Thank You for Supporting Tape Day!

by Element Christian Church


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




Who Wants Responsibility?

by Aaron

A funny thing happened at Element on a recent Sunday morning, I was making a sermon illustration and it turned out better than I ever dreamed.
 
If you missed it, this is what happened. I showed everyone in the room a 20$ bill, it was easily identified by most people. I then asked who wanted it; I proceeded to give it away to the person who was the fastest on the draw. I then proceeded to tell the person who won the 20$ that they were free to spend it however they wanted, but they need only to remember where it came from: it came from a church and was given to them by a "man of God"…(that would be me in case you were wondering).
 
In our 11:00am service, the young lady who got the 20$, after she heard my words about remembering where it came from, said (my paraphrase), “That’s a lot of responsibility, anyone else want this 20$?”
 
I was almost speechless because I could not have said it better myself. One of the main things scripture teaches us is that EVERYTHING belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). Even the ability we have to think and work to produce wealth comes from God (Deuteronomy 8:17-18 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth).  These types of reminders run all throughout the scriptures, but why does God take so much time to remind us of this?
 
The reason goes back to the creation of mankind. We were created to have responsibility and stewardship over creation.  God gives us things (including money) to steward them for Him…and that is a lot of responsibility, like the young woman at the 11:00 service stated.
 
How much different would we steward our lives, resources, and yes, money, if we first remembered that it was Jesus’ and not ours? Think of how much different our priorities in spending would become if we understood the ‘responsibility’ that our great God has entrusted to us with all that is His.
 
As Element prepares to launch into a stewardship season in a few months, I would think it would be a great place for us to start to reflect on the truth that we have been given a great responsibility (because with great power comes great responsibility).

What is Tape Day?

by Element Christian Church

What is Tape Day? Good Question!



Purchase your tickets to Tape Day 2014 this Sunday!

Imputed Righteousness

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

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

Circle of the Beatitudes

by Aaron

We spent the last 4 months going through the beatitudes, we are now continuing on to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. As we rounded out the beatitudes a lot of you mentioned that you had never heard them explained the way we talked about them. You also mentioned that the last week with the circle diagram made a lot of sense and opened your eyes, so we thought we would give that to you as a recap blog.


Remember that Hebrew story telling is much different than ours in that Hebrew story telling goes: beginning middle beginning. The story that we call the Prodigal Son starts with the father, then speaks of his boys, then ends with the father (beginning middle beginning). The scriptures do this as well, in Genesis God makes man and tells him to take responsibility for (and have stewardship) over creation. God places man in the garden to partner with Him (not that God needs it, but He loves working with His kids) to create a new culture.
 
In the book of Revelation we are told Revelation 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. The word reign = basileuō and it has the connotations of "to exercise influence or to participate with." There will be a river, trees, city, fruit, healing of nations, proper healed relationships...and they will participate with God forever and ever. This means working with God in stewarding, participating in, and guiding creation. This is what God intended from the beginning. The story starts Genesis and doesn't end, but continues at the end of Revelation.
 
The beatitudes do this as well.
 
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Go to the 'end,' Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It comes full circle. This is only promised that is repeated. Hebrew blessing is not a straight line, it is a loop.

  • We begin "Poor in Spirit," God meets us when (and where) we are nothing and offers the Kingdom of God > This leads to "mourning" because we recognize our sin and we become comforted in His grace > This leads to "meekness" (humility) where we receive the grace of God and understand our inheritance > We then begin to "hunger and thirst" for God's rightness in our lives and in the world and will be satisfied.

When we understand where and how God has met us, we interact with the world around us in a new way.

  • We become "merciful" to others because we have received mercy > Our hearts become "pure" as we look for what God is doing (and wants us to do) in the world. We actually see God moving in places we never noticed before > When we live that way it makes us into "Peacemakers" who live as God's children in the world making the announcement that God has offered peace to us > AND sometimes that peace that we offer can lead to "persecution," but we must remember that we live, and have been given, the Kingdom of God.

 
Jesus announces blessing, ONE BLESSING, and the beatitudes tell of the characteristics of one type of people, those who live in the Kingdom of God. The beatitudes are Jesus' way of saying that "when you follow me, and when you become my disciple, when you truly live the gospel and extend grace it will be very hard." We will always need to end up back at the beginning realizing we need to rely on Him for everything.
 
It is there that we remember that Jesus has already blessed us, while He continues to call us into something greater.

