Not A Political Blog

by Aaron
I know, when I have to start out saying this is NOT a political blog, it seems like this must be some sort of political blog…it’s not, trust me (I’m not a politician). What I want to share is in regard to engagement in the current political process; it has very little, if anything, to do with candidates and policies; it actually ties in to what I was saying last Sunday (if you missed the message you can listen here).
 
In past few weeks I have had conversations with people from a wide variety of political persuasions, but one thing seems to be a constant, they all show their dislike for the other party by making fun of the opposing candidate’s name. As believers in Jesus I believe we should make our views known, but not in a way that destroys the humanity of someone else.  Many people I have talked to do not even know what the buzzwords of their favorite candidates mean; words from ‘democratic socialism” to “conservative values.” I say this to point out to you that the most recent study done of American politics shows that most people have no idea what their candidate of choice would actually do as an elected official, which tells us we are going by how we feel and not basing our decisions of who to back based on facts and truth.
 
According to the latest Barna survey (Barna.org), Christians who say they are most concerned for the upcoming election and the future of the United States are actually the most indifferent to their candidates’ actual beliefs. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this firsthand with certain friends. These friends are often very vocal about their opinions on social media, but when you talk to them in person, they admittedly have no clue about a candidate’s policies—they just like them. This should be concerning to us not just as Americans, but as Christians first. Our support of a candidate should not be because of our feelings; it should be because we hold certain core beliefs.
 
I believe that God has placed us in a country where our vote not only matters, but counts. I believe that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about what happens in our political process (this includes Facebook posts). I also believe that we cannot simply vote for “the nicest guy” because the nice guy may in fact be perpetuating evil. What are the things that God has clearly told us as believers to fight for?
  • That life is precious and all people have dignity. Does your candidate of choice treat others with respect and fight for the value of all life born and unborn?
  • That we are to be peace makers. Does your candidate of choice seek peace before the occasional necessity of battle?
  • That truth is a staple of our lives. Does your candidate of choice tell the truth or have they been found lying?
  • That we are to become a generous people. Is your candidate of choice generous with their own wealth and not just everyone else’s?
We choose what is good and right because it is what Jesus calls us to, not because it is politically expedient or socially acceptable. Let’s face it; being “right” most times it is neither of those. James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. Our problem is that many times we don’t like “the right thing.” We like the thing that makes others like us, and unfortunately (or fortunately), that is not what we are called to.
 
1 Thessalonians 5:22 reminds us Abstain from every form of evil. We don’t just get to stay away from the “greater” of two evils and vote for the lesser, we are to abstain from it. I believe we should be involved and we should share our views, but they must be informed by Jesus first. If we decide to support a person, we must take a close look at their lives so we are not inadvertently lifting up evil. In all things we must remember that the world is messed up by people and people are not the solution, Jesus is. The only person who will ever bring lasting hope and change is our great redeemer. If you have a chance to lift up anyone this political season, lift of Jesus.

Self-Guided Good Friday 2016

by Element Christian Church
Our Good Friday service was a self-guided open house service that took time to read through Matthew 27 and look at the issue of the betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, forgiveness of others, and letting go of identities in light of Jesus’ sacrifice. The night was meant to being us to a place where we contemplated what He has given us and our response to His great gifts.

Download the self-guided Good Friday Service handout here.



Identity: Servants

by Element Christian Church
We are taking three weeks to look at the identities that we receive from God, and how that affects true Gospel Community.

THE CHURCH IS MADE UP OF JESUS' SERVANTS

We are servants of Jesus who serve Him by serving others around us.
Fully God–fully human, Jesus took on the posture of a servant. He gave His life, even unto death, so that others could experience salvation, peace and restoration. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves…” All those who follow Jesus are called to serve in the same humility. For us, this means joyfully submitting to Jesus as Lord. We do whatever He leads us to do, whenever He tells us and wherever He wants us to do it. (Matthew 20:25-28; 25:31-46; John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 2:16)

We submit to Jesus as Lord.
If I believe the Gospel, I am being set free from slavery to false gods that keep me imprisoned, don’t satisfy me and eventually beat me to death. All of us are serving a master or many masters. The question isn’t “Am I a slave”,
but “To whom am I a slave?” When I believe and live out my gospel identity as a servant of Jesus, He is my master and He sets me free to live life as it should be lived. I now belong to Him as His servant and whatever I do, I do as unto Him.

