political views, and there are those who put words into the mouth of God from all walks of life who may not even truly know Him. I was thinking about the lachrymatory this week and thought that it would be a good thing if we, collectively as a nation, could learn to mourn with one another. Instead of displaying visceral reactions to those we disagree with, what if we mourned the death of civility, respect, and ultimately, the lives of fellow human beings?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know what to say about the latest rounds of mass shootings in our country. My initial reaction is to tell everyone to stop with the rhetoric and reaction and first mourn this loss. When thinking clearly, we can respond with clarity. However, it often seems like another shooting interrupts our clarity. I do not have the answers to these tragedies, but the ultimate problem is not weapons, politics, mental health; it is with our hearts. Don’t take that as a political statement--it is not. What I am saying is we can ban everything that could potentially harm someone, and mankind would still find a way to hurt each other.

None of that is to say we shouldn’t critically examine our laws, but ultimately, we must understand where both the problem and solution lie. We are broken because of our rebellion against God. Humans react out of fear or blame. We try to understand, but until we grasp the magnitude of sin and evil, we have misplaced explanations, attempting to label the problem as a mental health issue, weapons issue, societal issue, religious issue, or any other reason we can find. In the book of Genesis, when Cain kills Abel, Cain is at first flippant and angry with God for chasing him down, but eventually, he changes, sees what he has done, and mourns the loss. Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. This verse has many connotations about God’s care for the hurt and vulnerable, but it also talks about godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). We must cry our tears individually and corporately over our sin—only then will we begin to come together.

What would it mean if we could collectively set aside our opinions about why certain tragedies have happened and come together to mourn the loss that strikes all of us at our core first? I would love for us to come to a place where together we would say, like David, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle,” knowing that God remembers and that He truly does care—even when we forget to care for one another. God cares so much for us as humans He sent Jesus to be the sacrifice for sin—to be the only solution for the devastation sin leaves because God Himself grieves the effects of sin.  If we were able to grieve together, without first pointing fingers or espousing our solutions and judgments, we could be on the same page to begin to move forward. We could meet on the common ground of our own frailty and loss. As disciples of Jesus, we could mirror the way He enters into our brokenness and despair—offering hope, but also sitting with us in our grief.

In the midst of these tragedies, my encouragement for you is to not first look to manifestos, news commentators, and radio talk show hosts for answers; I encourage you to spend time praying and seeking God’s face. If there are tears to be cried, let them come. Then, seek out others to give voice to what is going on inside and pray corporately. It is from humble and broken hearts that we can receive guidance from God regarding where to put our efforts toward making a difference. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

Here is a post written by a mass shooting survivor on how to best pray for those who experience these tragedies.

The Faith of Samson

by Aaron

A few weeks ago I was out on the lake with my wife and some friends and broke my boat through my own stupidity. I had double gasket-ed the oil filter and blew all the oil out of the engine and essentially ruined many perfectly good summer days at the lake. We had a little vacation planned that got cut short because of my said stupidity, and decided to head out to Element’s plant in Colorado Springs for a visit. I was texting with Jonathan who leads the plant and he asked if I wanted to speak or help do music when I was here. I replied, “Whichever would make your life easier and more enjoyable.” His immediate response was, “great, you’re speaking about Samson.”

At Element CS they are going through Hebrews 11 looking at archetypes of faith based on the people listed in those verses. I thought it was a bit funny when talking about Samson because it says in Hebrew 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. The writer of Hebrews didn’t have time to talk about these other people, but Element CS does (it’s why that series is taking months to get through). I thought, if you are bored, I would give you a chance to listen to or watch what I said because I have a hard time with Samson.

You might have heard of Samson as a kid, seen a cartoon, fantasized about his great strength, but none of it does justice to how much of a knucklehead this guy was. I have a hard time even understanding why he would be talked about in Hebrews 11 as an archetype of faith…unless we can properly understand the word faith a bit better and who God is.

So, if you are so inclined, here ya go.

