Hole In Our Gospel

by Aaron

Q: I just finished reading the book "The Hole in our Gospel" by Richard Stearns. This was the most impactful book that I can remember reading; it has such an incredibly convicting call to action that I cannot do it justice describing it. What do you think about it?

A: There is a couple things about David Stearns book (and sorry, it seems I wrote a book in reply). First, yes, yes yes, Christians should be doing something about the worlds problems. I talk about this all the time, so please don't misunderstand my reply. David Stearns is a great guy with strong calling, I think World Vision is doing an excellent job; they are worth while to support…

But there are problems with what is called the 'Social Gospel.' Many times, in order to get into countries World Vision will partner with a government and agree to never talk about the gospel of Jesus (like in India).

They have followed secular humanist priorities which view injustice and physical need as man's primary problem when, as Christians, we are to understand these as symptoms of a much deeper spiritual crisis that exists in communities unable/unwilling to care for their own people. With so much emphasis in the media on the issues of poverty & injustice it is certainly easier to follow their lead rather than stand as a prophetic voice and point to the spiritual crisis that is the deeper issue and offer the solution of Jesus.

In many cases getting the money out has caused World Vision to neglect the local church in many countries. The church on the ground should be trained and led so they can begin to meet these needs AND the people have a place to learn about Christ.

Today there seems to be a relationship between Christian aid organizations and the American Christian donor that is not good. The donor get's to sacrifice a bit of their wealth and lifestyle and feel better about themselves because they are staying in line with a humanistic, yet biblically uninformed conviction that poverty and injustice are mankind's worst enemies and can be solved without the God of the Trinity.

In turn, the Christian aid organization gets to receive the donor’s dollars with few questions asked...and even takes pot shots at the Church and claims it's being prophetic in doing so!

Neither seems interested in each other's transformation. Neither seems interested in transforming communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ and thereby truly helping the communities solve their own problems for the long term. Transforming communities through the Gospel takes time and involves face-to-face relationships based on human interaction that results in discipling people.

It's a lot easier all around for Christians in America to simply throw money at the world's immediate problems rather than be prophetic and involved sacrificially in addressing the spiritual roots.

Many books like this are basically an extended argument for supporting an organization that is doing a job that the church should be doing (it’s a pretty veneer that wreaks of poor ecclesiology).

Yes the book could be great reading for motivation but it is only HALF of what people need to understand in terms of helping change the world. We need to be involved with local people on the ground, who love Jesus, so not only are people fed…but they are also FED.

If that makes sense.

We support clean drinking water to Indonesia, giving aid and training to get girls out of prostitution in Thailand, getting medical supplies and education to orphans in Haiti, and are looking at how to expand into helping get clean water to some remote tribes in Central America.

I don't want to sound callous in what I am writing to you. I mean, it really does no good to say to a starving kid, "you need Jesus" because they don't care when they can't see past their hunger. But on the other side if you feed them and never teach them how to provide for themselves and, in the end, never introduce them to Jesus, we just did the biggest disservice to them.

So, I think, we support local ministries on the ground (like Element does)...ministries that do both of those things. That is where a church should be able to be trusted with money. That they are seeking the best way to give that money away to those in need in the best way possible.

Many churches don't look for the best way to do that...but I think Element does. Could we do better, of course we could, but I think we are heading in the right direction.

That's my 2 cents.


PS...To give you a better idea of what I am saying (and so you don't think I am hating on World Vision). There is an excellent section from the Desiring God 2010 Conference led by Kevin DeYoung about mission/missional...and the world that I would like to share with you.
http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/rethinking-missional-reconciling-the-mission-of-god-and-the-mission-of-the-church#/watch/full

Something Better Than In The Middle?

by Aaron

I have never intended to jump on this bandwagon in written form but so many of the people who attend Element have asked me to comment that I guess I will...I am talking about Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins. Many people believe that Rob Bell is now teaching a form of Universalism (Universalism teaches that all people will be saved/redeemed regardless of what they have done or what they believe, from Hitler, to Stalin, to you and me).

I got the book last night, have read the majority of it, and have two opinions about what people think of Rob Bell. One, is those who think he is a heretic; well, he is NOT as unorthodox as they would like to portray him. Two, is those who love him, well, he is NOT as orthodox as they would like to portray him.

Rob Bell, as best I can explain it, is like the area of a water melon where it turns from pink and yummy to white and rind(y). You don't really know where the watermelon stops and the rind begins. A little rind changes the flavor a bit, but a lot of the rind is terrible. That is the problem with Rob Bell, you don't know where he is watermelon and where he is rind.

In the book he sets up arguments that all evangelicals would, hopefully, reject, and then spends much time saying why they are wrong (in a witty sort of way). Other times he makes assumptions about what people think or feel and then shows how and why they are ludicrous....this is all very much like the rind of the watermelon.

