Pandemic Grocery Shopping

by Aaron

You are probably thinking that this blog, based on the title, has got to be a couple of months too late to connect to our current circumstances. I would disagree, because the last time I went to Costco, there still wasn’t any veggie lasagna (for my wife), diced tomatoes (for me to make salsa), or bananas. If you haven’t noticed, shopping is hard in the apocalypse.

Lately, whenever I go to the store, my wife will give me a list and say, “Don’t forget to look for toilet paper.” Honestly, I feel like I have PLENTY of toilet paper (except for when Phill and Jenna Heuchert come over and their daughter Annie decides to put a whole roll down the toilet). We have rolls and rolls, but my wife just says, “It’s the apocalypse and it’s ‘just in case.’”

Right now I have a humongous bag of rice, a 50-pound bag of sugar, three of those Costco-sized bags of frozen chicken, sixteen pounds of butter, and 12 packs of bacon (yes, the only one that is understandable is the bacon). You would think I was packing for the Oregon Trail. The cold items sit in the freezer in the garage. That’s not an invitation to help yourself…don’t even think about stealing my bacon. 

Maybe I am the guy who would end up starving in the apocalypse because I don’t hoard, worry, or buy twenty times what I actually need in a crisis. My wife would be the one eating food for years while I wondered why I couldn’t charge my newest electronic device that I thought was more important than food. I guess what I am saying is, we need each other to stay sane and not go too far overboard. I buy the food stuffs my wife wants because I love her, and she curbs some of her more pessimistic tendencies because I don’t freak out a lot (unless we run out of bacon…which again, won’t happen).

Right now our city, county, state, nation, and world are at a bizarre type of crossroads between people who are worried about the pandemic and those who don’t care or think it is a hoax. Much of the discourse has become political, especially in churches that have been ordered to shut down indoor, in-person gatherings again. One side sees it as a public health issue and the other sees it as a personal rights issue…and I feel like I am caught in the middle of it all because, for some bizarre reason, I can see both sides. 

I am frustrated about the inconsistency of government orders about masks, distancing, what they allow to open, and what they don’t. I wonder how we are supposed to eventually gain immunity to the virus if we refuse to engage in real life. I actually worry about the state of the economy, small businesses, and how people are meant to survive as our national debt climbs past 26 trillion dollars (a truly unfathomable number). But then I also look at the numbers of infections, the speed at which the virus spreads, the experts who speak about it (some of which are strong believers in Jesus), and my own lack of real understanding of the science of virology. I know that I must come to at least try to understand all sides of this if I ever hope to engage in a way that brings wisdom or peace to this situation.

All too often we focus on the problem, whether it is government overreach or the virus itself. As humans we tend absorb ourselves in what is right in front of us instead of what is eternal…and that is where part of my job comes in. Element, our focus should be first and foremost, Jesus. Only by the Gospel being central to what we do and say, will we ever be able to meaningfully engage in the world. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

We don’t become all things to all people so that they would be angry at the government or fear the virus; we do it so that we can help them to share in the Gospel’s blessings. The scriptures are clear that we need each other—God made us that way. We will never share blessings with one another until we are able to understand one another. This is important to remember during a time when it’s common to throw memes and clichés at each other. Some people worry about the virus and stay home, some people think it’s a hoax—but why do each feel the way they do? Can we respect one another enough to listen? Maybe, as a result, we would be filled with compassion and have a broader perspective.

In the end, we must realize that our lives will not be saved by what we believe about the virus. The virus is not eternal—we as God’s people are. We are saved by God’s eternal work accomplished in the person of Christ. When our focus becomes God’s redeeming work in us, we can overlook how we differ from one another and still have meaningful fellowship and conversation…even while we disagree about how much toilet paper or bacon we need to buy.

 

Q&A Interview with Element's eFamily Support Team

by Element Christian Church
 
Interview with Cory, Jenna & Stephanie. Get to know them a little better and find out what they are working on right now in our eFamily ministry.
 
