What Happened to the 12 Tribes of Israel?

by Aaron

Currently, at Element, we are going through the minor prophets (the last 12 books of the Old Testament Scriptures). These 12 “Minor Prophets” are written during a (roughly) 500 year time frame that covers the fall of the northern 10 tribes of Israel (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Joseph, whose tribe was divided into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh), the captivity of the 2 southern tribes of Israel (Judah and Benjamin), and their eventual return to rebuild their temple.

I gave a very brief summation of what happened when the Kingdom of Israel divided in 900BC last week. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, comes to power and wants to tax and force labor upon all of the tribes, which causes the nation of Israel to split (10 northern tribes called “Israel” and 2 southern tribes called “Judah”). The question came up on Sunday as to what happened to those 10 northern tribes. We know the southern tribes returned to rebuild the temple and Jews were actually called “Jews” because of JUDAH, but what happened to those northern 10 tribes.

This question has been asked for a long while, some even call the northern 10 tribes the “Lost Tribes of Israel.” First, they are not lost as God knows where they are, the book of Revelation says they will give an account. What happened historically is that most of the people of the Northern Kingdom were killed in the Assyrian invasion or deported as slaves. The few that did escape remained in the land and intermarried with people from Cutha, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (peoples who had been sent by the Assyrian king to inhabit Samaria). This also led to a lot of animosity between Israel and Samaria where the Samaritans were considered “less than” Israelites and were outcasts for intermarrying.

There are some crazy stories (we would call them myths) of those northern 10 tribes. One says the Danube river was named for the tribe of Dan. There are those who teach what is known as British Israelism who say all Anglo-Saxons are actually Jews. There are people in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Ethiopia who all claim Jewish ancestry of some sort. Mormons taught that Native Americans and Polynesians were from a lost tribe.

We don’t want to get into all the conspiracy theories, we want to look at the Bible. In looking at the bible we see that after the Babylonians conquered Assyria many northern tribes reunited with Judah (2 Chron 34:6-9). When the southern 2 tribes were deported to Babylon they most likely reunited with many of the northern tribes who were already in captivity. When Cyrus allowed the rebuilding of the temple, many from all 12 tribes would have returned under the banner of “Judah” or Jews.

Many Israelites never returned to Israel and stayed in foreign countries; they became known as the Diaspora. James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. John the baptizer, and his parents were from the tribe of Levi. The Apostle Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin. In Luke 2:36 you meet the prophetess Anna from the tribe of Asher.

The 12 tribes are out there, known to God, but the greater question is what is God doing with them? He fulfilled the law in Christ, He brought an end to temple sacrifice in Christ, and Jesus is now our great High Priest. The point of the Scriptures is not Israel or the 12 tribes, it is Jesus. I was talking to an Israeli believer last year and an American asked him what it would be like when Jesus returned and restored Israel’s borders (which is a very westernized Christian question to ask). My Israeli friend said, “when Jesus returns there will be no need for borders so there won’t be any.”

That’s a great perspective.

A Sad Epilogue

by Aaron

Last week we put out a blog explaining this word I used as a sermon title, but never explained: Nehushtan. Nehushtan means Bronze Serpent (the Great Brass); it is what the Israelites called the bronze serpent on the pole that Jesus references in John 3:14-15 that refers back to Numbers 21:8-9.

In the Old Testament book of Numbers, chapter 21, the Israelites begin to detest God’s daily provision over them in the form of food from heaven called Manna. As a result of their complaining God sends fiery serpents into Israel’s camp that bite the people, injecting them with venom, and they begin to die. The venom resembles our sin. The whole episode shows that what was happening in the Israelite’s bodies was what had already happened in their hearts. There are parallels to our own lives in that many times we only recognize what is killing us when we finally get sick.

What is killing us is our sin, but many times we do not even recognize our sin until our lives start to fall apart. This could be losing a job because we are not thankful for our job, only resentful. It could look like a relationship falling apart because we are too centered on ourselves and cease caring for others. It could be our walk with Jesus never seeming fulfilling because we are looking at our own fulfillment rather than worship of Christ. We tend not to notice the venom in our hearts until we get sick, just like the venom from the serpent.

When the Israelite’s recognize their sin, they ask Moses to intercede on their behalf to God. Numbers 21:8-9 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” God teaches His people that what is going on in their heart is reflected in their bodies by the venom running through their veins, but He will make a provision for them because He loves them. They did not believe God was all they needed until they realized He was all they ever truly had.

As I said last week, Jesus speaking the words of John 3:16 only makes sense in terms of the Bronze Serpent from Numbers 21. It really is a great story of God’s blessing and provision as it would ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus Himself. BUT…there is a sad epilogue. Rather than worshipping God for His provision, they started to worship the provision instead.

What I mean is that the Israelites started to worship and bow down to the bronze serpent, the one that was put on the pole by Moses.