There are other times when he is talking about Jesus’ view of the world, various Greek verbs, the redemption and hope for the world and these are right on...very watermelon like.

These two sides seems to pop in and out of each other so much that the orthodox parts no longer seem so orthodox and the unorthodox parts seems less unorthodox. It is dangerous on one hand but could be very helpful in talking to others about volatile issues on the other. It is so hard to explain that my explanation sounds like it doesn't explain anything.

I could list the multiple theological issues I have with the book (and there are many), I could list the multiple other things that I love his explanation of (there are a few), but that again can lead to why the book could be dangerous.

In the end, if you have a good head of theology on your shoulders, know what you believe, this could be an interesting book for you to read. If you have a hard time determining what you hold as truth and find yourself easily swayed by crafty arguments, I would stay away from it.

Whatever you think about Rob Bell, he is a marketing genius. All the hoopla about the book has made the pre-release sales skyrocket to half a million...

...that is some pretty smart marketing for watermelons.

ARE 'LAMENTS' FRENCH AND MINTY? PART II

by Aaron

Lamentations was a book many attribute to the prophet Jeremiah. Many believe that after witnessing the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah could not contain himself and wrote these 5 poems of lament.

There are essentially 3 players in these poems:
The Narrator - This person starts off an impartial observer but breaks down later in the book as he looks at Jerusalem's pain at being cast down.
The City - She is seen as a woman that goes from the extremes of Harlot/Whore to Virgin daughter.
The Gehber - He is a man who has seen the destruction up close and personal.

The 3 characters help us understand what it means to reflect and grieve. That God does offer healing but this healing, most often, takes place within community.

One of the recurring questions from the book is "who can heal you?" In the New Testament, when Jesus arrives on the scene, this question is plainly answered then as it is today. Jesus redeems, He heals, He renews, He restores. As we go through the book you may have many questions about the misery of not only the book, but also the hard times in your life. Scripture is constantly pointing somewhere, to someone, who can heal us.

If you are taking this journey through the book of Lamentations with us, awesome...if you are trying to figure out why, well, the answer to the book of Lamentations is Jesus.

ARE 'LAMENTS' FRENCH AND MINTY? PART I

by Aaron

At Element, starting this week, we will be taking 6 weeks to look at the book of Lamentations. Many people have asked me "why?" so I thought I would let you know.

Our lives are woven through seasons. Birth, infancy, adolescence, teenage, marriage, middle age, old age, death, and resurrection. Seasons of religious holidays as times of reflection and feasts were held in the Jewish Calendar:

In Biblical times, the following Jewish religious feasts were celebrated :

• Pesach (Passover) – 14 Nisan/Abib (sacrifice of a lamb), 15 Nisan/Abib (Passover seder)
• Shavuot (Pentecost) – 6 Sivan
• Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) – 10 Tishrei
• Sukkot (Tabernacles) – 15 Tishrei
• Hanukkah (Dedication or Lights) – 25 Kislev (instituted in 164 BC)
• Purim (Lots) – 14 Adar (instituted c. 400 BC)

These are based on the ancient names for months (from the Babylonian calendar):

1. Nisan (March-April)
2. Iyar (April-May)
3. Sivan (May-June)
4. Tammuz (June-July)
5. Av (July-August)
6. Elul (August-September)
7. Tishrei (September-October)
8. Cheshvan (October-November)
9. Kislev (November-December)
10. Tevet (December-January)
11. Shevat (January-February)
12. Adar (February-March)

Later, with the advent of Christianity, the church also had a liturgical calendar:

1. The liturgical year begins with Advent, the time of preparation for both the celebration of Jesus' birth. This season begins about 4 weeks before Christmas and lasts until 24 December (Christmas Eve).

2. Christmastide and Epiphany follow, beginning with First Vespers of Christmas on the evening of 24 December and ending with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

3. Lent is then celebrated (which starts about 6 weeks prior to Easter). Lent is period of purification and penance which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday.

4. Good Friday marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, which includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. These days recall Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples, death on the cross, burial, and resurrection.

5. Then you have Pentecost which is a seven-week liturgical season of Easter that immediately follows the Triduum, climaxing at Pentecost. This feast recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' disciples after the Ascension of Jesus.

6. The rest of the liturgical year is commonly known as Ordinary Time.

This year we will do 6 weeks of reflection through the book of Lamentations, come into Easter, and then take 3 weeks to look at the Spirit. It isn't as long or as full as the liturgical calendar, but I thought it would be nice to give you a taste.

