Let's All Give Up in 2015 (Part IV)

by Jonathan Whitaker
Ok, sorry this is a long one.  But you have come this far...
 
Jesus is Lord!  By faith you declared Christ's Lordship on the day you were saved by God's grace.  But, what is faith?  Faith is "...the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).  Logically, there must be an object of that hope and a cause for that conviction.  In our case, it is the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, by which He conquered death and took his seat at the right hand of the Father in heaven. (Mark 16:19) 
 
Our hope in the Lordship of Christ is grounded in the fact that He has proven worthy of His title as Lord.  You and I know that because Jesus is Lord, we are immeasurably blessed.  The only sane response to the Lordship of Christ by a redeemed sinner is nothing short of obedience. 
 
Hebrews 10:26-29 (paraphrased) doesn't mince words with believers: " For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins...How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?"
 
These verses aren't saying that you can lose your salvation.  Just as you could not earn your salvation with your works, you cannot lose it for your sin (Eph. 2:8-9, Heb. 10:19-22).
 
The fact remains that when Christ followers deliberately choose disobedience over obedience to Jesus, we make His sacrifice seem ridiculous. Take that one step further: not only do we deserve judgment because of disobedience, but we are incapable of assuaging God's judgment by our works.   Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousnesswere through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." (Gal. 2:20-21)
 
Sounds like a Catch-22. God has given us the law to obey. We cannot fully obey it, and even if we could, we would still fall short of righteousness. There must be something more. 
 
There is. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." By the same faith that saved you, Jesus can transform you into an obedient servant.  Remember that faith has to have an object.  As stated above, the object of saving faith is the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day (Rom. 10:9).  What about faith that allows us to be obedient to Christ?
 
This question reveals God's great love and provision to all who believe. "You shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:5-6). Loving God is the object of our faith that compels the believer to be obedient. 
 
From ancient times believers have demonstrated their faith, not by works, but by trusting in God's work. 
  • "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead," (Heb. 11:17-19)
  • "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." (Heb. 11:24-26)
  • "By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies." (Heb. 11:31)
 
The common tie among all of these ancient believers is not the work that they accomplished, but what God did. "...God was able..." "...the reproach of Christ (was) greater wealth..."  Even Rahab, a prostitute, not even a Jew, believed the promises of the God of Israel. Her faith not only saved her life and demonstrated the condition of her soul.
 
It is worth noting that all of these people lived long before Christ. Two of them lived before there was a law, and yet they were saved through the same means by which you and I are saved: faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
 
Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3 tell us that Abraham (simply) believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.  If none are righteous except for Jesus and there is no other name by which we are saved, what must that mean (Rom. 3:10, Acts 4:12)?  It means that Abraham believed God would save him because he could not save himself.  Abraham believed God the Son would die for his sins.  While he may not have understood the particulars of how God would save him, he had faith (looking forward) that God would save him (Heb. 11:8-10).
 
When people of faith trust Jesus to be Lord, He makes them very useful for the Kingdom.  Abraham, Moses, Rahab, Joseph, Jacob, Paul, Timothy, the list is endless, all submitted to Christ's Lordship and out of their faith Christ accomplished mighty works through them.
 
On the day of your salvation Christ began a new work in you.  And you can be sure that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6). Will you faithfully trust Him?  In 2015, I hope you will join me as I seek to yield my will and desire and place my faith in the Lordship of Christ.  Surely He can do a better job with my life than I can.  

Let's All Give Up in 2015 (Part III)

by Jonathan Whitaker
I have a question for all of you teachers out there, if I were to go to your school today, where would I find my permanent grade-school record?  The permanent grade-school record is the single most important document in the record of a human's life.  We are taught from a young age that if we mess up, step out of line just a bit, the consequences would be a mark on our permanent record.  We all know it's out there, serving as an open indictment against each one of us.  Worse yet, everyone knows the intimate details of your record. your teachers know it, your parents, your boss, your in-laws.  The only escape from your permanent grade school record is death itself…Sweet release!
 
Hopefully by now we all know that a mark on our record was a farce, an empty threat, used by adults to scare us straight.  But, to our core as humans we know that there is a standing record against us.  That record, as most of you have already guessed, is sin.  We are born with a sin nature; we are selfish right from the womb; sin is inevitable.  Sin is the real permanent record... or is it?  Well that all depends, is Jesus your Lord?
 
I offer you the permanent record conundrum because I want you to understand blessing, true blessing from its deepest, most elemental meaning; the blessing that comes from having the biggest burden in your life removed from your shoulders, permanently.  Isaiah 43:25 says, "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins."  
 
