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:
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.”

Word of Encouragement and Prayer from Mike Harman April 21, 2020

by Mike Harman

Reading from Romans 8:35-39 (NLT)

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[a]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Coronavirus Stew

by Aaron

When I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of money, which in turn made my mother buy whatever protein was on sale (usually a roast of some sort). I cannot tell you how often we had pot roast growing up. Many people I speak to love pot roast; personally, I hate it because it was the one thing we had all the time (well, that and meatloaf). I remember one time my stepfather made the meatloaf and essentially took a pound of ground beef, poured ketchup on it, and baked it. Did I mention I don’t like meatloaf either? If there was ever anything left after the end of a few days of potroast or meatloaf leftovers in the refrigerator, it got turned into a stew (by the way, I don’t like stew either).

Apparently, stews can be made from just about anything.. You throw it in a crockpot, or something, mix it all up with a little liquid, and boom…the shelf-life of what you were about to throw away has magically been extended. You may be wondering why I am rambling about stews or meatloaf when the title of this blog says “coronavirus”…well, I have noticed many people making stew from a lot of things in their life right now, rather than tossing out what should be considered garbage.

Metaphors aside, what I mean is that during this season of spending most of our time alone or locked in our homes, we have a tendency to stew (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) on issues more than usual. We may find that little slights and hurts we would have let go a few weeks ago, now seem to sit and steep (like a teabag in water) in our hearts. Something that we may have processed through and discarded as being a misunderstanding, suddenly has more weight as we begin to ruminate on it. What accounts for this change?

A few short weeks ago, when we could interact with others on a normative level, we could (hopefully) process through slights, hurts, mistakes, and mix-ups. I know many people don’t and still make stew in the ‘normal world’ as well, but it is easier for most of us to process when we can do so face-to-face. I have come across people recently who are dealing with interpersonal issues that, at one time, would have not even been on their radar…and I believe it stems from our closed-off lives from each other. In keeping with my metaphor, it’s also important to understand that these strange circumstances have created a pressure cooker of an environment for many of us. We’re faced with the stressors of a harmful illness, financial insecurity, loneliness, disruption in our normal routine, and challenges in our family roles. The weight of these things can color our perception in a way where we are much slower to extend patience and grace to the people around us.

While I am not calling for us to break county regulations and start gathering, I am asking that all of us strive to be a little more connected. Psalm 133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! Yes, our unity is easier when we are together in person, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be unified even in social distancing. The technology we have today that allows us to be connected in these moments is amazing, and if you feel yourself getting worked up, making some sort of stew in your heart, reach of out to someone for some interpersonal interaction. Take stock of how the coronavirus has affected you and remember that it may be affecting others in similar, or even more difficult, ways.

Heb 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Thess 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. Some of us need encouragement now more than ever, as we are in an unprecedented season of life. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you if you need encouragement and remember to be a source of encouragement to others.

Believe me, I understand the frustration of wanting to be out and enjoying normal life again. I too feel the weight of little things that sit upon my heart in overbearing ways. What has started to happen in my heart, though, is a greater appreciation for the little interactions I have always had and yet taken for granted. 

My encouragement for you, in this stage of our isolation, is to not make stew in your heart when feeling let down or misunderstood by others. If anything, reach out and talk to those around you via Zoom, Teams, Facetime, Messenger, or whatever app you use, because nine out of ten times if we don’t, we will find we were making stew instead of learning to “dwell in unity.”


Word of Encouragement and Prayer from Jonathan Whitaker

by Jonathan Whitaker

Reading from Matthew 6:25-34

Do Not Be Anxious

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

God’s Purposes, Our Good

by Kelly Borjas

We are 2.5 weeks into “quarantine mode,” and I figured it was time for me to pause and reflect (writing is always my way of doing that). Usually when I write a blog, I am introspective on a circumstance or aspect of my life. This is a rare situation where the entire world collectively is experiencing the same issue I am, however, this one pandemic impacts each of us differently.