Apparently, the Israelites kept it as a reminder of God’s provision, but then it morphed into something more. It morphed so much that in 2 Kings 18 it is another of one of the false images that Israel made offerings to and worshipped. In 2 Kings 18 a young man of 25 becomes King of Judah (the southern kingdom in Israel). He systematically went through the land and got rid of all the false places of worship, including the Nehushtan (2 Kings 18:4).

Today, we look back on the Israelites and their short-sightedness, but we still do exactly what they did, worship false things in place of God Almighty. Instead of trusting in God’s provision, many people today worship the symbol, like a cross (which was an instrument of death, just like the serpent). When God saves people there is an emotional outpouring of gratitude, but many continue to long and search for the next emotional outpouring rather than the God who saved them. I have been to Israel and have seen people worship, kiss, and cry over what they believe to be rock Jesus was laid upon in His tomb for those three days after the crucifixion. We so easily lose focus of the one who saved us for a mere symbol and that should not be.

I want to be positive and reassuring today, not simply pointing out our flaws. I want us to be encouraged to worship our God in Spirit and truth. May we be a people who trust in God’s provision and worship the One and Only True King. May we set aside our symbols and trust in the One who was lifted up, died, and rose again for us. 



by Aaron

If I asked you what the most well-known verse in the bible is, what would you say? Today, in our culture, it may be “judge not,…” but I would say the most well-known (if not cited in its entirety) is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV). The sad part is that we have pulled that verse out of its surrounding context in such a way that we miss the deep theological background of it.

In our Bibles, the translators have broken up certain areas of scripture by sections, to help readers see what is taking place in the text. There are some places where this is VERY helpful, and some places where it is not helpful…at all.  And one of those places is in John 3:16.

Most modern translations break John 3:16 into a separate section, as if it is a new thought, but it is not!

In John 3, Jesus is having a discussion with Nicodemus about being born again in order to help Nicodemus understand that citizenship in the Kingdom of God (salvation) is not based upon our first birth, where our nationality lies, but a new birth, which we can’t bring about for ourselves.  He’s trying to show that no one gets to “heaven” on their pedigree or their merits. He says in John 3:13 “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man,” meaning “No one can make it on their own.”

Jesus then goes on to show who DOES “make” it: 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. THIS THEN moves to verse 16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” These verses show God’s provision in saving us, which is Jesus, lifted up on the Cross. The PROMISE is that we will not be condemned but saved as we look at the PROVISION (Jesus). We do not need to look at Jesus in the same way the Israelites had to look at the bronze serpent, but understanding this Bronze Serpent helps us to understand what it means to look to Jesus.

On Sunday, May 2, 2021 I spoke on these verses and called the message Nehushtan, but never once used the word. Someone texted and asked why I called the message Nehushtan, and I couldn’t believe I forgot to even say it. Simply enough, Nehushtan means Bronze Serpent (the Great Brass); it is what the Israelites called the bronze serpent on the pole, and what Jesus referenced in John 3. In Numbers 21. The Israelites were detesting God’s daily provision for them: the miraculous food from heaven called Manna. As a result of their complaining God sends fiery serpents into Israel’s camp. God is not over-reacting; He is trying to teach the people that what is going on in their heart is now reflected in their bodies by the venom running through their veins.

These serpents bite people and they begin to die. When they recognize their sin, they ask Moses to pray for them:  God’s answer and provision is in Numbers 21:8-9 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”

God uses this moment to teach them what their deeper condition is, the thing that is destroying them: the venom of sin. They have all been bitten by sin and as a result there is now a deep dissatisfaction with every aspect of their life. When they realize their condition, God provides a way for them to be saved, and it is simply by looking at this Nehushtan that Moses puts up on a pole…it is God’s provision. God is saying, “Here is a representation of your sin, and my remedy for it.  Whoever looks at MY provision will find deliverance from death, and healing from the venom”

In John 3, Jesus reminds us all that what God had Moses do with the serpent was a foreshadowing of what He would do to remove OUR venom of sin: He (Jesus) would be lifted up. Now, we must look to the Son who has been lifted up because there, on the cross, our own sin was placed and dealt with. We can’t be saved by our first birth or by any self-concocted remedies, any more than the Israelites could save themselves. But we can be saved, and our lives can be restored to relationship with our creator God because of Christ’s sacrifice in being lifted up. Nehushtan was/is a crazy story that shows what God does in order to save us all.

May we be a people who trust in God’s provision and may we never take Jesus for granted!


Good Friday 2021: Lent Reading

by Element Christian Church

Join us on page 89 of our Lent Journey Guides as we read through the curated verses together. Feel free to pause as needed and take communion with elements you have at home.