When Jesus is Lord of us He removes the greatest burden in our lives: sin.  We may not feel it from day to day, but remember that the wages of sin is death and once we are dead, we face judgment (Rom 6:23, Heb 9:27). For believers, the reality is that we no longer have a sin burden, Jesus has removed it from us (but He doesn't stop there).  In fact, not only are we free from the consequences that we deserve, but He also burned the record.  "I will not remember your sins," that means there is no nagging about what you did ("sure I forgave you, but I will never forget"). Your sin is forgotten, as if it never happened.
 
What a great deal.  The only thing closely comparable to this level of amnesia in my life is when Jennifer asks me to do the dishes.  You want to talk about a spiritual level of forgetting something, man that's it. 
 
We no longer have to fear the sin-burden that was killing us. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters I will be with you...when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you" (Isaiah 43:1-2). Some of you (you know who you are), will read Isaiah and say, "but he was addressing Israel," and you are right, he was, but take heart! Our Lord is the Lord of a new covenant, and to us he declared, "I will remember their sins and their lawlessness no more" (Heb 10:17).
 
Christ, the Lord and Creator, was the only sacrifice that could lift the burden of sin. Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by a single offering, He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." When you and I trust Jesus as our Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, then we are among those who are being sanctified. The natural response to a person who has blessed you is gratitude. So naturally, the same is true for us with respect to Christ, we understand the true meaning of blessing because of the Lordship of Christ.
 
For the believer, there is only one right response to Christ's blessing: obedience.  Christ did not save us for our sake; He saved us for His sake (Is 23:25).  We use the terms, "bought us with His blood," and "paid our debts," etc.  So when Isaiah 43 says, "you are mine," do you know what it means?  We are His.  We literally are His possession (Ex 19:5).
 
That puts a different spin on it.  As a response to grace we should want to obey Jesus, but as His possession He should expect us to obey.  My kids belong to me, and yes I love them and am generous with them, but I also expect them to do what I say.  Sometimes they surprise me and bless me with obedience because they want to please me, but even if they don't I still expect obedience.  As we are His possession, Christ should expect the same of us. 

As I conclude I want you to meditate on obedience as a response to grace.  Hebrews 10:25-30 says, "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”..."The Lord will judge his people”…”It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The ellipsis (...) in this paragraph should give believers pause. 

Remember, as a believer your permanent record is expunged. The days of choosing sin and death are in the past.  Just as Jesus was faithful to forgive and forget our sin, He should rightfully expect our obedience.  How strange to Jesus that His precious ones, bought with His blood, would choose sin over obedience. 

These stern words are not meant to scare you to the straight and narrow, but if they do, great.  Just as God knows that we are incapable of saving ourselves, He knows we are incapable of even obeying Him.  Like salvation, God has also made possible our obedience. 

Join me for one last blog about 'giving up' because I have good news, by faith, Christ has transformed the lives of believers throughout history.  Our works are worthless to God.  Our faith in His finished work is a precious thing to Him.  Here comes the real New Year's resolution: in 2015, I want to yield my life in faith to the Lordship of Christ.

Read Hebrews chapter 11 and you will understand what I mean.  

Let's All Give Up in 2015 (Part II)

by Jonathan Whitaker
Have you ever felt truly worthy of something?  Most of us married guys would look at our wives and say, "I'm lucky to have her."  But few of us, if we are being honest, believe we are worthy of such a wonderful creature.  It's true: you and I are slobs, and she is an angel sent from heaven (most likely to endure us as some sort of punishment).  If you work hard for 40 hours a week and fulfill your obligations to your employer, certainly you are worthy of a paycheck.  What about your salvation: are you worthy of that? 
 
When Christ is our Lord, the scripture tells us we are worthy, but not by our own merit.  (Col 1:11-14).  Christ is worthy to be called Lord, and because He is worthy, we can be made worthy through Him. 
 
How does one go about becoming a lord?  It's like the peasant woman from Monty Python said, "How did you become king? I didn't vote for ya!" There are a few ways.  First, you can inherit your title by hereditary succession.  Second, you can be declared lord by the authority of the one who is in power.  A lord can also claim the title by winning a great victory.  Christ, interestingly enough, is qualified as Lord on the merit of all three avenues I just described.  And no, Aaron, the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur had nothing to do with it.
 