Listen to Aaron's Message on Samson Here

Anxiety, Depression, and Struggles—Oh My!

by Kelly Borjas

While reading in my Bible this morning, I noticed something interesting. In Psalm 30:11-12, the Psalmist says: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing, you have loosed sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” What stands out to me in this passage is the presence of mourning and sadness, not the absence.

For most of my life, I have felt like a “bad” Christian for any emotion other than happiness.  Yet, God created humans with emotions, and the people of the Bible are full of these emotions, as noted above. For years I’ve struggled with anxiety/OCD tendencies. I’ve been ashamed of this weakness, searched for a formula to handle it, and prayed for deliverance. Many of my friends deal with anxiety, and several battle some form of depression; lots of them are Christians. Sometimes these areas of struggle are a lack of trust in God, caring too much what people think, a sin, or any other number of causes, and we should prayerfully seek the Lord’s guidance as we wade through the reasoning. Oftentimes in my experience there’s also a physiological component (I’m not a psychologist, so this is a non-professional opinion), and the struggle just “is what it is.”

In 2 Corinthians, Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh,” for which he pleaded for God to remove. God’s answer was, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” As I get older I’m learning a reality in life around me: everyone has something they struggle with. A thorn, if you will. It may be a broken family, health issues, anxiety, depression, financial problem, grief, or any other number of issues. As we’ve studied Ecclesiastes, we see this idea even more: life is full of toil. That’s normal! It’s in this reality that we turn to Jesus and find joy in our lives: with our families and friends, homes and feasts, and other abundant gifts from God. We have an eternal hope that outlasts the here and now, and it colors the world around us in a different way. Pain doesn’t triumph; it’s short-lived in light of eternity. Does that mean we are “happy” all the time? Void of problems? No! It means we have a framework to understand the good and the bad, the roller coaster of life.

Anxiety is one of my weaknesses. Yet it is in this specific weakness that I have seen that God’s grace is sufficient for me. Do I hate anxiety? Yes. Do I wish I could eliminate it forever? For sure. However, I’ve learned to ask myself: where do these emotions make me turn? This struggle drives me to the feet of my Father. I can’t manage on my own. He is the one who holds me, comforts me, heals me. I’m oddly thankful for this struggle that pushes me to the cross, to the present reality of God’s grace. It’s almost like I get to relive the beauty of His grace and marvel at it all over again each time I reach out in desperation.

Managing struggles usually cannot be achieved by following a simple formula, it’s a combination of many things: a reliance on the truth of Scripture combined with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, support of community, health for the body, and the constant reminder of God’s grace. The beauty of this “formula” is that we can revel in God’s grace. These labels we place on ourselves can help us understand the symptoms of our struggles, but they are not our identity. They are components of our humanity, but they deteriorate and lose their power in light of our identity as children of God and followers of Christ.

There’s not anything we have to do or be to earn our salvation. That work is done! We can stop and find peace. Struggles are a part of life, but like the Psalmist says, we get to see God turn our pain into dancing and clothe us with gladness! That is an amazing hope, one in which we can give thanks to God.

 

Simul Justus Et Peccator

by Aaron

If you are reading this blog you might think that the title of it is something that looks like the fake words that inexpensive website developers put in their templates (lorem ipsum). Miscellaneous dummy text to fill space…but it is not. The words Simul Justus Et Peccator were written by Martin Luther in an attempt to help people better understand the beauty of salvation and new life.

Last week Mike Harman sent me a really nice note about how he sees the preaching of God’s grace continually spoken at Element. Most of us aren’t fluent in German or Latin, and rather than have you read Luther’s treatise on the book of Galatians, I thought this would be a good concept to understand in our further understanding of the Gospel. Simul Justus Et Peccator means "At the same time righteous and a sinner."

It is the idea that we are righteous in God’s sight due to the blood of Jesus covering us, but we are also daily being conformed more to His image. Hebrews 10:14 says it like this “he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (ESV); the NIV translates it like this, “he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” RC Sproul once said, “…if any formula summarizes and captures the essence of the Reformation view, it is this little formula [Simul Justus Et Peccator].”