Links:

 

Ministry Spotlight: Freedom Calling with Ainsley

by Element Christian Church

Baptism Stories - July 5, 2020

by Element Christian Church

Last Sunday was a private Baptism! We wish we could have invited everybody, however with everything going on, we know you understand. Watch Ashley Slocum get baptized and read her story! We can still celebrate this wonderful event. If you wish to also be baptized, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Download Baptism Story

Word of Encouragement and Prayer from Mike Harman June 9, 2020

by Mike Harman

What is God doing in my life? Is there something He is delivering me from? Am I complaining and calling His deliverance a crisis? Am I trusting His love, goodness and sovereignty in this? Am I choosing to believe He is with me and will walk with me in what I'm going through for His Glory and my good? How is He bringing me to a place of being a blessing to our family, neighbors, coworkers and community? Is this only a crisis or God's hand of deliverance also?

Prayer Points

by Element Christian Church

When the world seems to be melting down, it is often hard to focus our thoughts in prayer. Knowing that to be the case, we would like to offer the following points to consider in your time of prayer. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

  • For repentance: We pray for the understanding that we would return to who God calls us to be, His image bearers in the world.
  • For conviction: We pray for conviction of the ways we have been complicit in seeing anyone as less than us and how we have marred the image of God. We ask our gracious God for forgiveness and trust. His grace is sufficient as we are cleansed from sin and unrighteousness.
  • For empathy: We pray for broken, contrite hearts that grieve alongside all of God’s oppressed children. We seek to better understand the struggles that are foreign to us and let those who are oppressed and fearful know they are not alone.
  • For fruitful conversation: We pray for soft hearts, gentle spirits, and self-control as we engage in discourse with our neighbors over the issues of self-centeredness and racism. We pray for the strength to listen where we might be tempted to speak and the ability to give grace because we have first received it from God.
  • For people of color everywhere: We pray they would know they are seen, valued, and loved by a good God. We pray they would run to the open arms of Christ for peace, wisdom, endurance, and comfort and that they cry out to Him in their distress.
  • For law enforcement: We pray for encouragement for the hearts of law enforcement, that they would know their work is not in vain. We pray for their protection and discernment as they continue to protect and serve our communities. We pray that the the subject of police brutality would be thoughtfully and wisely examined.
  • For our political leaders: We pray our political leaders would be moved to offer responses that are empathetic, discerning, gracious, and unifying. We pray they would set aside partisan attacks and be granted the wisdom that comes from God in responding to violence and chaos erupting from places of grief and anger.
  • For unity: We pray that we would find places of connection and unity; seeking to understand the underlying intentions and motives of those that think differently from us. We pray for a godly love that allows us to move toward each other despite our differences, recognizing we are all touched by these issues as children of God.
  • For discernment: We know that God is at work in this world and will make all things right in the end. We pray for discernment as we consider how to engage in His Kingdom work today, and that the Gospel would be our primary motivation and guidance for how we respond.
  • For salvation: We pray for the salvation of those who cannot see past their hurt and anger in these moments, whose souls are not at rest. We pray that hearts would be opened, and lives would be cleansed and restored to the grace of God.
  • For reconciliation: We pray for reconciliation between those divided and estranged over issues of bias and prejudice; where fear, anger, hatred and misunderstanding has brought alienation and separation because of our sin.  We pray that our ultimate reconciliation to God by Jesus would allow us to step towards those we are alienated, bringing peace where there is no peace.
  • For God’s glory: We pray that ultimately God would be magnified and His people would dwell in His promised joy.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Tselem

by Aaron

You know how the kids these days say TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)? This one is SL;KR (super long; keep reading) as I want to address recent events in our nation and give us some biblical context for our own personal call to image Jesus. 

The Bible was not written in a vacuum. What I mean is that while the content of the Bible is timeless and God-breathed, it is informed by the time and place in which it was written. When Genesis, the very first book of the Old Testament, was penned, Israel was surrounded by other cultures. While each culture had its own religion and gods, they all had a hierarchal way of looking at life. At the top were the gods, followed by the king, the official court (including the priests), various tradesmen/academics, and then the peasants and slaves at the very bottom.