We lead people to Jesus by living as servants displaying His rule and reign in our lives.
As the servants of Jesus we are a holy nation – a city within a city. We give a foretaste of what the eternal city will be like under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. Living as servants to the King who serve others as He served us, presents a tangible witness to Jesus’ Kingdom and to the power of the gospel to change us. We serve in such a way that it demands a Gospel explanation – lives that cannot be explained in any other way than by the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus.
If we don’t serve others as Jesus served us it is because we have forgotten how we have been served by Him, or we don’t really know Him in the first place (Matt 25:31-46).

We submit to Jesus as Lord and serve one another as though we are serving Jesus.

How is your service and sacrifice for Jesus unto others your spiritual act of worship?

Used with Permission by Soma Communities

Identity: Missionaries

by Element Christian Church
We are taking three weeks to look at the identities that we receive from God, and how that affects true Gospel Community.

THE CHURCH IS SENT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO BE MISSIONARIES

We are sent by the Spirit to restore all things to God through Jesus Christ.
God sent Jesus to Earth to take on human form and live within the culture. He worked, ate and interacted among the people; living in such a way that those around Him could see and experience what God was truly like. Jesus came so that all people, places, and things could be restored to a right relationship with God. In the same way, we believe we are missionaries sent by God’s Spirit into our culture to restore all things to God through Jesus. We live this out through community. (John 1:14; 20:21; Colossians 1:19)

We submit to the sending and leading of the Spirit.
After Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father sent me I am sending you”, He breathed on them the Holy Spirit. Then, when He commissioned His disciples to be His witnesses, He told them to wait for power from  on high (Acts 1:8). He was referring to the Holy Spirit that the Father and Son would send (John 14:16; 16:7). Just as Jesus was sent by the Father, empowered and led by the Spirit, now we are sent as His missionaries by the same power and leading of the Spirit (Matt. 3:16-4:1). 

We are sent and empowered by the Spirit to share and show Jesus to others.
As missionaries we are sent to share the truth about God’s love for the world through the sending of His Son. The Spirit has been given to us so that we can know what is true of Jesus (Jn. 14:26; 16:12-15), live fruitful lives as evidence of the gospel’s power to change (Gal. 5:16-24), be empowered to share it boldly (Acts 4:23-31), and trust that He is the one who convicts the heart and gives new life (Jn. 3:4-8). All fruitful missionary work is a result of being people who are born of, filled with, and led by the Spirit. 

We submit to the Spirit as our Sender and Leader and are empowered to show and share Jesus to others.

Who is the Spirit sending you and your community to be a witness to?

Used with Permission by Soma Communities

Identity: Family

by Element Christian Church

We are taking three weeks to look at the identities that we receive from God, and how that affects true Gospel Community.

THE CHURCH IS MADE UP OF GOD’S CHOSEN FAMILY

We are children of God who live and care for each other as a family.
We are God’s chosen people – His family – set apart to live in such a way that the world would know what He is like. Through faith in Jesus we believe we are Children of God and brothers and sisters with each other. As God’s family we see it as our obligation to personally care for the needs of one another – both physically and spiritually. We disciple, nurture and hold each other accountable to Gospel life together. We do this through regularly gathering together for celebration, consistent involvement in each other’s lives and loving others in the path of our life like the Father loved us. (Genesis 12:1-3; John 1:12-13; Romans 12:10-16)

We worship God as Father.
We are God’s Children (John 1:11-13) who are adopted and fully accepted and loved apart from any good behavior. When I believe the Gospel I know I have a perfect Father who loves me and accepts me, not because of what I’ve done, but because of what Christ has done. This leads me to worship God as Father and obey His word because I love Him. I don’t obey God in order to be loved by Him. I obey God because He loved me while I was still His rebellious enemy. 

We show ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another.
As children of God we love one another as brothers and sisters. Jesus said this is the way the world will know that we are His disciples – by our love for one another. Paul said we were to be imitators of God as dearly loved children who love one another (Eph 5:1-2). The primary means by which we show the world what God is like and give tangible proof of the Gospel’s power to save is through our love for one another (John 13:35). If we don’t love one another, we show that we don’t know and love God (1 John 4:7-21)

We submit to God as our Father and love one another as brothers and sisters.

In light of being a family of God, how do you need to bring reconciliation, healing, and love to those in your Family?

