Everyone's A Critic

by Aaron

At a recent Gospel Class I was asked what I thought about “textual criticism.” I gave a short, some would say dismissive, answer because textual criticism has been used as an excuse in recent decades to try and destroy our faith in the reliability of scripture and it irritates me.  All the way back in the 1800’s Charles Spurgeon had to deal with it in what was known at the time as the “downgrade controversy.”
The reason someone asked the question at the Gospel Class was not to cause problems, it was simply that they heard about it and wanted to know what it was/is. I thought I would write up this short blog post so you all could have a better understanding of definitions and terms.
First, textual criticism is not just aimed at the scriptures, but any work of antiquity; it simply seems much more focused and pronounced in our day towards the scriptures.
Textual criticism is also called "lower criticism" and it is supposed to mainly concern itself with the identification and removal of what are known as "transcription" errors in the texts of manuscripts. Essentially, at times, ancient scribes would make errors, or alterations, when copying manuscripts by hand. A textual critic should seek to reconstruct the original text (the "autograph") as closely as possible. The objective would be a manuscript that most resembles the original.
Historical criticism is also called "higher criticism" and it is supposed to establish the authorship, date, and place of composition of an original text. It is also supposed to investigate the origins of ancient texts in order to understand the world behind the texts.
In the 18th century these criticisms came together and formed "Biblical criticism." Historical criticism began in the 17th century and gained popular recognition in the 19th and 20th centuries. The perspective of the early historical biblical critic was rooted in the Magisterial Reformation. At that time their studies were free from the influence of traditional interpretation.
But instead of seeking truth, as originally intended, most criticisms today seek to destroy the word of God for no seeming purpose except to try and discredit it. Today many people who are claiming to be scholars are simply skeptics with axes to grind because they refuse to believe in the supernatural as revealed by the scriptures. Today, in regard to the bible, we have source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, tradition criticism, canonical criticism, and dozens of other "isms" all trying to destroy the word of God as we know it.
The criticisms today have gone beyond wanting to know the context of a text or the most reliable text, they have gone to trying to discredit a text. Honestly, the scriptures we have today are the most reliable of any document known to man. We can trust the transcription, translation, and transmission. The question is, do we trust the God who gave them to us?

An Urgent Message About Division

by Aaron

Last Sunday morning in our message about Abraham riding in to save Lot, like an old William Wallace on a camel, I mentioned how Abraham brought rescue and redemption by setting the captives free. I then showed how it all relates to our Great God coming to rescue us. I closed the message with a quote from John Piper that said that there were six reasons for Jesus coming:

  1. To ransom many,
  2. To call sinners,
  3. To give sight to the morally blind,
  4. To divide households,
  5. To save from divine condemnation,
  6. To give eternal life.

I have had someone in my own GC ask about number 4: To Divide Households. After my GC left for their homes I checked my email and another GC leader had emailed me the same question. I thought I should/could briefly answer it to clear up any confusion.
There are a couple places where Jesus talks about division, such as Matthew 10:34-35, but let’s use Luke 12:49-53 because it adds a few dynamics.
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! Fire refers to judgment…so there is a judgment coming.
50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!  This is referring to his death on the cross for our sins.
51-53 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
First, notice the “on earth” part from verse 51. He did not come to bring peace on this earth as we understand it. He did not come to change the social structure of this world, He came to change His people and bring peace (reconciliation) between God and us again. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came there would be a time of world peace. But Jesus is clearly showing how following Him, though it brings peace between God and us, usually brings division to relationships around us.
Simply preaching a social gospel that tries to get people to change their behavior misunderstands the nature of sin and what it has done, and continues to do, to people. Every time the Bible speaks about offering peace to humans (Luke 2:14; 7:50; 8:48; 10:5-6; Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:13-17), we have to understand that peace comes to those who have responded to God’s call of salvation.
A sword divides and exposes as it cuts. When people respond to Christ’s call it typically brings division to families. I know young men whose fathers will not even speak to them because the sons follow Jesus. I know children who stop speaking to their parents because the parents followed Jesus later in life and are now preaching the gospel to their kids who want nothing to do with Jesus. I know Muslims, Mormon’s and Jehovah Witnesses who now follow Christ and the rest of their family will no longer even speak to them.

