Missional Opportunity: Royal Family Kids Camp

by Element Christian Church

One of our Gospel Communities, Ordinary GC, serves together at Royal Family Kids, a great non-profit who bless and serve foster children in our area. They do lots of stuff throughout the year including a mentoring program, monthly local events and a yearly summer camp. RFK is seeking some help for their upcoming summer camp June 16-21st. If you or someone you know has the ability to spend a week away at a kids camp (located within an hour distance from Orcutt), please consider filling some of these needs:

  • Counselors (male and female- one counselor per 2 children)

  • Photographer

  • Videographer

  • Registration coordinator (home team)

  • Prayer team coordinator (home team)

  • Bible teacher

  • Drama leader

There is an information meeting this Thursday, April 18th, and you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions and for more details. 

 

Mentor VS. Disciple

by Kelly Borjas

Have you ever heard someone say they have a mentor? How about that they are “being discipled” or “discipling someone?” These are common phrases I’ve heard over the years. They’re frequent in many churches and frankly, kind of confusing. So what’s the difference between mentorship and discipleship?

I would guess most people assume “mentorship” is generally outside of a Christian context; whereas discipleship is the concept of helping a person grow in Christlikeness. Generally, a mentor is “further along” or more advanced than the mentee (at least we would hope). It could be a specific area (i.e. someone who mentors another person in career decisions (like how a Sous Chef is supposed to train the other people in the kitchen), or it could be general, such as someone to reach out to on an “as-needed” basis.

A cursory search and study on discipleship opens Pandora’s Box. Nobody has found the perfect form of discipleship (sarcasm inserted here)! Opinions vary on the best way to achieve and encourage discipleship. There are many words we use to describe it: Accountability partner. D-group. Bible study. Discipleship. Mentor. These are merely some of the terms I’ve encountered in my growth as a Christian, with the end goal being to grow in our faith. One article suggests codependency may result in a one-on-one discipleship relationship. The article also speaks to the author’s beliefs that her primary discipleship role is her kids; however, their family invites people to dinner often, and mutual discipleship occurs during dinner. Others suggest discipleship should be the main focus of our missional communities.

These opinions beg the question: what is discipleship? According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of disciple is: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as

  • A: Christianityone of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ's followers according to the Gospel accounts
  • Ba convinced adherentof a school or individual (ie: a disciple of Freud).

To start a quest on what this means for us, we have to look at what the Bible says. Here’s what’s fascinating: the term “discipleship” is not even in the Bible. What??? We have all of these opinions about how to achieve this and it’s not even mentioned in the Bible? Well, the term disciple is mentioned as Jesus says to “go into the world to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). If we are to do what Jesus says, to make disciples, we are sharing the gospel, and baptizing people. Simple. Yet the application is where this gets complicated. How do we achieve this?

The concept of discipleship (as we have come to label and understand it in American Christian culture —a growing in our faith and Christlikeness) is in the Bible; it’s how we live out the idea of making disciples. In Titus 2 we see older women are to… “teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…” In Hebrews, we see that we should 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” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Jesus himself had 12 disciples who followed him and “did life together” (to use a current phrase)—they travelled, ate and drank together, and pursued His ministry together. There are some key factors here:

  1. The biblical concept of discipleship is relational, not a formula.
  2. It is healthiest if it’s same-gender.
  3. The idea of an older woman connotes the idea of someone who is “further along” (which also helps alleviate too much dependency on another person instead of focusing on Christ).
  4. Meeting together for mutual encouragement and a push toward growth in Christ is a factor.

How does this translate into our lives?

Discipleship occurs as a result of intentional time spent with other Christians, but this doesn’t happen by osmosis. In other words, merely spending time with other Christians is not discipleship; that would be fellowship (which has its own valuable place). Discipleship requires intentional engagement on both parties to invest in the relationship with the mutual goal of growth. I would assume most Christians consider discipleship a process by which two or more people meet together and discuss the Bible, what God has done, and how to apply it to their lives. In an ideal world, prayer and accountability are included in that mix. It’s not a process by which a person grows alone. Most often, effective discipleship would occur in a consistent meeting together so true relationships develop.

There is a time and place for meeting with those who are ahead of us in both life and their walk with Christ, which may require even more intentionality with differing schedules. Mentorship, in a Christian context, is a component of discipleship, and one we should not quickly ignore. We glean much by learning from those who have “been there before” and can impart their wisdom.

I would suggest the difference between mentoring and discipleship may often be a matter of semantics, especially if we are Christians. As Christians, we take a Christian worldview on our lives; that means all of our decisions should be viewed through a lens of what God is doing in our lives and how we can glorify Him. Interestingly, as my husband and I were discussing this, our opinion is that a person we would turn to for “discipleship” would also be a good mentor in all areas of life, because a person is generally not a strong example if they do not have wisdom in the practical areas of life. My husband says he turns toward someone with credibility, both in their walk with Christ and their life decisions. That does not mean worldly success; it means a person who is able to filter all of life’s decisions through a gospel-centered lens. It’s a person who helps process decisions such as taking a job or making a financial commitment with the same goal of glorifying Christ first. For example, I have a friend who is an older, more mature Christian. I have met with her a handful of times over the years, generally when I am struggling in a particular area or could use advice, prayer, wisdom, and encouragement. We have never met consistently, but I always know I may contact her and she’ll be able to help me navigate through an issue. I would consider her a mentor who assists me as I grow in my faith, which is part of my discipleship.