 

 

Glory/Fire/Light -- Good Friday 2014 Recap

by Aaron



CS Lewis in the book the weight of glory writes, " Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity." He is speaking of glory for ourselves (he says he doesn't want fame and doesn't want to be a light bulb)…when speaking of God though, neither is ridiculous and both are true. In Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,The heavens speak of His fame, everything speaks of His fame, every knee will bow and every tongue confess HIS FAME.
 
But what about his luminosity?
 
The concept of light runs throughout the scriptures: Genesis 1 starts with light…this light that God separates from darkness. Genesis 1:3-4 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God creates the light and this becomes a metaphor for what God does in lives throughout history. Life begins with God AND LIGHT (light is a foundational element that all life is built needing and it is based in the glory of God).
 
In Genesis 3 we sin/death enters the world, and the light of God is pushed out of our lives in favor of sin and death. When the children of Israel wandered in the desert after God freed them from slavery, He provided a cloud and pillar of fire to guide their way. When the fire moved you moved, if the fire didn’t move YOU DIDN’T MOVE.
 
In Exodus God appears to the Israelites and the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Hebrews 12:28-29 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. The glory of the Lord is like a fire, radiant, bright. We love fire, but fire is also a dangerous thing. We can't live without it, but it is dangerous. Exodus 20:18-19 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die." They can't go away, but they can't get too close.
 
When Moses comes down from the mountain he was glowing with luminosity simply by being near the presence of God.
 
Psalms has light dominate throughout the book (19:8, 27:1, 36:9, 56:13, 89:15, 90:8, just to name a few). The Psalms are all written at the height of Israel's kingdom, soon after they fall into idolatry, turn their back on God and eventually when you reach the end of the Old testament God goes silent for 400 years. 
 
But one night we read Luke 2:8-9 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, (and once again because of this light/glory we read) and they were filled with great fear. In John 1:14 we read And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
 
In John 8 we read about the Feast of Tabernacles (one of the 3 great feasts) celebrating God delivering His people from slavery. At night there were HUGE CANDLABRAS in the temple as there was no electricity. When the sun went down these large candles would be lit and the flames would shoot up to heaven and the temple would be illuminated. JESUS begins to teach in the MIDDLE OF THIS SETTING. John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Musicians play, songs are sung, holy men dance, they celebrate God being light and Jesus stands there and says “I am the light of the world.” People who don’t think Jesus ever claimed to be God are simply wrong...Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” How do you partake in that light? Jesus says YOU FOLLOW ME.
 
The Gospel of John starts John 1:4-5 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. What do we do to the light of world, the glory of God in human flesh? We snuff it out. Because we love our sin more than we love His glory. We want what we want. We are more offended when someone hurts us then when someone tries to hurt God. We hold grudges, and lash out in anger (internally or externally) because we refuse to forgive, like our great God who has forgiven us. We believe we have more right to act like God than God…and Jesus dies to pay for these sins and so much more.
 
This is why Jesus died, to restore us to be the people that God bestows His glory upon. God's glory is not stuffed out, it continues to spread and will eventually cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. How is He doing that now? Through you and me as we believe, receive, surrender and follow the crucified and risen Jesus. As one person becomes redeemed it's like a light goes on, glory shines and spreads, and God is made known one person at a time.
 
God's Spirit is changing us into the people who better everyday reflect God's glory. One person at a time. On Good Friday we gave each person a light bulb to illustrate this. For those who had surrendered their lives to Jesus they were invited to take communion in remberance of what Jesus has done. After they partook in communion they were, one by one, to screw their bulb into the sockets on the table to illustrate "one by one" how the light will grow, illuminate, and eventually become too much to gaze at.
 
It is a picture of the Glory of God covering the world. It was hopefully a small microcosm of display to remind us all what should happen as the church lives on mission for the glory of God. We repent and lay bare the hardness of our hearts as we remember our Lord's body broken and bleeding for us.

Four Letter Words

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

The Good Friday 100

by Aaron

I have probably said this before, but I love all things sci-fi. If a new movie or sci-fi show comes out, I have to watch it…the problem is that most of the new shows are horrible, boring, rote, trite, or any other number of adjectives used describe shows that have overused ideas. Take for example this show called “The 100.” It is sort of a Lord of the Flies meets dystopian future after a nuclear holocaust where there are 100 people sent to earth to see if they can survive.
 
At one point there is this guy that no one likes, but he gains an unlikely following and brings mayhem to the struggling culture of survival. He is wicked, heinous, and now murderous, as he wants to kill a 10-year-old girl.
 