The sword Jesus brings exposes the true love of our hearts, whether it is Jesus or someone (or something else).  In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul speaks of the cross being folly to most of the world, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Where we should be a people who strive for reconciliation, the cross, by its nature, will divide the proud and arrogant from the broken and humble.
The peace on earth that Jesus brings, from being born in a manger, is a peace that is extended to those who love God. That peace is then extended through us, as God's ambassadors, and flows out from us by preaching the gospel. Jesus came to change us, and through us partnering with Him, just like in Genesis 1-2, to change and shape the world into a place that truly reflects the greater glory of God.

The Shocking Truth

by Aaron

Well, it's NOT an electric chair, but it may as well be when it comes to killing flies.
My wife is forever trying to find me toys I will like, because I am a big kid and I like to play with things. Christmas this year she gave me one of those electric flyswatters, the one where you push the button and you can fry flies (yes, it is seriously awesome). I thought I had lost it, as I do most things, until we were moving our old ottoman and it was inside of it.
I pulled it out and set it next to the couch hoping a fly would find its way in the house. When one did, I started trying to kill it and nothing happened. I then decided to see if the swatter even worked. I grabbed both sides of it and pressed the button and SNAP, sizzle, sparks, and pain as an electric shock traveled through my hand. I was woefully unprepared for the amount of juice a couple of batteries can produce.
My wife thought it was funny; I thought it was painful.
Sometimes I think this is how our lives are lived before God. We don’t think something is working quite right, the right timing or the right way, and we go to try and “fix it” and get a shock in the process. Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. God calls people to live a certain way because He made us and knows how we were designed.
May we be a people who wake up and simply trust God to be God and live how He designed us. May we stop fighting His written word and trust it for the fullness it contains. May we stop being so ‘shocked’ when all that Jesus has said, is actually true and right.

A Story of Animal Cruelty

by Aaron

I hate animal cruelty. I think animals are cute, cuddly, furry, and fun. I want you to know that before I tell you my story.

Last week I had my back office door (read: exterior) open so my dog could run around and play. While it was open a bird flew into my office, but I didn't know it. My interior office door is a French door with lots of windows, I only knew the bird was in my office when it slammed into it trying to get back outside. It was squawking and making all sorts of scary fluttering noises. 

I proceeded to spend the next hour trying to capture it with rubber gloves and a T-shirt so as not to hurt it…it was cute after all. After chasing it from behind every piece of furniture, guitar amp, guitar case, and desk, I finally got it and took it outside. I opened the T-shirt for it to fly away and…it flew about 5 feet and landed (I assumed to get its bearings).

It was at this point my dog came out of nowhere (read: lurking in the shadows), stepped on it, and proceeded to put it in her mouth and chew on the poor bird before running off to play with her new toy (read: bird) that God had delivered to her from the heavens. 

I thought "bad dog" and was about to yell at her, but she was just doing what came natural. The same way she rolls in dirt, licks her…uh, hind parts, and eats her own vomit. There is even a proverb about that in the bible, Proverbs 26:11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.

I also started to think about how most Christians treat non-Christians the way my initial reaction was with my dog. We hold them to a standard that they do not comprehend or believe in, so we start to preach morality and not Jesus. First and foremost we must always speak of Jesus because He brings change. It's that old adage, "morality doesn't bring Jesus, but Jesus will bring true morality."

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul gives a list of vices and sins, trying to give the Corinthians a proper perspective. He rounds it off by saying in 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God

It is Jesus who brings this to us. We all walked in ways that dishonored God, but Jesus has come to redeem and restore us. I say we lift up THAT Jesus so all men will know true grace.