Discipleship in a mutual form would be able to challenge one another, “Iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17),” and is vital to our growth as Christians. We can all learn from those with different strengths and spiritual gifts, which is the ideal of the body of Christ as we meet together frequently. 

We need each other as part of our spiritual growth, which is why God gave us the Church. Our focus should be on Christ, because as we focus on Him we are transformed, and that transformation overflows to the body of Christ and those in our missional communities. The goal is that we would disciple each other, mentor those younger than us, and learn from those with more experience and maturity in their faith all to the glory of God.

 

The What-If Cycle

by Kelly Borjas

It happens often. A smidgeon of fear enters my mind, then I start entertaining anything that can go wrong. I “catastrophize” a fear to all the possible outcomes (generally bad ones or irrational ones…what if x, y, or z happens? Ironically, I don’t tend to dwell on possible positive outcomes). I engage my fearful thoughts and give them too much credit, which ultimately breeds anxiety and robs me of peace. I call it the what-if cycle. 

This has been a crazy week. My husband and I are both faced with situations that could have a lot of possible outcomes for our family, and I want to have the right outlook. I don’t want fear to rule my days, but I’m also scared to hope after walking similar roads in the past that resulted in pain. I know the past pain and struggles have produced growth, and even an increased dependence on God, but it’s still scary to face the unknown. I think many of us have times in life like this—whether it’s engaging in relationships after a loss of a loved one, starting a new job after loss of a previous job, or something else. How do we handle moving forward when the fear can feel paralyzing? 

My Bible Reading plan has been in Numbers (it’s a book in the Old Testament, trust me, it’s there). I literally prayed this morning for application to my life because it’s been a hard book for me to go through. This morning I read in Numbers 9, how the Israelites moved when the cloud representing the presence of God moved. “Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out…” And I realized, God has me where I am for now. Whether I’m in this situation for a day or two days or a month or longer…that’s where God has me now. It can be so easy to get ahead of myself, to be scared about the outcome, or what will come in the future. The “what ifs” can wreak havoc with my mind and heart, but if I take it a day at a time, I am reminded that God will sustain me. He will provide. I can trust in Him. I am not trusting in the outcome I want; I’m trusting that He is good, He loves me, and all things work together for my good, even if I don’t see it or understand.

A recent tool I’ve learned is to question what I’m believing about God when these thoughts or fears want to take over, then apply truth. Am I believing He’s good, or am I believing He’s up in heaven wringing his hands or haphazardly letting things happen on my behalf? Am I believing that I’m in control, or that He’s in control? Am I believing I need to earn grace, or that it’s freely given? If I’ve learned anything in the past handful of years, it’s how little control I actually have.  I have had to learn to “preach to myself,” not listen to myself, and I can only do this by walking in the Holy Spirit. Walking in the Holy Spirit can sound mystical or confusing, but it’s really just a dependence on Him and a reliance on Scripture. Sometimes that reliance is daily, sometimes it’s moment-by-moment, but it is always a prayerful dependence on God and His promises, on Truth that doesn’t change regardless of my circumstances. 

I need to remind myself that “my times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:15), and the man who fears the Lord “is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid…(Psalm 112:7-8).”

May we all take the what-ifs and the uncertainties we face in life and lay them at the feet of the cross, where the One who is certain and in control and full of grace and truth holds us and carries our burdens. May we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and sustain us as we apply the truth of Scripture to our lives. I don’t know the outcome of the circumstances my husband and I are facing; however, I know where to turn, and for today, I am sustained. Tomorrow is a new day as “His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).” Let us trust in His faithfulness.

Yo Tengo Gozo Gozo Gozo Gozo En Me Corazon

by Element Christian Church

Years ago we used to do these mission trips down into Mexico to work with orphanages and impoverished people. One of the things I tended to notice is that the children and adults were not as depressed as I would be as an American if I found myself in their same situation. It is all a matter of perspective on what they have and focus their lives upon. It was on one of these trips that a small church of poor laborers in Mexico taught me a song that went:

Yo tengo gozo gozo gozo en mi Corazon!
Donde? En me Corazon
Donde? En me Corazon
Yo tengo gozo gozo gozo en mi Corazon!

I never really learned Spanish and my memory of the song lyrics may not 100% correct, but that’s how my brain brings it back in recollection. They translated the song for me:

I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart!
Where? Down in my heart.
Where? Down in my heart.
I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart!

This is sung about Jesus saving us, bringing hope, and residing in us by His Spirit that brings a deep abiding joy “down in our hearts.” I was blown away by a people so in love with Jesus despite their circumstances that it has left a lasting impression on me ever since. 

Where does this deep joy actually come from and what is it (and by contrast, what is it not)? As all things do, I think it stems from God’s provision over us and His revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus. What we eventually see and understand about Jesus, even before His birth, is how the Prophets spoke about Him and His life: Isaiah 53:5 says “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” The words “as one whom men hide their faces” means He most likely was not a man of physical beauty as we would traditionally define it. Think about this: oral hygiene and dentists weren’t as popular as they are today. Can you imagine Jesus NOT having all of His teeth? I mean we hope He did, but most likely He didn’t. He was also rejected and despised by the very people He made. He experienced sorrow and brutality like none of us ever has…and yet He brings peace and joy to those who find their lives in Him.