Purgatory or Bust

by Aaron

Understand, what follows is trying to be fair and is not meant to be Catholic bashing in any way. My community group had a question about purgatory. Without going into all the arguments various Catholics will use for purgatory, I am going to try to use strictly what is from official church statements.

Purgatory, in the Catholic Church, is a place where believers go, after death, to undergo final purification before entering the presence of God.

It is interesting to note that Purgatory, as a place, was not part of Catholic church doctrine until the 15th century. Purgatory as a PLACE is still not considered official church doctrine...it is believed to be a state of the soul. To a general audience in August 1999, John Paul II laid what this looked like to him (you can read it here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/1999/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_04081999_en.html.

The Trentine Creed of Pius the IV in 1564 states "I constantly hold that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls therein detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful."

The Second Vatican Council, p. 63, says, "The truth has been divinely revealed that sins are followed by punishments. Gods holiness and justice inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life and, above all, through death. Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments."

The official Catechism of the Catholic church states it like this " All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." (1030). You can read it here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P2N.HTM if you want.

A lot of Catholics will point to many verses for purgatory, but the only one listed in the Catechism is from 2 Maccabees 12: 45-46  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.

Maccabees is what is known as an apocryphal book. It was not part of the original canon of scripture. The one reference the catechism used is to a book that was later added (in the 1500's) to sacred scripture after the protestant reformation had taken off.

According to Roman Catholic Doctrine, a person may be in a state of grace, BUT he may not enter heaven until he is purified from sins that were not dealt with on earth (ie: Baptism remits sins committed up to that point, but prayers, indulgences, penance, absolution, and the Mass are means by which the sinner is able to expiate sins committed after baptism...see the blog about the ESV to get an understanding of expiation). If sins are not remitted, after death he must suffer the flames of purification until he is sufficiently cleansed and pure so as to enter into the presence of God. Additionally, intercession can be made by Catholics on behalf of those who are presently in purgatory. This is also done through saying the Mass, certain acts of penance, saying the Rosary, or by indulgences where the benefit is applied to the dead in purgatory.

The length of time that someone must suffer in this state is never known, but it is considered to be proportional to the nature and severity of the sins committed. Therefore, it could be anywhere from a few hours to millions of years.

What is the protestant view of purgatory? Well, it doesn't exist.

Problems with the Doctrine of Purgatory

1. It is not explicitly found in the Bible.

2. It implies that the righteousness of Christ does not cleanse from all sin.

3. It implies that justification is not by faith alone.

4. It implies that there is something we must do in order to be cleansed of sin.

On the cross Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30). In the Greek, this was an accounting term which meant a debt was paid in full. If the payment for our sins was paid in full on the cross, then how could purgatory be a reality; especially when the scriptures don't mention it and even contradict it? In Hebrews 9:27 we are told that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment"

Purgatory is a doctrine that makes the Cross of Christ insufficient by requiring the person to undergo suffering in order to be made worthy of being with God when it is JESUS who makes us worthy of being with God.  We are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), not by faith and works (Rom. 3:28)

This answer is not meant to be a dividing place of ammo between protestants and Catholics, too often we like to bash each other rather than coming together.  I know many Catholics will disagree with my assessment and problems of the doctrine of purgatory,  they will cite church Fathers, the apocrypha, and various biblical references to fire and purification...they are coming at it with a bias...

...BUT,  I too, come to the argument of purgatory with a bias, my bias is Jesus and His work for us on the Cross.

Core Values

by Aaron

On January 27th Element had a church meeting to discuss where we are today and where we are going in the future. Part of what I talked about in the beginning was Element's core values. I don't know how many have ever read our core values so I thought we could post them for you.

Element Core Values

Jesus – Everything we do is about Jesus. At Element we can ‘do’ many good things but if we lose focus that Jesus is what those good things are about, then we have lost everything.

Meaning - God calls all people to a life of meaning. As people created in God's image we all have purpose, but many have never recognized their purpose because they have not realized their life in Christ. Meaning for our lives can only be found in the person of Christ.

Beauty - God loves lights, colors, sounds, imagery, and creativity. The Scriptures tell us that God surrounds Himself with beauty and so should we as the church. This includes art, decoration, good music, great colors and vivid imagery.

Grace and Truth – God is full of Grace and Truth. What God does is true, and as people we do not get the luxury of defining what is and is not. Jesus defines truth, what He has said and does is truth; we follow and obey that truth by becoming His disciples and learning from Him.

Gospel Community – God himself lives in a perfect community of Father, Son, and Spirit and we believe He intends for people to not only experience the community that comes from knowing Him but also the friendships of other people as well; at Element this is achieved through Gospel communities.

Redemption and Redeeming – Our world has been stained by sin and today many of the things God has created as good have been abused and bare little semblance to His original intent. We believe that as a people who follow Christ our duty is to partner with Jesus in redeeming this lost and broken creation.