Let me explain:

  • Simul is the word from which we get the English word simultaneously, it could also mean “at the same time.” Like I am a husband and a pastor at the same time. Two things that can be mutually exclusive, but because of my position I am both.
  • Justus is the Latin word for just or righteous.
  • Et means “and.” (Yes, I took a whole line to say that).
  • Peccator means transgressor or sinner, it was originally a Latin legal term.

It can be a little hard to parse in our heads, It means that from God’s perspective, because of Jesus, we are justified or righteous (declared not guilty), but from another perspective (most likely those of the people around us) we still sin. Luther will point out that under the scrutiny of God we still have sin; it is not that God is purposefully naïve, it is that God chooses to see us through Christ’s righteousness. The heart of the Gospel is that by faith in Jesus, His righteousness is now transferred to us so that our Father sees us as righteous.

The point is that before God, we will either be judged on our righteousness or by the righteousness of Christ. If we only trust in our own righteousness there we be no possibility of redemption. Back when Luther first taught this, the Roman Church considered it a serious threat because they contended that “justification” means making a man righteous in his own person. They asked the question that some still do today, “How can God pronounce a man to be righteous in His sight unless he is actually righteous?” This is a question that leads many people to fear; they wonder if their salvation is certain.

Monergism.com says it like this: “Righteousness through Christ is called an “alien” righteousness because it did not generate from us. It is not our righteousness; it is his.” What is our contribution to our salvation? Just our sin. Jesus gives us His righteousness as a gift and God chooses to see us covered in Christ’s righteousness. A person who trusts in Jesus is not declared righteous by virtue of their own merit, but on the basis of the merit of Jesus. His death and life for us.

Martin Luther was very cognizant of the fact that as followers of Jesus we may be new creations in Christ, but we still live in the world and still commit acts of sin. Sometimes there is an attempt to redefine what sin is to make it less severe. Luther does not shy away from what sin is and shows that there is no place for us to boast in our own righteousness because we have none. Christians must always rely on the finished work of Christ for our acceptance before God; it leaves us in a place of humble trust in Christ.

RC Sproul points out that, “at the heart of the gospel is a double-imputation. My sin is imputed to Jesus. His righteousness is imputed to me. And in this two-fold transaction we see that God…is both just and the justifier…my sin goes to Jesus, His righteousness comes to me in the sight of God.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith in Chapter 11 (which deals with justification) says it like this:

"Those whom, God effectually calls he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God."

There is a lot of technical theology in this blog,  but it is important because there is a truth we get to carry with us every day. We cannot earn God’s favor or salvation. What we get to do is trust that Jesus took all of our sins: past, present and future, and covers us with His Righteous life. Believing that changes everything and will even start to change the way we relate to God Himself…with humbleness, love, and thankfulness.

 

Just Say No!

by Kelly Borjas

Many of us will remember the phrase from our younger years in the context of peer pressure and drugs, “just say no.” It was an important message then and I find it to be an increasingly important one now in my adult life, but for a different reason. This message in my adult life deals in the drug of busyness. If we are all honest, we would admit busyness can be a drug of its own, an enticing addiction that promises satisfaction and a marked achievement to be somebody. It’s even celebrated in our culture as a status marker and fulfilled life. How many times have we all rattled our to-do list of appointments, meetings, award ceremonies, sports games, get-togethers, and schedules in an attempt to impress another person with all we can juggle and handle? With all that’s demanded of us? But when we come to the bottom of busyness, after the hype has worn off, we find ourselves ultimately left unsatisfied, searching for fulfillment.

A few years ago my family lived in a large city where my husband commuted and we had no family support. We were busy all the time—friends, church, and out-of- town visitors. We were always striving for the next thing, even if it was a good thing, like volunteering at church. The fear of missing out drove the desire to say yes to everything, to fill the need to be busy. It’s a popular acronym—“FOMO” –but it was also a very real commentary on the state of our lives. If someone was getting together without us, we would drop everything to go, it didn’t matter what would be sacrificed because we didn’t want to miss out, even at the expense of my kids’ well-being, our finances, or even connection in our marriage.