  • Healthcare workers must take care of sick patients, potentially endangering themselves.
  • Essential businesses and employees go to work, increasing chances of exposure to the virus.
  • Parents have become instant homeschoolers, many still trying to work.
  • Small businesses have the pressure of paying employees with uncertainty of future business.
  • Restaurants have had to change how to do business.
  • Many are being laid off.
  • Children must cope with disappointment: school canceled, birthday parties canceled.

Life as we all know it has drastically changed. Family members and friends may get Coronavirus. The list could go on, as no person or business or entity is unaffected by this pandemic.

My mentality has swung from attempting to enjoy the break from so much of life, to wondering what news reports to believe. I have to fight the fear of future business and financial security, and battle tears with my 6-year-old because he misses his friends. I had to take Facebook off my phone because the negativity permeated too many of my thoughts. How dangerous is the virus itself? How long will this last? Will we get it? My perspective has gone from how to approach this situation as a whole, to how to fight and pray for peace daily (sometimes moment by moment). In one day, I’ll fluctuate between gratitude for our beautiful world and my family: time together, bike rides, neighbors outside and smiling, the meals we have, to heart-palpitating fear that we are stuck like this indefinitely. Patience is tested for my family as we are all together, all the time. Last Sunday we tried to live stream church services when we had two kids start throwing tantrums; in the end we went outside and had our own family church service that was simple and authentic (as my son told the story of Noah’s ark, I had a new appreciation for being stuck on a boat for 40 days!)

I often try to ask what God is teaching me in a particular situation. I found myself today trying to ask that question but was stumped as to the answer because we are ALL in this situation. What is God teaching us? Is it a lesson for humanity in general? Is it some great wake up call? I don’t have answers to these questions.

As I prayed, I was reminded of one of my favorite verses: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).” Sometimes people like to quote this verse with the idea that all things will all work out the way we want (Riches! A nice house! Business success! Whatever else we want!). This is one of the greatest promises of Scripture, but it doesn’t mean we get what we want. I may not have financial security. I may not live to old age. I will lose people I care about at some point in life. So what is our “good” as Christians? It is this: God can and will use all things to work together to make us more like Him, to draw us closer to Him for His purpose. The “good” we have been promised it Jesus.

Our hope is in Jesus. In fact, on my morning run, I literally ran across a sidewalk--chalked verse of Psalm 52:5 “My soul rests in God; my hope comes from him.” I have no idea who placed that there, but the truth and encouragement brought a smile to my face. A ray of hope in a bleak world. This world is temporary; He is eternal. Circumstances change; God never changes. That is our hope, and as our circumstances force us to face our own mortality and the uncertainty around us, we are reminded what is certain, and God is using all these things to work together for our good, and His purposes.


Word of Encouragement and Prayer from Mike Harman

by Mike Harman

Reading from Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Another Coronavirus Blog?

by Aaron

Please forgive me if you think I am hopping on the pandemic bandwagon of the Coronavirus. Everyone is talking about this (many with very different views) and it needs to be addressed from Element because we are getting lots of advice from lots of people. There was a great article on the Gospel Coalition website recently by Joe Carter where he quotes a scientific American article from Bill Hanage and Marc Lipsitch that speaks of 3 levels of information:

A. What we know to be true – where infection is, how it is spread.
B. What we think is true – interpretation of facts and transmission of those interpretations.
C. Opinions and speculation – what they call “the effects of extreme social distancing.”

Carter writes, “In talking about this issue, we should make every attempt to base our opinion on category A, be hesitant about putting too much weight on category B, and be clear when we are referring to category C.” Our goal at Element as we prayerfully make decisions and respond is to utilize the above criteria.

Whether or not the current situation is defined as an outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic will change depending on who you get your information from (different organization define pandemic differently). Shutting things completely down may work in an outbreak or epidemic stage, but during a pandemic it could hurt more people as goods and services can’t get to those who need them the most. A Gospel-centered response must assert itself in the midst of fear…which is what I want to talk about.