Mission – All people who call themselves Christians are missionaries in the culture in which they live. Jobs, schools, neighborhoods, and homes are all places that we live and can display the love of Christ to. Jesus came as a man, as a missionary, to us, so we follow His example and live the same way.

As part of Mission, Element believes church planting is key in reaching those who need Christ. New church planting is a major focus of Element Christian Church.

ESV Propitiation

by Aaron

A discussion came up in my Gospel community a few weeks ago about why I like the ESV translation. One of my major things is that it uses the word Propitiation where it should be used. This then triggered all kinds of discussion like "what does that even mean." If you feel like reading, here is my answer.

Trying to make this understandable. I'll give you two words. Propitiation and Expiation.

  • Propitiation literally means to make favorable and specifically includes the idea of dealing with God’s wrath against sinners.
  • Expiation literally means to make pious and implies either the removal or cleansing of sin.

What we have to understand is that the idea of propitiation includes that of expiation as its means; but the word "expiation" has no reference to quenching God’s righteous anger. The difference is that the object of expiation is sin, not God. One propitiates a person, and one expiates a problem. Christ's death was therefore both an expiation and a propitiation. By expiating (removing the problem of) sin God was made propitious (favorable) to us.

I'm trying not to write a book here but where the ESV translates the Greek word 'hilasmos' as propitiation most other modern translations define it as atonement. Why does it bother me? Well, that is a theological question.

  • Propitiation is the work Jesus did on the cross to appease and satisfy God's wrath so sinners could be pardoned.
  • Atonement throughout the Old Testament meant "to cover." The Hebrew word is "kaphar" also "kippur". The same word is used for pitch, when Noah built the ark (Genesis 6:14). Israel as a distinct nation was required every year to offer the blood of an animal for the sins of the nation on the day of atonement or "yom kippur" (Exodus 30:10).

The difference is the death of Jesus Christ was a propitiation for our sins not just a covering. The old repetitive system required under the Mosaic law was done away with and a new covenant was established. The shedding of Christ's blood satisfied once and for all time the wrath of God, which no animal's blood could ever do (Hebrews 10).

Using atonement in place of propitiation renders the death of Christ a perpetual sacrifice, which it is not, it was a onetime event.

ESV

Romans 3:23-25
For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Hebrews 2:17
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2 

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

NIV

Romans 3:25
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

Hebrews 2:17
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The New Living is just terrible

Romans 3:25 
For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

A Door, or the Lord?

by Aaron

OK, ok, I know some of you who read these blogs were raised Catholic so please do not think I am simply Catholic bashing (I mean, seriously, I bash everyone including me).

Yesterday I took a tour of the Vatican, an OFFICIAL TOUR led by an official guide from the Vatican. She was saying things like “mos impourtant” “you like” and “mmmm, yes.” After about 3 hours of her showing us the “most extraordinary, most exquisite, most unique” piece for the 100th time I started to tune her out.

We passed through the Sistine Chapel and headed into Saint Peter’s Basilica, and then she said something that stopped me in my tracks. She pointed to a door to the right of main door of the cathedral and said it was called the “Holy Door.” They open it up in the time of jubilee (the last one was in 2000, the next will be 2025). She told us that if you are a true Catholic, a true believer, you can come during the jubilee and walk through this door and your sins will be forgiven. She also stated that she waited 5 hours to get through it when it was open last.

Now, really, I walk through a door and get my sins forgiven? That’s how it works? I mean, Jesus WAS a carpenter and all, so maybe that makes a little sense. But if true, don’t you think God the Father should have sent Jesus a memo that said, “hey, you are a carpenter, just build a door, you don’t need to die on a Roman cross.”

This is one of the many dangers of religion, that we will make it about ourselves and what we do (ie: walking through a door). This line of thinking has been around forever…from Pelagius to Arminius to any number of religious systems that make your salvation about you and not Jesus.

It is ALL about Jesus, period. When we get our eyes off Him we will lose perspective of who we even are. 1 John 2:2 reminds that He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. When Jesus died he said “it is finished” (John 19:30). It is finished means “paid in full” because we can’t pay for our sins by doing anything, only he could pay our penalty.

And finally Hebrews 9:12 (one of the greatest statements in scripture) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. In Hebrews 9:28 it reminds us that Christ was offered once (ONCE) to bear our sins. Your sins have been paid for, you should LIVE in the life Jesus has provided for you.

ROME …if you want to

by Aaron

It seems that men (and when I say men I mean men and women) have a desire to try to make their own names great. We are all so self-consumed with how we look, how we act, how others treat us, if we are getting our fair share…and it’s all selfishness.