As far as the bird goes, I'm OK with it. Easy prey or culling the herd, whatever it was, I tried.

A Wide Place

by Aaron

The other day my wife was very gracious to me. We were running errands most of the day and I was getting very hungry. I asked if she had any place she would like to stop to grab a bite to eat and she responded with the most glorious words she has spoken to me in a whole week. She said, "you can go anywhere, even El Postino."

Sweet Jesus, it was amazing. El Postino is the name of this hole in the wall Mexican Food place I like, but I can never remember it's name, so I call it El Postino (it's by the post office…NOT CASA MANANA).

I got a chicken burrito (no beans), some homemade chips, and some salsa.  As soon as we left though she said, "hey McDonalds is right there, I want some fries." So I got her fries…and I also ate them.

As I was driving home and thinking about my great wife, my yummy burrito, and my breath defying salsa, I became a little giddy. I realized that this is how God originally intended man to live (no, not on McDonalds and burritos), in freedom.

As we have been looking through Genesis, we see that God gave man great freedom. Gen 2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden…Even the El Postino Tree? Yes, anything. Our freedom was great and broad. God simply gave one admonition in this Gen 2:17… but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” In simple terms God says, "trust me to know what is good. I made you, designed you, and love you…honor me." We were free to do anything except dishonor Him.

Unfortunately, you know the story, you are living it now…all of us have dishonored Him and tried to do our lives our own way. But the great freedom of God still exists to this day. As we spoke about Sunday (Genesis week 17), following God and His decrees means we get to walk in a "wide place," meaning freedom (Psalm 119:44-45).

Let's live a life that more properly honors and glorifies Him by living free for Him, but never free from Him. Lives as they were intended, with great freedom.

Tattoo You

by Aaron

We have a lot of people who come to Element who have Tattoos, I know, a lot of churches do, but a lot of ours were gotten after they became Christians. I personally have three, our drummer has five, and a another person who attends has a gazillion. There are a lot of questions that float around about this so I will do my best to talk about tattoos (in a roundabout way).

Also, none of this is meant to imply anyone has to, or should, get a tattoo.

Eph 2:14-15 For he himself is our peace who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.

When we speak of "The Law" most people do not mean the whole Old Testament, but merely the first five books, the Torah.

In the Torah you will read:

  • don’t wear 2 types of clothing, so any person in modern clothes would be in sin.
  • before you poo, dig a hole, so if you use a toilet then you aren't digging a hole.
  • don’t eat fish from bottom of the sea, so if you eat shrimp, you are in sin.

We must understand that there are different contexts and different cultures, and many "laws" are not applicable to us.

The Old Testament laws are broken into 3 categories.

Moral Laws – This would be things like don’t kill anyone, don’t steal anything, and honor your parents. These are still binding today. We cannot say, “Oh, it's the New Testament...I am going to kill my parents.”

Civil Laws – In the Old Testament Israel was to be a theocratic country, so God gives laws for how His people are to conduct themselves AS HIS COUNTRY (His nation). America, today, is not a theocracy which means that God is not our president. Whoever our elected official is, that is our president (and if anyone in anyway thinks that any president is God, they have deep issues that they need help with).

In Romans 13 it reminds us the we live in nations with governments, and we need to respect those governments as long as they don’t violate God’s moral commands. Civil laws are fulfilled in CHRIST and are nonbinding. America is NOT the new Israel and not a theocracy.

Ceremonial law – This is what Paul is speaking of in Eph 2 with “laws and regulations.” This would be the priesthood and sacrificial system, where you would go to the temple with an animal and the priest would slaughter it. The blood would then run out of the temple. That has been fulfilled in Christ as He IS the temple, He IS the priest, He IS the sacrifice. The whole ceremonial system was pointing to Jesus. That is the whole point of the book of Hebrews.

So now that those distinctions have been taken away we can be reconciled to each other.

