Spamalot What Is Your Quest

by Jonathan Whitaker
"What is your quest?”...”To seek the Grail!" 
 
In my attempt to treat my wife to an evening of culture, I recently took her to see a local production of Spamalot.  For those of you not acquainted with the finer works of the Broadway stage, Spamalot is a theatrical adaptation of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  If you are a fan of the movie, you won't be disappointed.  The play is exactly what you'd expect.  It has all of your favorite characters and scenes, but they are now set to music.  A song from Life of Brian even makes the bill. 
 
I am sure, for those of you who have not seen the musical, it is a safe bet you have at least seen the film.  The rest of you, seriously, get Netflix and join the human race.  Regardless of which camp you fall into, you should understand one important point about the plot: King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are on a quest from God to find the Holy Grail.  The Grail, just so we are all on equal footing, is the cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper (Matt. 26:27).
 
In the play as in the film, when King Arthur is given this quest, God appears in the clouds in all of His kingly regalia, complete with flowing white beard.  As any of us would do in this same situation, the knights commence groveling and averting their eyes (Matt 17:1-13).  That's when God gives King Arthur his purpose: to find the Grail.  Arthur is to use his quest to set an example in dark times. 
 
The irony was not lost on me that -- much like God does for King Arthur in the play -- Jesus set each one of us on a quest as He ascended into the heavens.  That quest is to make disciples of the nations and baptize them in His name (Mark 16:15-19).  And we, like the Knights of the Round Table, often find ourselves on many "holy" misadventures that distract us from the quest to which we were charged. 
 
Take King Arthur for example.  Here is a man who was the leader of the band, the man who received the primary instruction from God, yet he often found himself far from the path on which he started.  Shortly after consulting a blind oracle, King Arthur found himself lost in a dark forest embroiled in an epic struggle with the Knights Who Say Ni.  After matching wits with the fearsome Knights of Ni, Arthur uses all of his skill to produce a shrubbery, which appeases the Knights.  Now, I don't mean to suggest that Arthur was not devoted to the task of finding the Grail, but his efforts, noble as they may have been, didn't get him any closer to his goal. 
 
Like Arthur and the Knights of Ni, Christ followers devoted to the Great Commission of Jesus often find themselves engaged in Godly side quests that don't get them closer to their charge of winning souls.  What do I mean?  Christians do a lot of good for a lot of people.  We give money to the poor, we work in food pantries, we lead Bible studies, and we are generally good citizens; all good things.  However, as noble as those quests are, what they aren't is the quest that Christ charged us with: to make disciples of the nations, teaching them to obey all He commanded and baptizing them in His name. 
 
So, what can we do about it?  First, keep fighting the side quests! Give to the poor; lead a Bible study; slay the Black Knight; defeat the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.  But when you do, remember that all of those good works need to serve the Gospel. Take the time to tell people that Christ died in their place when you are out on your side quests. You will have to be brave, like Arthur and his Knights (except Sir Robin). The Gospel is offensive and its enemies are many.  However, you need not fear your enemies, because God promises to go with you on your quest (Matt 28:20, Ps 23).  Arm yourself with the Word of God, because like Excalibur, it cuts right to the marrow of those whom God has called. 
 
Let me encourage each of you: God has called you by name. You are on a quest.  Be brave like Sir Lancelot when he took Swamp castle, so his steed Concord would not have died in vain.  In our case, be brave and obey Christ to tell others about the gospel, because Jesus died that we might live. 

Thin Places

by Michael Reed
On Sunday Element hosted David & Holly Jauregui with us so they could share how they are involved with missional communities in San Diego. They shared their heart, some of what they do, and also a video in the short amount of time they had. If you missed the video we would encourage you to watch it here:
 

Meeting with the Jauregui’s led me to pick up a copy of Thin Places by Jon Huckins. At this point I have only read the back cover and introduction (yes, I’m a very slow reader). The back cover described a “Thin Place” like this:

“While praying for his community on the Island of Ioana, the Celtic monk St. Columba described his experience as a thin place – a location where heaven and earth seemed only thinly separated.
 