Used with Permission by Soma Communities

Community Basics: Communication

by Element Christian Church
In an effort to better interact with the community in which I live in, I’ve started to compile a list of ways in which we can be in better communication with each other. I find often that different techniques have up-sides and down-sides, some aren’t quick enough, other people get left off lists inadvertently, and almost always no one has their feelings come through correctly. Here are some helpful ideas that might work for your community.

Email. A reliable, but not instant, way to communicate; another downfall is that emotion doesn’t carry over email and people tend to read their own emotion into communication rather than is actually meant. The challenge with email is, with so many different emails going, it can be hard to include everybody’s email address.  Some ways to help:
  • Create a contact group in your contacts with everyone in the group.
  • Create an email group using tools such as Google Groups. This handy tool can be set up to allow anybody in the group to email one address that blasts out and email to everybody else on the list. People can also unsubscribe themselves at any time. This email address would be something like “This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.”.
Texting. Group texts are great, there are limits to how many people can be in the group text at a time. It’s also hard for those without smartphones to participate. I highly recommend using an app/service called groupme.com. Within this texting app you can create multiple groups by simply adding phone numbers…AND they do not have to have a smartphone to participate as it works across all devices. You can send group texts, pictures, and create events; it also allows users to mute/silence conversations.

Facebook. Some Gospel Communities have a private Facebook group that works well. In this private forum they can share ideas, events, gatherings, prayer requests and as well as other matters everyone should be aware. Facebook groups are easy to add people and for people to remove themselves. The biggest challenge is for members who don’t use (or like to use) Facebook.

Contact list. If someone loves to make spreadsheets, their many times is nothing better. A spreadsheet can gather everyone’s information so it is easily shared; phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays and whatever other creative information everyone wants to share will be at your fingertips. Here is a sample you can fill in/disseminate to your community. Download template here.

Remember, there are up-sides and down-sides to all of these communication methods, but something is better than nothing. Most people seem to feel that we never have enough communication, so start now, because more communication is better than less.

5 Ways to Pray During Notes Night

by Michael Reed
The staff have conversations all of the time about Gospel Communities, one topic that comes up often is prayer. The conversations usually go something like this: “Prayer during notes night is taking up more and more time.” After some digging, I find that it is not actually prayer that is taking up a significant amount of time, but prayer requests. While working through the frustration I have found that the main complaint is that the same requests come up again and again. Everybody wants to share, but when it comes to prayer, only a much smaller percentage actually prays… to God.

Instead of seeing this as a negative, I believe it’s a great teaching/training opportunity. We need to be training the people in our lives about prayer. Below is a short list of ideas that will hopefully help you teach people how to pray.

  1. Modeling confession and repentance.The single most effect act you can do is model confession of sin and disbelief. Confession by itself is good, but not the whole picture; we must be the leaders of repentance. This entails confessing to both God and man and asking the Lord to help us turn away from sin.
     
  2. The “no prayer requests” prayer. I don’t really know what to call this, but the idea is that we are not going to take prayer requests in the group. Rather, we are going to open up the floor in prayer and encourage those with prayer requests/praises to talk directly to God about them. Some notes on this:
    • This does not mean that you can’t stop and ask more questions about someone’s prayer.
    • This doesn’t mean that you can have only one person pray for the request. There is much freedom in talking to God, and you can pray for someone else’s prayer after they have prayed for it.
    • Don’t be discouraged if there isn’t much participation early on; this can be very awkward at first and takes time for people to get into the habit.
    • Ask your group how they feel about praying to God out loud. For some, it’s an intimidating experience, we want to emphasize that our Gospel Communities are safe places to explore prayer without judgment.

      The goal throughout this approach is to spend the majority of our prayer time talking to God (vs. talking to each other) and encourage our members to go directly to God with their needs. 
       
  3. Dividing the group up. There are multiple ways to do this, but if your group is getting to be too large to all pray together every time, try breaking the group up into smaller groups to pray.
    • Have guys and girls split up for prayer. While you can do this anytime, it may be especially beneficial after a serious discussion (sin, sexuality, purity, etc.), or if you know that there is an issue going on that one would feel comfortable sharing only with members of the same sex. Both men and women can benefit from this time away from the opposite sex to share, but please do not let it be a complaining session about a spouse.
    • Another way to split the group for prayer would be half and half. This simple method forms two groups out of the larger.
    • Gather in groups of 3-4 where you already are, this breaks it up even further and allows people more time to share/pray.
       