Based upon what we know, it seems logical that joy and peace can’t stem from good looks, popularity, money, or having an easy life of leisure. We know this to be true because we can look around the world and see that those who have all of those things are just as messed up as we are. Then there’s the most glaring truth: Jesus had none of those things in His earthly life and yet experienced deep and abiding joy. Let me show you Hebrews 12:2 from a couple various translations:

  • We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne. (New Living Translation)
  • fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (New International Version)
  • looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (English Standard Version)

This verse is the writer of Hebrews telling us how to set aside everything that wants to entice and snare us and begin to run the race as Jesus did…and how did Jesus do it? With the joy set before Him. Jesus, we are told, endured the cross, with all of our sins placed upon Him, because of the joy set before Him. What this tells me is that our joy is too small and we probably don’t understand the meaning of it as He does.

We most often look at joy as a byproduct of getting or attaining something, but Jesus sees joy as something that is extended to us by God Himself. It is why Nehemiah 8:10 reminds the Israelites that the joy of God Himself is meant to be our strength. Joy does not mean never having hardship, sorrow, pain, or grief. Joy is the fact God has found us and delighted to rescue us in Himself. The prophet Habakkuk in 3:18 says that even if all the crops fail and nothing is left, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savoir.” Throughout the Old Testament all of the most ecstatic expressions of joy are concentrated in worship; that people are able to celebrate apart from material blessings shows that there have only been two essential reasons for joy: God and His salvation.

In the New Testament the apostle Paul finds great joy when people grow in their trust of God. The entire book of Philippians details how we can have joy even during sorrow because we realize it produces something glorious in us. He also reminds us that joy is a gift God gives to us in Galatians 5:22. God gives joy because it makes us strong. Joy is not happiness, joy is an abiding understanding of God’s goodness, salvation, and sovereignty. One of the last words of the entire Bible is about our joy: Revelation 19:6-8 “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

 

The Ultimate Mic Drop

by Kelly Borjas

When I graduated from college (many years ago) I wanted to change the world. I wanted to be a public speaker and work for a company whose mission I was passionate about so I could do something that matters; I wanted my job and career to have meaning. You can imagine how discouraging it was to find myself (as most of us do) in a job that didn’t directly make a difference in the world (corporate sales). Somewhere in the process of feeling let down I had a realization—relationships with people at work and integrity in my job could make an impact for Christ. They made meaning of the meaningless.

I oftentimes have the same struggle now. As a mom of young kids the days can be long and monotonous (I’m not out changing the world or solving massive problems), but when I look at the days as an opportunity to help mold the hearts of my kids, there is eternal value. What’s the commonality between my “corporate work” life and my “mom” work life? It’s the idea that relationships are a vessel in which we can share what matters; a way to add value to our lives and grow in our faith. 

The question then becomes: what matters? If relationships are a way to share what’s important, then what is important?

I personally cannot answer that question without looking at Jesus and His role in my life. I believe after an encounter with Jesus (a life-changing, direction-giving, identity-naming encounter), our lives are changed…so I would like to focus this short blog post on Jesus. First, my disclaimer: I’m just a regular, church-going person. The focus of this blog isn’t a bunch of technicalities (because I probably don’t know them); however, it is about Jesus and how He changes our lives, specifically about how He’s changed my life. 

Why does Jesus matter so much in regard to how we relate to people? I don’t think I can answer that question without looking at the Bible as a whole—Old and New Testament. Jesus is the turning point in history. Before him, Old Testament laws and regulations prohibited true freedom. I’ve been reading through Exodus lately, and many of the regulations are, quite frankly, overwhelming and exhausting. I cannot imagine living in a time where every detail of a sacrifice must be perfect, or even that animal sacrifices had to be made to cover my sins. Yet, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). The Bible is full of people looking for redemption, for hope (think of the Israelites escaping slavery in Egypt, the desire and provision of earthly judges and kings, the exile and return in Nehemiah). They needed a savior. I need a Savior. Before Jesus, God still provided, but looking back (like a Monday Morning Quarterback), that era just seems overwhelming.

Then comes Jesus.

He fulfills the Old Testament prophesies. He is the Perfect King. He fulfills the law. He is the ultimate Judge. He’s the ultimate Pardoner and Giver of Mercy. He gives true freedom. Hebrews 10 says “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” I love this imagery. It’s like the ultimate mic drop. He sacrifices Himself, rises from the grave, reveals Himself as risen to His disciples, sends the Holy Spirit, then sits down next to the Father. Boom. We, as Christians, have an eternal hope (in His steadfast love, in His grace, in forgivingness of sins). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I don’t have to live in a ritualistic way. This is literally life changing!

I’m a total rule follower (not always in a good way; rules for me can be a way to control and have security). I can easily fall into patterns of trying so hard (on my own) to earn forgiveness, to be “good enough” for grace. This is the largest oxymoron ever. I can never be “good enough” for grace, which is the whole point of grace! How can I not look at His grace and respond with joy? With hope? With a peace and an exhale that lets me rest and stop striving so hard?

Hebrews 10 continues with the idea that, “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,” we should “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean” and “hold fast the confession of our hope” and “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…encouraging each other (Hebrews 10: 19-25).” It goes like this: I can enter the presence of Jesus because of what He has done for me, which leads me to be assured of my faith and hope… and then I get to encourage others. This is where relationships come into play. Because of what Jesus has done for me, it changes my life, and should change how I view relating to other people. Every relationship is an opportunity to encourage someone—in the joys and struggles—because what Jesus did changes me. The love Christ has for me should spill over into my relationships with other people. 