As Son of the living God, Christ is worthy to be called Lord.  He is heir to the majesty on high (Heb 1:2). If God and Jesus were like earthly father and son, Jesus would qualify outright as the first born of many brethren to assume the title of Lord (Matt 3:17, Rom 8:29). Our earthly affairs in no way compare to the already established Lordship of Christ as God the Son.  However, Matthew chapter 1 covers all the bases and establishes that by His birthright Jesus should be the political king of Judah.  Take a minute to read it.  Had the Babylonian Captivity never taken place, Joseph would have been King on the throne of Judah when his adopted Son Jesus was born.  Whether by His heavenly or earthly lineage, Jesus is worthy because of his heredity. 
 
Jesus is also qualified to be called Lord because God, the creator of Heaven and Earth and the ultimate authority, bestowed that title upon Him. Philippians 2:6-11 says, " Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Because of Christ's obedience to God the Father, God saw fit to impart His Son's lordship by divine decree.  Jesus is worthy because God said He is worthy.
 
If you did your homework from last time, you already know the third reason Jesus is qualified to be called our Lord.  As the winner of the great victory over sin and death, Jesus has become our Lord and Savior. 
 
Hebrews chapters eight and nine are a tale of two covenants.  The first covenant was made between God and Israel, when God brought them out of slavery in Egypt (Heb 8:9). The history of Israel has been rebellion against this covenant.  Before we start feeling high and mighty, we must realize that we have also run roughshod over God's law.  The second, more excellent covenant is enacted by Christ and supersedes the old covenant. 
 
Anyone who has ever attempted a study of Leviticus can tell you that the law is vast and complex.  In Hebrews eight and nine, Paul reveals that the law (old covenant) was merely a copy or shadow of heavenly things.  When God instructed Moses to construct a tent from a pattern, each intricate piece was a brush stroke in a portrait of God's plan of salvation.  That portrait was never intended to save men from their sins, but to point to the One who would.  In Galatians, we learn that those who rely on the works law are condemned by it (Gal 3:10-11). The work of a man has never saved anyone; on the contrary, Christ's New Covenant is accomplished by Him and has the power to save men (Heb 8:10-12).
 
Work is clearly not the currency of salvation.  Ancient Israel understood this.  Under the old covenant, the Priests would make offerings for the sins of the people using the one thing that does satisfy sin debt: blood (Heb 9:22). Temple sacrifice was a bloody affair, necessarily so, because it was merely a picture of a salvation to come, not salvation itself.  If the blood of goats and bulls could satisfy sin, then temple sacrifice would be a footnote in the Bible.   As it stands, the only blood that would satisfy the eternal condemnation of sin was the blood of God Himself (Heb 9:14).
 
Because Jesus quenched sin with His own blood once and for all we can be glad.  His death ended the bloodshed forever and secured a great victory.  With His victory in a battle we could not have won, over a foe against whom our weapons were insufficient, Jesus is worthy and rightfully our Lord…and because He is worthy, all who believe that God raised Him from the dead and call Him Lord are worthy.

Let's All Give Up in 2015 (Part I)

by Jonathan Whitaker
Ok, ok, ok, I know what you have come here for. You have come to get the Element New Year's resolution blog.  It's the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, and naturally you expect a blog about making a resolution that matters for the Lord.  Well that is what you are going to get, but not exactly.
 
This year, instead of making big plans to change a habit or start a program, I think you should just resolve to give up.  Yep, give up.  More accurately, I think you should give up your plans, your will, your desires, and submit.  Submit to the Lordship of Christ. Don't act so deflated. The day you followed Jesus as your Savior, when you believed that God raised Him from the dead, you agreed to this arrangement.  Part of salvation is declaring to the world that Jesus is Lord...of you. (Rom 10:9) Today is the day to follow through on your commitment.
 
"You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am." (John 13:13)  "Lord" is a word that has lost some meaning in the parlance of our times.  Our closest modern use of the word is in reference to the English landed gentry, sort of a Lord Grantham, Downton Abbey arrangement with very dramatic maids and butlers. "Lord," in the sense "Jesus is Lord," means the one to whom full and unwavering allegiance is owed.  Your Lord is the one to whom you submit your will implicitly, yielding your desires and plans to His care and direction.  When you sing, "I want more of You and less of me" on Sunday morning, submission to the Lordship of Christ is what you're singing about.
 
I have been reflecting on my own submission to Christ as Lord of my life, and I want to encourage you to do the same. Starting next week, I hope to show you some important truths about our Lord Jesus found within Hebrews 8-11.  As I study these verses I am continually stretched and challenged, as you will be in your walk with Christ.  These chapters make a few things very clear: Jesus is worthy to be called Lord, because He is Lord; we are blessed; and as a Christian there is no other choice besides total submission to the Lordship of Christ.  Egad! I know, heavy.  I will do my best.
 