After a convicting study on Sabbath Rest, my husband and I decided to implement Sabbath time in our own family. This was a tricky endeavor, as we were often at church for over half the day on Sundays. One Saturday we decided to refrain from any commitments, and just be together. As the four of us were eating ice cream together in a cocoon of our own that afternoon, we received an invitation to a BBQ/pool party with some friends. We wanted to go as a whole group of our friends would be there and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to spend time with everyone. We didn’t want to miss out. Yet, we made this commitment to ourselves. So we just said no, and it was so difficult.

We learned something that afternoon: saying no to that event didn’t mean we lost our friends. We had other pool parties with that same group of friends and life moved on. The irony, and lesson we learned, was that we could miss out and still be friends, still have a place to belong, and still connect with people. We didn’t have to say yes to everything. It was so freeing to say no because our worth wasn’t based on that one event. In fact, our relationships probably grew deeper and more secure, as we realized we didn’t have to strive so hard to belong. Our friends accepted us without demanding we attend every event.

That night was a turning point toward freedom—a realization that creating margin in our lives brought a breath of fresh air, connection, and health for our family. It enabled us to move toward each other in a thriving marriage, with intentional time spent together. There was space to breathe and rest for our souls.

A couple years later, we moved to Santa Maria. As this last year has transpired, I see the old habits creeping in and taking hold. I again find the desire to be included as I seek to re-establish myself and my family in new social circles. We’ve had weekends where we end Sunday and exhale, only to realize we never sat together, never talked about God, never let truth saturate our hearts, and never paused. We just survived the crazy, busy schedule of the weekend, only to feel burned out by the time it was over.

I’m realizing intentionality is the gateway to margin. God, after creating the entire world, rested on the seventh day. In fact, as I read through Leviticus recently, I learned God even gave the land a Sabbath rest. He intended for us to stop and rest and created this rhythm in our world. It is in the time of rest, the time without plans or agendas, that we can focus on who God is and what He has done. It’s in the time of just being that we can remember our identity is in Christ and who He says we are, not in our social status or the activities we do.

I’ve learned it’s in the quiet time when we are all able to let our guards down. It’s a time for my kids to recalibrate. It’s in that space when I’m able to parent efficiently because I’m not distracted by my to-do list or trying to keep my kids occupied so I can chat with my adult friends. We find laughter there, enjoying each other and the great gifts God has given us.

Creating margin is a practical necessity for my life—for my family’s life—at this stage. We need to make God the focus of our Sabbath rest, yet it will come with sacrifices. We may have to turn down invitations from friends, we may need to evaluate extra-curricular commitments, we may even miss out.

Now we are facing a new transition. We find ourselves absorbing more change and added pressure. I have had to go back to basics to create margin in my life and fight to maintain my priorities. I’ve had to just say no. I am a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mom in that order. I am currently in a season where margin is necessary for us to thrive. I want to be obedient to the relationships and people God has put in my life. However, if I am spread too thin, I am no longer effective in the ones that are non-negotiable: my husband and kids. I made a covenant commitment to my husband. If I am not carving out sacred space for our marriage to thrive, the impact spirals to all other areas of my life.

We need soul rest. While sometimes I am physically tired, often I find my weariness comes from the exhaustion of trying so hard to find my place in this world. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 (ESV), “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Rest for the soul. It’s a beautiful picture of peace and contentment. In this day of crazy schedules and juggling pressures from all sides, I am convinced the intentional creation of margin in our lives allows us the space to enjoy God and who He is and to discover who He says we are. A time of Sabbath creates time for soul rest, which spills into our entire lives, positively impacting those around us. If I, if we, can learn to just say no, we open the door to freedom, contentment, and rest for our souls.