As we reflect on the perfect life and work of Jesus, I pray it spurs us onto encouraging each other. I pray that the good news of Jesus changes all of us (I know I need daily reminders) so we can share His hope and joy with others. It’s in the sharing of life’s joys and struggles that we are able to apply and remember the Gospel. It’s within the fabric of relationships that we are able to have context for what Jesus does in and through us. It’s in the gathering together that we share how God is growing and changing us through the circumstances in our lives, and in those circumstances give and receive encouragement. Relationships matter because they are a vessel in which we can share Jesus—the biggest, most important discovery in life—with others.

 

Riding the Wave

by Kelly Borjas

Dinner with friends.
My sons’ birthday parties.
Weddings.
Saturday afternoon Tri-tip BBQs (with butter-soaked French bread, minus the beans).
A good bottle of wine with my husband.
Laughing so hard I cry.
Late-night talks when company comes to visit.
A long run with my running partners.
Trips to visit friends.
Coffee with girlfriends while kids play.

These are a few of my favorite things.”

I recently wrote a blog about depth, “going deep,” and relationships. I made a case that depth in a relationship derives from vulnerability and sharing on both parties. That blog focused primarily on the struggles we face. With this blog I was challenged to take a different angle—the joys and celebrations of life, and how those contribute to intimacy.

I smile as I think through my favorite things because most of them involve those close to me (family and friends). Often, these are the times in life we look forward to, plan around, and mark on the calendar; the times we hold with such anticipation. Granted, sometimes they are spontaneous and unexpected, like many gifts given by God, but they are all moments that make the mundane special. These are the memories that spark joy in the fabric of my life (not the things I need to declutter in my house!)

In the book of Nehemiah the Israelites are beginning to come back from exile when they reopen the words of the Scriptures. The people start a communal time of mourning and weeping because of the ways they have forgotten their past, dishonored God, and remember how faithful God actually has been. As they cry out Nehemiah tells them to stop grieving, instead saying Nehemiah 8:10, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Where times of hardship and vulnerability draw us closer together in deep friendships, so can (and does) joy and celebration. Nehemiah pulls them from their communal mourning over remembrance of their sin, and sends them off to experience communal celebration as a remembrance that this is now a new beginning; it is all done together. We don’t usually plan for seasons of hardship, but we can and do plan for communal times of joy.

To me, intimacy is a “both-and;” most of the time there’s not true intimacy based solely on sharing struggles, but it’s also unrealistic to think true intimacy is generated only on the good times (because hard times inevitably come). I like to think relationships (at least healthy ones) are like waves as they hit the beach. They ebb and flow based on the shared joys and struggles. In the ebb and flow the celebrations and struggles are both magnified and managed as we walk them together. If a friend prays for a baby or job or spouse, I cannot begin to explain how excited I am when that request is granted. In contrast, when I’ve seen pain and shared the hard spots of someone else’s life; it makes the good times so much more special.

Celebration is such a good practice because it magnifies God and reflects on Him as the giver of good gifts; it oftentimes marks the end of a time of waiting (just like the Israelites in Nehemiah). There are many times God’s good gifts are unexpected and unplanned, which is a humbling experience, but one to appreciate and celebrate all the more with those around us. 

I once heard someone say we should develop a history with God, so we remember how He has carried us before, and that He will do it again. I think that concept applies in celebration. We should celebrate what God gives us with each other—everything we have is an opportunity to point toward Him. That doesn’t mean life will be perfect, but when we are able to look at God’s gifts through this lens, we realize there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3: 4-5).” As we walk through life in our communities, I hope we remember to ride the waves together, weeping together and laughing together, mourning and dancing together. I hope we celebrate the joys and enjoy the gifts God has given.

Rolling in the Deep

by Kelly Borjas

What does it mean to have deep relationships—or to have depth in a conversation? Recently I was challenged with this question because I’ve thrown that phrase around—that I like deep conversations or relationships, but putting a definition to this idea is very difficult. Shame on me for saying I like something I can’t even define! In fact, this question of depth has taken me weeks of processing, praying, and seeking God’s guidance. Truthfully, there’s some conviction here, because I’ve defined this my way (a way that works for me), and not necessarily in a way that represents many people.

Being “deep” is a hard topic for me to write about, but in an opposite way than you’d probably assume. I, Kelly, am most comfortable swimming in the “deep end” of the pool. Just this year I had an epiphany: I can do small talk well and deep talk well, but sometimes I’m not great in the middle area…just…talking. I get uncomfortable. For a lot of my life I’ve assumed most people want/desire this “depth.” But do they? Or is it just my comfort zone—a security blanket I wrap around as a way of defining myself?

I asked a bunch of people what it means to them to have depth and what it takes for that to occur. I could regurgitate my opinions, but my thoughts may not be indicative of the general masses. I asked local people, some far away, people I know well, people I don’t know well, men and women (thanks to my friends’ husbands who were my guinea pigs!), and Christians and non-Christians. Obviously this is not a formal survey (George Barna is not going to show up at my house and pay me for my work), but I wanted to see if there were any commonalities in responses despite the different personalities and backgrounds.

Most people defined depth as a shared vulnerability—risking judgement from the other person when sharing thoughts, desires, fears, etc. It’s the idea of sharing beyond the surface to what matters, even if it’s hard. Each person’s “issues” may be different; but the idea is to share more than polite niceties or exchanges about the weather. In other words, depth in a relationship does not mean people need to agree or share on the same topics; however, it means that there’s a two-way street in sharing life struggles and joys, as they relate to each person. There’s a safety and mutual respect for the other person’s opinion. Many people expressed a desire for a relationship with the other person (or the knowledge a conversation would have a follow-up). The men especially required trust, common interests, and/or respect (of the other person) to share.