- For Lent/Job Information and Journey Guides (www.ourelement.org/lent) - DOWNLOAD PDF Lent Journey Guide (https://www.ourelement.org/downloads/2021/2021_lent_life_job.pdf)

Watch Easter Sunday's Livestream Here

Element Re-Opening: What you need to know

by Aaron

With modified services and at 25% capacity, we are open for on-campus services.

Join us Sundays at 8:15a, 9:30a & 11a with programs for children at the 9:30a & 11a services (with limited seating). Please see below for more details regarding pre-registering your kids for class and other guidelines.

For those joining us virtually, we will still be streaming during each of our 3 service times and offering the message for On Demand viewing throughout the week.

eKids Changes:

The biggest change that families need to know is that our class sizes must adhere to 25% capacity.  That means there is very limited space and you must preregister to be sure to get a space.  You can register on your phones using the Church Center app available in IOS and on Google Play, or you can register by going to ourelement.churchcenter.com. Registration for Sunday opens the Friday at 8 am.  If you register and the class is full, you will be given the option to be put on the wait list. If someone cancels, you will receive a notification that you are now in the class.   For complete instructions, watch this video. You can also register via your computer. If you sign up and are unable to attend the class, PLEASE CANCEL YOUR REGISTRATION! We want to be sure that everyone who wants to come to class, has the option.

If you don’t preregister, you have a couple of options.  The first option is come to church and watch the service outside on our large screen TV.  We will have fire tablets for your kids to play games on as well as coloring pages to keep them busy while you enjoy your church family as well as the service.

Your second option is to check in with efamily using the Non-registered line at the check in station.  If a space is available, we will check you in right there on the spot. If there are no available spots, we will take your name and cell phone number and invite you to hang out on the courtyard or wait in your car.  If someone does not show up by 10 minutes past service start time, we will text you to come check in.  If there are still no spots available, we will text you that information as well.  Again, feel free to watch the service on our courtyard with your kids in tow.

Before you enter the buildings with your children, efamily staff will check everyone’s temperature and ask that you sanitize your hands.  Adults are required to wear masks at all times.  Children above the age of two are encouraged to wear masks, but not required.  All of our volunteers will be masked as well, and they will have the same temperature and sanitizing protocols prior to them entering any building.

For the time being, we WILL NOT be serving any snacks in the classroom. Please make sure your child has been fed a good breakfast prior to coming to church.  Volunteers are also not allowed to take kids to the bathroom, so please take your child to the restroom before entering the class.

If you aren’t comfortable returning to the campus, that is totally fine!  We will continue to offer the lesson boxes and videos that we have created throughout the quarantine. The children at church will be doing the exact same thing at church that is available at home, so your child will not miss out on anything except being in the classroom.

Episode 26 of 'Talking Element' Elder Take Over. Element Elders Answer Your Job Questions.

by Element Christian Church

Questions Discussed:

- Job…Blameless and upright?

- I know there are many times throughout the Bible when we clearly see God's wrath like in Sodom and Gomorrah or on the whole Earth when He flooded the earth.  In those instances, the Bible says there were no righteous people.  It was just.  But, most of the time, it seems like God plays more of a passive role in our lives meaning that He allows bad things to happen in our lives rather than making or causing these things to happen.  With Job, it feels like bad things were happening and God actively plays a part in Satan's actions against Job.  "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?"  God even acknowledges to Satan that Job was a "blameless and upright man".  How is this just?  Are we possibly missing a piece of the story that would offer more context or is it simply a cultural difference?

- When you said God is in complete control and Satan can only do what God permits Satan to do… how are we to reconcile that statement of God’s control/sovereignty with God not being the source or author or cause of evil (which James 1:13-14 and 1 John 1:5 are clear to present)? This seems tough to reconcile given our lesson in Job where God’s decision to permit Satan to touch Job’s possessions and family resulted in the death of servants and Job’s children (and presumably friends at the party, etc)…

“It still doesn’t answer why God allowed Satan to have his way with Job’s kids and life, but no harm will be done with him.”

- Why, since God had the ability to create us and allow us to live in heaven, did he instead create us and allow us to live on earth, knowing there would be pain and suffering and hurt and heartache? All of that could have been avoided if this step was skipped.

- Is there more scripture on God allowing Satan having his way like he does with Job?


Watch This Week's Livestream Here

One For the Bereaved

by Michelle Gee

Early in the pandemic and initial shutdown, I heard a story on NPR about a teacher that ran a marathon in his backyard for charity. It was fun and inspirational enough to remind me of the resilience of human beings, the incredible stamina of the human spirit. I read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (a Nazi concentration camp survivor) shortly after and felt a renewed hope in the ability to cope and overcome adversity. While the pandemic introduced new stressors, there was a novelty in learning to adapt that was, I daresay, exciting. It was enough to propel me forward on exhausting, challenging days, as I looked forward to the return of normalcy.