In the same way, God’s kingdom is being realized here on earth with stores of restoration and redemption. Our God moved into the neighborhood, seeking to invite us into his story of reconciliation, and commission us to missionally engage our neighborhoods with the good news of the kingdom.”

“God moved into the neighborhood” was the center of the conversation we had last Sunday afternoon with David & Holly. We looked at “Jesus as a neighbor.” Jesus lived in Capernaum for many years and there are story after story in the Bible that center around this town. It is also interesting to learn how small Capernaum is, Righetti High School is bigger than this town was, and Jesus lived there, as a neighbor.
 
This leads us to ask a pertinent question, “What kind of neighbor do you think Jesus was?” Do you think He always did large things for large crowds, or did He take time to do small things for just one person or a child? Did he know everybody’s name? What did He talk about? Did He spend more time inside or outside?
 
If you get a few moments, or next time you are reading through one of the Gospel accounts, start to jot down a list of everything that surrounds Capernaum or Galilee. It is important to think about not only what type of neighbor Jesus was, but also what type of neighbor Jesus is as He lives through you.
 
At Element we believe it is important to spend some time thinking about Jesus as a neighbor? Does this thought change our calling of what it means to be a neighbor on our streets? Can we live in a way that creates a “thin place?”
 
If you would like to know more about their ministry, what they are doing, and how you can help, you can contact them at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and/or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pray for our youth at camp this week

by Element Christian Church
Our Jr. High & High School students are away at camp this week. Here is a picture of them leaving early Monday morning. We ask that you keep them and their leaders in your prayers this week and as they return on Friday

Incongruent Lives: Truth From 2014 - Part 4

by Aaron
Every once in a while through 2015 I am going back to some statistics that came out at the end of 2014 about American’s lives and beliefs. One of the most striking things about most statistics is the difference between what we say and what we do; we call this incongruent. I know a lot of people went all the way through school (like me) and still never learned the meaning of words that were longer than 3 syllables (like me). Incongruent (a dreaded 4 syllable word) means the opposite of something that is congruent. Congruent means, “to agree” and is mostly used in mathematics to mean something that coincides at all points.
 
Incongruent, in our lives, is when we say one thing and do another. Like a study at the end of 2014 which shows that a majority of Americans believe Marijuana, which is another 4 syllable word (so I will use other words that help to identify this substance better such as pot, reefer, cannabis, and weed)… a majority of Americans (58%) believe pot should be legal anywhere and everywhere. The number 58% seems like the people who believe in a “pot nation” is growing, yet even though 58% say it should be legal, the majority also believe it is immoral to use it. Only 47% of American’s think it is OK to smoke (or ingest) pot.
 
This is incongruent.
 
If, and when, we believe something is destructive and wrong we should be willing to stand behind our convictions. This isn’t to say that the people involved in a destructive behavior should be ridiculed or made to feel inferior, but in common discourse we should all have the ability to speak about what we believe (freedom of speech) without fear of repercussions (yes, I know, that word was 4 syllables). This is one of the things America was founded upon, the freedom to be able to question and speak into the realm of ideas and action so as to point to the truth even when people want to squash it.
 
The things I write today could be taken in many different ways, especially with recent Supreme Court decisions, it’s one of the reasons I am talking about pot and not something else. In a society who claims to love truth, we should be able to allow all opinions to be talked about and allow all arguments for and against an issue to be spoken. Unfortunately that is no longer the case. When someone disagrees with a majority position, they are now told to be silent or they will be ridiculed, sued, or slandered. It becomes dangerous when a view about truth and life that has asked for the right to be heard gets heard and then wants to quiet all other voices. It is incongruent.
 
As Christians, believers in the Scriptures, the truth and the hope that they provide, we must be people who live congruent lives. We say what we mean, we live our convictions, we love as we were first loved and bless like we were first blessed. We should want to allow ideas to be spoken so we have the opportunity to engage in discourse that speaks to and reveals the truth, hope, and light of the life changing (and life challenging) message of the Good News of Jesus.
 
  • Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
    Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
     
  • Psalm 27:2-3 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
 
No matter how incongruent the world around us becomes, we stay congruent with the heart of the message of the Gospel, the same Gospel that WE needed to have life again. Though all around us gives way, we must live the way of Jesus by what we say and by what we do. It matters not what people say about us, it maters what Christ calls us to. As John Piper wrote, “we want people to see us with approval when we are displaying that Jesus is infinitely valuable to us, but we dare not make the opinion of others the measure of our faithfulness.” 

Download Volunteer Opportunities Workbook

by Element Christian Church

Download Volunteer Booklet

Did you miss the Volunteer Information Workshop we had a few weeks ago? Interested in knowing some of the many areas around Element we need help with? Jesus is gracious and good, His work on the cross in service to us teaches how to be servants ourselves. Element "happens" because so many people sacrifice financially and also give of their time and talents. Most of what happens around Element is done by volunteers, and for that, we thank you! 

We've put together a booklet that has some of the common areas of service at Element, with brief descriptions as well. You can download it by clicking on the link above. If you're interested in checking out any of the areas, you can either fill out this online form, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or fill out the paper form in the booklet and visit the Welcome Center on Sunday!

We truly are grateful to all of our volunteers, and for you for considering how you can help us take the Gospel further!

Planting Roots June 2015 Update

by Element Christian Church
Hello Element, this is your first major Planting Roots update.
 
Planting Roots, June 2015 UpdateI cannot tell you how humbled, excited, and thrilled (I almost used the word giddy) I am to be on this Planting Roots journey with you. It’s been a little over 9 months now since Planting Roots started with a three-year commitment of $1,100,000.00. So far Element has received $322,935 towards the pledged amount! At this point 201 families or individuals have given towards our future home; a good portion of those didn’t even make a pledge toward the 1.1 million goal. It honestly looks like, at the end of this three year journey, that we will be over the goal (and that is a huge blessing).
 
We are currently having discussions about securing the rest of the funding needed to build. We are in talks with a lender in town and have entered the preparation phase for what they would need to secure a construction loan. This includes going through a financial audit of our books and getting a new appraisal of our land; these two things will determine the amount of “cash injection” we will need to start construction next year.
 
You may keep looking out at our field and thinking it still just looks like dirt, but that is far from the truth, we are we are hoping to start construction the first quarter next year. Our civil engineer and architect are drawing plans that will soon be sent to the electrical, plumbing, and landscape engineers. Our soil samples are done (we passed with flying colors), and we are about to submit many plans/documents to the city for our land use permit and rezoning.
 
I would like to encourage you to continue in your Planting Roots commitments; we still need everything promised (and more). This leads me to my 4 “ifs:”
 
  • If you made a commitment and haven’t started giving yet, please notify us if something has changed; remember, you can always change your commitment up or down by filling out a new commitment card. We do not want to be legalistic or have you feel like you are locked into something that God is calling you out of; we are simply trying to budget correctly for the coming future.
     
  • If a life circumstance has affected your commitment, or your ability to give at the moment, please also let us know. We want to do everything we can to remain faithful to Jesus throughout the building process. Remaining faithful means always allowing you to revise the commitment that was originally made.
     
  • If there is anything that the staff, elders, board members, or I can do throughout the process of your Planting Roots journey, please don’t hesitate to call or email us. If you need prayer or encouragement, please know that we are always here for one you.
     
  • If you haven’t made a commitment or are not even sure what Planting Roots is, check out the Planting Roots wall in the lounge or elementroots.org to learn more. Who knows, you might even decide to make a commitment to help us get into the future!
As we continue to point out, none of this would ever be possible without Jesus, our Redeemer and Savior, who reached out and saved a lost people and called us His own. We ask that no matter what circumstances come your way, you would continue to pray for all those who will hear the Gospel of Jesus through the life and ministry of Element.
 
Thank you for being a part of Element with your life and investing in our future home. I am humbled to be on this journey with you.
Aaron 

Mortal

by Aaron
I know this blog post is going to seem very morbid; at least it does to me. Don’t misunderstand me, I do not typically sit around and think about death on a regular basis (unless I have just watched the Walking Dead and I am contemplating the zombie apocalypse). Recently, for some reason, my own mortality has been a subject of my subconscious mind for a while now, at least I think it has based upon the dreams I have been having.
 