I talked with a mentor friend about this topic and she reminded me that we are complex humans with a variety of backgrounds, personalities, struggles, and layers. We may not have depth with all people at all times, and that’s okay. (I’m reminded as I write that even Jesus had a smaller group of disciples in His “inner circle”). It takes time to develop depth. In other words, I would be naive to think there’s a formula to develop deep relationships or a magic number of people we should have in our inner circle. This is where I’m convicted. After a recent move to Santa Maria and the need to start all over, I’ve probably sought these relationships or conversations out of a desperation, loneliness, or insecurity (my desire to find community as I define it). However, I heard a definition for trust recently that resonated with me: time plus believable behavior. I like that, because it frames how we get to a place of trust (and therefore relationship).

This topic begs the question: should Christians have deep relationships? Is that a biblical concept? If we look at the early church (in Acts), we see a community of people who modeled teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, and sharing with those who had need. I have to believe struggles were shared in those days—both physical and spiritual. The group of believers banded together to support one another. That takes sharing and vulnerability—not a mask of “having it all together.” 2 Corinthians 1:3 says God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others with the comfort we’ve received in Christ. Again, inherent in this idea is that we are sharing our struggles to lift others and build one another up, encouraging them in Christ. And yet, Colossians talks about bearing with one another, forgiving each other, and putting on love, which binds us in perfect harmony (Col. 3:12-14). This suggests even Christian relationships will have hurts and disappointments as we take the risk of growing together, and that we must forgive and love despite any pain.

Life is full of bumps and turns. It’s not easy. Yet, when we are able to have people who love and support us through these ups and downs, it lightens the load. I recently asked a friend (at Element) to pray for me regarding an area I’m having a hard time trusting and finding peace. This friend has walked this road I’m on, and understands the struggle. She responded with a tear in her eye, a text message the next day, and encouragement to rely on my husband as we seek peace and direction on this topic. I’m so thankful she shared her struggle with me, and can encourage me.

As I write this, I write with conviction. May we all invest in our communities and share our struggles and joys. May we all listen without judgement, and share without fear. May we all pray for one another, comforting each other in Christ (i.e. applying the Gospel) as we journey together. It’s a process of learning and growing, humility and forgiveness, but I believe it’s one that will transform us as individuals and a community at large.

If Only

by Kelly Borjas

If Only…

It’s a frequent idea that seeps its way into my mind, my heart. An “if only” that promises a better outcome or more success, yet it’s cloaked in a nobility of wanting to improve or be a “better version of myself.”

Comparison. 

As a wife, mother, woman, the struggle is real to compare myself with others. I do it all the time in a variety of contexts. I compare how I look (am I skinny enough?); I compare how my house is decorated (is it nice enough?); I compare how my kids are dressed (are they trendy enough?); I compare my personality to someone else’s (do I talk too much?); I compare what I do (do I have enough personal goals so I’m not lost in the abyss of just being a mother?); I compare my kids’ performance (are they well-enough behaved?); I compare my spiritual walk with others (do I read my Bible enough?).

I am constantly seeking that elusive standard of “enough,” fearful that someone, somewhere will say I’m not enough (there are a lot of issues embedded in this—perfectionism, contentment, resting in grace...the list could go on. But for this blog I am narrowing this specific issue to comparison.   

How can I begin to think biblically on this issue that seems to invade my life? I know comparison can steal the joy God intends for me to ground myself in, but I also see the need to compare myself to Jesus as He is the true standard of holiness. Seeking after varying levels of worldly success gets exhausting, and it starts to feel like I’m a hamster on a wheel—running in circles with no momentum forward. 

I would first like to point out that I don’t have all the answers, but I think there’s something to be said about rooting our identity in Christ. I was talking to a couple of girlfriends this weekend about this, and one commented that “rooting our identity in Christ” (while being true) still rings a bit like a trite comment or cliché answer. She’s right. We throw that phrase around without really applying it. So how do we find our identity in Christ and not let all the other comparisons distract us?

I keep thinking I have to go back to what the Bible says: I’m a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). He’s created good works in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). He will continue the good work He’s started in me (Philippians 1:6). When I think about those truths, I must ask myself, “Why am I striving for anything other than trying to love Jesus more?” Why can’t I be confident that God created me with my personality, gifts, passions, etc.? Why do I think I will feel better about myself if I (fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-standard-I’m-trying-to-meet)?

I think I forget. I forget who God is and what he’s done. I believe the lie that something else will make me feel better about myself. I need to remember, we all need to remember, that God’s grace is sufficient for us in ways that give us purpose that can propel all of our lives forward. He’s given the Holy Spirit to lead, help, and guide us as we walk through life, which directs us all to a place where we need to actively remember. The only way I know how to “remember” is to have a community of people who will remind me. Have conversations that steer me deeper into Christ’s truth and can tell me when I’m looking for some cheap satisfaction. My husband can spot when I’m too obsessed with some direction, and tell me I’m chasing something in the wrong way. I have a handful of friends who can do the same.

I don’t think the comparison game gets any easier as we get older. In fact, it may be more difficult because there’s so much to compare. But soaking our hearts in truth and having a group of people who can support us in that quest may be part of the answer to rooting our identity in Christ.