Now, a year later, I couldn’t feel farther from that mindset. The fatigue from this prolonged season of adaptation feels all too much.

During this season, I’ve struggled to recognize what is left of my faith since much of the trappings have been stripped away. While I’ve always been taught that faith in Jesus is larger than Sunday morning gatherings, a beloved church building, or any other act in itself, I’ve come to realize just how much these rituals meant to me. Scripture encourages us to gather, sing, confess, and pray together for a reason—these corporate acts cannot save us, but they certainly bolster our walk with God. The redeemed life is not without its ongoing challenges.

I have been blessed in that I have not had to go through this Covid-19 journey alone. There is still community, for sure, and there is still access to Scripture, worship songs, and other resources for encouragement—all reasons to be thankful. However, the loss of nearness is a tangible loss I have continued to process.

I am grieving.
I imagine you might be, too.

I find myself less interested, these days, in triumphant stories about mere humans overcoming the struggles of living in a pandemic. I’m less interested in cute anecdotes when I’m ready to scream from overstimulation in my own home, where the walls feel as if they’re closing in on me each day. In addition to the pandemic, we’ve witnessed bitter division that has left me reeling with grief over the state of the American Church.

I sat on a beach with my husband one recent Sunday morning and these thoughts, and accompanying tears, came pouring out of me. We were enjoying a brief respite from the usual, crazed pace of our lives, and the stillness was enough to allow these uncomfortable thoughts to surface. I felt such pain and embarrassment as I confessed that these days, I sometimes question whether Jesus is as real as I had thought, whether the Gospel truly offers a hope that can sustain me, if I even have faith at all.

It is hard to share these things in print (on the internet, of all places), until I remember that at its core, the Church is a family—broken and dysfunctional, but at its best, loving, accepting, and honest. In the midst of such upheaval, we need to create the space for such hard truths to be expressed. I am here to remind you (and myself) that these feelings do not disqualify you from experiencing relationship with Jesus.

On the beach that morning, after I was out of tears and all I could admit was, “I am trying to trust that Jesus has me,” I was reminded of a story that felt especially compelling.

There is one verse in Genesis 3 that, in my experience, is often overlooked. It follows Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and the resulting curses He delivers to Adam, Eve, and the serpent. Before they are cast out of the garden forever, Scripture tells us, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21, ESV).

As this verse interrupted my grief that morning, I reflected on how Adam and Eve must have felt immediately after the fall. For them, any notion of nearness was gone in an instant; in one singular act, they had done away with the most intimate, harmonious relationship they had ever known, and not even for just themselves—for all of mankind. I thought of how broken they must have felt, how alone and ashamed…left reeling from the trauma of death and separation from their God, and the newfound distance within their own marriage.

And then…God clothes them—not with leaves or synthetic fabric, but with the skins of a slain animal, a beloved creation named by Adam himself. In a beautiful place that had not known death, a place now tainted by the disobedience of humans, God got His hands dirty for the sake of the very people that wronged Him. He knew they couldn’t bear their own shame, so He embraced the ugliness of death to ensure they would be clothed.

I can’t express how much relief the reminder of that provision brought me in that moment. I was reminded of how God moves toward the brokenhearted, how these feelings of distance have been present since the very first humans rejected God, and how the story of God has persisted in spite of Adam and Eve feeling so very far from Him. When my faith felt so small and so faltering, God met me with the compelling beauty of who He is—who He has always been.

I am still becoming acquainted with this little faith of mine, disentangled from the things I must go without, that I miss dearly. I feel less sure-footed without the rituals that have been so encouraging to me over the years. In moments of doubt, however, God shines through my own insecurity and reveals He is the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).

In a similar season of doubt during my college years, a dear friend introduced me to R. S. Thomas, a Welsh poet that also happened to be an Anglican priest. To this day, he is one of my favorite writers due to his stark honesty; he demonstrates a faith that was rocky and yet beautifully anchored by a trust in Jesus, even when it felt grim.

I leave this poem with you today, hoping that wherever you are, even if you are feeling so far from God, you would know you are not alone. As we progress through Lent together, and make sense of what is left when so much is stripped away, I dare you to press in to Jesus with your discomfort and doubt, to let Him meet you in that very space.

The Absence by R. S. Thomas

It is this great absence
that is like a presence, that compels
me to address it without hope
of a reply. It is a room I enter

from which someone has just
gone, the vestibule for the arrival
of one who has not yet come.
I modernise the anachronis

of my language, but he is no more here
than before. Genes and molecules
have no more power to call
him up than the incense of the Hebrews

at their altars. My equations fail
as my words do. What resources have I
other than the emptiness without him of my whole
being, a vacuum he may not abhor?