  4. Praying in different times in weekly life. Spend time with others outside of Notes Night and prayer there. This isn’t to make every get together (like Superbowl Sunday) a spiritual prayer session, but this is where sharing a meal and getting to know other’s stories and struggles come into play. Encourage these kinds of meetings among the members of your group.
     
  5. Pray through a Common Prayer. Check out some liturgical prayers. Liturgy has been a staple of the church for a long time, but not something we do much today. Check out a book called “Common Prayer, A liturgy for ordinary radicals”… common prayers are community prayers that everyone participates in. I like what the book says in its introduction:

“Liturgy’s counterintuitive nature may feel a little culturally strange at first. It is weird enough in our culture just to get together to sing songs (unless you are going to a concert or playing Rock Band on the Wii). Singing and praying together can feel awkward, especially if it is not Thanksgiving or Christmas. But liturgy is meant to be an interruption. It disrupts our reality and refocuses it on God. It reshapes our perceptions and lives with new rhythms, new holy days, a whole new story.”

In what ways have you and your group prayed that you found beneficial and rewarding?
 

Unexpected Rest In An East Coast Blizzard

by Jennifer Whitaker


Life is busy.  For me, that busy life in Waldorf, Maryland looks like homeschooling three active girls, teaching a homeschool co-op class and Sunday School, hosting a life group, and serving at my church's food pantry and outreach events, all while keeping house and trying to be a godly wife and mother.  Back in November, I found myself looking forward to the Christmas holiday not so much for the spiritual celebration it should be, but for the break I thought it would afford me and my family.  Co-op and life group would be on break, we would take days off from school, and Jonathan would take several days off work.  My parents would come visit.  It would be a relaxing time of just enjoying life with family. 

Imagine my surprise when the Christmas holiday was anything but relaxing!  It was definitely sweet and full of fun memories we'll cherish, but making memories requires quite a bit of work.  I neglected my time in God's word because I was just "too busy."  Before I knew it, my not-so-relaxing holiday had come to an abrupt end and life was back in full swing.

 
That's when God showed His mighty hand.  He had a plan all along for me to find the rest I needed -- and it wasn't how I would have planned it.  He wanted me to find rest in Him and His word.  He sent a blizzard to give me the physical rest I craved, and He provided ample time for me to soak in His word and sweet time with my family.   
 
On January 22, as the snow began to fall and collect, I felt relief.  I knew all the events of the weekend -- and even our homeschool co-op day -- would be canceled.  I felt grateful to have a warm home, plenty of food, and good company to wait out the storm.  We snuggled down on the couch to play Super Mario Bros. and watch movies.  We fed the birds and watched them eat in the middle of the blizzard. We baked cookies and made snacks you'd usually see at a Super Bowl party.  When the snow finally stopped on Sunday morning, we ventured out to a world completely covered in two feet of snow.  We shoveled so much snow that I'm pretty sure it counted as a week's worth of workouts. We built a snow mountain and went sledding in our yard.  I didn't worry too much about the mess and got to just enjoy being with my family.  I finally felt the rest I had longed for in December.
 
Maybe God didn't send the blizzard just for me, but in this massive storm that crippled some of the East Coast's largest cities, I felt His love for me.  I knew He cared so much that He gave me rest.  In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invites us to rest in Him. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." I know this can't always mean taking a snow day vacation in the middle of a busy season of life, but it can be a daily rest.  Each day as I seek God in His word, He reveals His nature and His character in fresh ways.  He restores my soul (Ps. 23:2). He renews my mind (Rom. 12:2). And He gives my soul a rest from the busyness of life.
 
When you find yourself in a busy season of life, make time to rest in Jesus.  His mercies are new every morning, He is faithful (Lam. 3:23), and He will give you rest.

East Coast Blizzard Snow Day

by Jonathan Whitaker
Since Friday of last week the Whitakers have been on a bit of a sabbatical.  Not of our plan or design but a welcomed vacation, none the less.  On the Central Coast such things as blizzards must seem mythical or at least foreign, but out here on the East Coast we get the odd snow storm or nor’easter.  But you have El Nino, so I suppose we’re even.  