When I think about my mortality I start to think about legacy, what will be here after I am gone? I do not think of legacy in terms of, “will people remember me,” but more in terms of, “will people continue to live in the hope of the Gospel in a truer way because I was somehow able to point to Jesus.” Again, don’t misunderstand me, this has nothing to do with working my way into God’s favor, it has more to do with being grateful to Jesus and simply wanting to love Him back.
 
I am currently reading a book that likes to quote Viktor Frankl (I attribute many of my thoughts to things I am processing while reading). Frankl was an Austrian Neurologist that was thrown into a Nazi concentration camp because he was a Jew. He witnessed, and lived through, unspeakable atrocities. In the end he wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning about how you can find meaning in even the worst circumstances. In this book Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
 
I agree and disagree with the statement. I disagree because many times we do not get to choose our own way because it is the Lord who guides our steps even when we fail to realize it. Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” The word “establishes” means guides or determines, so whether we realize it or not, God is firmly in control.
 
Where I agree with Frankl is that God gives us the ability to determine our attitude in any and every given situation. We can “choose our own way” in how we will respond and how we choose to learn from our circumstances. When someone hurts us we can determine to not let that pain steer us towards a bitter path, when we don’t understand why God would allow a difficult situation into our lives we can determine to trust and learn from Him, when we hurt others we can determine how (or if) we will own up to our mistakes and seek to make things right.
 
In the end it doesn’t matter what other people think or how they will respond, it matters if we, ourselves, are going to follow Jesus no matter what others do. I guess that is why I am reflecting on my own mortality as of late, I think I want to live in such a way that when I am gone I won’t leave broken relationships in my wake. I don’t want my life to detract from the grace of Jesus. Yes, I know, because I am human I will always do stupid things that detract from His name, but I have a dream that I, and all of us, would start to recognize the times we pile dirt on Jesus’ name and do our best to make it right.

Again, as I keep saying, I believe we are saved completely, totally, and freely by the grace of Christ, but as Dallas Willard liked to say, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.”
Good words to remember from a man who so recently came face to face with his own mortality and is now face to face with Jesus.
 

The Patient God Whom We Serve

by Jonathan Whitaker
I live just outside of Washington, D.C.  From this vantage my family and I can travel to hundreds of different museums and monuments within 30 minutes from leaving our suburban home. We aim to see them all, but we are starting with the basics.  This weekend we hit the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.  I was most moved by the Jefferson memorial.  Within the rotunda there are a number of quotes from our third president that stand in stark contrast to our politicians of today.  It is easy for me to lament the decline of our elected officials while acquitting my own sinful behavior.  I can grieve that our world has shunned God, but I am ultimately responsible for what I do with the Word of God.  Will I abuse it or will I allow it to transform my life?
 
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever." These are inscribed on the northeast portico of the Jefferson Memorial.  They are excerpted from various writings of Thomas Jefferson on the topics of liberty, justice, and slavery.  Most notably, they are found in correspondence between Jefferson and the father of our country, George Washington.  Jefferson points out a truth that should give us pause: God's justice cannot sleep forever.
 
Why then does a just God wait to deliver his judgment?  "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) Though it is widely held that the author of the Declaration of Independence was a deist and not a Christ follower, his words nonetheless ring true to believers.  We serve a God who, through His love and patience, allows us the liberty to choose either sin or righteousness.  It is God's patience that guarantees our liberty.  God graciously allows us to turn from the sin that condemns us and freely offers us life everlasting.  Though patient, God is also just.  Because He is just, He will not abide our sin forever. 
 
Matthew 13 recounts the parables of Jesus Christ.  Parables are stories that convey truth to those who seek truth (and conceal truth from those who despise truth). In the parables, Jesus says, "He who has ears, let him hear." (Matt 13:9)  What He is saying is that people, us included, may physically hear or read His words, but the one who listens and seeks understanding with his heart will truly hear.  Romans 10:17 tells us, "faith comes from hearing..." Listening intently in order to seek truth is the type of hearing to which Paul refers in that verse. 
 