Believers in Jesus are living in the same level of anxiety and fear as everyone else, meaning we are sharing the response of others to what is often merely “opinions and speculation.” Please don’t misunderstand me, there are precautions that should take place (Element is starting to take some of those), but we must also be Gospel focused in whatever our response becomes. 1 John 4:18-21 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Between 250 and 270 A.D. a plague devastated the Roman Empire to the point that upwards of 5,000 people died every day (it was called the Plague of Cyprian). Eric Metaxas notes that, “The plague coincided with the first empire-wide persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius. Not surprisingly, Decius and other enemies of the Church blamed Christians for the plague.” That claim obviously wasn’t true because Christians died from it…and unlike everybody else, they cared for the victims of the plague, including their non-believing neighbors.

Throughout church history Christians have had the opposite reaction to pandemics than the rest of the world. Historically, they have run towards them to offer healing and hope amidst the fear and chaos. This is documented with the Antonine Plague, the Black Plague, and even Ebola. Rodney Stark wrote, "Christians stayed in the afflicted cities when pagan leaders, including physicians, fled.” Metaxas quotes Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, that an "epidemic that seemed like the end of the world actually promoted the spread of Christianity." By their actions in the face of possible death, Christians showed their neighbors that "Christianity is worth dying for."

Today we are centuries, and in some cases millennia, removed from these plagues, and yet the same truth of Christ’s rescue of us should remain preeminent in how we ultimately handle outbreaks like Covid-19. The people who are hit hardest are the elderly who cannot get out of their homes as easily as they used to. While we should be careful not to spread the virus, we should also understand that love calls us to reach out and check on those most vulnerable around us. This may look different depending on your neighborhood, and could include a myriad of things from sharing from a stockpile of toilet paper, offering to run an errand for someone, delivering a meal, or simply calling someone who may need comfort in isolation. We follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding because God’s love for us should prompt us to run toward people--even as everyone else runs away. Running toward the less fortunate confounds those in the world who think it is strictly a government’s or NGO’s job to help people. Many times governmental agencies give up just when people need help the most.

Please understand both what I am saying and not saying. Yes, take precautions, but don’t let whatever happens in this world override God’s call in our lives to love another. We are to be driven first and foremost by the Gospel and God’s intervening rescue of us. Social media can stir you up to believe all sorts of things, but like Hanage and Lipsitch say in their post, “The virus does not read news articles and doesn’t care about Twitter.” 

Let us be those who care for those around us in love and not fearful reaction.


What Is a Reasoned Response (Covid 19)

by Kelly Borjas

I remember a few months ago seeing news coverage of the Coronavirus in China: people lined up around the block for masks, a husband in full protective gear to care for his infected wife. At the time, I gave it a passing thought. Honestly—it was an “I’m sorry for them and glad we aren’t dealing with that in America.” Then I moved on with my life, to my plans, problems, and my celebrations.

Flash forward, and the impact of the Coronavirus is felt and seen worldwide. As my husband said, it feels like a wave that is coming. News, social media, conversations, politics, even churches are responding to this pandemic. In my life I can recall two defining moments that seem on par with the magnitude of this situation: 9-11, and the economic collapse in 2008. The same feelings and behaviors emerged during those times: fear, speculation, uncertainty, and a drastic shift in daily behaviors.

I find myself trying to figure out how to respond as a Christian. As a Christ-follower, my hope is secure in what Jesus says and has done. However, that doesn’t negate the need to act responsibly. Honestly, it’s overwhelming and inundating. Please note, this blog is absolutely not a commentary on what medical measures to take, that’s not my specialty and I won’t claim to have an educated stance on the matter. It is, however, an attempt to make sense of the reality that our society as a whole is wrestling with this topic and we cannot avoid it. Do we stock up on food? Do we need extra water? Do we stop attending events? De we cancel trips? Even closer to home, my son had a cold this last week. The what-if thoughts took hold in my heart, and the fear wants to take root. We may all differ on how to respond in preparation, but I believe there are a few key thoughts as Christians that we can apply to our lives.