Should you choose to give up like I have, here is how to prepare for the next installment, first, read Hebrews chapter 8. These verses help establish why Jesus is Lord.  As we read, let's pray for understanding of the text and conviction about the state of our submission to our Lord.  We will consider submitting to what Jesus commands of us as Lord: to love the Lord our God with all of our soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Are you and I obeying our Lord's commands with our thoughts, with our finances, with our actions? 
 
John 13 recounts the last supper when Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.  When Jesus begins to wash the feet of his disciple Peter, Peter rebukes Jesus saying, “You shall never wash my feet.” Thinking he was being noble, Peter rejected the Lordship of Christ for his own concept of righteousness.  Jesus told Peter (and us) that if He did not wash Peter’s feet then he has no share with Him.  Jesus shows us that if we submit to Him, He will accomplish the work of making us righteous.
 
Submission to the Lord is not about righteousness through works, nor is it about beating yourself up. Submission is about obeying God, who loves you and willingly paid your penalty. Submission is the avenue by which our old life passes away and we are made useful to the Kingdom.
 
The Prophet Samuel told Israel when they asked for a King that they dishonored God.  When we place our desires over God's will, we make ourselves king (1 Sam 10:17-27). Submission restores Christ to His rightful place as Lord over our lives and is the foundation of a personal relationship with Him.  All of the “work” we have done for the Lord to earn our righteousness is counted as loss, when compared to the awesomeness of knowing Him. Submission is the way we can know our Lord intimately (Phil 3:4-11).
 
See you next time in Hebrews Ch 8.  Now let's all "GIVE UP in 2015".

What's In A Name (Merry Christmas Part 2)

by Jonathan Whitaker

One of the features of the small towns throughout America is Main Street.  Without fail, Main Street in any town, in any state is the home of city hall and a collection of traditional Christian churches.  Sure in Santa Maria you have Broadway, but the concept is the same.  The center of small town culture is that main store-lined thoroughfare that heads straight through town.   
 
We in the season of advent, the time of expectation when we symbolically wait upon the arrival of the Lord.  Main Street will be trimmed and decorated. It will play host to parades and pageants, and each Church along its route will set up a nativity scene.  As you are out admiring the bunting of the Christmas holiday, take time to consider the name of each of the churches that line Main Street.  In any town you will have churches named Calvary, New Covenant, Bethel, or Salem.  For the most part we are satisfied that these names sound sufficiently churchy and never give them another thought.  But, a lot can be communicated by a church's name.
 
Somebody deliberately named a church Calvary.  Calvary was both a place of sadness and great triumph for Jesus and for us as His Church.  But Calvary (also Golgotha) is translated as, "the place of the skull". (Luke 23:33) What an ugly and awful name.  Why on earth would you want to be associated with a hill where executions were committed? Because on a very sad Friday, Jesus our Lord, willingly took the full wrath of God the Father in our place (1 John 4:10).  In that light, the "place of the skull" takes on a different meaning, and Calvary becomes a name we should solemnly remember.
 
Consider why a congregation would name their church Bethel.  Bethel is nothing more than a heap of stones in the desert where the Hebrew patriarch Jacob slept one night.  That seems kind of random.  But, Bethel means "God's Camp".  Bethel was the place where God began to draw Jacob's heart toward his future as the father of the nation of Israel. (Gen 28:10-22) A church that would be named Bethel, signifies that they believe that their congregation actually belongs to God and His will is greater than theirs.  Bethel is a place where we humble ourselves and pray to God, "Your will be done."
 
Salem means "peace".  In Genesis, Abraham was greeted by the Priest and King of Salem (Gen 14:17-24).  A church named Salem, reminds us at Christmas that unto us was born Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and that we are a people of peace (Isaiah 9:6).
 
When a church calls itself New Covenant, we should think of Hebrews 8:8-12.  The Lord says he will establish a new covenant with His Church, when He will write His laws on our hearts, we will be His people who will know Him, and He will remember our sins no more.  What an opportunity we have to remember God's goodness just by driving down Main Street! 
 
Each one of you who profess Christ as your Lord and Savior is just like those old Main Street churches.  Your lives are on display for everyone to see as they go about their busy days.  Like those churches you have a name written upon you by which you are known to all who pass by.  Is the name written on you a name by which you want to be known?  This Christmas season, consider writing the name "Love" over your life.  1 John 4:7-21 tells us that by our love we will be known as the servants of God.  Who ever loves has been born of God and knows God. 
 