Hear with your heart Jesus' Parable of the Weeds. (Matt 13: 25-30)  “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weedsamong the wheat and went away.  So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.  And the servantsof the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have weeds?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’  But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, 'Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
 
Jesus explained this parable to his disciples later in the chapter, but here is the gist.  The sower is Jesus and the field is the world.  The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, those who profess Christ.  The enemy is the devil and the weeds are his children, all who reject the gospel of Jesus.  When Jesus sends his angels to reap, the weeds will be cut down first and the wheat will be taken up.  The wheat that is taken up are those who have been made righteous in Christ and they will be with their Father in Heaven. 
 
For some of you who read these words, you are sure that you are a weed.  Some of you think you are wheat, but are deceiving yourselves.  Some of you are wheat, but your roots are entangled with the weeds, so you have been choked out from bearing a fruitful harvest.  Some of you are good wheat bearing good food. 
 
First things first, what is wheat?  "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved," (Rom 10:9).  If that describes you, then you are wheat.  Anything other than that, you are a weed.  But take heart, God is patient and He does not want you to be cut down with the weeds. 
 
Look around.  The weeds are thick.  As my family's day in D.C. drew to a close, we approached the Lincoln memorial.  The grounds were crowded with thousands of people.  I counted at least a dozen different languages being spoken.  There in the midst of the crowd on the steps where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I have a Dream" speech stood a man preaching Christ and the future that awaits unrepentant sinners.  He was at full rant and no one paid him any attention.  Then he simply read the words of the Gospel and I heard my wife Jennifer say, "Amen." He who has ears, let him hear.  "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart," (Heb 4:12). The seeds of the Sower will find purchase in the soil of the hearts of those who seek Christ.
 
Brother and Sisters of Element, Jesus will wait, and has waited, for two thousand years, but He cannot be expected to wait forever.  Will we tend to the garden, or do we plan to wait for the Gardner Himself to cut the weeds down?  I have to agree with Thomas Jefferson. I tremble when I realize that God is not only patient, He's just.  We cannot continue to say, "live and let live," while our family, friends, and countrymen grow deeper and deeper roots in their sin.  True liberty comes not from satisfying your every desire, but from the freedom that God offers us in Christ.  Christ promised us life more abundantly, and when He reaps His harvest, the wheat of righteousness will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of His Father. 
           
So my weedy friends, if you have kept reading this far, perhaps you do have ears to hear the truth.  You too can serve a God who is not slow as some might count slowness, but has been patient toward you, not wishing that you should perish, but that you may understand repentance.  If you are wheat with tangled roots, seek God in His word and let your roots grow deep in His rich soil.  If you are a weed, give your life to Christ and He will pull you up by the roots and make you a new creation.  He will plant you anew as wheat to bear fruit for His kingdom.
           
Tell your friends.  

Mission -> Community -> Gospel (Grace)

by Chris Reis
Our Gospel communities are currently going through the book “Called Together;” it is laid out in the progression of Gospel, Community, and Mission, but what does this look like to someone who lives outside of the of the Church (outside of the community of believers)?  We, who live in the community of believers, in the presences of the King of kings, must always remind ourselves of where we have come from.  Let me draw from the history of King David an event that shows what “Called Together” means to someone who was brought in from the outside.
 
The story starts with the death of King Saul (the first king of Israel).

 [1Sa 31:2-3, 6] 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons and killed his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua. 3 When the battle intensified against Saul,  the archers caught up with him and severely wounded him.  ... 6 So on that day, Saul died together with his three sons, his armor-bearer, and all his men.  (HCSB)

Because of Adam, our blood relative, we are all dead in our sins.  With the death of Saul and his sons itwas customary in those days for the king of a new dynasty to completely massacre anyone connected with the prior dynasty (kill the heir apparent who is first in line of succession to the throne).  We see David, when he becomes king, going against the principle of self-preservation and asks what he can do for the family of the former king.