 

We live in the 9th Post-Christian City (Study)

by Element Christian Church

Last Sunday, Aaron referenced a recent study that shows that the corridor between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo is the 9th Most 'Post-Christian' areas in America. Check out these articles for the full study:

Barna Study: Here are this year’s top 10 post-Christian cities in America:

 

All The Lost Things (an Acts part II blog)

by Aaron

I am currently writing the sermon series for next year, Acts part 2. Acts part 2 will take us from chapter 13 in Acts through the end of the book as it mainly focuses on Paul’s missionary journeys. As I go through it I occasionally have too many notes to fit into what I am talking about. Sometimes I try to take those notes and push them into another week, but there are times I just have to delete them all as they won’t fit…even though I like them. Michael Reed said, “Why don’t you just turn them into blogs?” Well, that’s what I guess I will do. 

I am reading tons of notes and commentaries by NT Wright, Kent Hughes, John Calvin, Craig Keener, compilations from Abingdon press and intervarsity. So much material, so little space, but it is a good problem to have I suppose (I would rather have something to say than nothing at all). 

In Acts 22 Paul enters into Jerusalem after his third missionary journey. A very strong sense of Jewish nationalism has over taken the Jerusalem church at this point because many people were “zealous for the law.” This means that a very good thing is happening, the Jewish nation is coming to trust Jesus in large numbers…but there is also the bad in that they are elevating their tradition over God’s grace in reaching people that aren’t Jewish. Paul has been out among the Gentiles (non-Jews) speaking of God’s grace in salvation, explaining that Gentiles didn’t need to become Jewish (in culture and practice) in order to be brought into relationship with God. This does not sit well with those who were “zealous for the law.”

God told Paul to go back into Jerusalem knowing full well what would happen to Paul when he got around the zealous people, but Paul goes because he trusts God even though he is aware of what will befall him. As he heads to Jerusalem people from every church on the way try to stop him from going, warning him what will take place. Prophets even show up to show Paul how he will be bound when he is there…he even says to these people in Acts 21:13 “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Everyone thought that the trouble they knew would befall Paul were warnings that he shouldn’t go, but Paul knew God was simply preparing him for what was to come. This doesn’t always mean all of our harebrained ideas are God telling us to do something. I had three things I found in one of my sources on Acts that I couldn’t work into my message about what we learn from Paul’s experience and thought I would share them here (I am pretty sure these were from Kent Hughes).

1) In our moments of highest spiritual motivation we need to especially beware of error or bad judgment. Sometimes we make decisions with the right heart that turn out to be very bad. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a professional athlete become a Christian and within days they are all over the circuit speaking about Jesus even though they have zero theological or deep understanding of God. It usually ends up doing more damage to the name of Jesus than anything else when their life falls apart and becomes a mess. When Paul became a believer he took time out to learn what God was calling him to before he ever did anything. It’s not that our hearts are necessarily wrong, it is that our enthusiasm can blur our judgment. Many people thought Paul going to Jerusalem was a bad idea because they were motivated by love for him.

2) We can be pressured toward questionable action by the sins of others. The sins of others may even seem like something that sounds godly. Think of the Jews who were zealous for the law, they wanted people to adhere to moralistic, nationalistic, and Kingship (governing) laws that had been laid down by God in the Torah. In their zeal they had pushed out God’s love and grace and so encouraged others to do the same. When Paul got to Jerusalem, instead of the church there fully defending him and his mission to spread the good news of Jesus everywhere, they allowed the legalists to have sway over their words and actions.

3) We need, like Paul, to have hearts full of passion for lost souls and for God’s glory where we are willing to run the risk of making people mad who would see our decisions as unwise. I know at this point some will point to Proverbs 3:10 and say that “wisdom is found in those who heed advice.” While true, it is also advantageous to see why Paul didn’t heed the advice…it wasn’t out of arrogance, but out of motivation for the lost. Everyone wanted to stop him from going into Jerusalem, but by going in and eventually being arrested he gets to speak the Gospel to those “zealous for the law,” to Roman soldiers, to tribunes, to rulers, to kings, and to make a difference while in his chains.