Vacation, from Prayer?

by Aaron

I hate blogs where I show you my deep, personal flaws, not because I hate blogs about deep, personal flaws—I just hate when they’re my flaws. Having said that, let me explain my situation and see if you can relate (if not, feel free to judge me with every form of self-righteousness). I hope you can indulge a bit of personal introspection during this blog…just imagine it is another growing moment like the author of Ecclesiastes tries to get us to see. 

At the end of 2018 and the first few days of 2019, I went on vacation to the (mostly) snow (or ice) covered winter wonderland that is Lake Tahoe. Some friends of mine, and their kids, rented a large house together to get away, relax, and have some fun. We enjoyed ice skating, snowboarding, sledding, movie watching, cold picture taking, snowmobiling, eating, cooking, thrift shopping (we call this “poppin’ tags”), and beverage consuming. We watched TV shows, played pool and games together…the only thing we didn’t do together, until almost the last day, was pray.

I felt so tired at the end of most days, still recovering from the year, that I essentially found a spot and interacted sporadically with others (unless it was in the form of a video game). When the last evening there rolled around, I had finally come out of my funk enough to be cognizant at dinnertime. It was then I realized we hadn’t said thanks to God for any meal the entire week. You have to understand that this is odd for me, because I typically do say “grace” over every meal. During the whole time away I did pray and read my Bible every morning, but for some reason, I never even realized that we hadn’t prayed as a group.

I hope anyone who went with us on this vacation doesn’t take this blog as an indictment in any way, because it’s not. I was simply astounded at how easy it was to forget to thank God in one of the most stress-free and mundane ways possible. I have asked myself over the last few days why it is easier for me to personally remember my own prayer time, but forget the great beauty and joy of corporate prayer. Everyone on vacation with us was in a GC or happens to be a GC leader, so it is not like they would have been surprised or offended by praying. As a matter of fact, they all would have gladly jumped in! But…none of us seemed to remember. Isn’t that odd?

As I have processed the last couple of weeks, I think part of it came to down to our comfort with one another. No one felt like they had to impress anyone else, or be more “spiritual” than we actually were, but I also think another part of vacation is that we leave our “normal life” for something that is “other.” We step away from routine and do something different, which makes us forget the various habits, good and bad, we have in our lives. I hope I am not overanalyzing this too much, but it makes me start to worry that corporate prayer for me is more of a habit, rather than daily heartfelt remembrance. I want to open my eyes and my heart to naturally fall in love with Jesus in such a way that prayer flows out of me wherever I am…maybe I am just not as enamored with Jesus as I thought.

Or…maybe this is exactly what God wanted to me to experience as a sort of wake-up call, to see the natural inclination of my heart. To be honest, the natural tendency of my heart is toward self-centeredness even in the moments when I think am the least self-centered. Moments that open my eyes, like this vacation, are God’s grace to me, reminding me not of His disappointment or judgment, but of His gentle love that leads me back to Him. I can so easily forget God at times, but He has never once forgotten about me! Throughout that entire vacation, God was there with me. Though I forget to pray and speak with Him, He is consistently speaking and leading me…and if he does it for a knucklehead like me, He also does it for all of you.

In Matt 28:20 Jesus reminds His disciples that He will be with them “even to the end of the age.” If you look at the disciples’ lives, you will see many times where they seemed to forget Him, but Jesus promises not to forget them. Psalm 94:18-19 the writer cries out that he is slipping (maybe he went on vacation and it snowed too much for his car to stop on the downhill), but then he says, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” The writer says this because he understands that God’s love for us is not dependent on our effort, but upon who God Himself is.

This is what makes me want to remember to pray, to want to thank God when I am alone, and to want to thank Him when I am with others. It is God’s steadfast love first given to me, the same love given to you. That is what makes me thankful and that is what God teaches me even when I forget. What does God need to remind you of when you forget Him?

Repost: Trevor Carpenter's Message on Jesus

by Element Christian Church

Sunday, Aaron was talking about how most people come to the realization that life is beyond them in one of two ways. They either have everything they ever wanted and they are still empty, or their life crashes and people lose everything and realize it is all meaningless. During this point, he referenced a message that Trevor Carpenter gave a few years ago. Trevor died a couple years ago from cancer, and after after a bout of chemo he said, “I don’t want to waste my cancer.” He wanted it to teach him and others something. For many people it takes almost losing everything to realize what God has already given you.

Watch Trevor's message about Jesus here:

And listen to Aaron's message this past Sunday about how Life is Vapor (Meaningless).

Splitting The Adam

by Aaron

I love the title of this blog post, though I can’t take credit for it. Richard Hess is an Old Testament Scholar and professor of Semitic languages at Denver Seminary who wrote a paper called Splitting the Adam: The Usage of ʾĀadām In Genesis 1-5. In this paper, which is part of the Vetus Testmentum Supplements (you can see them here) he talks about how the word used for Adam is used 34 times in Genesis 1-5, yet in only 5 of those occurrences does it reflect a personal name. The other times it is used it refers to mankind in general (a reading like this tends to freak people about who look at Genesis 1 with ONLY an ontological purpose).

Now you may be wondering why I start a blog in the new year with words you don’t understand and talking about a book you will never read by an author you have never heard of…the answer is: Because we need to learn to be a people who trust the bible, but also understand the context in which it is written. When we do this well, we will encounter lots of people that may make us think outside of the box that we have placed God within…this is what the article I mentioned above did for me. Though I may not agree with all of his points, I do not think it is heretical in any way.

