Upcoming Delta High School Holiday Store

by Element Christian Church

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

A couple quick stories the Delta Staff has shared with: 

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

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

High Priority:

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

Other Items:

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

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

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

Delta Holiday Store - Donations Needed

Pumpkin Killing 2019 Invite

by Element Christian Church

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

Location: Orcutt Hill / Newlove Picnic Grounds.

Watch highlights from this year's Pumpkin Killing!

Click Here to Download Invite & Map

Learn More & Watch Recaps

Watch Turn by Turn Directions to Newlove Picnic Grounds:

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Membership Has its Privileges

by Jonathan Whitaker

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about church membership, click here.

In The Name of Freedom

by Kelly Borjas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Adopted

by Holly DeKorte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Hope In The Hopless

by Kelly Borjas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Anxiety, Depression, and Struggles—Oh My!

by Kelly Borjas

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Just Say No!

by Kelly Borjas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

by Element Christian Church

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

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

 

How Do I Handle an Unjust Boss? Part 2

by Jeff Pruett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Do I Handle an Unjust Boss? Part 1

by Jeff Pruett

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

I loved the honesty in that question!

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

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

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

Yes. That’s the good news.

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

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

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

Don’t #1: Don’t DQ (disqualify)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Do everything without grumbling or arguing 

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

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

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

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

Read Part 2 Here.

Mothering Sunday

by Holly DeKorte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Baptism Stories - May 5, 2019

by Element Christian Church

Today we are doing a couple of Baptisms. Usually we invite all of Element to come, watch and celebrate with those getting baptized. However, the crowd can be intimidating, so we are offering a smaller baptism for those who would rather prefer the more intimate setting. They are inviting family, friends and their Gospel Communities. 

You can still celebrate by reading their stories here, and when you see them in the weeks to come, congratulate them on getting baptized! It is truly an exciting step in their journey following Jesus.

Download Baptism Stories

 

Musical Chairs

by Kelly Borjas

Recently, we had a sermon on how worship can encompass anything we do (excellent point!), but I’ve been specifically pondering corporate worship through music (i.e. the dedicated time of singing songs at church), and the impact on my life as many of my presuppositions and beliefs have been shattered.

As a caveat, I can’t sing on key and I can’t clap on beat. In fact, if I’m ever going to clap on beat I need a person at the front of the room to do the dramatic motions so I can follow. Oftentimes I don’t clap because I get too distracted simply trying to keep time. We even sit in a specific spot in the sanctuary so I can hear the music, not myself singing (and sorry if you ever sit next to me on a Sunday morning). Yet, I love music. I love to worship through music at church. And I’m married to a musician (go figure!)

I’ve always said I’m a bit uncomfortable with elaborate emotional responses during musical worship. Yet, throughout the course of my life every time I walk into church after a difficult circumstance in my life, worshipping through music induces tears. Without fail, words of a song will start and I can’t sing without tears flowing (I can offer countless examples of this) and it makes me wonder: what is it that spurs my emotional response? 

It happened again last week. We received news that felt devastating, and I knew Sunday morning would be a difficult moment for me. In fact, I wanted to sit in the back so I could hide. My husband (gently) said if we’re part of a church I should be authentic and not hide just because I’m scared of how I’ll look, or because I don’t smile the entire time. I made it all the way toward the end of the music set, and then I heard my husband say, “this is a good song.” We sang: 

You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There may be pain in the night
But joy comes in the morning 

The wind is strong and the water's deep
I'm not alone here in these open seas
Cause your love never fails
The chasm is far too wide
I never thought I'd reach the other side
But your love never fails

Honestly, in that moment, the pain felt intense and the joy distant. The chasm felt wide. The words of the song mirrored my emotions and struggles. Yet, I believe, with all of my heart, that God’s love never fails and joy comes in the (figurative) morning, even if I don’t see it in the moment of my mourning. So I sang the song because it’s a cry from my heart, a truth to cling to, even when the water feels deep. I sing, even when it doesn’t all feel good. I sing because sometimes grasping onto truth is the reminder of where to steer my heart. That day, I held onto to my husband, and my dear friend (who is also in my G.C. and knows my current circumstances), handed me a tissue and held my hand.