A Job Blog

by Mike Harman

How does it sit with you that God gave Satan permission to wipe out Job’s life (Job 1:12 & 2:4-6), a man who was blameless and upright? We are told Job feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1 & 8.)  We even see that Job's response to his loss was to worship God, not charging God with any wrongdoing, (Job 1:21 & 22. Job 2:9-10).

Did Job have a profound understanding of God's Sovereignty, of God's character being both good and just?  Was Job ahead of his time knowing that the world he lived in was fallen, not functioning as designed, and filled with corruption and situations of injustice?

I've been reading through the Old Testament book of Isaiah and there are some verses that help anchor me when questions about God's character & sovereignty arise (There are undoubtedly many more in the Bible.) Check out:  Isaiah 40:13-14 & 27-28, 45:5-7 & 9-10, & 49:15.  Also Psalm 115:1-3. & 125:1-2.

A strong belief in the theology of God's sovereignty can provide us with a sure foundation for the trials of suffering and challenges of life, none of which even begin to touch Job's loss and suffering.  I understand that our stories are not a points of comparison weighing whose story is worse (or most difficult, or best, most blessed , or  "successful").  Each of our stories are unique, personal, and overseen by God so that we might seek and find Him, so that we would be redeemed and restored to His design and purpose. (Acts 17:24-27)

Is the theology of God's detailed sovereignty a cop-out to life’s hardships and the choices and decisions we make?  Absolutely not. The scriptures are clear that we are responsible and accountable for our decisions and choices, yet God's story and power over-arches our stories. Our stories are made by the decisions and choices we make, as well as the actions of others too, yet nothing happens without God; He has ultimate power and authority.  My brain tilts when I try to wrap my head around man's choice, man’s personal responsibility, and a God who oversees all our lives with detailed sovereignty.

Some acquaintances who coauthored a book speaking about free will said:  “No one knows exactly how God's sovereign intention meshes with our decisions, but there is enough revealed truth to believe they comfortably coexist without damage to either.”  If we don’t hold to God’s soveiregnty we then would have a capricious and malevolent god ruling over us…and that is not the God of the scriptures. Either God is really God or there is no god at all and it’s all on us.

In speaking on the scriptures, Paul Tripp in his book "What Did You Expect", page 62 says:  There is no collection of wisdom principles more stunningly insightful than what can be found in the pages of scripture.  Of course, this would be true, since the book was written by the hands of men who were guided to write what they wrote by the one who created everything about which they wrote.  It is only the Creator who could have such a powerfully insightful and practically transformational origin-to-destiny perspective as the one found in the Bible. Only He is able to have a perspective not limited by time and space and the bias of sin.  Only He is able to speak from the vantage point of creation intention.   Who could possibly know more about the world He created and the people He designed?

God's word really does open up to us the mysteries of the universe.  It really does make us wiser than we could possibly ever be without it.  Yet, having all this, it is important to reflect on how sad it is that we don't take more advantage of the wisdom God has given us.  It is sad we don't think His thoughts after Him.  It is sad that we don't require ourselves to look at life (always) through the lens of His wisdom.  It is sad that we swindle ourselves into thinking that we are wiser than we are.   It is sad that we aren't more irritated by our foolishness and more motivated to seek His wisdom.

I think we would lack intellectual integrity to not consider and wrestle with Job chapters 1 and 2.  We would do well to sit with th e questions as we consider, ponder, and inviting God into our wrestling with who He is and how the scriptures have revealed Him.  If we don’t take time to work through the hard issues  we risk misunderstanding God and settle for a god that we’ve fashioned to suit us, a god of our own making and understanding, that fits our life, situations, and experiences.

There is a God as revealed in the scriptures and I am not Him.

It is important that we honestly consider the questions in Job against God being good and just, questions that also consider suffering and "injustices" in the world. How else can we face our suffering? We must know God is with us as we sit with family and friends in their questions and experiences of suffering. Only by working through this ourselves will we be able to offer honest love, care, and wise Biblical counsel that actually helps one another and does not give trite answers and platitudes (God's got this. God will never give you more than you can handle. All things are good in God.  God is good in all things).  Platitudes may sound good and may even have some truth to them, but they usually provide more of an easy answer and means for us to not get dirty or walk with those going through and struggling with God's character and sovereignty.

God came to live in our midst, struggled and suffered in every way like us so He could come along side us, so He could provide the way for our rescue.

In learning and growing in our trust of God's character and sovereignty we need to be honest about our situations, circumstances, and hearts that causes us doubt and uncertainty.  Let us be those who are honest with God and those in our trusted community.  God knows us, from the beginning to the end.  He is more interested in our growing in trust than getting to the destination, as how we get there is often of greater importance.  In His goodness and grace God will get us where He needs and wants us, home with Him as redeemed and restored image bearers.