We want everyone to know how important we all think we are in our own eyes. This is nowhere more on display to me as I walk the streets of Rome with my wife and our friends Shawn and Michele. We are walking around and looking at the ruins (say that word again, RUINS) of ancient societies.

The arch of Titus, the arch of Constantine, the Roman forum and senate, the house of the vestal virgins, they are all rubble. Every monument people create to display their own greatness crumbles into sand and is then trampled upon by tourists taking pictures to send back to show their friends.

Even the Coliseum, as impressive as it still looks, is a crumbled set of stones (that I cannot believe they let people walk around inside of because it could collapse at any moment).

All we do in our own names crumble, just like coliseum, yet we still continue to think that with us it will be different…trust me, it won’t. This why Jesus told us in John 12:32 that when HE is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself. He was speaking about he type of death He was going to die, but it has greater ramifications as well. We must be those who get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him in order for anything we do to have lasting significance.

John 15:16 reminds us: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. That is what lasts.

A Christmas Blog That is Just For Fun

by Aaron

What is the big deal about egg nog, really? I don't really like eggs (unless they are runny and scrambled) and I have no idea what a nog is or why I would want to drink it.

Eggnog actually came to America from Europe. Eggnog is related to various milk and wine punches that had been concocted long ago in the "Old World". However, as America is won't to do, we spiced it up just a bit. Wine apparently didn't have the alcohol content that we craved so we used Rum in place of wine.

Which leads to another weird question like, who in the world makes punch with wine (don't say Sangria Matt).

In Colonial America, rum was commonly called "grog", so the name eggnog is probably (and I stress the "maybe not so much" portion of probably) derived from the very descriptive term for this drink, "egg-and-grog", which corrupted to egg'n'grog and soon to eggnog.

So, grog...ya, that's doesn't sound like something I want either.

Merry Christmas

Born on Christmas Day

by Aaron

I was listening to the radio yesterday and I found an amazing thing, many radio stations are playing Christmas songs throughout the day. Most of the songs are updated renditions of old tunes with modern twists, but every once in a while a band writes a new Christmas song for the holidays.

It was of the new songs that caught my attention. Some people just think I like to nitpick about theology, and I do, but I also think that if we have wrong theology our view of God will be skewed. Not only will bad theology mean we will misunderstand Jesus, but we will also misinterpret what He is doing through His people in the world today...it could go so far that we could misunderstand what He has done in eternity past as well.

The chorus of this song kept repeating, "Hope was born on Christmas day." At first I found myself humming the tune (off key and very loudly, as I do in the car). But then I started to think how dumb the chorus was because hope was not born on Christmas day, JESUS WAS (unless Jesus changed His name and I didn't get the memo). Seriously, Jesus was born and hope was a very happy by-product. It seems that today we want to only see what we want to see about Christmas, "Jesus is nice to everyone, peace on earth," but our version of peace seems to be different than Jesus'.

Jesus, as God, knows that sin has caused separation between ourselves and God and ourselves and each other. This is why Jesus was born, to take care of the awful state that humanity had done to itself. Jesus brought our sin into the light and exposed it, Jesus called the religious elite who trusted in their own goodness hypocrites, and Jesus had to die because we are so bad.

Yes, I know what you are saying, "it's Christmas Aaron, lighten up, be happy." Well I am happy because Jesus was born...Merry Christmas.

Jesus' death and ultimate resurrection were never to be separated from His birth. It is one event in regards to our salvation. Jesus dies for our sins, rises from the dead to give us new life. It is birth, life, death, and resurrection.

Yes, Jesus offers hope...but He embodies so much more and it is the MORE we should see. It is Jesus we worship on Christmas (and every other day) not hope, love, peace or anything else...because it was Jesus who was born.

What, what...It's like this shirt one of friends just gave me (which I will never wear because I don't do Jesus junk). The shirt said, "Go Jesus, it's your birthday," at least a cheesy T-Shirt got it right.

Merry Christmas, worship Jesus.

And...before you get all uppity with me, YES, I know Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, but it is the day we celebrate His birth.  Let's get it right when we do.

Ho Ho Hummmm

by Aaron

What’s that Mazda commercial? Zoom Zoom Zoom…I thought it was about going superfast in a cheap car, but as I sing the words Zoom Zoom in my head I think it is about Christmas. Maybe instead of Deck the Halls or Joy to the World a more proper tune to sing would be the Zoom Zoom Zoom song as it reflects what we have done to Christmas.

Is it just me or has this Christmas been extremely trying, or tiring, or whatever the proper word is. I find myself not having anytime at all to do anything. Christmas, far from being a time of “Peace on Earth” feels like “Havoc in my Foxhole.”

Surely this isn’t what Christ intended by coming as a baby, living His life, and rising from the dead, was it?

Of course not.