[2Sa 4:4] 4 Saul's son Jonathan had a son whose feet were crippled. He was five years old when the report about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. The one who had nursed him picked him up and fled, but as she was hurrying to flee, he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth.  (HCSB)

David does something that is very “missional” when he asks the following question:

[2Sa 9:1-4] 1 David asked, "Is there anyone remaining from Saul's family I can show kindness to because of Jonathan?" 2 There was a servant of Saul's family named Ziba. They summoned him to David, and the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" "I am your servant," he replied.  3 So the king asked, "Is there anyone left of Saul's family that I can show the kindness of God to?" Ziba said to the king, "There is still Jonathan's son who was injured in both feet."  4 The king asked him, "Where is he?" Ziba answered the king, "You'll find him in Lo-debar at the house of Machir son of Ammiel."  (HCSB)

The verses above happened many years after Mephibosheth was injured while being carried away by his nurse.  Between that time and this, Mephibosheth's uncle Ishbosheth, waged a bloody war against David for the throne of Israel.  David seeking to honor the memory of Jonathan, Saul’s son, asks the question “Is there anyone remaining from Saul's family I can show kindness to because of Jonathan?”  David, at some point may have considered that there was at least an outside chance that Mephibosheth might follow in his uncle’s footsteps and not his father’s, but instead of fearing this possibility, David, in love for the lost family member, trusts God and seeks out the lost son of Jonathan (the grandson of Saul). 
 
Mephibosheth, a young crippled man with a son of his own named Micahis hiding in Lo-debar, probably hoping to remain anonymous to King David.  What Mephiboshet doesn’t realize is that David wanted to lift him out of Lo-debar and bring him into “Community” with him in the house of the king.

 [2Sa 9:5-9, 11, 13] 5 So King David had him brought from the house of Machir son of Ammiel in Lo-debar.  6 Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, bowed down to the ground and paid homage. David said, "Mephibosheth!" "I am your servant," he replied.  7 "Don't be afraid," David said to him, "since I intend to show you kindness because of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all your grandfather Saul's fields, and you will always eat meals at my table."  8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, "What is your servant that you take an interest in a dead dog like me?"

Mephibosheth, like so many that are outside of the “community” of God, are leery and suspicious of our intent.  Do we look at these outsiders like a “dead dog” or is there love and concern in our eyes?  Are they a notch on our belt or a lost family member that needs to be brought into the community?

9 Then the king summoned Saul's attendant Ziba and said to him, "I have given to your master's grandson all that belonged to Saul and his family. ... 11 Ziba said to the king, "Your servant will do all my lord the king commands." So Mephibosheth ate at David's table just like one of the king's sons. ... 13 However, Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem because he always ate at the king's table. His feet had been injured.  (HCSB)

The king called the servant of Saul's family named Ziba and placed him in charge Saul’s estate.  But the most amazing part of this story is Mephibosheth is given a place at the table of David the king.  This is a beautiful picture of “grace” (the Gospel in action).  The scene closes with Mephibosheth sitting at David’s table like one of the king's sons with his injured feet coved by the loving grace of the king.  That is truly the purpose and picture of “Called Together,” reaching out, bringing in, and extending grace to all.

Book Review: As You Wish

by Element Christian Church
A friend of mine gave me this book, As You Wish (Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride) at Christmas with an inscription on the inside that said, “Let’s make more stories.” This friend of mine loves the stories of hope and redemption in how Jesus can constantly change us into the people we want and need to be.
 
First, let me start with AS YOU WISH. I am one of the people that Cary Elwes talks about in the book who didn’t even see the movie in theaters, but later found The Princess Bride on VHS (VHS were these large tapes that resembled large music cassettes…and those were…you know what, never mind). I later bought it on DVD and now own a digital download because the movie is simply perfect. A farm hand, a maiden, a giant, a sword master, a six-fingered man, love, revenge, betrayal, a magician, and a loud-mouth Sicilian.
 
The book (As You Wish) on the other hand, not as good as the movie. Don’t get me wrong, the book is fun, but at times it almost seems that Cary Elwes goes out of his way to gush all over everyone, repeatedly. I think I heard the same complements about everyone on the cast in at least 3 different sections of the book (unless it was about Andre the Giant or Rob Reiner, then it was in at least 10 places in the book).
 
There were some great stories, but much of the book felt like filler to make it long enough for print. After reading the book I didn’t have nostalgia to go back and watch the movie, I actually just googled “blooper reel.” One thing the book does admirably is set the stage for friendship and how memories live with us long after the events that make them transpire.
 