 
Last week was my first blizzard, and in spite of all the hype and doom saying on the news, I rather enjoyed it.  It really brought out the kid in me.  Each night I was glued to the TV to see if the government of Washington DC would be closed for just one more day.  Chant it with me, “one more day. One More Day!  ONE MORE DAY!”  Though I didn’t realize it, I needed a few days off to play with my wife and kids and enjoy their company.  No distractions, no possibility of running errands (thanks to 24 inches of snow), just rest.  The fact is, God is much better at giving us rest than we are at finding it on our own.
                 
At the root of the word “sabbatical” is a concept which God introduced to man on the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath.  A day of rest.  So important is the Sabbath that God commanded us to observe it in Exodus 20:8-11.  Rest is not only required of us by God, but it is called holy.  The Sabbath was the day God rested from creation, which is why he blessed it and called it holy. If we are to be holy as our Father in heaven is holy (1 Peter 1:15), then we need to understand rest. 
                 
I struggle, as many of you do, to rest when I’m on vacation.  You know the drill, you take leave, plan to rest, then you work in the yard for the duration of your time off.  In a blizzard you can’t even see your yard, so the temptation is completely removed.  All you want to do is build a 45 foot luge track in your backyard and slide down it with your kids on an inflated truck inner tube.  God is good. 
 
God is serious about rest, so we should be serious about rest.  Read Leviticus 25 about the Sabbath Year if you want to see just how serious your Lord is about you enjoying rest, enjoying your family, and seeing just how good He is. 

 
God wants you to experience Him in all facets of His goodness, and I have gotten to experience Him anew over the last five days of blizzard-sabbatical.  Each time I hear the echo of my children’s laughter, each time I snuggle with Jennifer on the couch under a warm blanket, each time I sleep past 8 a.m., I am reminded of how good God is to me.   And you know, all joking aside, it feels holy.

FAQ: Why Did Jesus Have to Die for our Sins?

by Aaron
in FAQ
Last week our Gospel Community was meeting to discuss the previous week’s sermon and someone asked, “Why did Jesus have to die?” I asked what they meant, because I knew this person trusts and believes in Jesus and His sacrifice for us. They said (I’m paraphrasing), “Why couldn’t God just say, ‘All’s forgiven’ rather than have Jesus die?” This is a really good question.
 
I mentioned it to our staff two days later in staff meeting, and someone asked how I responded. They suggested I share my response in a blog post, because this is something that has come up in multiple Gospel Communities during Notes Night. I had no idea this was a common occurrence. If you have been wondering about this question, are a GC leader who has been asked this question, or never even thought about it until now, this post is for you.
 
It is hard to start answering this question in any other place than the book of Genesis. In Genesis, God creates everything, including man, and lays out what is good in front of man. The Hebrew word for good is tov (or tob); the word refers to everything good, in the broadest sense possible. God determines what is good and beneficial and He imparts that knowledge and wisdom to the man He creates. God fashions man with His hands, He makes man in His image, He breathes His very own breath into the man to make him alive, and then He instructs the man on what is good and right and places this man in the garden.
 
God then tells the man the consequence of sin—he will die. You sin, you die (simple, right?), and yet we have made it so much more complicated today. To make this as simplistic as possible, death is separation. Death is not the stopping of our hearts, or the blood in our veins turning from red to blue (it’s all still red anyway), and it is not the synapses in our brain no longer firing impulses to our bodies. Death is separation from life. God is life and He tells us that if and when we sin, we are/will be separated from Him. Death is separation, not just from life, but also from all that is good.
 
In Genesis, God separates for the man what is light and dark, truth and lies. God makes the distinction between life and death for the man. This explanation of what constitutes life and death includes the idea that man is free to live and love God and His creation in any way the man sees as most useful. The man is not part of the garden; he was fashioned and placed within the garden to nurture and take care of its beauty because beauty is good.
 
When man decides to go his own way in the garden, without God, and do what he feels is right, he sins. In Genesis 3 you see that as soon as the man and woman sin, they tragically died. The scriptures use words like “shame” and “exposed” to illustrate what has happened. Their sin made them lose their innocence and their connection with each other and God; they became separated, they died. They, like us, no longer know the beauty of innocence, the good that allowed them to face one another without shame was now gone. They also lost true life that came from being in connection with God, the world around them, and each other.
 