The only part of my lost notes that did make it into my message was a line that said, “Some hearts never risk anything. They strive neither for sin nor for sainthood. They desire a temperate zone free from the storms of sin and from the tempests that accompany a life of service. Never burn for the souls of others, and you will avoid rejection. Never suggest a plan to reach the community or the world, and you will never be criticized for it. Never give counsel to someone undergoing the pain of separation or divorce, and you will never give errant advice.” But in never risking we are never living for the Gospel…and we are called to live for Jesus no matter where we find ourselves. My hope is that we become a people who have the Gospel come first in all we decide to do in our lives.

How Do I Handle an Unjust Boss? Part 2

by Jeff Pruett

Last week's blog post we looked at the question that was posed in one of our Gospel Communities related to Colossians 3:22-4:1, “What if your boss isn’t worth following? What if they are unfair and unjust?” The Bible presents a number of teachings which can be applied to how to handle an unjust or unfair boss. Depending on your specific situation, you may find that one or more of these principles or examples directly applies. In Part 1, we explored 3 “Don’ts” and this week we will look at the happier 3 “Do’s”: 

3 “Do’s” in Dealing with an Unjust Boss:

Do #1: Do Show Respect
Even if we are in a situation with an unjust boss, we are called as Christ-followers to treat them with respect. 1 Peter 2:18 specifically addresses this situation: 

18 You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel.

Don’t dismiss this passage just because of the term “slaves.”  Slaves in the Roman Empire at the time this was written corresponds to employees in our time (rather than the “chattel” slavery that treated people as property).  We are called to respect the position of authority, and our honor for the position drives us to behave in ways that honor our boss along the way, even if they are cruel and unjust.  There are limits to this, thankfully. Peter could not obey the authority of the High Priest in Acts 5:29 because it violated what Jesus had directed him to do, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” We aren’t required to obey unjust bosses when following their orders would cause us to disobey God’s direction, but we still need to show them respect in the process.

By the nature of God putting our boss in a position of authority, we owe them honor simply because God put them there. Even if their behavior is dishonorable. That’s hard to do. And I’m not always good at it. But God gives us the Holy Spirit to display character qualities reflective of our new nature – and if we depend on Him, those qualities will surface.

Do #2: Do Seek Resolution
Let’s say you find yourself working for an unjust boss and need to either confront their behavior or disagree with their order to do something that violates what you believe God has instructed us to do. Trying to improve the situation is certainly allowed, and doing so with love and respect reflects the character of Christ. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes aspects of a person’s life that is characterized by the love of Christ reflecting through them (notice the highlighted phrase):

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

If we find ourselves with an unjust boss, it is acceptable to respectfully address the injustice and seek an appropriate resolution. It might not happen, but it is ok to try. And if we have a long track record of honoring of our boss, I believe our respectful, humble attempt to address an injustice will be received well most of the time.

Do #3: Do Consider Alternatives
Sadly, treating an unjust boss with honor and seeking resolution graciously does not always result in lasting change. We are fortunate to live in a culture and an economy where most people have reasonable employment opportunities that include alternatives to working for an unjust boss. If that happens to be your situation, 1 Corinthians 7:20-23 encourages you to consider an alternative work situation when available (note “slaves” in this passage are analogous to “employees” in our present day):

20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.

We are encouraged here to find a better situation, if it is an option. That’s what “gain your freedom” is referring to – find a better boss if you can.

But what if a better situation isn’t an option? What do we do then? 1 Peter 4:19 reminds us to commit the outcome of our difficult situation to God, and continue to do good in the midst of our tough spot:

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Conclusion
As we’ve seen, the Bible gives us some helpful guidance to direct our behavior and attitude toward our bosses, whether they are just or unjust. In some situations, the Bible guides us to pursue other options (a.k.a. freedom) when that is a viable option. But when leaving isn’t a viable option, the Bible still gives us some helpful direction for how we should navigate such a difficult situation. Honoring our boss is always the right path, as is maintaining a healthy attitude, working diligently, and seeking peaceful resolution to conflict. As we work hard, honor our leadership, and trust the outcome to God, we can be confident that God will give us strength and use our lives as an example to those around us to display His glory to a lost and dying world.