No part of this pandemic is a surprise to God. He is sovereign and in control, on the throne, and won’t be conquered by anything. That’s also true of His love for us. Romans 8:35, 37 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or, danger, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life or angels, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Translation: not even the Coronavirus will separate us from the love of Jesus! I need that daily reminder to calm my soul and orient my heart, especially when the fear takes root and starts to grow.

This is also a reminder of both the great freedoms we’ve enjoyed, and how much we’ve been spared from other devastating events. Until now, we have had the freedom to take trips, attend events, and gather together without a second thought. Now, gathering with others is a carefully-meditated decision. Have I ever really stopped to appreciate this? No, and I hope I remember that ability when our lives return to a “normal” pace. On a smaller level, we had a trip planned for months that we had to cancel, a reminder to me (planner Kelly) not to hold so tightly to my agenda and plans, and to be thankful for both the big and small moments, even when they change.

A couple weeks ago a tornado occurred in the middle of the night in Tennessee, reminding me that none of us knows how our days are numbered. This is humbling for me: how many times have I read news stories of hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and more, and barely paid attention? All too often. Now we’re faced with this pandemic and I realize none of us is exempt from natural disasters or trouble. The Bible says, “a man’s heart directs his steps but the Lord directs his ways” (Proverbs 16:9). Instead of thanking the Lord for each day, I move forward like I control my life. I don’t control my life. I can make plans, but God still directs my ways. 

Where does that leave us? I think it leaves us with the truth. These are uncertain times that require a response. Each of us may differ in what that response looks like, but we need to remember where our hope lies. Jesus said, “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It’s okay to be prepared. In fact, I think that’s even our responsibility. God gave us brains, research, and the ability to make wise choices. Yet, in our preparation we cannot assume we control the outcome. We must hold this situation with open hands: make wise choices, but trust that the Lord is in control. It’s a time we need to remind ourselves where our hope lies, and that our hope is not in any particular outcome or circumstance. Our hope lies in God, who is the “Alpha and the Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). May we remember our God is in control and has overcome the world, and let our lives be a reflection of that truth, even as we face difficult and uncertain circumstances.


Missionary Stories: Royal Family Kids

by Holly DeKorte

If you were asked to describe a “good” childhood, what might you say?  Some of you might mention summer evenings playing catch with a father or mother, afternoons swinging in a hammock and reading a book, baking cookies with a beloved grandmother, splashing in a pool and drying out in the sun, homework help, and nightly prayers with parents.  You might have had such a childhood.  Sadly, many children grow up wondering where their next meal will come from or how they can avoid the next blow from a parent’s hand.  These children have had their childhoods stolen away from them.  It is not good.

All through scripture, God tells us of His heart for the vulnerable, specifically for the widow, the fatherless (orphan), and the sojourner.  God’s law provided specifically for the widow and orphan through granting justice, food, and rights, by forbidding oppression and stinginess and by including the fatherless in the community. (See Deuteronomy 14: 28-29, 16: 10-14, 24: 17-21, and 27: 19). God’s word also promises that He hears the orphan’s cry, He watches over them, and places them in families.  In Psalms 27:10 David declares that though his father and mother have forsaken him, the Lord will take him in.  This is God’s heart: to welcome, love, and father the fatherless.

What does this have to do with stolen childhoods?  Aren’t these verses reflecting the orphan crisis in developing nations? We Americans tend to think of the orphans overseas and we miss the orphans right under our noses: children in foster care.  These vulnerable children face hunger, abandonment, abuse, helplessness, and possible child trafficking.  Christians have the responsibility to involve themselves in orphan care locally and internationally.  God calls His followers to specific good works, not to earn salvation, but to carry out His heart here on earth and to bring glory to God.  Paul puts it this way, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advanced for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10.