As I’ve thought about that moment this past week, I’ve realized what happens in a time of corporate worship through music. A community of people gathers together—singing in one unified voice—to the Creator of the world, the Hope for sinners, the Giver of eternal life. I saw another friend stand and sing that particular song. My guess would be that person sang out of thankfulness and joy that morning. When I hear the voices of an entire congregation sing, it reminds me I’m not alone. It reminds me there are other people who believe; others who are in this journey together. I’m reminded that not everyone sings from a place of pain; some sing from a place of gratitude (as I have done so many times in the past). It gives me perspective—not all of life is filled with pain or grief; joy comes in the morning. Sometimes worship songs give me words when I do not have them. They are a way to express the innermost places of the depths of my soul—a cry to the God who loves me.

I’ve come to realize this is not merely an emotional experience for me—my actions or beliefs are not changed as a result of a worship “experience” or “reaction.” However, God has given me emotions as a tool to process some of the circumstances in my life through the lens of truth. He has given us music and a body of believers to walk together, to sing together as a way of magnifying Him. A time of corporate worship allows us to respond to what He is doing in our lives. When we sing as a group of people, we proclaim these truths and orient our hearts toward Him together.

Mentor VS. Disciple

by Kelly Borjas

Have you ever heard someone say they have a mentor? How about that they are “being discipled” or “discipling someone?” These are common phrases I’ve heard over the years. They’re frequent in many churches and frankly, kind of confusing. So what’s the difference between mentorship and discipleship?

I would guess most people assume “mentorship” is generally outside of a Christian context; whereas discipleship is the concept of helping a person grow in Christlikeness. Generally, a mentor is “further along” or more advanced than the mentee (at least we would hope). It could be a specific area (i.e. someone who mentors another person in career decisions (like how a Sous Chef is supposed to train the other people in the kitchen), or it could be general, such as someone to reach out to on an “as-needed” basis.

A cursory search and study on discipleship opens Pandora’s Box. Nobody has found the perfect form of discipleship (sarcasm inserted here)! Opinions vary on the best way to achieve and encourage discipleship. There are many words we use to describe it: Accountability partner. D-group. Bible study. Discipleship. Mentor. These are merely some of the terms I’ve encountered in my growth as a Christian, with the end goal being to grow in our faith. One article suggests codependency may result in a one-on-one discipleship relationship. The article also speaks to the author’s beliefs that her primary discipleship role is her kids; however, their family invites people to dinner often, and mutual discipleship occurs during dinner. Others suggest discipleship should be the main focus of our missional communities.

These opinions beg the question: what is discipleship? According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of disciple is: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as

  • A: Christianityone of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ's followers according to the Gospel accounts
  • Ba convinced adherentof a school or individual (ie: a disciple of Freud).

To start a quest on what this means for us, we have to look at what the Bible says. Here’s what’s fascinating: the term “discipleship” is not even in the Bible. What??? We have all of these opinions about how to achieve this and it’s not even mentioned in the Bible? Well, the term disciple is mentioned as Jesus says to “go into the world to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). If we are to do what Jesus says, to make disciples, we are sharing the gospel, and baptizing people. Simple. Yet the application is where this gets complicated. How do we achieve this?

The concept of discipleship (as we have come to label and understand it in American Christian culture —a growing in our faith and Christlikeness) is in the Bible; it’s how we live out the idea of making disciples. In Titus 2 we see older women are to… “teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…” In Hebrews, we see that we should consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Jesus himself had 12 disciples who followed him and “did life together” (to use a current phrase)—they travelled, ate and drank together, and pursued His ministry together. There are some key factors here:

  1. The biblical concept of discipleship is relational, not a formula.
  2. It is healthiest if it’s same-gender.
  3. The idea of an older woman connotes the idea of someone who is “further along” (which also helps alleviate too much dependency on another person instead of focusing on Christ).
  4. Meeting together for mutual encouragement and a push toward growth in Christ is a factor.

How does this translate into our lives?

Discipleship occurs as a result of intentional time spent with other Christians, but this doesn’t happen by osmosis. In other words, merely spending time with other Christians is not discipleship; that would be fellowship (which has its own valuable place). Discipleship requires intentional engagement on both parties to invest in the relationship with the mutual goal of growth. I would assume most Christians consider discipleship a process by which two or more people meet together and discuss the Bible, what God has done, and how to apply it to their lives. In an ideal world, prayer and accountability are included in that mix. It’s not a process by which a person grows alone. Most often, effective discipleship would occur in a consistent meeting together so true relationships develop.

There is a time and place for meeting with those who are ahead of us in both life and their walk with Christ, which may require even more intentionality with differing schedules. Mentorship, in a Christian context, is a component of discipleship, and one we should not quickly ignore. We glean much by learning from those who have “been there before” and can impart their wisdom.