  • Before Jesus, God’s people ate different foods and couldn’t go to other people’s house for dinner, now we can.
  • Before Jesus, God's people wore different clothes and couldn’t be near others who weren’t like us.
  • Before Jesus, God's people spoke a different language and couldn’t communicate.

Now, today in the New Covenant, it is not about culture, it is about Christ. All the dividing points are taken away (it doesn’t matter your music style, clothes, haircut) the issue is DO YOU LOVE JESUS. It becomes about Jesus and not our cultural distinctive(s).

Now, for Tattoos...

The verse that people use for NOT getting tattoos is Lev 19:28 `Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD." The problem with taking this verse the way that most who hate tattoos do, is that it is out of context. This whole section in Leviticus is all over the map between civil laws and moral laws.

In Lev 19:19 it says

  • Keep my decrees.
  • Do not mate different kinds of animals.
  • Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
  • Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

My dad is a farmer, they have a little over 300 acres that they farm. They have broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and cabbage all next to each other; does that make him a wicked sinner? No.

In Lev 19:27 it tells guys NOT to cut their sideburns...does that make most men today wicked sinners (well, yes, but not because of sideburns-haha).

But then in 19:29 it says "`Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness. Is this moral or cultural? Of course this is moral.

The hard thing about Leviticus is that it was there to separate light from dark, death from life, and sin from righteousness for the Israelites. We take these verses  and make it into a HOW TO manual for every part of life, not understanding much of the nuances underneath it.

The word we translate as "tattoo" simply meant "impression, inscription, or mark." It could have been a number of things. Many of the people the Israelites were traveling among would mark their slaves with tattoos to show that they were property. One of the things God is simply telling His people is that they are to belong to no one but Him. God wanted the Israelites FREE so they could worship Him in freedom.

I don't think tattoos have the same connotation they once did...or mean the same thing. I do not believe that THAT law is binding. BUT...the other question (and the more important question) is "do they honor God." 1 Cor 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. I think a better question today is "why is someone wanting one." Is it to honor themselves or to honor God.

I believe they can honor God, but it should be done after much consideration.

Good Friday Time Machine

by Aaron

This blog isn't a blog, it is a time machine. On Friday at noon there is a community Good Friday service at Calvary chapel. They have given 7 different pastors 5 minutes each to speak, and I am one of them. Yes, 5 minutes, me (sort of funny). For those of you who cannot make it, I thought I would give you my transcript of what I will be saying. See 2 days before it happens, like a time machine. I know it's long, but I talk fast, so it will all work out.

Why is it, when we come to the scriptures – or any story, we assume we are always like “the good guys?”

  • Cain and Abel: Abel;
  • Moses and Pharaoh: Moses;
  • Samson and Delilah: Neither;
  • David and Goliath: David;
  • David and Bathsheba: the prophet Nathan;
  • Saul and Steven: Steven;
  • Paul and Rome: Paul…

It’s interesting that I get to speak first as I get to set the tone. I believe Good Friday is a time for believers to revaluate our lives and our utter lack of humility. Too often we think that we are wonderful and our God is getting a good deal with us. Good Friday is to remind us that THAT is simply not the case.

You and I are awful. How awful? So bad that our God had to come to ransom us from the sin that was destroying us, the chains that held us to our depravity. When we think about that sin, when we talk about that sin, we try to convince ourselves and others how terrible it was…but our problem is, we LOVED IT and we still do. If we didn’t find it enjoyable, we wouldn’t have done it in the first place.

If, every time we sinned we got kicked in the head, we would stop real fast. But we don’t, because we find pleasure in things that hurt the image of God in us and more greatly destroy the creation in which He put us.

  • Cain and Abel – Cain (or worse), kills his brother out of jealousy
  • Moses and Pharaoh – Pharaoh – More concerned about his wealth and comfort than those around him.
  • Samson and Delilah - Both - one was manipulative and one claimed the name of God but really was more concerned about his pride than God’s glory.
  • David and Goliath – Goliath – arrogant, proud, and mocked God with words.
  • David and Bathsheba – Both – Our sexuality, this great gift of pleasure and wonder, has been tainted at every turn by either our fear of it or our hidden addiction to it.
  • Saul and Steven – Saul – when we destroy other believers around us rather than lifting them up.
  • Paul and Rome – Rome – we think we know how to run things better than anyone else.