When I have a couple of weeks off, as I just did, my brain starts to think about lots of stuff (sometimes these are things other people don’t care about). I started thinking about how a couple of years ago I was personally cornered at one of our connect parties by someone who had just started attending Element for a couple of weeks. They asked me a question about origins from the book of Genesis and I replied that we have to be careful because Genesis wasn’t written in a 21st century scientific mindset, it was written from a Hebrew perspective. When we look at days and times we must understand that no Hebrew at the time would have been trying to figure out the day and time creation began by looking at the genealogies, their view of Genesis 1-5 would be one of functional origins.

What I mean by that is their questions would have been: Who made it all? The answer laid out clearly in Genesis is: God. The next question would be: Why did He make it? The obvious answer is: His glory. Today we ask questions like, “Was it ten thousand years ago or ten billion years ago?” The answer of the Genesis account is that THOSE questions really don’t matter because that’s not the point of Genesis. What we should be asking is, “Why were humans placed into this creation,” because the answer to that is what Genesis concerns itself with…and the answer to that question is: to be God’s image bearers, partnering with Him on His behalf to order creation in ways that glorify God and bring fulfillment.

The person at the connect party didn’t like my answer and said that Genesis was a psychological, scientific, philosophical, and religious text and that anyone who said different wasn’t reading the bible correctly. I was accused of not taking the bible literally (meaning her personal interpretation of what “literal” meant) and therefore I was teaching heresy and was wrong. The only saving grace out of this exchange is that they were one of the few who didn’t immediately go out and write a Google or Yelp review about how terrible Element is as a church.

If you didn’t guess, no, they never came back to Element.

I recently finished a book by John Walton titled The Lost World of Adam and Eve which covers in detail a biblical view of human origins that may be hard for some people to even consider. Again, I do not agree with everything in this book, but I do not think the author is heretical, at some points he is quite brilliant in thinking outside the standard theological box. In the end his main thrust is that we must do better in allowing conversation and debate about human origins because it is often cited as one of the major reasons people leave the church or feel unwelcomed. For some reason the view that science stands against the scriptures is one that many a misguided Sunday school teacher has told students under them...and they are wrong, nature and the bible do not contradict.

What if there was a way to enter into a dialog with people who sincerely want to trust Jesus, but they look at Christians with suspicions because they think believers in the Bible are afraid of “science.” I believe that as Christians we need to be able to tell people what the scriptures are truly about before our personal opinions, no matter how great we think our opinions are, but in the end don’t have much bearing on the message of salvation. We need to explain that whatever or wherever people find themselves God has never abandoned them, that He seeks relationship with us, and that He is about the restoration of our lives into what we were originally meant to be: image bearers of Him. In Romans 8:19 the Apostle Paul says it like this: For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. That’s us!!!

All creation waits for God’s promised rescue and restoration. This is the point of the Scriptures: God’s work in the person of Jesus to restore and redeem. This is what runs through the Bible, all the way from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22, that Jesus is what matters and we can be in relationship with Him. If we are going to fight for a truth, let us be a people who understand that truth and passionately present it to the world.

 

 

 

Christmas Stockings for Delta

by Element Christian Church

This year we stuffed stockings and gave each student and staff at Delta High School a movie ticket and some candy. Here's a card and message we wanted to share with each student:

Merry Christmas from Element Christian Church!A Little about Saint Nicolus

The Queen of Sweden

by Jonathan Whitaker

This post taken from our church plant in Colorado Springs, view their website at ourelementcs.org

“How’d you become king?  I didn’t vote for ya.” said the filthy peasant woman Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The answer of course is found in the annals English lore, which reveal that Arthur became King of the Britains when the Lady of the Lake distributed him a sword from the pond she was lying in.  If indeed strange women lying in ponds were a basis for a system of government then, Saga Vanecek an 8-year-old girl from Sweden would be Queen.

Saga, like King Arthur, pulled a sword from a lake earlier this month.  Google it. In fact, she pulled a corroded rust encased 33-inch Viking sword from the mid 500’s AD from a lake.  Not a bad find at all.  And as it happens, a great illustration for my blog!

This week Element Colorado Springs embarks on our fall series in the book of First Peter called, Identity.  We chose this title because Peter’s epistle has so much to teach believers about who God says we are as Christ followers.  What could a rusty Viking Sword possibly teach us about who we are as believers?

1 Peter 1:3-7 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Do you see the security described in these verses?  Peter describes the new-life of a believer as permanent and durable, “an inheritance…imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”  Not only that but Peter says it is God that is guarding that inheritance in heaven.  I can only speak for myself, but as I read those verses my heart sinks a little when I see the words, “you have been grieved by various trials.”  I don’t want to go through trials, nor do I want my loved ones to experience trials.  I suspect you don’t either.

Perhaps it is the weakness of our sinful flesh that we can read such amazing promises from God and still focus on something negative.   Let’s try to walk in God’s shoes for a moment.  Peter says, “if necessary you have been grieved by trials.” and, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith...”  will reveal glory and honor when Christ returns.  The cynic would read this incorrectly and say, God tests us to see if we are worthy.  That statement is as wrong as it is blasphemous.  Peter’s words acknowledge that in our sinful fallen world trials come and the trials come reveal (in an individual) their true nature.  In essence, the inferno burns away that which is impermanent and leaves behind that which cannot be consumed by the fire.  God has made you indestructible.