God has always intended for His people to have a time of rest, of recharge, a gathering of focus to reset our eyes upon Him AS OUR REST. In the Old Testament this rest was mandated through law (Exodus 16:26; Exodus 20:8), in the New Testament (Hebrews 4:9-11) we are told that God’s rest is continuing to this day and we are to be those that enter into it. Entering into God’s rest is about hope and grace, neither of which we will understand when we are too hurried.

Hope has always, from the foundation of the earth, been found in our Great God.

Hope and trust in Him brings true rest because we realize we do not have to be in charge or control the world around us. Everything is His, including us, and we can slow down and take time to properly honor our God, as we should: unhurried and unworried.

This Christmas, use the brakes of grace to take a moment to slow down and rest…and in that rest, ask God to reveal Himself to you through His word and His Spirit so you can become who He made you to be: a person of hope and rest.

The Tails of Ales Pt IV

by Aaron

In finishing up this blog on alcohol, let me state this emphatically: SOME OF YOU SHOULD NOT DRINK.

There are two types of sins:

  • UNIVERSAL: these are for everyone, no exceptions. These would include don’t kill, murder, steal, (I think it also includes reality TV and boy bands).
  • PERSONAL ISSUES: these are a matter of conscience. There is not a definitive right or wrong so the Spirit guides your conscience on what is right for you, this is an issue of freedom.

A Christian who is free should not cause someone who struggles, to sin which would mean, be aware when you drink, notice who is around, and always be careful about how much you are drinking. But also those who abstain should NOT look at those who do with contempt. The words “I don’t drink so I am holy and righteous” OR “I do drink and I am mature and have self-control”, thrown back and forth do nothing to move the progress of the gospel forward. The question should be, "Do we participate in the world in a way that glorifies God?".

In History, Saint Gall, the great evangelist to celts, was better known for his brewing than his preaching. Shortly after Charlemagne's reign in 814AD the church became the exclusive brewer for ales beers and ales in Europe. John Calvin, one of the greatest thinkers in the Christian church, had as part of his pastoral compensation package 250 Gallons of wine a year because he threw large parties as part of his pastoral duties.

Never forget God is the life of the party: If you can’t have fun, and not sin, you will never understand God. God threw the first party and he will throw the last one as well…and in the end the Kingdom of God will hold New and Good wine.

The Tails of Ales Pt III

by Aaron

Drinking or Not Drinking

Do you drink to hide? Escape? Has it become your master?…if so it is sin.

Does freedom scare you and so you hide from your freedom because you can’t handle it…so you make summary judgments on others who can handle freedom? That is sin too.

Through the course of history there have been 3 basic positions on alcohol:

Prohibitionist – This position wrongly teaches that drinking is a sin and all alcohol is wicked and wrong. There is a far fringe of this movement that has said, “had Jesus consumed alcohol he would have ceased to be God.” This is a stupid position because it cannot be backed up biblically Ps 104:14-15 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.

Who makes wine? God – WHY? To gladden the heart of man. Jesus drank (Matt 11:19), did he get drunk? NO. If anyone thinks alcohol itself is a sin they have a problem with God

Abstentionist – This position says alcohol consumption is not a sin, but because it is abused we should stay away from it. This position holds large appeal but in Hosea 2:8 God is speaking of Israel and says She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold—which they used for Baal. God gave them wine, food, and money but they worshipped a false god with it. Did God abstain from giving them a gift they would abuse? No.

Has God given you something you have abused? A tongue and you say things you shouldn’t, hands and yet you have touched things you shouldn’t, a mind and thought things you shouldn’t, a mouth and eaten things you shouldn’t have, money yet spent it on things you shouldn’t?

An abstenstionist says “someone can abuse it so we should get rid of it.” But there is nothing on planet earth that someone has not used to sin against God with...EVEN THE BIBLE. – Martin Luther once said,  “Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused? Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

Moderationist – is a position of doing it right. Scripture gives liberty to participate in alcohol consumption and is clear to never abuse it. Scripture can't get much more clear about NOT getting drunk, we are also to respect our governing authorities (if you are under 21, don’t drink and drive)…and we are to allow differing opinions on these issues (Romans 14:13-23).

At Element we do not use alcohol as a way to buck against church culture, we simply try to view it as scripture views it; a good gift from God that was meant to be enjoyed by his people.

The Tails of Ales Pt II

by Aaron

Element is a church that longs be about God's business of REDEEMING culture and looking at life through a scriptural lens and not a cultural one. The simple truth is EVERYTHING GOD HAS MADE HAS BEEN GIVEN TO US AS A GIFT.