This brings us to my verse, Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We read this verse and think, “Ya, they didn’t know what they were doing…I would never have crucified Jesus.” Yes, you would have.

Just like we are worse than Cain, Pharaoh, Delilah, Goliath…we are worse, many times, than those who strung Jesus up on a cross. Why? Because they knew not what they do…but you and I do.

Every time it comes to that decision where we know what is right, what would bring Jesus greater glory, that which would more honor His name, and we do the opposite, we are worse than those who strung Him up on that cross. We know what God calls us to…but when it comes to our will or His, we usually choose ours. We are worse for WE KNOW what we do.

That should be humbling to us and a great reminder that our Great God did not come in the flesh as Jesus to die for us because He needed us, or because we are so good that He couldn’t live without us – but simply because He is so good.

Our salvation is based in His grace and goodness… When Jesus was arrested the ropes did not constrain Jesus to His beating...His love for us did. God is bigger than our sin, our error, our mistakes and He will bend all of this to His will. Our God is tremendously mighty, nothing is Greater than our God. That is why Good Friday is Good, because He is good and has cleansed us from our unrighteousness by the blood of His one and only son, Jesus.

We should be the least judgmental and most humble people the planet: We are terrible, but our God is good.

Concise Karma

by Aaron

I was talking to a few people the other day and one for them said the strangest thing (well a lot of my friends say strange things), but this had to do with karma. Something about what goes around….

Karma is the concept that there are deeds that you have to work off in order to attain an enlightened state. Karma refers to the debt of one’s bad actions, which must be atoned for by your own actions.

In Hinduism, Prabhupada taught that even if you desire a sweet ball (this is a piece a candy) you have to come back to the material world to take another body (because the desire for something, in and of itself, is considered wrong); in other words, you have to work it off. Part of the problem is that true Buddhism and Hinduism do not even distinguish between desire and action.

The difference in Buddhism and Hinduism essentially comes down to the issue of karma. In true Hinduism there is no way to get out of the cycle rebirth. The Buddha didn't like this so he found a way to get off the wheel of samsara (the karmic cycle)…unfortunately you have to have the right vocation, right speech, right views, right aspirations, right mindfulness, right effort, and right concentration to make it…AND EVEN IF YOU HAVE ALL OF THOSE you then need to be born a male and into the right social caste.

It seems impossible because it is.

This is why as Christians we believe in Jesus, not karma. We are accountable for our actions to a Holy God, not an impersonal force of the universe. We have a personal God who became a person to save us from ourselves, because no matter how many lifetimes we ever lived through, we would never get it right.

Yes, our actions have consequences, but there really is a way out of the misery we find ourselves in: Jesus. He doesn't hold us to a cosmic karma wheel of reincarnation (you get 1 life Hebrews 9:27), we don't have to work off our sin, and we don't need to beg, scrape, or plead for forgiveness, we simply trust, by faith, that Jesus paid it all - once for all.

So let's stop throwing out stupid karmic ideals and lift up the greatness of Jesus and what His actions have done for us.

No Comment

by Aaron

I find it odd that people only seem to comment on our blogs when I mention something like A&E, HGTV, or 9th grade algebra teachers. It so weird that we get all excited and comment on things that do not have a whole lot of lasting value (well, except for Mrs. Chiado).

We should be excited about Jesus, what God is doing not just in our lives, but also in our entire world. We should comment and comment and comment and say things like “yes, forgiveness is awesome,” “I would love me some grace,” and, “I want to love like that!”

In all honesty, some of you may even be afraid to say anything in a comment section for fear you could “say the wrong thing.” Well, don’t worry about that, we want to know what you are thinking, what the blogs inspire you, and if you are crazy we can always delete it and pretend like we never got the comment.