Saga’s sword was made by a master craftsman.  His intent was likely not that the sword would endure for 1,500 years, but durability was the result of his careful work.  You were made for a purpose as well, to love and serve God.  God, as The Master Craftsman has made for you an indestructible inheritance which will be revealed in your indestructible body, “more precious than gold.”  when Jesus returns.

This Viking sword was an instrument of war and tumult.  When it was lost in a lake over a millennium ago it was subject to one of the harshest winter environments on the planet.  This environment marred and encased its surface in rust and mud till the sword underneath was unrecognizable.  Strangely though, it was these harsh conditions that preserved the sword for 1,500 years.  Then when the weather and level of the lake were just right, one little girl with a keen eye recognized something precious when she saw it. 

Peter is not saying that, God tests us to see if we are worthy.  He is saying, that trials will come and God gives us the strength to endure them.  As trials come they also pass.  Once trials pass, God’s master work in our lives is revealed, precious and indestructible.  A lot can be learned from a weathered old sword.  Its beauty is no longer outward or obvious, but to the one who truly knows, it is perfect.  Saga’s sword my not seem beautiful or wonderful, but to the people of Sweden, its priceless.   Your Father in heaven has made as a new beautiful indestructible creation with a living hope in Jesus Christ. That is your Identity.

Don't Let Me be Misunderstood

by Aaron

I have a gift for being misunderstood. It started back when I was little kid, and as a result, I was always getting in trouble or hurting people’s feelings, because I couldn’t communicate what I was trying to say. This gift brought on some tears for family members that thought I was insensitive, but it also brought more tears to myself as I got in trouble…a lot.

This aspect of my personality has apparently not changed as I have gotten older…it just gets worse as I encounter more individuals and speak to a crowd on a fairly regular basis. On one hand, I would hope that people who know me would understand what I am trying to say, but all too often, that doesn’t happen and my words are still received negatively. Occasionally, I find a blog post (like this one) can serve as some clarification. 

We are currently doing a series through Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God. Last week’s message was about injustice (you can listen to it here). The central premise of my message was that when we (humanity) approach anything with an us versus them mentality, when we view ourselves as “better than” others, it will lead to division and, ultimately, to injustice. When we elevate any cause above Jesus, no matter how great that cause may be, it will, at its furthest extent, lead to division and not unity. We will only become unified by centering our lives around Christ. Centering our lives around Jesus first doesn’t mean there can’t be disagreements on topics—political or otherwise; it simply means that with Christ as our center, we can actually have varying opinions while still loving one another like family.

After service last Sunday, a friend of mine, who I have known for a long time, came up and said he disagreed with what I said. I was kind of taken aback, because once again, I thought I was clear and he thought I wasn’t. He said that I was implying that we do not need to take a stand against injustice or evil. He said my message spoke of becoming complacent and letting everyone do whatever they wanted.

Let me clarify…as believers, we are meant to stand against injustice and evil. I think the problem comes when we view the evil in others as a means by which we compare ourselves to say that we are “better than” someone else (in a created sense). 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV) We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We do not get to compare ourselves to others—that leads to inappropriate judgements…if we compare ourselves to anyone, it should be Jesus. This leads to humbleness, because we are nowhere near as good as Him.

God calls us to be agents and ambassadors of His Kingdom (not ours) in this world. That means there will be many times where we must take a stand that may be unpopular in any given cultural context…but I think we will only be able to take that stand in graceful ways when we first understand that all of humanity needs to know the relationship-restoring love of Christ. I think our goal, while standing against evil, should always be with an eye to others’ salvation.

Take a bully, for example…

We should stand up for the weak around us and stop the bully from hurting others…yet, in the midst of stopping the bully, we should do our best to speak of the Gospel, so that he or she would have a change in heart. We should pray that our heart’s desire is for the bully to know Jesus and become someone who stands up for the right things, who ceases to be a perpetrator of evil. We can pray this even if we have to arm-bar him off someone else that needs our help. In the end, I think that those who were once enemies of the cross, which is all of us, can best be a testimony to God’s grace and goodness by changed hearts and lives.

To be clear, I am not saying that I think that something like war is never justifiable; there are times where I believe it is imperative for those with power to protect the weak. But I do firmly also believe that hope for someone’s salvation is a much better call for the health of our hearts than hope for someone’s destruction.

Element Christian Church: Colorado Springs

by Element Christian Church

We are excited to announce a church plant in Colorado Springs led by Jonathan & Jennifer Whitaker!

One of our core desires here at Element has been to plant churches where needed. It’s in our mission statement: To Glorify God by teaching and living out the Scriptures, transforming community into Gospel Community, and planting churches.

We have waited to see where God leads us in a church planting endeavor, and it seems the first place He is leading us to is Colorado Springs. He has brought together a scruffy bunch of previous Element members and one Elder who found themselves in CS. They have each identified a need for a church that strives to form gospel-community, something they feel is missing for a lot of airmen in the area.

Jonathan feels God has been preparing him for this. At Element he received a lot of foundational ministry experience, but was restationed to the D.C. area, where they were able to practice living missional servant lives. From there they went to England where God lead them to pastor a small church and bring it back from the brink of closing its doors. Jonathan has had several experiences within and leading ministry, now he has a clear vision to plant a home church; a church of Gospel Communities, in Colorado.

Check out their website at ourelementcs.org