As Christ's Church, love should be our banner.  Advent season provides us a perfect opportunity as we wait upon the Lord, to consider our identity as His Church.  Are we harboring hatred in our hearts? Do we love ourselves above others? Do we love others above Him? 1 John 4 asks how we can hate a man whom we have seen, but love a God whom we haven't seen.  No, we have been given too much by our Lord to continue harboring hate in our hearts.  We have only one option: love.
 
I hope as you walk down Broadway or Main Street this Christmas season that God will give you opportunities to show that the name written over His Church may read “Element,” but it is translated "Love".  

Getting Our Hands Dirty (Merry Christmas Part 1)

by Michelle Gee
A few months ago, Jon and I came across a man outside a market in town. He seemed desperate as he stood by his bicycle and frantically looked from one person to the next, and we were horrified to see that he, a grown man, had defecated himself. We approached him to see how we could help—as you can imagine, the smell was absolutely unbearable. As we spoke with the man, we could hear the embarrassment in his voice as he described his need to get home. We weren’t quite sure what we could do to help, and then asked if we had room in our car for him and his bike. We physically didn’t have the room, but I couldn’t help but feel relief and then disgust at my own reaction. In that moment, I realized, I had been more concerned about my own comfort and car than a human being created in the image of God. I wonder…if we would have had the room, would we have given him a ride?
 
We live in a culture that allows us plenty of excuses to say “no” in situations that are inconvenient for us or uncomfortable. We are independent, autonomous beings with the freedom and right to pursue pleasure at almost any cost, as well as guard our own wellbeing and happiness.  The more we understand the Gospel, however, these excuses vanish; we are confronted with the truth of a God who relentlessly pursues people.
 
Philippians 2:5-7says:  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
 
How scandalous is it to think that the God of the universe would humble himself to be one of us? What love and passion must have driven God to execute this plan. Knowing the darkness and brokenness of the world we live in, he still eagerly ran toward it in the only effort to save us. He became a human being clothed in filth—much like the man Jon and I met must have felt—and he did it joyfully (Hebrews 12:2—“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”).
 
If we are to reflect Christ in word and deed to the world around us, what excuse do we have for not getting our hands dirty? We are co-heirs of a Kingdom that breaks into darkness and floods it with light, transforming what was once broken with the truth of Jesus Christ. At what costs are we willing to live this way? I want to challenge you…
 
What areas of darkness have you been avoiding out of inconvenience/discomfort?
How can you go toward them and flood them with light?
As the body, how can we encourage each other to engage with the dirtiest, most broken aspects of the world?

When Turkeys Drive

by Element Christian Church

Thank you for making the Turkey Drive for the Central Coast Rescue Mission a huge Success! Your Generosity brought them over thirty turkeys! These turkeys could be seen driving around town all afternoon on Sunday and will go to serve hundreds of people in need of a good Thanksgiving meal this holiday season.


Element Time [From the Illustrious Jonathan Whitaker]

by Jonathan Whitaker
I have a super power.  I know you’re skeptical, but it’s true. Ask my wife, Jennifer.  I have known for many years that I have this special ability, and it never fails… lines form behind me.  Yes, that is my secret super power.  When I arrive at a restaurant, movie theater, theme park, or anywhere people queue in lines, a line that wasn’t previously there will appear behind me.  It is a phenomenon, and I am not making it up…lines form behind me.  In fact, the longer I sit here typing this, the more likely it is that a line of people will start gathering adjacent to or directly behind me.  I am a human velvet rope.  I hope to only use this power for good. 
 
If I take an honest look at my so-called super power, there are probably personal habits which I practice that result in lines forming behind me.  For example, I arrive early to most destinations, which tends to put me ahead of the crowd.  I wake up early in the morning for work, so my lunch hour is 11 a.m. instead of the more traditional 12 p.m.  As a result, the 12 o’clock lunch crowd arrives just after I get my order in at the counter, and thus lines up behind me.  Another explanation is that once I get to my destination, I take my time and that means folks just have to wait. 
 