Maybe you are hearing God’s call to join Him in caring for vulnerable foster children.  What are some practical steps?  Some of you might consider praying about becoming foster parents. Pathway Family Services is a good place to start:

Others of you might see the need, but might not be able to foster.  Fear not!  There are specific ways to get involved in local orphan care.  Because abuse started in a relationship, it is often repaired in a relationship.  Enter Royal Family Kids (RFK).  This organization began nearly 30 years ago to “help interrupt the cycles of neglect, abuse, and abandonment of children in foster care.”  Royal Family Kids is a worldwide organization that works with the government, businesses, and local churches to provide foster children a week at camp.  It’s more than just a camp. It’s a chance to point children to Jesus, to give them unconditional love, shower them with gifts, and to create a sense of true family. 

The past two summers, I have been a camp counselor.  Counselors are responsible for two children at all times and are partnered with another counselor and two other children to make a cabin group.  Additional staff members standby to offer love and support to anyone who needs it.  My first summer I remember wondering how much of an impact one week at camp actually makes.  That year, the little girls in my cabin taught me the impact.  One girl asked me to braid her hair every day.  I am certainly not the best hairstylist, but she craved a gentle hand that said, “I care.”  Even now when I see her at RFK Club (the year around mentoring program), she says, “I miss that summer when you would braid my hair.”  Another girl, who was sometimes detached, often walked beside me that first year.  One day, I said to her, “You know, there is a song that includes both of our names.”  I sang it to her and she gave me a very quizzical look. One year later, I was sitting with the same girl while she slowly finished dinner and she turned to me and said, “I still remember our song.”  She hummed a few lines of the old English tune and then smiled.  What impact does a week have?  Little moments that seem inconsequential matter greatly.  If little moments matter, then imagine the impact the Gospel has on these young lives.

This year, the Santa Maria camp is June 14th-19th.  Volunteers 18 years and over are needed.  Male and female counselors, photographers, media workers, and prayer partners are in high demand.  For every counselor who attends camp, two foster children are also able to attend.  Home Team positions are available for people who might not be able to get away for a week.  If you love writing letters, your gifts are needed!  The campers receive mail every day from members of the Home Team. 

There is a thorough application, background check and interview process.  For additional information and to begin the application process contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you feel God calling you to minister to orphans through Royal Family Kids, please know that you’ll never be the same.  He will develop and shape you in ways that you could not imagine.  God’s hand and heart is for the fatherless. 


A Good Story

by Kelly Borjas

I love a good story, so much that I write fiction as a hobby (my own story world with characters in crisis, opposing goals, redemption, and of course a romance). This week I was confronted with the negative power words can bring; FOUR times in two days!  These experiences reminded me how important it is to be mindful of what I say. Obviously, God’s teaching me a lesson! However, by Wednesday, my Bible reading plan took me to Revelation 12:11, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

The blood of the Lamb overcame Satan, sin and death. This is so powerful, especially after we studied in Element University how God’s plan includes the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22: without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins). Jesus shed His blood, and that work overcomes Satan! This may be my new favorite verse in the Bible; it’s the ultimate conclusion to the problem of sin. But why is a testimony important? A testimony (a good story) is sharing the gospel, the good news that proclaims Jesus to the world.

Thinking about these verses has made me consider how powerful our individual stories are. Each of us has a different story, and when we have a life-changing personal encounter with Jesus, it cannot be refuted. God uses us and our stories—our changed lives—to showcase His plan and work. This can be the moment we believe in Jesus, or small moments throughout our lives. In fact, at our women’s Bible study this week, various women shared how God has spoken to them; I sat both encouraged and in awe at how majestic God is.

As we’ve studied Acts, we see how Paul engages with the culture. It begs the question: what’s our current culture? Arguably, our culture responds well to stories. Movies, shows, books, and even commercials contain some element of storytelling. Stories paint a picture—of what was and what can or will be. A character is changed throughout the course of a story. We are relational human beings, and the power of stories resonates with us. In our current combative culture, building relationships and authentically sharing the change in our lives oftentimes has more of an impact than mere words or arguments (think of the diatribes on social media, or the protestor holding signs on a street corner. They typically turn people away, as opposed to towards their goals). As Christians, the true power of our story comes at the point where Jesus intervenes in our lives. Where He rescues us. Without redemption, a story falls flat and leaves us hopeless. 