After a very lengthy, and not very interesting, build up, the little girl takes her own life to save her friends from this monster. As soon as this happens, everyone’s minds return to reality and this murderous individual no longer has a following. Instead of taking this murderous guy out (by ‘out’ I mean OUT), they ‘banish him;’ which we all know only leads to some future return of this guy at an inopportune moment, to wreak havoc on the fledging society.
 
When I saw this I thought it was a great analogy to the Christian life and Easter. Our sin wants to murder us, it causes us to go crazy and do stupid things that destroy people and relationships around us. When we finally come to a moment of lucidity, when we see things clearly, we know we should kill our sin…but instead we banish it, thinking that is good enough, but in reality we know deep inside sin will rear its ugly head again when we least want it to.
 
John Owen once said, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:12-13 “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

On what we now celebrate as Good Friday, Jesus goes to the cross because sin causes death. Jesus died the death we deserve to die, not just for 100 of us, but all of us. The deeds of the flesh must be put to death, but how do we do that? By becoming alive, living in the Spirit, and walking in His strength…which is the point of Easter. Resurrection takes us from our place of death, where sin left us, and brings us back to life again. Jesus’ death removes the sin; His resurrection brings us to life with Him (and in) Him.
 
The way you kill sin is with the Spirit, it is why Paul says, “by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body.” John Piper says the best way to live in the Spirit is by staying in the Scriptures. Piper’s mother used to say to him, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” It is the same idea; the scriptures connect us with hearing God’s Spirit, which gives us strength to kill sin.
 
In one sense sin was crushed at the cross, it’s demise has been heralded and witnessed at the cross (Good Friday), our hope for real and new life comes in the form of Easter and Resurrection, and the only death we need truly concern ourselves with is the death of the old ways in which we used to walk. For, though sin has been defeated, our flesh still craves it…so be killing sin or it will be killing you.
 
Happy Good Friday.

Baptism Stories - April 6, 2014

by Element Christian Church

 


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

His Will Not Mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signing off,
Jonathan & Jennifer Whitaker

We'll Miss The Viper-Stache

by Element Christian Church


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

We love you, 
The Element Staff
 
#GoodbyeWhitakers #viperstache

Blessed Are

by Element Christian Church
Today's blog comes from the wisest person who ever lived:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
 
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
 
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
 
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
 
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
 
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
 
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

If Trash Cans Could Speak

by Aaron
The other day I was driving home from one of my jobs (I can’t remember which one, but that is not the point). As I drove down the streets adjacent to my house the sky was becoming darker as the clouds for the coming storm started overshadowing everything. It was then that I noticed the green garbage cans in front of everyone’s houses.
 
Our trash pickup is scheduled on an every other week rotation; one week it is normal trash and recycle, the next week it is normal trash and green waste. This particular morning I had put out my regular waste and recycle waste, but as a drove home I noticed that all my neighbors had put out their regular waste and their green waste. I thought, “Look at that dummy, he put out the wrong can.” A little farther down the street I saw another and thought, “another dummy with the wrong can.” As more and more people had their green cans out I began to realize that either everyone else was the dummy, or I was.
 
Sadly, as seems too often the case, the dummy was me (or “I” or however that punctuation and grammar stuff works).
 
Many times we need that subtle reminder that as much as we think we are right, we can many times be completely wrong. We can get so upset at others that we tend to lose our way and begin to wrongly assume things about them that are not necessarily true. We can judge motives based upon how we interpret them and not how the person intended them, we can get angry over a perceived slight that was never there, and we can think every else is the dummy with the wrong trash can on curb when the reality is that it is us who are sub-par in our memory.  Philippians 2:3 reminds us Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
 
Sometimes we all need a reminder of our fallibility because we can get so self-righteous that we don’t even notice how we might be the only people who got the trashcan wrong. Its is a humble thing to realize who the real dummy is, it’s me, its us, but those are also the people Jesus uses because we realize we don’t have all the answers, only He does.
 
Welcome to the poor in spirit club.

One of "thems" weeks

by Michael Reed
Well, it is one of "thems" weeks where there is a lot going on, but the crowning jewel of this week is that Sunday Daylight Savings begins. Which, we all know what that means... we set our clocks FORWARD an hour (on Saturday night) and lose what feels like five hours of sleep, but more importantly, Aaron will be grumpy on Sunday. 
 