The saddest part of all comes in Genesis 3:8. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” They hide from God. Adam was the head of the human race and because he died, we are all born into life with a deep-rooted propensity to sin and seek our own “good.” However, man cannot know good apart from God showing us what it is—He alone makes that definition. To this day, sin runs rampant in our lives and causes us to be separated from others, our Creator, and eventually our own flesh.
 
How can God restore us to the place of understanding and knowing His definition of good? In the rest of Genesis 3, you see God comes walking into the garden, this place of rebellion and death, and He calls out to the man. It is not that God couldn’t see Adam hiding behind a bush trying to cover his baby-making parts; the point is that God comes looking for the man because the man could never find God on His own. God is on a rescue mission to redeem His people from death.
 
God then makes a promise, in His holiness, that He would provide Himself as a sacrifice to remove man’s sin and restore relationship. We see the first sacrifice when God slaughters an animal to clothe Adam and Eve’s shame. We can oftentimes gloss over this verse, but it is devastating—blood is spilled as the cost of man’s sin. The fact that God made this sacrifice Himself shows how important and necessary it was. Sinful people cannot dwell with a holy God. Eventually, this leads to the whole Old Testament sacrificial system, which ultimately points towards the final sacrifice for our sin, Jesus.
 
The writer of Hebrews sums up the entire Old Testament by saying in Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” So God Himself provided Jesus, His son, at the appointed time to be the One that dies for us, in our place, as our substitution. God could not just wink at sin and say it was no big deal, like when our kids do stupid things and we act like it is okay. God is holy, just, right, and true. If He brushed sin off, He would cease to be God. Because He defined the consequence of sin as death, He had to follow through because His words are true. This is why blood, which is related to life, is required for the sin we commit.
 
The problem is that we could never pay for our own sin, because our own lives, our blood, are tainted because of our sin. What is taught through Scripture is clear - either you die, forever separated from God, or you trust in the provision of God through His Son, who has died for you. Your death for His life, your sin for His righteousness—Martin Luther referred to this as The Great Exchange.
 
I am trying to keep this blog on the shorter side, but the idea of our regaining life is rooted in the idea of sacrifice—more specifically, His sacrifice for us. Why did Jesus have to die? Because we are so evil, and the cost of sin is death. Why DID Jesus die? Because He is that good. Don’t let this get you down. There is a reason it is called “good news” or the Gospel; it is the only hope we have ever had. Our God has sought us and bought us with Himself. We don’t live in despair because of what it cost Him; we live new lives of joy because He has first loved us and given us a reason for great joy.
 
We are not dead. We are redeemed.
 

To Die For

by Aaron
I am going to write this blog to get this out of my system, I am going to rant and rave about my current situation. Almost everyone on our staff at Element, at the moment, is on this Whole30 diet where you can’t eat anything you would normally eat (unless you normally eat like a goat). The diet is expensive, hard, and if I don't feel better at the end of 30 days, I am going back to my old diet.
 
Oh how I miss my friends called Oreo's, grilled cheese sandwiches, Raisin Bran, rice, wraps, chips, and bread. I am coming to loathe fruit smoothies and eggs. I know I am irritable, I am hungry, craving cookies, and think slamming my face in a car door for 30 days would be easier than trying to read every label on the food I buy. I went to TWO of our local hippie markets trying to buy food as listed on the whole30, but they don't really carry stuff as organically made as they would like you to think.

I am coming to believe that the operative word in “diet” is the word “die.” But then I also think that as a follower of Jesus the word “die” shouldn’t be too shocking to me. We are called to die to ourselves, it was one of the things Jesus emphasized in Luke 9:27, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” These are words about embracing death, not because we are fatalistic, but because the call of Jesus in our lives holds more weight and significance than everything else.
 
I think part of the problem in Christianity today is that we treat faith like it is a diet. We deny ourselves so we feel better, we work hard to reach our own goal (not necessarily Jesus’ goals), and when it gets hard to live on mission, we cheat. Sometimes the word “cheat” is being generous because most times we don’t even cheat, we just give it up completely while still trying to convince everyone else we are still eating (living) healthy.
 
We are a people who see our normal habits of life, usually engrained in us from our culture, as healthy and reasonable even as we slowly eat ourselves to death as we mindlessly consume all that is offered (metaphorically). When Jesus comes into and invades our lives he calls us to give up certain things that are killing us, but we typically find a reason to put it off, or even find ways to justify why it is OK. We are so short sighted that we convince ourselves that our lives today are more important than our lives in eternity. Taking the short view discourages mission, dampens a healthy trust of God and His word, and places our focus more surely on our own messed up hearts.
 