We are called to have an answer for the hope we have in us (1 Peter 3:15). At their worst, words hurt and divide. However, at their best, words express the most beautiful of stories; the most important topic on which we ever communicate. Whether written or verbal, I am reminded of the power of our stories and testimonies and how words can be a tool to paint the picture of redemption—the moment Jesus saved us, and the moments throughout our lives where we see Him work. As we build relationships with those in our community—friends, coworkers, neighbors—our story is a reminder to know where Jesus has changed our lives and to be able to express that to others.


Prayer, Discernment, Guidance

by Kelly Borjas

Have you ever said something you wished you wouldn’t have said? It’s happened to me, all too often (let’s be honest: I’ve never been accused of not saying enough). When this happens, though, I leave a conversation with a sick-to-my-stomach feeling until I make the situation right.

My past weekend was an odd one. On Friday night, there was an issue on my heart I couldn’t let rest, an urge to pray for a situation. When I finally texted the person I needed to speak to the next day, it was confirmed: they had needed prayer, and there was no doubt the Holy Spirit was both prompting me to pray, as well as reach out. That night, four people came to Christ. I was left with a feeling of humbled awe—the Lord of all creation would use me in a small piece of His redemptive story to show His great love. Then, a couple of days later, I was annoyed with something and made a point to express my opinion.  In that situation, I said my thoughts, leaving with a bitter taste in my mouth. My comment did nothing to help the situation. Even worse, my husband (who tends to be a steady guide for me) cautioned me against saying anything. Did I listen? No. I felt my opinion was too important and went in, verbal guns blazing.

What’s the difference between these two scenarios? I’ve wrestled with this for the majority of the day, and come to two conclusions: 1) pride, and 2) the Holy Spirit’s guidance. When are comments helpful and productive, and when are they destructive and divisive?

I’ve been on the side of not following the Holy Spirit’s promptings: knowing I need to reach out to someone and not doing it, finding out later they needed encouragement and I didn’t reach out. I’ve also been on the side of saying something I shouldn’t, feeling guilt and remorse. And, in the most beautiful of scenarios, I’ve been able to see God work through His timing when I respond to His perfect promptings. How are we supposed to know the difference? What does that look like in real life?

There’s only one conclusion I can come to: prayer and discernment, coupled with trusted guidance. Ironically, it’s not a step-by-step process, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: when I move in the Spirit, I have life and peace. When I move in the flesh it’s destruction. The fruit of the Sprit is “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”  (Galatians 5:23). If I’m honest about some of my reactions, I lack self-control. And, when I react out of my flesh, I experience the opposite of peace. However, when I follow the Holy Spirit, the by-product is an inexplicable peace, a rightness in my world, and a humility at how great God is. What should I do? Pray before I speak, and if it’s an issue that may need to be addressed, seek wise counsel. (Imagine a world where we all thought before we spoke or commented! How many conflicts could be avoided?!) When I pray, wait and listen, and—if needed—seek counsel, results are different. 

I wish I had a formula for Christian life. I wish I had a guideline of when to speak, and when not to speak. Yet, God doesn’t give us that magical solution. What He does give is His Holy Spirit. It’s in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). I find myself wondering: if God gave me a simple formula, would I need Him? If He gave me the boxes to check, would I rely on His guidance? I don’t think so, honestly. I would probably rely on my own self sufficiency and ability to fulfill a set of guidelines. What am I left with? I’m left with the mess of a rule-following perfectionist personality who will never be able to follow rules perfectly. I fail. I sin. Enter the beauty of the gospel and the work Jesus accomplished: the good news that I don’t have to figure out this life on my own, I don’t have to do it perfectly. He did it for me. It’s the inexplicable mystery of God’s grace that humbles me. He uses sinful humans in His redemptive purposes, creating a dependence on Him that we couldn’t find on our own. I pray I learn from my mistakes, accept the grace I’m given, and move forward in a dependence on the Holy Spirit to share the gospel of Jesus, in whom we live and move and have our being.