Because the king was the one closest to the gods, he was seen as divine or semi-divine. The king alone was understood to be made “in the image” of the god who created the king. This was/is a dividing line between the king and the rest of the human race--peasants and slaves were not made in the image of the gods (they were actually believed to have been created by inferior gods). The king was the mediator through whom the blessings of the gods flowed to everybody else. This was simply the way the world worked…and then God challenged this very structure when He spoke in Genesis of how creation actually happened. 

Genesis starts with God creating and ordering the world. At the pinnacle of His creation He makes humankind, and this is what it says in Gen 1:26-27: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion…."So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." The word man would encompass all humankind. The word for image, as most scholars believe, is a word borrowed from these other cultures: Tselem

When every other culture used the word Tselem, it only referred to the king, the one and only person made in the image of the gods who created him. In Genesis, when God speaks, He is deliberately shown to be a King reigning by royal decree (i.e.,  “let there be light” and there was light), and Genesis has an entirely subversive (yet true) creation account. In Genesis, God is sovereign and generous to His creation. When it comes to human beings, He makes ALL people in His image, not just the king. In the image (Tselem) of God, God created all human beings.

This statement in Genesis should be the single most world-changing statement about human dignity, worth, and equality ever recorded. We should live and bet all of our lives, all of society, whether somebody thinks of themselves as a believer or not, on the truth that Genesis just spoke. Imagine what it would do to the hearts of peasants and slaves to be told that they too were created in the tselem, in the image, of the one great God.

Male and female.
Slaves and peasants.
All races.
Made in God's very image. 

This is why the Scriptures are so important for Christians to know and live out. In the wake of this pandemic, with all of us feeling on edge, acts of violence have again been perpetrated against those deemed “less than.” I struggle, as a middle-class, white, California male, to find any words that could help the situation our country finds itself in (again). A friend of mine reminded me today, though, that I don’t have to say anything, and when I do, I can speak for Element as a body of believers. God has allowed me to be a shepherd, under His leadership, of a body of people. As that Shepherd I will speak and remind us of the Gospel—the unchanging truths that are just as relevant to our confused world as when they were originally written. 

We are all made in the image of God. The word Tselem is also a word that is sometimes translated as images or idols. In every ancient religion, they would have images of their gods carved into stone, clay, bronze, and gold. The God of the Bible clearly says that His people were never to make images of Him because humankind was to be His image bearers. Whenever we see any person on this planet being abused, torn down, or humiliated, it should make us sick because the image of God is being desecrated. Think of how we feel when we see someone vandalize or loot a building during a riot, do we feel an infinitely deeper anguish when the image of God in others is destroyed before our very eyes?

I was listening to a couple people talk about what happened to George Floyd last weekend, and one of them said, “What makes it even more sad is that he was a Christian.” Why should George Floyd believing in Jesus make it more tragic? Is it because we start to think he deserved it less because he had qualities that we would define as redeeming? Until we realize it is tragic simply because an image bearer of God was treated this way, apart from color, lifestyle, or beliefs, these types of things will continue to happen because of color, lifestyle, or beliefs.

Most people who are racists don’t think they are racists. Most people who are intolerant of others don’t realize they are intolerant. I know people who think they are the epitome of peace and love and want our president to die (horribly). I know people who think they are levelheaded, compassionate, and able to fairly look at any issue, and yet they find those who disagree with them as shallow, shortsighted, and stupid. We all do it; we must be willing to see our own biases, and we also must be willing to stand up for the image of God in others or we are not acting as image bearers of God.

May we begin to live as a community of people who understand that our hope of salvation is not based upon how good, smart, or put together we are. Our only hope is in Jesus’ death to remove our sin-soaked, callous hearts and His resurrection that restores us to life. A people saved by His grace, not our own. A community that treats everyone else as image bearers of God. Nobody on top, nobody on the bottom. Where the richest person treats the poorest person with honor and respect simply because we see one another as God sees us. As Billy Graham said, “The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.” 

May we be a community where the powerful see those with no power and treat them like a child of a King. Where young and old, black and white, male and female, and everything in between come together in love. It must be more than Facebook posts, or Instagram memes, or blog posts on websites (like this one). We must be a people who truly understand who other people are because of creation. Frederick Buechner is now 93 and has loved Jesus most of his life. He writes many things that stick with me throughout the years that speak of compassion and understanding. He says, “Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It's the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” Too often we can look at the news as a spectacle but don’t allow it to touch us…and it must touch us if we are to understand the image of God in others.