So, it may not be much of a super power, but my military upbringing has made me a neurotic schedule-keeper; if I am early then I am on time, if I am on time I am late, and if I am late… so help me.  This has long been my mentality for schedule-keeping.  Now imagine the first time I encountered ‘Element Time.’
You all know what I am talking about.  Element Time is the five minutes that our congregation runs behind the rest of the population of the Central Coast of California.  We are a geographical oddity.  Sunday services are scheduled for 8:15, 9:30 and 11:00, so naturally we get started promptly at 8:21:33, 9:35:17, and 11:06:03.  Yet somehow we always finish the service on time.  This means that we are able to accomplish one hour worth of worship, announcements and preaching in 55 minutes.  And, for some reason, it works.  In fact, it works well.   Sure, Aaron has to preach at the pace of a Barrett Jackson auctioneer, but the worship is powerful and the messages are Biblical, scholarly, and most of all, Christ-honoring.
 
Recently, my personal conundrum with Element time has shifted to wistful nostalgia.  I am currently on the church-home hunt at my new assignment in Maryland.  Church services in Maryland lasts for one hour and forty-five minutes, period.  No matter the denomination -- Evangelical, Baptist, Fundamentalist, you name it -- one hour and forty-five minutes.  If Aaron preached for an hour after forty-five minutes of announcements and songs, you would duct tape him to a wall.  Needless to say, I miss Element Time. 
 
Thanks to Aaron, Ryan, James and Michelle Gee, I now have the worship attention span of a gnat.  Look, of course I am kidding -- a short service is not superior to a long service for reasons of brevity, nor is a long service good because you are worshiping longer.  Element Time is just special.  On Element time you get a Biblically dense message book-ended by Christ honoring corporate worship music.  If you have gotten the chance to experience it, you are blessed.  I find that after two hours of structured church, most people have just enough energy left to go home.  I find after 55 minutes of Element Time, you are ready to fellowship with one another in the lobby or over lunch.  That is a good thing.
 
I am now going to shoe horn scripture into my blog so Aaron will publish it.  Jesus probably doesn’t sweat the length or starting time of our service nearly as much as I do.  In fact Jesus ordains situations in our lives where the timing just makes no sense at all to us.  Think about the man born blind from John 9. When the disciples of Jesus viewed his disability, they questioned whether it was the result of the man’s sin or if it was the result of his parents’ sin.  Jesus said neither.   In fact, Jesus then showed His disciples that the man was born blind for this ordained moment in history.  Jesus said the man was disabled so he could be healed.  God the Father orchestrated this time and place so God the Son could be glorified. 
 
Only God can heal the blind.  In His wisdom God chose that this man was to be born blind, so that you and I would have the opportunity to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  A series of events began many years before that day that started with a man being born without his sight and our Lord and Savior being born in a manger.  And at the correct time, by no coincidence, Jesus healed that man, giving us the opportunity to believe that the Son of Man has the power to heal, and therefore the power to forgive sins. 
 
So, lines might not form behind me because of my super powers. Maybe it is just the timeline on which I live my life that results in people queuing in my wake.  The real question is, what am I going to do with that line of people waiting there behind me?  God knew from the foundation of the world that we would all just be waiting there together.  Perhaps He sent me to start a line so that they might know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive their sins. 
 
That is my kind of Element Time. 
 

When We Struggle

by Mike & Deb Harman
Sometimes the circumstances or realities of my life push me to flounder until I remember who God is… 
 
It reminds me of Hagar in the book of Genesis. In chapter 16, she named an area "The God Who Sees" when God met her in great distress. Later, in Genesis 21:8-21, God revealed Himself once more to her in her dire need, this time as "The God Who Hears" (when Ishmael was crying in the desert, God provided a well for water). In the same way, in our lives, God has certainly has both seen and heard us.
 
In addition to seeing and hearing, God also knows us, as demonstrated in the story of the Exodus: “…and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew” (Exodus 2:23-25, ESV). What exactly does it mean for God to “know” in this sense? In Redemption, by Mike Wilkerson, it states, "Knowing here conveys deep, personal, intimate knowledge and pity for His people. He was paying attention and grieving over their plight." William Edgar states, "To be known by God is to be loved, to be in the best place you could possibly be. This is because God now bears the burden, not the people. Knowledge here means full acknowledgement and commitment to intervene." He is “The God Who Knows.” He knows every injustice, painful experience, sickness, and dashing of hope in this life.
 
The Apostle Paul has all of this in mind when he tells us, "So take heart! Though our outer selves are wasting away, our inner selves are being renewed day by day. For this light, momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory. So we look not to the things that are transient, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Zephaniah 3:17 also says, "The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save. He will delight in you. He quiets your soul with His love. He rejoices over you with singing." We are also told in Philippians 4:5-8: "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious in anything. But in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

What is even more amazing is not only does God see, hear, and know us, but in Jesus, He has also acted to rescue, redeem, and restore us; God intervenes in our lives in a most radical way. Hagar and her son were rescued because God acted on their behalf, not because of anything they had done--we are rescued for the exact same reason.
 