 

How Do I Handle an Unjust Boss? Part 1

by Jeff Pruett

Our Gospel Community recently explored what a Godly attitude toward work looks like from a Biblical perspective. We spent a good bit of time looking at the attitudes and work ethic that are encouraged in Colossians 3:22-4:1. In the middle of our conversation, a great question popped up: “What if your boss isn’t worth following? What if they are unfair and unjust?”

I loved the honesty in that question!

Have you ever had a bad boss? Most of the people I have worked with can point to a time in their work history where they encountered a boss who was unfair, unkind, or even unjust. I can remember one boss in particular who would threaten me almost every day with bold statements like, “If you don’t finish what I’ve assigned you by the end of today, I’m going to fire you!” Then he would spend his time sitting in his office day-trading, surfing illicit web sites, or gossiping with co-workers. It was a very demoralizing work environment.

But what is a Christian to do? Are we supposed to roll over and take the abuse? Are we supposed to head for the door and find a new gig as soon as humanly possible? Are we supposed to stay and take a stand to minimize suffering for others?

These are heavy questions, without easy answers. If the Bible is supposed to be able to “thoroughly equip me for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) that must include how to handle an unjust boss, right?

Yes. That’s the good news.

The “less-good-news” is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

The Bible presents a number of teachings which can be applied to how to handle an unjust or unfair boss. Depending on your specific situation, you may find that one or more of these principles or examples directly applies. We’ll explore 3 “Do’s” and 3 “Don’ts” over the next two weeks and look at related Bible passages to help guide us through this challenging topic. Let’s take the bitter pill and get the bad news out of the way first, starting with the “Don’ts”:

3 “Don’ts” in Dealing with an Unjust Boss: 

Don’t #1: Don’t DQ (disqualify)

Before we conclude that we have an unjust boss, it is wise to do a quick self-check to make sure we haven’t disqualified ourselves by our own performance. Have I been giving my best at work? Am I following through on what is assigned to me? Have I been coming to work with a good attitude and working in a way that is honoring to my boss and co-workers?

Many times when we are held accountable for poor performance we are quick to label our boss as unfair or unjust in order to avoid facing the hard truth that our work might not be meeting legitimate expectations. This is not always the case, but we need to take responsibility for any part we play in the process and be willing to be held accountable when our work ethic or performance is genuinely lacking.

Proverbs 12:24 (MSG) presents a principle that we are wise to consider in this area:

The diligent find freedom in their work;
    the lazy are oppressed by work.

While an unjust boss may ignore diligent work, we need to be careful as Christ-followers to make sure that we are not lazy in our work. Before we declare our boss “unjust,” we need to confirm that we are not contributing to the problem… just because a boss says our work doesn’t meet our expectations doesn’t immediately mean they are being unjust. We need to be willing to examine our own work and be sure we have been diligent – otherwise our boss may be right in questioning our work, and we should take appropriate corrective actions if so.

Don’t #2: Don’t Reject Authority
When a boss seems unfair or unjust, it is easy for us to slip into a mode where we reject their authority or begin to discount their leadership. This reaction is dangerous. I remember early in my career when I felt like my company’s leadership was not making wise decisions. I shared my opinion with a co-worker, stating that I felt “our CEO is incompetent.” Those words traveled quickly, and I found myself in the CEO’s office having a frank discussion about my attitude. I had questioned his authority based on incomplete information and it did not reflect a Godly attitude.

Romans 13:1 presents a better attitude, recognizing that people in leadership (authority) are there because God allows them to be there:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 

We do well to honor those God has placed over us and guard our hearts against rejecting authority, even when leaders’ actions may seem unjust, incompetent, or evil. It honors God when we remember that He has allowed them to have the position they have, and do our best to be faithful in the aspects of our work that depend on us.