Grumpiness is ok though, we have a lot of great things happening this week, so check them out if you are depressed like us about the state of exhaustion that will occur on Sunday...
  • This Wednesday Element University starts at 6:30pm in the Sanctuary!
  • Saturday is Cinderella's Closet from 10am-3pm, let any girls know who could be blessed by a dress for prom!
  • Sunday, right after each service, we will have our Baptism Class in the "Office" Classroom. You don't need to signups, just come check out what it means to be baptized, and what you need to do to be baptized, and ask any questions you might have. We hope it won't be more than 20 minutes long. 
Lots of stuff happening, but we hope you remember Jesus is Lord over time, stands above it, and so we thank Him for for every night of sleep and every day we get to be a part of what He is doing in and through Element.

 

Q&A: Communion in the Creeds?

by Aaron

Why isn't Communion, the Eucharist or the Lord's Supper, mentioned in the creeds of the church?

This could be a very short answer, but I will do my best to string it out a bit.
 
The Nicene Creed came about in 325AD and it was essentially a way to combat Gnosticism and the Arian controversy. Building on this creed, other creeds came along from different counsels, 381 Constantinople, 451 Chalcedon. The creed(s) were essentially baptism confessions of faith and they were intended to show right belief before baptism. This is why the creeds were packed with as many tenants of the faith as possible in the smallest space.
 
They were not intended to be an exhaustive exposition of every aspect of the faith and life in the family of Christ.
 
The church, for a very long time, also would not let anyone partake in communion until they were baptized as a confession of faith. This also shows why communion is not mentioned in the creeds because it came after baptism.

Today there are some churches who will recite the Nicene creed before communion, as part of the confession. 

Q&A: Nicene Creed and Baptisms

by Aaron

In the Nicene Creed, one of the most quoted and respected creeds, it says, "We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins." What does that mean? Did they believe baptism saved a person?

One of the things that we, westernized people, like today is what we call distinctions. We are constantly trying to separate things into their smallest details; wood is made up of fibers, fibers are made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of quarks. These distinctions have also made their way into theology (which is a blessing and curse at times).
 
First, the early church believed that ONLY Jesus saves us, not baptism, but baptism was still related. Today we see baptism in 2 parts, one is the act of baptism where we identify with Jesus in an outward display by being 'baptized' in water, the second (or the first) is the spiritual side where the Spirit takes us and places us into the family of God. Where we differentiate these two things, the early church did not, they were seen as being essentially part of the same act. It is why you see when people believed, in the early church, they were immediately baptized. It wasn't that the water baptism saved them, it was the fact that it was all a response to salvation and considered one act.
 
Acts 8:35-39 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. In this context it all became one essential act. 
 
The Nicene Creed is referencing both the physical act of water baptism and the spiritual reality of new birth; it is baptism in its ideal consideration. Water does not wash away sins, but the church, through the Creed, was making a statement about what God does for those who have faith in Christ.

One commentator says that in Acts 2:38, where the Creed draws its wording from, the word "for" should be understood (and could be translated as) "with reference to."  The reading would be "be baptized with reference to the remission of sins."

The historic context would be the sacramental union of the sign, water baptism, and the thing that is signified is the washing of our sins and the engrafting into Christ. 

Mixed Messages From A Cookie Box

by Element Christian Church
I had a strange thing happen at work the other day…

A co-worker of mine mentioned that her daughters, who attend a Christian school in town, were selling chocolate bars as part of a fundraiser. She brought up the possibility of bringing the box in, but was hesitant, since the box clearly displays the name of the school and its church affiliation. After another co-worker and I told her that wouldn’t be a problem, she mentioned that the box also has the phrase, “Saving the world from sinners.”

This was when I cringed.

This “short and sweet” phrase may seem harmless enough—just a tool for cute kids to use while spreading joy through delicious chocolate, but this is yet another example of poor theology rearing its ugly head. I couldn’t help but wonder what my non-Christian, spiritually ambiguous co-worker thought of that phrase—the world needs to be rescued from people like ME? Too often, this is the mentality of evangelical culture…it is us (the good guys, the “saved,” the churchgoers) vs. them (the bad guys, the sinners, the non-churchgoers). Maybe it’s just me, but this seems to strongly contradict Biblical passages like:
  • …For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… [Romans 3:23]
  • All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way… [Isaiah 53:6]
  • Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned [Romans 5:12]
Another thing that immediately stood out when I heard this phrase was the assumption that sinners (people) are the enemy. We know from Scripture that is not true: “ For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” [Ephesians 6:12]. Who are our enemies, then? Satan, sin, and death…and Jesus has victoriously conquered them all for us through his death and resurrection.