I think it is a good remembrance for life. I find myself often, in the midst of laughing with friends, thinking “remember this, it doesn’t last forever.” There was a time that every Sunday night 8-16 people would gather at my house for dinner and a movie (one of these was the Princess Bride), this lasted for about 4 years. I remember about year 3 thinking, “This will end, enjoy these moments while they last.” Today, I work with some of those people, some have moved away, others have children, and though we do not gather like we used to, those memories still influence my view of friends and community.
 
I think it is important for us to remember that life is fleeting, the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “it is a vapor.” A vapor is what gets sprayed out of a water bottle when the cap is tight enough that only mist can come out…it’s there and gone. Only God knows what comes after us. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, reminds us that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men, our souls long for more life…and not just life, but for all the world to made right.
 
I doubt we will ever see the whole world made right until Jesus redeems all things, but I do believe that times when we are making good memories, good stories, are when we feel the rightness of what Jesus is doing the most. We were made for communion with God and one another. When those two things intersect there is nothing better…and our souls know it.
 
So, let’s make new, better, and ongoing memories. It is like Jesus reminded us that all of the Scriptures can be summed up in loving God first and loving people. When that happens everything else falls into place. 

Book Review: Help, Thanks, Wow

by Aaron

I have typically been an Anne Lamott fan from other people’s books. What I mean is that so many people quote her that I really didn’t feel like I needed to read her myself. Often though, as is always the case, when we quote people it is usually from the parts that only speak to us and so get skewed in the translation.
 
Recently I was reading a book on the soul, it took a bit of getting in to, but it was still good (by the end). In this book they quoted from Anne Lamott’s “Help, Thanks Wow” so I decided to read it. I guess if you want this review wrapped up in one sentence it would be thus: Not much “help,” undirected “thanks,” and “wow” I hope my life is deeper than this book.
 
I know, as is always the case, people will get mad at me for not loving everything Anne Lamott, but please stop before you write something nasty to me and remember, I am not judging her heart, just the words in this book. The words of the book I found devoid of any passion and simply words for words sake.
 
At the outset it seems as though she tries to placate everyone from every manner of “faith,” accept for Christians who she likes to poke in the eye and claim they are all self-righteous for believing in something fixed and unchanging. I know Lamott would call herself a believer, and while I believe at times Christians need to be called out for their stupidity, we also need to speak of where the goodness is as well. Lamott seems to go out of her way to always reference God as “she” for no real purpose that I can discern (other than to try to win points with those who dislike a “Father” view of God).
 
She writes this book for those who have any manner of faith, from those who worship mountains, to old chairs, to themselves. It seems as though the book doesn’t give a second thought to the reason so many prayers sound and feel so flat (other than we need to pray more), but what if the deeper issue is that we are talking to things either unworthy of worship or non-sentient…and if that is the case of course your prayers will ring hollow. Much of the book seems very “self” focused, I want to be loved, I want to cry out, I want…whatever; this is the problem with placing ourselves at the center of God’s world, we think God must worship us.
 
Any time we seek to make God out to be less than He is it doesn’t hurt Him, it hurts us. We were made for glory, but that glory has been bestowed upon us, yet we constantly take that glory and think that we have created it ourselves and are deserving of it. To me, this seems the course of Lamott’s book, sort of an American Kabala-ism that ceases to focus on the true-ness of God and instead elevates the reasoning of man.
 
There is a reason why the Old Testament word for GLORY came from the word for WEIGHT and SIGNIFICANCE. Because God is the one who has weight, we are weightless without Him. He is fixed, His glory forever shines, and we are the ones who fail to notice or see it. We cry for glory all the while overlooking the steadfast glory of the one who made us.
 
Maybe, just maybe, I feel the way I do about Help Thanks Wow because I just came off reading Timothy Keller’s book on Prayer (Experiencing the Awe and Intimacy of God) and Lamott’s book seemed so colorless in comparison. Either way, I give it 2 stars, maybe it’s better than I thought…but I doubt it.