Our God, who sees, hears, knows, and then acts, does so because of His character and nature. God is always perfectly good, righteous, and just; nothing touches our lives but through His love. He is fully able, due to His omnipotence, and He is faithful; He is never caught off guard or late. Because of who God is, He always trumps our circumstances; we are not left to the whims of others or to our own devices. In Him, we find comfort, peace, and rest as we choose to trust Him – His character, His nature, His involvement in seeing our situations, hearing our hearts, knowing every detail of our lives, and then acting in our midst (on our behalf).
 
Remember, He is the God Who Sees, Hears, Knows, and Acts.

Thank You for Supporting Tape Day!

by Element Christian Church


Thank you to everyone who contributed to Tape Day at Element! We raised over 750 dollars to help send kids to camp! Camp will be June 29th-July 4th!




What is Tape Day?

by Element Christian Church

What is Tape Day? Good Question!



Purchase your tickets to Tape Day 2014 this Sunday!

Imputed Righteousness

by Mike Harman
If we were to read Romans chapters 1-3:20 (which you should, because Romans is amazing)  without an understanding of the gospel, without knowing of our rescue, we could and should come away feeling desperate, lost, and hopeless. It’s a good thing we don’t stop at Romans 3:20, however, because verse 21 says: “But now…..” telling us something has changed. This change is something dramatic and pivotal, as evidenced by those two amazing transitional words, “But now.”
 
Many people who call themselves Christians have thought about this, but don’t believe it. Even on our worst day, we have the righteousness of God! This righteousness reveals all my unrighteousness; it reveals my self-righteousness, leaving me totally exposed and desperately in need of help. “But now,” God’s righteousness has been imputed, credited, deposited to my “account” (Romans 4:3). Do we really believe we have God’s righteousness, even on days when we are at our worst? Yes.
 
Romans 3:21-4:25 reveals the “what” of the “But now,” and it’s changed everything.  Romans 3:21-22 says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it (it’s been there all along, not something new, but now clearer) – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”  By believing what is true, by trusting God, through faith in Jesus Christ, He interrupts, interjects into my life the “But now.” I am now able to be reconciled and restored to God.  I am acceptable to God, pleasing to God, now, always, even on my worst day – rescued from myself, from my treason, my adultery, because I have the righteousness of God.
 
What is this righteousness of God? God’s righteousness is His being fully upright and just; it is the combined perfections of God’s character and nature (goodness, faithfulness, sovereignty, absolute power, beauty, creativity, etc.) that vindicate His judgments and actions; these reveal Him to be trustworthy and true.  Some people have said that the Gospel is simply too good to be true, but it is true!  And that is what makes it scandalous: that people like you and me can have the righteousness of God. 
 
How can it be?  To all who believe He gives this  gift!  Humanity lives in absolute selfish rebellion, self-gratifying adultery against God, living in enmity toward Him, running away from Him, bent on doing life our own way, and He comes after us to rescue, redeem and restore us to Himself. Romans 5:8: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Colossians 1:13 also remind us that we are given this exact righteousness before God. It sounds heretical. 
 
I do not live this righteousness out every day, but one day I will, because of what Jesus has done, and is currently doing in me by the Holy Spirit. Philippians 1:6: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

In Romans 3:21-26, Paul articulates how we’ve been made righteous, having been justified by his grace, having been redeemed by the payment of Jesus, and spared God’s wrath by it being poured out on Jesus.
 
This blog only took me two months to write, but in a future blog I’d like to further explore this righteousness of God that is now ours (for those who believe and by faith receive it). Until then, ask yourself if you really believe in God’s imputed righteousness. Are you brokenhearted about your own unrighteousness? Turn to Jesus in faith and believe; trust what is true about you now, since you believed and trusted in Jesus. Believing this will change your life; it will free you from the snares of sin and the smug, proud, alienating attitude of self-righteousness. Believe it!

Four Letter Words

by Michelle Gee
…and not the kind you’re thinking of.
 
I was hanging out with some friends recently, and the topic of personality happened to come up. This subject has always fascinated me—my husband and I even took a whole semester-long course on it in college (yes, we are psychology nerds). I am always amazed to learn about the differences in the way people think, feel, and relate to one another, whether I observe these differences in real life, or read about them in a textbook. I encouraged these particular friends to take the Myers-Briggs assessment, so we could compare and learn more about each other. After they shared their results, I was curious to see if mine had changed since I last took the test a few years ago. My result? INFJ (introverted intuitive feeling judging)—just slightly different from my previous result of INFP (you can take your own Myers-Briggs assessment here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp).   
 