Don’t #3: Don’t Complain or Retaliate
It is tempting to complain or push back against an unjust leader. Your co-workers are likely already “venting” about how your leaders aren’t measuring up to their expectations. Yet Philippians 2:14 presents a clear direction to steer clear of complaining, grumbling, or arguing:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing 

Now before you dismiss this verse as “not relevant” or “out of context,” let’s keep reading verse 15:

so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…

Our call to do everything without grumbling (complaining) or arguing is so that the world will see that we are children of God, independent of the justness or unjustness of our boss. Our actions will point to Him as the reason for the difference and hopefully cause others to seek God as a result. That is why we don’t complain or retaliate, even if we have an unjust boss.

There’s the “don’ts,” tune in next week for the “do’s.”

Read Part 2 Here.

Mothering Sunday

by Holly DeKorte

Living overseas exposed me to holidays and traditions that were unfamiliar. Early spring, British owned businesses in downtown Kyiv began advertising sales for “Mothering Sunday.” The holiday itself struck me as incredibly inclusive. Not a mother myself, I was still usually pushing a double stroller or carrying a child while walking down the road reading the advertisements. Though the children were not my own, I was mothering. People living internationally understand how it truly does take a village to raise children.

In the United Kingdom, “Mothering Sunday” did not begin as a day of honoring one’s mother; it began as a day honoring and returning to the local church. The fourth Sunday of Lent, people would return to the church of their baptism, essentially returning to the “mother church.” Along the way, servants (who were given the morning off) would pause and pick wildflowers for their own mothers. 

American Mother’s Day does not focus on the verb “mothering” as much as it does the office of motherhood. It essentially turns one Sunday a year into a day of “no access” for many women. Women do not fit into one tidy category. Think of the diversity! 

*A woman who has been struggling with infertility
*A woman suffering through the aftermaths of an abortion
*A woman who has had to say goodbye to a child
*A woman raising a child she has not birthed
*A woman raising children on her own
*A woman who does have children and/or the support of a loving husband
*A woman who has raised her children who are now out of the nest
*A woman who longs for children, but marriage isn’t on the horizon
*A woman who has no desire for marriage and children
*A woman who is happily married, invests in children, but doesn’t desire one of her own
*A woman who knows for certain that “all the best moms” don’t always get promoted to “grandma”

What, then, do we do with these women who might not fit the traditional definition of “mother?” We acknowledge that God creatively uses many people to act as a mother. Beyond that, we look to what God has supplied to all His children. 

God has given believers an amazing gift, the church. Through the church we receive God’s Word, nourishment for our souls. We receive the reminder that Christ’s body was broken and His blood poured out for all mankind. We receive baptism into Christ. We receive the hope we have in Christ. We receive the community of saints who live life on mission for God’s glory. The gift of the church is meant for all.

Isaiah 54:1-3 is one of my favorite passages of scripture: “‘Sing, O barren one, who did not bear, break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,’ says the Lord. Enlarge the place of your tent and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back: lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.”

As a woman who is not married nor is a mother, I take great personal comfort in this Isaiah passage. However, reading this scripture in context and as prophetic literature, its meaning extends far beyond encouragement for a “desolate” woman. Isaiah had just finished a thorough prophecy concerning Jesus. He then speaks to Israel in captivity and reminds them that they will return to Jerusalem. Isaiah points Israel back to the one true love, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.” Isaiah 54:5. This prophecy was not only for the Jews and their return home, it is for the church, the Bride of Christ. One commentary points out that “enlarging the place of your tent” (Isaiah 54:2a) is a prophecy concerning Gentiles coming to faith. You and I have been welcomed into a prophecy made to God’s Holy Nation that is now extended to God’s Holy Church. And in this prophecy we have another assurance, “For the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.” (Isaiah 54:10). This is the God who loves us; He calls us home to His church.

Should Mother’s Day be celebrated? I intend on honoring my mother who has indeed nourished and discipled me in faith. I also intend on honoring God’s gift, the church. You may not see me in a chair on Sunday, May 12; I most likely will be returning to the church of my dedication and baptism. Who knows? Maybe I’ll also stop along Bradley Road and pick some wildflowers for my mom.