Is it the Gospel?

by Kelly Borjas

I got off the phone with a friend today, burdened by the call. We discussed the impact and wreckage of 2020 in so many areas. If I take a step back, many circumstances and conversations in this past week have circulated around this topic: marriages struggling, businesses floundering, friendships changing, political division, racial tensions. It seems like this past year has been a bomb that exploded, exposing hurts, disappointments, and disillusionments. My husband and I have faced our own challenges in this past week in managing a conflict—one that would have been significantly easier without the barriers imposed by our COVID world.

It makes me think: how do we respond? As I prayed about how to respond to a particular situation, I was reminded of one thing: to focus on the Gospel. So this blog…is about the gospel, written as a reminder for myself; a reminder to seek Truth.

Our world is so complicated with frustrations heightened in this tense climate. People are using the name of God to justify certain actions. Political views are branded, labeled, and claimed in the name of God. If you do or don’t speak up/post on social media/attend a specific event, etc. you’re either for or against certain ideologies. In some cases we are told we are not even Christians if we do not make a statement on any given particular topic (or forward a Facebook post to all of our “friends.”).  How do we, as Christians, engage in this type of environment? I believe the answer is to start with the Gospel and try to approach each situation with that as our foundation.

So I circle back to the Gospel:

  • The Gospel is not a political stance.
  • The Gospel is not a social movement.
  • The Gospel is not the prosperity of a nation
  • The Gospel is not the success of a person
  • The Gospel does not require others to meet OUR expectations.

To be fair, a true relationship with Jesus can and should propel us to act in certain ways, to live our lives reflecting God. But now, more than ever, I believe it is crucial to know, define, and understand what the gospel is. If we are not careful and discerning, we could easily get swept into something “in the name of Christianity” that is not the gospel at all.  Even as someone who has been a Christian for much of my life, I have struggled to be able to define the gospel. In fact, for a while I was trying to find a passage of Scripture that explained the Gospel so I could tangibly wrap my mind around it. So again, as I write, it’s an effort to remind myself where to start.

What is the gospel? It is simple and beautiful. It is summarized in Acts 10: 38-43 “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

To put it more simply, the Gospel is the belief that Jesus is God. He was crucified to pay the cost of our sins, but God raised him to life, and everyone who believes in Him is forgiven of their sins and restored to relationship with God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 summarizes as well: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

It is so easy to get swept up in emotion and events or conflicts surrounding us, but as we try to navigate, it is important to first remember what the Gospel is (and is not). Then, when we look at each situation, we can pray for discernment and ask our fellow believers to keep us in check so we can be sure our focus is on the Gospel and not some other narrative. We should ask ourselves: are our actions or beliefs reflective of God’s good news, or is there a different agenda?

In past years, it’s been easy to be complacent about seeking biblical responses to issues (certainly true for me). I’ve so often relied on the sermon at church, a Bible study, etc., to inform my belief system or response to what’s going on around me. However, now that many of our normal ways to engage with other believers are taken away, we must know for ourselves what we believe and why.

My heart is no less burdened by all of the carnage around, but I do take hope in the fact Jesus has overcome sin and offers eternal hope. My hope is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not immediate reconciliation of issues around me. I pray we all first let the Gospel permeate our minds, hearts, and souls, and then use that as our frame of reference for engaging with the world around us.


Devotional: Searching for Community

by Jeff Pruett


Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Big Idea: Community is Built, Not Found.

Not long ago, I was talking with a couple from church who were frustrated that they had not been able to find a good community to belong to. They saw the depth of relationship that we had in our Small Group (we call it our Gospel Community) and wanted to join. Of course, I invited them and welcomed them in, but I already knew they would not find what they were looking for.

Why? Because community is built, not found.

Every time I encounter someone on a quest to find community, either in a church body or in a small group, I know they will be disappointed. Community, that sense of belonging and being known and loved, requires time and investment to develop. It requires inviting people into your life, accepting invitations into the lives of others, and being intentional and consistent in showing up again and again.

Just like a retirement account grows with regular deposits and compounding interest, a community only grows with regular deposits of time, trust, and transparency. This is why the writer of Hebrews tells Christians to keep meeting together - to not give up! It is easy to give up when our schedules get busy instead of adjusting our priorities. It is easy to give up when we’re asked to trust others with our true story instead of presenting our carefully crafted image. It is easy to give safe, nondescript answers when we’re asked deeper questions about our heart than we are comfortable answering. But as long as we hold back our time, hide behind an image of ourselves, and only give safe answers we’ll never be truly known or truly loved. The “imposter” that we’ve created, the image we’re trying to maintain, is the only thing that actually receives any love. And we’ll continue to feel alone... because our true self isn’t being allowed to belong to the community.