Understanding your own personality can be beneficial, as the insight can help you identify your patterns of behavior, strengths, and weaknesses, but it’s so easy to fixate on what makes you different from other people. As a result, there can be a tendency to have a feeling of superiority or skepticism toward those who are different. How often have you wished that someone would think or behave the way YOU would? Sometimes I feel like so much conflict could be avoided if this was the case, and it’s often easy to fall into the trap of wanting, or even expecting, everyone to understand me. As a Christian, however, the call to love and relate to others is of the utmost importance, as the corporate mission of the Church is to glorify God. The urgency of this calling does not allow us to stand back and wait for others to “get” or accommodate who we are. We are to partner with our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have been uniquely created to serve various roles in the Kingdom:
 
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.. [Romans 12:3-5]
 
Contrary to many personality theories I encountered in college, Christianity does not simply discount our weaknesses (sin) as part of our personality. Rather, through His grace, Jesus offers us redemption and the promise of His continued work in who we are. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” To me, this is just good news on top of the good news! Not only have we been saved from the consequences of our sin, but we have also received the promise of Christ’s sanctification in our lives. There is hope beyond our personality…we are being made more like Jesus!
 
With this understanding, we can view those around us as unique creations with differences to be celebrated, and we can give grace for the weaknesses we observe. Instead of being bound to a four-letter personality, we have infinite hope through our identity in Christ.

Baptism Stories - April 6, 2014

by Element Christian Church

 


Last Sunday was our Baptisms, and we had 7 people show their faith by being baptized! If you didn't make it, or missed reading the stories, this week's blog is simply a link to them. Please read them, be excited for them, and always stand amazed at the goodness of our great God.

His Will Not Mine.

by Jonathan Whitaker
This week I got that old familiar feeling, that nervous tension in my stomach that means only one thing… it’s time to move again.  Jennifer and I have been at this a long time, both of us were Air Force Brats, Air Force Officers and Air Force Spouses, so we have said our share of goodbyes.  Some are harder than others.  This one was a Duisey.

For us, leaving our friends at Element, the people we serve along-side, people with whom we share our lives, people who have become aunts and uncles to our little chicks, was truly as hard as leaving family.  For the simple fact that you have become our family.

So, now I have a problem.  I want to serve God, but I want to do it by serving all of the people I love at Element.  It seems I have two options in this case.  First, I could sulk and tell God, “I wanna be with my friends in Santa Maria.”  Sure, why not, I had a good run there, I could just quit my job and move in with James and Hailey!  Or, I could do what I did the last time I left a group of people whom I loved… I can trust that God is sovereign and that He has a plan that is already in the works. 

How do I know this is true?  Well, because of you.  As I left San Antonio, a place I love, in Texas, which is home to 90% of our blood family, I prayed that God would give my family a home, community and a mission in Santa Maria.  I think we can agree that He did just that. 

In his greetings to the Roman Church, Paul expresses his deep desire to minister to them,  “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.  For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—  that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:9-12.    Element brothers and sisters, I am Paul and you are my Rome. 

As God was faithful to give you to me the first time, He will no doubt have a fruitful ministry awaiting Jennifer and me in Washington DC.  This has to be the case, or He would not have excused me from the important work that you are doing at Element.  For this same reason, I know that he will bring us back to you.  On a side note, next time we see each other, we will all be older, fatter and grayer, so everyone just be cool, alright!

Here is my blessing over you.  Keep up the pace, forge strong bonds with one another, be kind and forgiving, don’t let the sun set on your anger with one another, become a community of the Gospel that God can use to accomplish His work in Santa Maria.

For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.”  Romans 16:19

Signing off,
Jonathan & Jennifer Whitaker

We'll Miss The Viper-Stache

by Element Christian Church


It is with deep sadness that we said goodbye to one of our Elders and his family this weekend. Jonathan & Jennifer Whitaker, you have truly been a blessing to Element over the past four years. We will miss you dearly. Thank you for your friendship, love, encouragement and devotion to this little church family. Thank you for getting involved and sharing your life with us, for showing us what it means to lead by serving and giving it all you got. We pray many blessings on your journey and that God will use you at your next assignment to bless another church like you have us. 

We love you, 
The Element Staff
 
#GoodbyeWhitakers #viperstache