So comment up, let us know your thoughts (unless you live online, then we probably already know what you think).

Oh, by the way, how about that Superbowl (trademarked by the NFL) huh?

At The Moment

by Aaron

I have had a wonderful thing happen to me in the last 24 hours, I can breathe again. I have had a nasty cold and it shut off my sinus cavity for over 4 days. Last night, as I was going to bed, it actually opened and I could breathe through my nose the glorious flow of air that we all need to survive. 

It was overwhelming to me; the sense of hope that came back as I actually realized my condition of not being able to breathe wasn’t permanent (and no, I am not being overly dramatic).

It made me think of all the times that Jesus has saved me from myself. Times when I was overwhelmed and drowning, so to speak, and yet He came and saved me. Isaiah 59:1 tells us “Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear…”

Too often we are all guilty of assuming that God sees and interacts with the world as we do; but He doesn’t. Our entire experience is one of sinus pressure; never fully being able to breathe right, then God graciously redeems us and sets us free. Being born again means we can experience God and creation as He intended, but we are still awash in all of our memories of when it was hard to breathe.

God knows this about us, He understands this about us, and yet when He gives us freedom He doesn’t let us wallow in our old places. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come…” (2 Cor 5:17) You can breathe again; you can hope again, all things are made new, including you. Breathe the breath of life given to you by God and live a new life, not the old one.

Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

A Face For Podcast

by Aaron

Maybe you have noticed the few couple weeks that there are some cameras at Element. This is NOT for my vanity, it is to meet a request. Many people have been asking for a video cast of the messages, rather than just audio.

Now, I have a hard time with this because I have a hard enough time looking in the mirror at my ugly mug (face). I would much rather have myself as audio only…because you can leave it up to your own imagination if I have combined stripes and plaids on any given Sunday.

We have a couple of guys who decided that they would like to take on this ministry to video cast the sermons. Much to my chagrin it is now happening. They will first be posted on our Vimeo page, then, maybe, one day, on a video podcast as well. There may be some hiccups in the beginning, so don't expect FOX type quality…but we hope to get there.

So, if you notice I am combing my hair more, or I am better color coordinated, that's why. Also, if you see cameras around, please don't think we are taking ourselves too seriously, we are actually trying to be servants, meeting a need, and trying to give God glory in the process.

Viva La Camera.


by Aaron

I am happy to say that I have been busy at work mapping out the book of Genesis for the coming year…unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your mindset) it isn’t going to make it the year; it is going to be a year and a half.

We never want to sell a book of the bible short and it seems that this is the length it simply needs to be. It is what it is, and it is oh so good. The actual length, when all is said and done, is 73 weeks (plus the very few special one off weeks in the midst of it, like Easter).

I am through writing 34 weeks of Genesis now (so almost half way).

One of my friends asked me if we were covering every verse, and my answer was “of course.” I mean, what else would a people as neurotic as Element do?

Genesis will be fun, informative, and give all of us a better picture of what God has been doing all along: saving, redeeming, restoring, and making His name great.

So, in 2013 when the website STILL says “Current Sermon Series: Genesis” you can be excited all over again because every week will be something new, something old, and something amazing.

I hope you are ready for the ride.


by Aaron

Ok, seriously, will everyone stop trying to tell me the latest bit of information on every new movie that is coming out? Does every movie trailer have to show me the ending before I even see the movie?

I love all things Christopher Nolan and I am totally excited about 2012’s The Dark Night Rises, but I feel as though I can’t go anywhere without someone trying to spoil it for me. Why can’t we just wait until it comes out and watch it? Why do people have to sneak onto a movie a set to and try to steal the script to post to everyone to read? Is our need to be in control and have information so overwhelming that we can’t enjoy a story without having control of the end?