I would suggest the difference between mentoring and discipleship may often be a matter of semantics, especially if we are Christians. As Christians, we take a Christian worldview on our lives; that means all of our decisions should be viewed through a lens of what God is doing in our lives and how we can glorify Him. Interestingly, as my husband and I were discussing this, our opinion is that a person we would turn to for “discipleship” would also be a good mentor in all areas of life, because a person is generally not a strong example if they do not have wisdom in the practical areas of life. My husband says he turns toward someone with credibility, both in their walk with Christ and their life decisions. That does not mean worldly success; it means a person who is able to filter all of life’s decisions through a gospel-centered lens. It’s a person who helps process decisions such as taking a job or making a financial commitment with the same goal of glorifying Christ first. For example, I have a friend who is an older, more mature Christian. I have met with her a handful of times over the years, generally when I am struggling in a particular area or could use advice, prayer, wisdom, and encouragement. We have never met consistently, but I always know I may contact her and she’ll be able to help me navigate through an issue. I would consider her a mentor who assists me as I grow in my faith, which is part of my discipleship.

Discipleship in a mutual form would be able to challenge one another, “Iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17),” and is vital to our growth as Christians. We can all learn from those with different strengths and spiritual gifts, which is the ideal of the body of Christ as we meet together frequently. 

We need each other as part of our spiritual growth, which is why God gave us the Church. Our focus should be on Christ, because as we focus on Him we are transformed, and that transformation overflows to the body of Christ and those in our missional communities. The goal is that we would disciple each other, mentor those younger than us, and learn from those with more experience and maturity in their faith all to the glory of God.

 

The What-If Cycle

by Kelly Borjas

It happens often. A smidgeon of fear enters my mind, then I start entertaining anything that can go wrong. I “catastrophize” a fear to all the possible outcomes (generally bad ones or irrational ones…what if x, y, or z happens? Ironically, I don’t tend to dwell on possible positive outcomes). I engage my fearful thoughts and give them too much credit, which ultimately breeds anxiety and robs me of peace. I call it the what-if cycle. 

This has been a crazy week. My husband and I are both faced with situations that could have a lot of possible outcomes for our family, and I want to have the right outlook. I don’t want fear to rule my days, but I’m also scared to hope after walking similar roads in the past that resulted in pain. I know the past pain and struggles have produced growth, and even an increased dependence on God, but it’s still scary to face the unknown. I think many of us have times in life like this—whether it’s engaging in relationships after a loss of a loved one, starting a new job after loss of a previous job, or something else. How do we handle moving forward when the fear can feel paralyzing? 

My Bible Reading plan has been in Numbers (it’s a book in the Old Testament, trust me, it’s there). I literally prayed this morning for application to my life because it’s been a hard book for me to go through. This morning I read in Numbers 9, how the Israelites moved when the cloud representing the presence of God moved. “Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out…” And I realized, God has me where I am for now. Whether I’m in this situation for a day or two days or a month or longer…that’s where God has me now. It can be so easy to get ahead of myself, to be scared about the outcome, or what will come in the future. The “what ifs” can wreak havoc with my mind and heart, but if I take it a day at a time, I am reminded that God will sustain me. He will provide. I can trust in Him. I am not trusting in the outcome I want; I’m trusting that He is good, He loves me, and all things work together for my good, even if I don’t see it or understand.

A recent tool I’ve learned is to question what I’m believing about God when these thoughts or fears want to take over, then apply truth. Am I believing He’s good, or am I believing He’s up in heaven wringing his hands or haphazardly letting things happen on my behalf? Am I believing that I’m in control, or that He’s in control? Am I believing I need to earn grace, or that it’s freely given? If I’ve learned anything in the past handful of years, it’s how little control I actually have.  I have had to learn to “preach to myself,” not listen to myself, and I can only do this by walking in the Holy Spirit. Walking in the Holy Spirit can sound mystical or confusing, but it’s really just a dependence on Him and a reliance on Scripture. Sometimes that reliance is daily, sometimes it’s moment-by-moment, but it is always a prayerful dependence on God and His promises, on Truth that doesn’t change regardless of my circumstances. 

I need to remind myself that “my times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:15), and the man who fears the Lord “is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid…(Psalm 112:7-8).”

May we all take the what-ifs and the uncertainties we face in life and lay them at the feet of the cross, where the One who is certain and in control and full of grace and truth holds us and carries our burdens. May we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and sustain us as we apply the truth of Scripture to our lives. I don’t know the outcome of the circumstances my husband and I are facing; however, I know where to turn, and for today, I am sustained. Tomorrow is a new day as “His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).” Let us trust in His faithfulness.