Luke 9:23-25 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?"

Maybe, instead of doing a Whole30 diet, we should all do a diet that follows Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Having God renew our minds so we see what He sees is true about our own lives and those around us is central to this renewal process.
 
In my opinion, the best place to start our diet is to quit assuming we are healthy and doing great and simply allow God’s Spirit to do a careful inventory of our lives. We must also begin to listen to what others say to us (those who love us enough to be honest). We must trust God’s redemption of our life enough to stop consuming our own self-propaganda and begin to live and walk in the new life He promises. Why? Because he promises not just a Whole30, but a WholeEternity of true life.
 

Pumpkin Killing 2015 Recap

by Element Christian Church
Happy New Year Element! As we do some house cleaning around here, enjoy this video from our Pumpkin Killing this past year that slipped through the cracks of being posted online!

Advent Week 5: Christ

by Element Christian Church
Join us Thursday night as we celebrate what we've been anticipating during our Advent Journey, Christ has come! Our Christmas Eve Services which will be at 7, 9 & 11pm. Childcare through age 5 is available at our 7pm service only. We hope Christmas Eve Services will be a time of loud joy as our Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace are found in this baby, lying in a manger, that grew up and died, rose, reigns forevermore.

Advent Week 4: Peace

by Aaron

I honestly don’t know where or how to begin writing this blog, as I think that no matter what I say, someone will take offense to it. That is what is wrong in much of our country—we are far too easily offended because we see ourselves in God’s place. What I mean by that is we want everyone to listen to our own opinions and not have their own; when others have their own opinions, we want them to keep quiet.
 
I currently have a few friends on Facebook, but really two of them come to mind as I write this blog. One is ultra-conservative (which doesn’t always equate to biblical) and every half hour they are posting something about refugees or guns. I have another friend who is ultra-liberal (which doesn’t always equate to biblical), thinks Bernie Sanders is like the second coming, and every half hour they are posting something about refugees or guns. Both of these friends believe in Jesus, would confess His name in a heartbeat, would say they are surrendered to God’s Holy Spirit in their lives, and yet they couldn’t be more different in all areas but one: they have both, on many occasions, put their cultural/social preferential feelings above the Gospel of Jesus (as we all tend to do).
 
They would both deny it, and I am sure I will get 2 emails/phone calls/texts when this blog hits (if they can pull themselves out of the latest news and Facebook cycles long enough to read it). I see both of them, and many of us, living in anything but peace today because we are so focused on our individual feelings of insecurity and fear (sometimes we call these “rights”).
 
The thing that is supposed to offend us, according the scriptures, is the call of the Cross of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18 and Galatians 5:11). Even while reading that last sentence, a person who places conservativism above Jesus will think, “Yeah, that’s why those liberals are so offended…they don’t understand the truth, like Jesus.” Likewise, someone who places liberalism above the Gospel will read the same sentence and think, “Yeah, that’s why those conservatives are so offended…they don’t know how to love correctly, like Jesus.”
 
Charles Spurgeon once said in his message “The Offense of the Cross” (all the way back in 1898), “The offense of the cross lies, first, in the way in which it deals with all human wisdom.” (you can read the entire sermon here) Until we realize that our wisdom is rubbish outside of the call of Christ, we will forever be chasing peace and never achieving it. Peace comes from the knowing and following Jesus. That is one of the main messages of Advent and Christmas--that our God has sought us on our best days, our worst days, and our days that are so embarrassing we wish we could have a “do-over.” God is the one who seeks the lost. The lost, by the way, includes Muslims, conservatives, liberals, pacifists, illegal immigrants, born natives, naturalized citizens, the KKK, the NAACP, the NRA, and any other acronym you want to throw at it. We, the people who live on planet earth, are the lost. We all have one thing in common, the need for Jesus to save us not from each other, but from ourselves, our own wisdom, and our sin.
 
There are people in our world today that follow religions that want to kill others, but we must understand that those people who do the killing are known by God, loved by God, and are just as broken as we are. Knowing they are broken should not keep us from stopping them and protecting others, but it should give us some compassion for their lost state. Our prayer should be that we would all see the world as Jesus does, not the way we do. Until we realize the offense of the cross is meant for us, we will continue the cycle of violence (many times with our words instead of guns). Until we come to truly surrender ourselves to the wisdom of Jesus first, the Gospel will not be fully proclaimed and taught through our lives.
 