Over the next few weeks we will be blogging about what a proper view on alcohol entails. Alcohol was created as a good thing by God for His people. My own grandfather on my mom‘s side was an alcoholic and I have heard more than a few stories about how alcohol has destroyed lives – But I submit to you that it is NOT the alcohol but the decisions people MAKE with the alcohol that destroy lives.

Like most kids I partied in High School, became a Christian, got indoctrinated into Christian culture and believed drinking was a sin...I taught messages on how it was WRONG…then I read my Bible and repented and today I drink. Not drinking in the sense that I fall over and cannot speak, but occasionally with friends, and I don’t drink alone; NEVER HAVE.

The worst thing that could ever happen from reading this blog would be for you to close your web browser and say, "Aaron says we can get drunk in Jesus name." That is the furthest thing from what I am saying.

Wine is a gift of God and is spoken of 214 times throughout the scriptures. Alcohol is used in celebration, worship, and marital intimacy in scripture. (Genesis 14:18, Ex 29:40, Deut 7:12-13, Ruth 2:14, 1 Chron 12:40, Ezra 6:9, Ps 104:14-15, Song of Songs 5:1, 7:8-9). In Ephesians 5:18 we are reminded to not get drunk with wine; simply put, "don’t loose control."

ECCLESIASTES 7:16-18 Don’t be over righteous, don’t be over wicked…The man who fears God will avoid all extremes – life is lived in this tension. Some people have said, on the subject of alcohol, "I’m free, I can drink as much as I want, whenever I want." The biblical response to this position is: "No you can’t."

Others will say, "Never touch alcohol. Ever." The biblical response is, "You cannot say that either."

Christians are to be a people of wisdom and temperance centered around the gospel of Christ. CS LEWIS once said, “Heresy is the truth taken too far.” Something that could be right taken so far it becomes wrong.

  • Is it OK to drink? YES.
  • Can we go too far? YES.
  • Is it a sin to be a drunkard? YES
  • Can we say everyone who has ever drank alcohol offended God? NO.

God gives bookends: Don’t get drunk – Don’t judge those who abstain.

The Tails of Ales

by Aaron

The young guy who oversees our youth ministry, James, was married last Friday night. As part of his wedding ceremony the men of Element did something ancient and made it modern: we made beer.

Today the issue of alcohol has become very volatile in the church. We are told that alcohol is a sin and that any consumption of it is against God's will. People quote verses such as Ephesians 5:18 which says 'don't get drunk on wine' (not realizing that the verse is more about the Spirit of God than wine). It seems anything people fear, or has been used wrongly, Christians want to do away with.

How has alcohol been abused? Here are some statistics:

  • 100,000 U.S. deaths are caused by alcohol consumption each year. Alcohol has become the #3 cause of preventable mortality.
  • 37% of rapes involve alcohol use by the offender
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome is the #1 cause of mental retardation in the western world.
  • Youth who drink alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than those who never drink alcohol.
  • Traffic crashes are the greatest single cause of death for persons aged 6–33. About 45% of these fatalities are alcohol-related
  • Alcohol kills 6½ times more youth than all other illicit drugs combined.


Do these stats make us run from God's original intent for alcohol or should we be about redeeming what God has called good? We live in a world that is sick and doesn’t know how to deal with anything GOOD that God has given. Food has become gluttony, Sexuality has become lust and pornography, money has become arrogance and pride, and alcohol has become drunkenness.

But Element is a church that longs be about God's business of REDEEMING culture and looking at life through a scriptural lens and not a cultural one. The simple truth is EVERYTHING GOD HAS MADE HAS BEEN GIVEN TO US AS A GIFT.

Over the next few weeks we will research what this means in regard to alcohol.

UNDER wear UNDER there Pt II

by Aaron

In putting the touches on part 2 of this blog about what does God sees when He looks at us, I want to focus on a bit on our heart. Remember part 1 of this blog started because our music leader, Shawn, wore shorts during a Sunday morning service and someone made a comment as to how it was disrespectful to God to wear shorts. I summerized last week by saying “Jesus said in John 7:24 “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” How much better our lives would be if we lived those words.”

But it is so hard for us to live those words when we think that WE are always right.

When God was appointing the next king of Israel Samuel, God’s prophet, overlooked David because he was not as impressive as his brothers (a feeling I know all too well). 1 Sam 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” God doesn’t see like we see; He sees further, farther, greater, and more completely than us. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

It seems scripture continues to come back to this idea of our hearts. Why?

  • The thoughts and attitudes of our hearts can judge others over stupid things.
  • The thoughts and attitudes of our hearts can live in un-forgiveness because we believe others owe us and feel completely vindicated living in our prison of anger.
  • The thoughts and attitudes of our hearts can lead us to think we are godly because we don’t wear shorts in church yet we treat others who do with contempt.

The thoughts and attitudes of our hearts is what God sees.