We must at least try to understand why there is so much fear and anger that have lodged side-by-side in a community who feels they have not been given a voice. Buechner writes, “If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.” When Jesus speaks of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, He intended for us to identify with and to understand the racially outcast (it was how Israel viewed the Samaritans). Luke 10:36-37 Jesus asked “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

I really don’t know what it looks like for all of you, but Element must be a place where we honor the image of God in others, show mercy, identify with the outcast and marginalized, and stand for righteousness in the face of injustice. Again, Buechner writes, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” May our gladness be found in the Gospel and may that gladness feed the world’s hunger to comprehend that we are made by God, for His glory, and ultimately, we belong to Him. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. May we glorify God by processing these events deeply and seeking what He longs to teach us in moments like these. Let those moments then lead us to action on behalf of all image bearers.

 

Announcement: Element Re-Opening Plan as of May 27, 2020

by Element Christian Church

We had a meeting last night with certain key leaders from Element to discuss our next couple of weeks and what they look like. We talked about how to logistically honor Jesus, our county/state regulations, and you (as those who attend Element). What we have decided to do is continue livestreaming services with a few modifications:

  • This Sunday, May 31, will remain only Livestreamed as we have the past several weeks – nothing in person (and nothing personal – haha).
  • Next Sunday, June 7, we will Livestream all three services AND:
    • Open the building at the 11am service if you want to come and watch the pre-recorded service together in the sanctuary at Element (again, we can only have 75 people inside with social distancing).
    • At that 11am service we will have an outside viewing area where you can bring your own lawn chairs and socially distance in the fresh air (but again, there will be no children’s programs per county/state requirements so you will need to ‘police’ your own children).
    • We will release our guidelines for attending in person by next Wednesday.
  • The third Sunday, June 14, we will reassess the week before (after the state/county reassess) but most likely work on how to get more people to be able to meet together, and hopefully have more direction on children’s classes.

We are hoping you understand our position as we work towards opening in a way that honors who we are as community that loves Jesus and people. Unfortunately, our facility doesn’t have large enough extra rooms to accommodate taking all of us (and our kids) with 6 feet of space to make ‘normal’ services possible.

Questions? Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ministry Spotlight: Royal Family Kids Interview

by Element Christian Church

Learn more about our local chapter of Royal Family Kid from the co-directors who run it: Jan, Diane and Eric. Interview by Justine.

For more information, check out their website: https://santamaria.royalfamilykids.org
Or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Word of Encouragement and Prayer from Mike Harman May 12, 2020

by Mike Harman

Reading from2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Replay: Element Elders Discuss: Covid19 & The Church’s Response

by Element Christian Church

Our Elders, Mike Harman, Aaron Carlberg, and Eric Djafroodi, gathered to answer some questions recently asked to Element surrounding COVID-19. Listen to their responses both as individuals and for Element as an organization. The questions/topics discussed were:

- The Bible instructs us to not give up meeting with the believers, and the Constitution guarantees the freedom of peaceful gathering of people as well as the freedom of religion (without the interference of government). Do you feel this has been jeopardized and if so, when as Christians and if ever, do we choose not to regard the Governors orders.
- How do you feel about a possible mandatory COVID vaccination?
- How does the great commission look for us in these times? To all nations and people. (What is “the great commission”)
- When will Element start meeting in person again?

If you have questions from this video, email them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Get to Know: Interview with Lindsey Martino

by Element Christian Church

Get to know Lindsay, who has been a part of the Element Church family for several years, as Michael interviews her. You may not know her story, so we thought we would have her share it! We hope you are encouraged by her attitude towards life like we have been.

If you wish to send her a note of encouragement, you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mail us and we deliver it for you:

Element Church
4890 Bethany Lane
Santa Maria, CA 93455

Word of Encouragement and Prayer from Mike Harman April 28, 2020

by Mike Harman

Reading from Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”