Don’t get me wrong in anything I am saying. My wife and I go to the gun range to practice so we could stop someone if needed. I believe the scriptures teach personal responsibility, hard work, private property rights, the protection of those who cannot protect themselves (most specifically the unborn), and the beauty and truth of family. I believe the scriptures teach that human beings should be honored and cared for no matter if they are foreigners or natives, that the outrageous charging of interest is sin, and God calls all of us to treat others with dignity and respect. But I also believe no one will be changed by preaching “family,” or “personal responsibility,” or “hard work;” people will be changed by preaching Jesus. Jesus is the one who changes hearts and lives so let’s preach Him first.
 
When it comes down to it, our differing views will never lead to peace unless Jesus is first in our lives. Think about this…in John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus doesn’t say if you agree with one another on everything; He says by how you LOVE one another. This could be how you disagree, how you think about what you post before you post it online, and how we think first with a Gospel mindset above a cultural one.
 
Jesus came to bring peace. Let’s be peacemakers—not defined by our world’s standards—but by Jesus’. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Truly, He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
-O Holy Night

Advent Week 3

by Mike Harman
As we continue through our Advent journey, we thought weekly blog posts would serve as a reminder as to why we are doing what we are doing. In the scriptures the prophets are constantly looking forward to the coming Messiah. Like they looked forward to the coming of the Savior, we too look forward and anticipate Jesus coming again to bring culmination to His work of redemption and restoration.  The pain, suffering, sin, sickness, brokenness and decay that we see and experience in our everyday lives remind us that something is not right.
  • Based on the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus we have hope, that God will not rest from His redemptive work until every aspect of creation has been made new and every vestige of sin removed, (Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.).
  • We know God’s love by remembering that Jesus came for us while we were broken and lost because God loves us. (Romans 5:8…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.)
  • We have a joy that is not based on our circumstances, but an understanding of the sovereignty of God. (1Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.),
  • We get to live in peace that passes understanding because we now have peace with God. We are no longer cut off from Him. (Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.)
As a people living in this time between the incarnation of Jesus and his second coming, we celebrate God’s breaking into history in the person of Jesus. We anticipate Jesus’ return when He comes and wraps up redemptive history, completing God’s mission of redemption and restoration. During this time we have the opportunity and privilege to trust Jesus, live in faith as those who live in gospel community, and to live on mission to make disciples, who make disciples, loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, mind and strength.
 
Happy Advent!

Advent Week 2

by Mike Harman
Jesus came for God’s mission, God’s ultimate Glory. Part of God getting glory is how He brings redemption and restoration through His life, death, and resurrection.
 
Redemption is the freedom gained through Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins so that we might be reconciled to God, escaping His eternal judgment and wrath. In Jesus we become freed from enslavement to death, now we can live life from heart that have been renewed and made alive. Our lives now live in obedience and sacrifice through the grace and mercy we’ve experienced. (Colossians 1:13-14 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.)
 
Restoration is the aspect of God’s mission to restore His purpose, design, order, and intent of creation that was marred and broken through our sinful rebellion and idolatry. God is at work to restore, making all things new, even us, so that we will accurately reflect Him as we are created in His image. (1Peter 5:10  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.)
 
Because of the redemption and restoration that we have, and are experiencing, we like Jesus should be focused on, and engaged in, God’s mission (GO BLESS). (2 Corinthians 5:18-20  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation’ that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.)  
 
As ambassadors of God we now get to represent Jesus to our world by incarnating Him by how we live. We are called to be a people who exemplify biblical Hope, Love, Peace and Joy.
 
This week pray that God would use you in the lives of those who are lost, to speak the truth of the gospel into lives that have been alienated from God. We hope a better understanding of Advent teaches us all to live in such a way that we are turning community into gospel community, seeing God’s order and design restored as the lost are rescued and redeemed and communities are healed. (Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.)

Advent: Week 1 - Hope

by Element Christian Church

We have started our Advent Journey and are in Week One: Hope! 
Pick up your Advent Booklets This Sunday, or download our pdf version here!

Come across a word you're not familiar with? Refrence our FAQ and Terms/Definitions on pages 4-8!
And don't forget we have family devotions on page 30 for this week.