I guess the question really is: when He looks upon you, what does He truly see?

UNDER wear UNDER there Pt I

by Aaron

I have the whitest legs you have ever seen, they happen to be so white they actually look purple (under the right circumstances). I don’t often wear shorts because of my terminal whiteness, but when I do I feel so free. I have actually preached wearing shorts a couple times and the only complaint was my white legs.

Recently our music leader, Shawn, wore shorts during a Sunday morning service and someone made a comment as to how it was disrespectful to God to wear shorts. I really don’t understand why Shawn gets flak for shorts and I didn’t (I suppose it might be because you can actually SEE his legs).

This comment started me thinking, which is always a dangerous scenario, about what is disrespectful to God. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think God has a problem with shorts, sandals, or even bare feet. I look back to when God sought out Moses the first time and told him to TAKE OFF his sandals in His presence (Ex 3:5). I love that God commands bare feet in His presence.

Does a suit as opposed to T-shirt offer greater respect to our creator? Does a penny loafer offer a greater connection than a clog? Does a dress show greater harmony with the Spirit than a Tank Top?

Usually the only people who feel any different when we dress certain ways, is us. The measure of our faith, of our obedience, will not be found in our clothes but in our entire life. You could dress in a 1000$ suit or a 10$ T-shirt and be redeemed or lost…it is our faith in Christ, not in clothes, that saves us. Jesus said in John 7:24 “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” How much better our lives would be if we lived those words.

Know Your Weakness

by Aaron

Last Sunday, we talked about how God has gifted those who believe in order to further the gospel. He has given us natural talent and spiritual gifts. The problem humanity faces is, that our greatest strength, usually also leads to our greatest weakness and the largest area of temptation in our lives. Becoming the you God wants you to be means we must understand temptation.

James 1:13-14 “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”

In Dealing with weaknesses:

  • Never do it alone - God designed us to live in community because we are stronger together.
  • Listen To God’s Spirit - When we are honest about temptation we usually have to shut the Holy Spirit up before giving in to the temptation.
  • Notice How Satisfied Your Soul Is - We become vulnerable to temptation when our souls are dissatisfied. If we do not find satisfaction in God, our hearts will look for it somewhere else.
  • Recognize what seems to block you - The most dangerous force in the world is not sickness or injury or bankruptcy... IT IS SIN. We do not get tempted by that which repulses us. Temptation starts close to home with the passions and desires that God wired into us and tries to pull them off course.


Professionals break people down into nine different types of people (I don't know why just nine, but I won't argue with that). Here is a list of those nine types of people including their strengths, weaknesses and examples of people in the bible.

PERFECTIONIST
Strengths: Lives with an internal standard of what is good, noble, and true.
Weakness: Can be arrogant when unredeemed. Has high standards that can lead to a secret, inner sense of inadequacy.
Example: The prophet Amos, who carried a plumb line to show Israel the standard God expected of society.

SERVER
Strengths: Lives out love in action. Has a natural others-centeredness that makes people feel cared for.
Weaknesses: Can use “giving” to manipulate others. Sometimes mistakes servanthood with fear or low esteem.
Example: Martha, who was busy serving while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet.

Read more

How To Train Your Dra...(self)

by Aaron

There is a verse that is often misunderstood (much like sometimes a sermon given on Sunday morning can be misinterpreted). In context the entire verses read 1 Corinthian 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. Can you guess what verse gets misinterpreted?

Yep, Verse 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. But let’s back up and give you some context. What Paul is talking about here is in reference to what was known as the Isthmian games (these were precursors to the Olympic games which we are so familiar with). Athletes today go into training with hope of not necessarily getting a medal but of getting sponsored and making a living.

At the end of the Isthmian games the athletes who competed would stand before what was called the BEMA SEAT and be handed out their medals or crowns (these crowns were normally woven vines with flowers of some sort). Athletes would devote themselves to their sport, eat differently, exercise differently, sleep differently, all in an effort to get one of these crowns.

When Paul says I beat my body and make it my slave he is referring to strict training, not actual beating of his body (called self flagellation). What he means is that he does what he needs to so that He can grow in his relationship and understanding of God's call in life. He runs (or lives) in way that does not disqualify him from the crown (the prize). Devotion to Christ was so paramount to Paul that he was willing to restructure his entire life so that being a disciple of Jesus was first for him.

At the real Isthmian games, even if you had won a coveted crown, soon after the end of the games your crown would quickly fade and die. It is why Peter says in 1 Peter 5:4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. It's not that we do things so God loves us or to win our salvation, but faithfulness in discipleship brings God joy, and that should be motivation for us as His people.

For a while the word discipleship was used as a verb that meant to TEACH or TRAIN. It would be good if we saw it that way again, don't you think?