The God of the universe knows everything (Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”) That means God is not fooled by the “imposter” we’ve crafted as our image. He knows us fully, completely, and knows the truth about our hearts. And He loves us right there. Not as we “should” be - He loves us as we are. But He doesn’t leave us there. He sent Jesus to redeem our brokenness and pay the ransom to buy us back from sin. And He sent His Spirit to live in us and the Spirit teaches us to live authentic lives that grow to match His design for us. The transformation doesn’t happen immediately, but it does happen more and more as we live moment-by-moment trusting Him to lead us (Titus 2:11-14).

All of this has me thinking, if the God of the universe can handle knowing the whole truth about you and still love you deeply enough that He sacrificed His son, is it possible that you could allow others in His family to get to know you too? Are you willing to do the work - to invest the time, trust, and transparency it will take - to build a community with other people in the family of God? It will take regular deposits, and grow slower than you’d like at first. But as those deposits compound you will suddenly look up and realize the community you were searching for has been built through those faithful deposits and you’ll find yourself enjoying the wealth of the meaningful relationships which have been built.

Discussion: Who is one of the most authentic people you know? What makes them seem so authentic? Who is someone in your life who seems trapped behind the image of an “imposter” (maybe even you)? What can you do to invite them to trust God and trust others with who they really are?

Prayer Focus: Pray that God would help you to see yourself the way He sees you; that you would better understand and accept the gift of the new identity He has decided belongs to you. Pray that God would give you the courage to invest regular deposits to build a community that is fully known and fully loved.

Watch/Listen to this Sunday's message on Community, from the series: The Greatest Story Ever Re-Told.


Episode 18 of 'Talking Element' – 3rd Wheel Week 8: Walk in the Spirit Part 2 With Jeff and Steve Pruett

by Element Christian Church

This week Michael sits down with Jeff and Steve to 3rd Wheel Week 8: Walk in the Spirit, Part 2

Questions Discussed: 

- How have you come to understand Walking in the Spirit?
- Do you have a specific time you rested in God’s work instead of your own, and how did that look practically?
- Discussion “yielding to God’s will.”

Watch 3rd Wheel Week 8's Livestream Here

Episode 19 of 'Talking Element' – TGSErT 01: Community; with Donald Weiting

by Element Christian Church

This week Michael and Aaron sit down with Donald to discuss The Greatest Story Ever Retold, week 1: Community:

Questions Discussed: 

- Aaron’s goal for this new series.
- What deeper understanding of community can we learn?
- Family and Gospel Community. Irrational commitments.
- We need to be known in order to belong – why don’t we want to be known?
- How can Element be better at being a place for the lonely?

Watch This Week's Livestream Here

Celebrity (A Christmas Eve/Day Reading)

by Aaron

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been watching a lot more TV and movies this year. After all, what else is there to do during a global pandemic when you are stuck at home and have exhausted all other options (have you reached the end of Netflix yet)? Most of us, when out in the real world, would love the chance to meet someone from our favorite TV show or movie (or band). Maybe we’d even be fortunate enough to get a photo with them and raise our “wow” factor among our peers.

Today we have a word in our vocabulary we use called “celebrity.” Celebrity is of middle English origin and meant to celebrate something. Think of the word “celebration” in regard to some achievement (like...we made it through 2020 and get to gather together for Christmas Eve or when someone has a milestone birthday or anniversary). In earlier times, celebrity would refer to someone who was celebrated because of an accomplishment or achievement.

In our culture today celebrity simply means that someone is famous. We have people today who are famous for only being famous and yet we still call them celebrities. Many of these people have no accomplishments that stand out as noteworthy. Who can be a celebrity today? Piano-playing cats, surfboard-riding dogs, people who eat food on YouTube, kids who make up new dances, and little girls who cry about the environment. If you went back just a few centuries, however, before the internet or TV, there were very few celebrities: only monarchs, kings, and certain playwrights and artists. Celebrity tended to be rare, because it was not broadcast with photos or media; it was only broadcast with words.

Amidst the myriad of temptations our culture faces, there is a cult of celebrity. People seek fame by trying to do something that will get them noticed—whether it’s by millions of Instagram likes, Tik-Tok followers, or YouTube views. But, think about this...on Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus—a child born out of wedlock, who became a penniless preacher, who lived a simple life and died a criminal’s death in a backwater Roman colony.

Jesus didn’t seek fame. As a matter of fact, when He performed miracles, He told people not to go about proclaiming it (see Mark 5:43, for example). Now, 2000 years later, Christmas (for all of its faults of consumerism) is the most celebrated holiday in many parts of the world—a celebration of Jesus coming into the world. We sing songs of celebration that almost everyone knows by heart!


Because Jesus wasn’t just a penniless preacher. He wasn’t just the bastard child of a woman named Mary. He was God’s own son, God in the flesh. For millennia, God’s prophets promised a day they couldn’t even fully comprehend, when the savior of the world would be born. This savior eventually lived the life we should have lived and eventually died the death we deserved to die. By doing so, He exchanges His innocent life for our deserved death—all to bring a rebellious humanity back into relationship with God.