This has been a problem since the mankind was first made. “Don‘t eat this fruit, trust me,” is what God says to man…But what does man do? Eats the fruit and doesn’t trust. It seems, for us, letting go of our lives and trusting Jesus is something we all refuse to do. Can we really trust him for the remainder of our lives? Has He really filtered all things through His hands before they come to us?

The answer is: yes.

I know a stupid little blog isn’t going to change you much, but at this time of the year if I could get you to start thinking about God’s promise of hope and redemption more, it could actually help. We know the end, it is Jesus; all things begin and continue in Him. Truly “the end” is not the end in Him.

When life is overwhelming, it will not overwhelm Him. Take comfort in the fact that our Great God loves you, has laid a course for your life, and though we don’t know where it is going, He does…He has always been there.

Oh, ya…and if you haven’t see the Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis is DEAD.


by Aaron

I am part of the 99%...but what do I mean by that? I mean I have a Christmas Tree: it is plastic, came in a box, had lights already hung on it, and doesn't smell like anything except dog slobber (after years of use). I also have some presents under my tree, Christmas lights on my house, Christmas music on my Ipod, a big red bag that I haul presents around in on Christmas (seriously), and a joyful expectancy of what the season brings.

I am part of the 99% who love Christmas.

But who are the haters, the naysayers, with no sort of holiday cheer? I can only find scattered reports of various news stories.

  • Like the guy who complained that a Christmas billboard was left up too long and wrote an editorial about how it was stirring "inappropriate emotion" about making him feel guilty for not spending time with his loved ones.
  • The campaign that encourages people who walk into stores that are NOT playing Christmas music to find the managers and thank them.
  • A proposed extra tax on Christmas Trees.
  • Even Twisted Sister (the band) who came out with a Christmas album. I mean seriously, they must really hate Christmas.

We must Occupy Christmas. If you are part of the 99% who love Christmas, stop treating it like a holiday and live your life as if every day is Christmas Eve. Stop buying into bogus statistics that tell you that suicide rates go up at Christmas, it's a lie, they actually go down. Don't be another person who makes the season too long, too false, too commercialized and just simply too much. Make it about hope and life and truth and mercy and grace that came into the world to save us from our sin.

Bring the 1% to our side…the side that says, "yeah Christmas." Remember what the Dr said (that's Suess), "And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"

So go buy your fake trees and cover your house in lights. It's Christmas for Pete's (I mean Jesus') sake.


by Aaron

Last week we looked at the question: Could Jesus have sinned? (give in to temptations). The long winded discussions that actually wrestle with this question of "was Jesus able to sin?" is called, "peccability" (or impeccability), from the Latin meaning "sin."

The conclusion was: could Jesus be tempted? yes. Could Jesus sin? no. In this blog I wanted to look at the ramification of what this truth means for us.

What are the practical ramifications that flow from this understanding of Jesus relationship to sin and temptation?

  • Because Jesus faced real temptations and successfully endured those temptations as a real man not yet glorified He was and is “the author of eternal salvation.” We are told that Jesus had to be “made perfect,” and in order to be “made perfect,” Jesus had to “learn obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8-9). Jesus became like Adam (except that where Adam failed, Jesus triumphed). (Rom. 5:19).
  • Because Jesus faced real temptations and successfully resisted those temptations as a real man not yet glorified He can be our example and pattern for resisting the temptations we face. Sometimes it is difficult for us to view Christ as an example. We think of Him in His majestic divinity. Consequently, we view Him as a kind of superman—impervious to the kind of temptations we face. But the Scripture does not place Christ in a totally different category than us. Instead, the writer to the Hebrews encourages believers to look to Jesus, "the founder and perfecter of our faith " (Heb. 12:3). True, Jesus was not plagued with the remnants of a sinful nature as we are. Nevertheless, we should not view our Savior as some kind of super-human being whose experience was totally foreign to ours.
  • Because Jesus faced real temptations and successfully resisted those temptations as a real man not yet glorified He can fully sympathize with us in our struggle against sin (Heb. 2:18; 4:15).