As fellow sinners, we should be going out into the world—loving ALL people (as Christ first loved us) and sharing the joy of our true enemies’ defeat. After all, what could be any sweeter than a message like that?

This blog is from the computer of Michelle Gee, one of our newer worship leaders.

The Theological Danger of Email Forwards

by Aaron

I recently received an email forward, because some of you have too much time on your hands and you think I do too. The email forward was a little PowerPoint show that was meant to be funny, but it was more perplexing to me than funny.
 
It started off with things like "In the beginning God created the Heavens and earth and populated it with broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and…vegetables." It goes on to say "then using God's gifts, Satan created…ice cream and…donuts." God creates salad and Satan makes fatty dressings, God brings running shoes and Satan brings a TV remote, God brings potatoes and Satan makes French fries, and God may have made ground beef, but Satan makes McDonalds.
 
As I read this I grew more and more frustrated because, even as a joke, this seemingly 'funny' forward reinforces the exact idea that I think Satan wants to people to believe: God creates boring stuff and Satan makes all things better. This is the lie all the way back to the Garden. God couldn't possibly be as good as He said He is, God would never give people the ability to make hamburgers or ice cream, only Satan could do that. The lie is: "don't trust Jesus for joy, he wouldn't know joy if it sat in His lap, only I, your friend the Devil, brings bliss."
 
We forget that the scriptures warn us against this type of thinking.

  • James 1:16-17 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…

We forget that everything good COMES from the hand of God.

  • Psalm 103 :2-5 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

 
It is the same old thing, the devil speaks lies, we believe them, pass them around, and joke about it. How about we think and live in the truth that says, "if Ice Cream is awesome, it is because Jesus is awesome. If hamburgers, remote controls, salad dressing, and desserts are amazing, it is only because our God is amazing." Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart…Why? Because Jesus is good and we can rest in that hope.
 
Ultimately, all of our joy should stem from the fact that our God sought us in our lost state, while we were sending email forwards, while even misunderstanding Him…and died for our sins and rose to raise us to new life and relationship in Him. 
 
That's some reason for joy.

Q&A: John 14:14

by Aaron

I have a relative who has been grilling me about some verses and brought up John 14:14, which he says can't be true since we clearly don't get everything we ask for from God. Do you have any insight?

Do I have any insight? I have an opinion about everything. In context let's start in verse 12, John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."
 
This is one of those sections of scripture that is constantly taken out of the context of what surrounds it by people who believe that God is a genie in a bottle whose every desire is to give us what we think we want. Notice the verse starts out speaking of Jesus' work in the world and us being a part of it. Jesus' work continues, and grows even greater, because of the sheer amount of people involved in His work. This is why today the Gospel is not confined simply to a bit of real-estate that we call Israel (or even the Middle East). Because of what Jesus has done, and is doing in His people, good is happening all around the world. As the Gospel Transformation Bible says "our work for Jesus is really our work with Jesus." 
 
When Jesus says, "ask for whatever you want in my name," He is not saying, "Want a car? Say 'Jesus name.' Want a smaller waist line? Say 'Jesus name.'  Want to win the lottery? Say 'Jesus name.'" There are some very off base people today who tell you exactly that, but instead of whacking God like a piñata, I think we ought to whack them around a bit (with good theology).
 
In the context of the verses, the types of prayers that Jesus is referring to are those that further His work and bring glory to the Father. Most of our prayers today are about our own self-glorification (God give me a man, give me a woman, give me a house, get me a job, give me straighter teeth, and/or make me smarter). Jesus says that the prayers, in this context, that He answers are ones that honor God. We are to make it about His glory, His honor, and His gospel.
 
What should we pray for? How about:

  • Salvation for those who need Jesus.
  • Courage that we wouldn't be timid about the Gospel but speak with and LIVE with boldness.
  • Healing for those who are hurt.
  • The health of His church.
  • Opportunities to serve one another.

It seems as if almost no one prays, "God, give me opportunity to serve others."
 
Prayer is about changing the heart of God's people, not changing God. When you begin to pray for others your heart towards them will melt…I think this is why we are told to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
 
Again, in context, Jesus follows verse 14 by saying John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments." It sounds to me like He is reinforcing that we should be a people who are about His work in the world, not our own selfish wants and desires. Love for Jesus has everything to do with what we pray about, how we live, and how we partner with Him in the world.