What we celebrate at Christmas is not only the birth of Jesus, but also the work He did to rescue us and restore us to relationship with God and one another. We call this the Good News, and one of the reasons Element loves celebrating Christmas is that we are reminded how the magic and mystery of God’s grace extends beyond this night. As wonderful as Christmas is, it’s not the holiday itself that needs to be celebrated around the globe, but the salvation and life given to us by God. Joy to the world, peace on earth, the reconciliation of humankind; what child is this? He is the only hope we have ever had...Christmas has come for us.

If we are going to give something celebrity status in our lives, something we get giddy and excited for, let it be the Good News of what Christmas represents. Let us make great the name of Jesus.


Episode 16 of 'Talking Element' – 3rd Wheel Week 6: Jesus and the Spirit With Guest: Mike Harman

by Element Christian Church

This week Michael and Aaron sits down with Mike Harman to discuss 3rd Wheel Week 6: Jesus and the Spirit

Questions Discussed: 

- Mike’s journey of growing and understanding the Spirit
- Abiding presence and expecting the Holy Spirit to work
- What would help us to be more expectant?
- What personal areas could we be more expectant with?
- What types of sources of power do we as people rely on, other than the Holy Spirit?
- What does a life dependent on the Holy Spirit’s power look like?

Watch 3rd Wheel Week 6's Livestream Here

Episode 17 of 'Talking Element' – 3rd Wheel Week 7: Walk in the Spirit With Jeff and Steve Pruett

by Element Christian Church

This week Michael sits down with Jeff and Steve to 3rd Wheel Week 7: Walk in the Spirit, Part 1

Questions Discussed: 

- Have you ever found yourself begging or bargaining with God for some spiritual change in your life?
- Have you ever worked hard in order to please God so that He’d give in to your request?
- Discussion on “my best doesn’t work.”
- Discussion on freedom of slavery.
- Are conflicts a good indication of we are walking in the Spirit.

Watch 3rd Wheel Week 7's Livestream Here

Episode 14 of 'Talking Element' – 3rd Wheel Week 4: Filled with the Spirit Pt. 2 With guest: Sarah McCool

by Element Christian Church

This week Michael and Aaron sits down with Sarah McCool to discuss 3rd Wheel Week 4: Filled with the Spirit Part 2

Questions Discussed: 

- Sarah shares her experience with a more charismatic church growing up.
- Describe in more detail the “means” of the Spirit.
- How have you seen others search for that “spiritual connection’ knowing that they were made for ‘more?’
- How do we discern between valid and invalid spiritual experiences?
- What advice do you give to someone who wants to read the Scriptures but doesn’t know where to begin and or is overwhelmed by it?

Watch 3rd Wheel Week 4's Livestream Here

Episode 15 of 'Talking Element' – 3rd Wheel Week 5: Mission of the Spirit With Special Guest

by Element Christian Church

This week Michael and Aaron sits down with Hillary to discuss 3rd Wheel Week 5: Mission of the Spirit

Questions Discussed: 

- Introduction to Hillary
- How has the Spirit of God dealt with you in conviction?
- Conviction of sin, Christ’s Provision and Judgment
- Reshaping of our Identity: how can we trust Jesus’ in our new identity?
- Does the thought of Jesus dying on the cross so thrill you…?
- How has the Holy Spirit invited you join His mission?

Watch 3rd Wheel Week 5's Livestream Here

Episode 12 of 'Talking Element' – 3rd Wheel Week 2: Who is the Spirit? With guest: Kelly Borjas

by Element Christian Church

This week Michael and Aaron sits down with Kelly Borjas to discuss 3rd Wheel Week 2: Who is the Spirit?

Questions Discussed: 

- Why is a series on The Spirit so important?
- Do you see the Holy Spirit present and active in the middle of your life?
- What has changed in your life knowing He is present all the time?
- Was there a time your heart fought the Holy Spirit’s conviction?
- How do discern if it the Spirit prompting/speaking or yourself?
- Clarification of the Holy Spirit being an advocate here on earth for us.
- Advice for those who don’t hear/feel the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

Watch 3rd Wheel Week 2's Livestream Here

Episode 13 of 'Talking Element' – 3rd Wheel Week 3: Week Three: Filled with the Spirit Pt. 1 With guests: Mike & Carrie Foster

by Element Christian Church

This week Michael and Aaron sits down with Mike and Carrie Foster to discuss 3rd Wheel Week 3: Filled with the Spirit Part 1

Questions Discussed: 

- What has your understanding of the Spirit been, and how has it changed over the years?
- What comes to mind when you hear, “Being filled with the Holy Spirit?”
- Thoughts on the 3 points: Life of Excess, Life of Stimulation, Life filled with Joy.

Watch 3rd Wheel Week 3's Livestream Here