J.C. Ryle said: “The sympathy of Jesus is a truth which ought to be peculiarly dear to all believers. They will find in it a mine of strong consolation. They should never forget, that they have a mighty Friend in heaven, who feels for them in all their temptations, and can enter into all their spiritual anxieties. Are they ever tempted by Satan to distrust God 's care and goodness ? So was Jesus. Are they ever tempted to presume upon God 's mercy, and run into danger without warrant? So also was Jesus. Are they ever tempted to commit some one great private sin for the sake of some great seeming advantage ? So also was Jesus. He is just the Savior that a tempted people require. Let them flee to Him for help, and spread before Him all their troubles. They will find His ear ever ready to hear, and His heart ever ready to feel.”

Most good Bible teachers believe that the Bible teaches that Christ, as God, could not even potentially sin. His human nature was always in submission to his divine nature. Therefore the possibility of sin must be ruled out; but that does not mean that he only overcame temptation by relying on that nature. We believe he overcame sin IN HIS HUMANITY as well.

Leon Morris states, "The main point is that, though Jesus did not sin, we must not infer that life was easy for him. His sinlessness was, at least in part, an earned sinlessness as he gained victory after victory in the constant battle with temptation that life in this world entails."

We have a Great God who understands all we go through.


by Aaron

I was recently asked a question by a friend of mine that I thought would be good for all of you budding scholars of theology. It is one that people have asked for ages…

Could Jesus have sinned? (give in to temptations)

Most people just say "no" and leave it at that and walk away, but is it intellectually honest to say no without wrestling with the issue?

Jesus, in the incarnation, was fully God and fully man (we call this the Hypostatic Union). While God, as God, can never sin or be tempted…could Jesus, as a man, in human flesh, be tempted. I think the honest answer would have to be yes. In His humanity Jesus knew temptation. In Hebrews 4:15 we are told that our great High Priest (Jesus) was tempted in every way that we are yet was without sin. This is something we are told…it is not guessed at or inferred, it is plain in the text.

We are comforted because Jesus knew temptations but never gave in to them. He knew greater temptation than anyone who has ever lived precisely because He never gave in to make it stop. Jesus remaining sinless is an amazing feat, which, in my opinion, reinforces His claims to be God.

The long-winded discussions that actually wrestle with this question of "was Jesus able to sin?" is called, "peccability" (or impeccability), from the Latin meaning "sin."

Jesus (in His humanity) grew and matured; Jesus could "grow in wisdom" (Luke 2:52) and He could "learn obedience" (Hebrews 5:8) during when he took on human flesh. This seems to lead credence to the idea that Jesus could be tempted…but could Jesus sin?

Most of this argument can go back to the understanding that Jesus was not merely a man. He was (and is) also God the Son. Since God cannot sin (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; James 1:13, 17), we can conclude that from the standpoint of His deity, Jesus was not able to sin (or impeccable). But, I personally, don't think Jesus overcame temptation by simply relying on His divine nature. As a man, Jesus knew the filling of the Spirit "without measure" (John 3:34). But He resisted the devil and became obedient unto death as a man.

Wayne Grudem says it well in his great book on Systematic Theology, “The moral strength of [Jesus’] divine nature was there as a sort of 'backstop' that would have prevented Him from sinning in any case (and therefore we can say that it was not possible for Him to sin), but He did not rely on the strength of His divine nature to make it easier for Him to face temptations.” (pg 539).

So, could Jesus be tempted? Yes. Could Jesus sin? No. At least that is my humble opinion. Next week in the blog we will look at the ramifications of what this truth actually means for those who call themselves Christians.

Premarital Sex Part III

by Aaron

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

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

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

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

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

Premarital Sex Part II

by Aaron

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

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

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

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

The above statistics come from 4 major sources:

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

Where does the bible say premarital sex is a sin?

by Aaron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by Aaron

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

Her name was Mrs. Chiado.

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

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

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

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

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