The Ultimate Mic Drop

by Kelly Borjas

When I graduated from college (many years ago) I wanted to change the world. I wanted to be a public speaker and work for a company whose mission I was passionate about so I could do something that matters; I wanted my job and career to have meaning. You can imagine how discouraging it was to find myself (as most of us do) in a job that didn’t directly make a difference in the world (corporate sales). Somewhere in the process of feeling let down I had a realization—relationships with people at work and integrity in my job could make an impact for Christ. They made meaning of the meaningless.

I oftentimes have the same struggle now. As a mom of young kids the days can be long and monotonous (I’m not out changing the world or solving massive problems), but when I look at the days as an opportunity to help mold the hearts of my kids, there is eternal value. What’s the commonality between my “corporate work” life and my “mom” work life? It’s the idea that relationships are a vessel in which we can share what matters; a way to add value to our lives and grow in our faith. 

The question then becomes: what matters? If relationships are a way to share what’s important, then what is important?

I personally cannot answer that question without looking at Jesus and His role in my life. I believe after an encounter with Jesus (a life-changing, direction-giving, identity-naming encounter), our lives are changed…so I would like to focus this short blog post on Jesus. First, my disclaimer: I’m just a regular, church-going person. The focus of this blog isn’t a bunch of technicalities (because I probably don’t know them); however, it is about Jesus and how He changes our lives, specifically about how He’s changed my life. 

Why does Jesus matter so much in regard to how we relate to people? I don’t think I can answer that question without looking at the Bible as a whole—Old and New Testament. Jesus is the turning point in history. Before him, Old Testament laws and regulations prohibited true freedom. I’ve been reading through Exodus lately, and many of the regulations are, quite frankly, overwhelming and exhausting. I cannot imagine living in a time where every detail of a sacrifice must be perfect, or even that animal sacrifices had to be made to cover my sins. Yet, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). The Bible is full of people looking for redemption, for hope (think of the Israelites escaping slavery in Egypt, the desire and provision of earthly judges and kings, the exile and return in Nehemiah). They needed a savior. I need a Savior. Before Jesus, God still provided, but looking back (like a Monday Morning Quarterback), that era just seems overwhelming.

Then comes Jesus.

He fulfills the Old Testament prophesies. He is the Perfect King. He fulfills the law. He is the ultimate Judge. He’s the ultimate Pardoner and Giver of Mercy. He gives true freedom. Hebrews 10 says “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” I love this imagery. It’s like the ultimate mic drop. He sacrifices Himself, rises from the grave, reveals Himself as risen to His disciples, sends the Holy Spirit, then sits down next to the Father. Boom. We, as Christians, have an eternal hope (in His steadfast love, in His grace, in forgivingness of sins). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I don’t have to live in a ritualistic way. This is literally life changing!

I’m a total rule follower (not always in a good way; rules for me can be a way to control and have security). I can easily fall into patterns of trying so hard (on my own) to earn forgiveness, to be “good enough” for grace. This is the largest oxymoron ever. I can never be “good enough” for grace, which is the whole point of grace! How can I not look at His grace and respond with joy? With hope? With a peace and an exhale that lets me rest and stop striving so hard?

Hebrews 10 continues with the idea that, “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,” we should “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean” and “hold fast the confession of our hope” and “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…encouraging each other (Hebrews 10: 19-25).” It goes like this: I can enter the presence of Jesus because of what He has done for me, which leads me to be assured of my faith and hope… and then I get to encourage others. This is where relationships come into play. Because of what Jesus has done for me, it changes my life, and should change how I view relating to other people. Every relationship is an opportunity to encourage someone—in the joys and struggles—because what Jesus did changes me. The love Christ has for me should spill over into my relationships with other people. 

As we reflect on the perfect life and work of Jesus, I pray it spurs us onto encouraging each other. I pray that the good news of Jesus changes all of us (I know I need daily reminders) so we can share His hope and joy with others. It’s in the sharing of life’s joys and struggles that we are able to apply and remember the Gospel. It’s within the fabric of relationships that we are able to have context for what Jesus does in and through us. It’s in the gathering together that we share how God is growing and changing us through the circumstances in our lives, and in those circumstances give and receive encouragement. Relationships matter because they are a vessel in which we can share Jesus—the biggest, most important discovery in life—with others.