Souls and Prayer

by Aaron

I have been a little introspective lately. I tend to be affected by books I read the same way I am affected by people, slowly but deeply.  When I read a book (or meet people for that matter) I usually scrutinize and dismiss much of it for the first half, then it slowly sinks in and I actually start to think about it on a much deeper level.
 
Recently I have been reading a few books on prayer and the nature of the soul. Everyone has opinion about the soul and prayer (and you know what they say about opinions). I have been taking some time to actually think about, more deeply, what I think about the soul, prayer, humanity, and how God intended it all to fit together. It will all probably end up in a sermon some day (probably an Easter message), but for now I think I would like to share some thoughts.
 
The word soul, and it’s derivatives (given the most license on interpretation possible) appears over 850 times…yes, 850 (according to one author 856 to be precise). The Bible is a book about Jesus; He said all the scriptures point to Him (Luke 24:27), but it also is a book about our souls and connection with Jesus.
 
We are called living beings, that God breathed into us (In Gen 2:7) and we became living creatures…but the word used is nephesh, which literally means SOUL. It seems, in the scriptures, that the word soul is used a lot to encompass all of us (mind, body, and will). The soul is what holds, or integrates, us all together (it is why some commentators have called “integrity” a soul word).
 
When our souls are surrendered to God our lives begin to align in a way that our will, our minds, and our body line up. When our lives “line up” true and real life is produced in and through us. Our souls were meant to be found IN Christ, but apart from Him we will always be fractured and disintegrated because we are not whole. We all have dependence upon Him whether we will admit it or not, we can see this in people’s lives every day who are always searching for the “wholeness” that can only be found in Jesus.
 
Part of how we are to live our lives as followers of Jesus is as an “integrated whole.” We begin to understand this better as we pray and surrender our wills to the calling of Christ. We pray and live in relationship with God. Tim Keller’s book on prayer (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God) is amazing and delves very deeply into the ways and modes of prayer; while Anne Lamott’s book on prayer (Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers) is like the paper plate version compared to Keller’s fine China. While I whole-heartedly recommend Keller’s book, Lamotte’s, if not read with a deep understanding of Jesus, might be confusing. My point is, by referencing these two books, that prayer is indispensable and will most likely change the more we mature. We may start out like a Lamotte, but (hopefully) become more like a Keller as we grow.
 
Prayer is essential in our soul’s communion with God, it is vital for our soul’s growth to mature into lives that are whole.
 
As I said, I am still processing this, but my prayer for you is that you would begin to understand that your soul craves wholeness and that wholeness will only be found in what your soul was made for, to glorify and live in relationship with God. Everything in our world today seems designed to pull you away from the fact that YOU were MADE for Him, only when we fully embrace the fact that we were made for HIM will our souls find the rest and wholeness they crave.

Truths From 2014 - Part 3 (Degrees And Vision)

by Aaron

Periodically this year (2015) I have been taking some of statistics from 2014 and commenting on them as we go through this New Year. I came across this statistic and thought it was just fascinating that many young adults are questioning the value of a college degree.
 
For people growing up in previous generations the prospect of college was something many in their families were never able to obtain. There are stories of how certain kids are the first ones ever in their family to attend college, but when 2015 rolls around all of that has now changed. It is now EXPECTED that kids will go to college, get a degree, and then use that degree to further themselves in life. I have personally spoken to kids who feel so much pressure to pick a major it actually gives them nightmares.
 
Barna points out that, “The traditional commencement speech platitudes that welcome students into the opportunities of adulthood—“the whole world is before you”; you just have to “follow your dreams” to “make a difference”—now ring hollow to many young adults…” Why is this? I think trying to blame it on the poor economy is a copout, I think it is deeper and much more profound.
 
Sure, 4/10 twentysomethings would say they need their college degree for their current job (42%), but that same number wish they’d chosen a different major altogether. Barna 2014 research has pointed out that “fewer than half of Millennials (47%) would strongly agree their degree was worth the cost and time.” How can this be? Isn’t this all that the American dream was meant to be?
 
Besides the truth that many people enjoy working outside or with their hands, and vocation schools (mechanics, welding, construction) would be better suited for a lot of kids, we today make them feel like that is less than desirable. I have a fear today that we are going to run out of good plumbers, electricians, and garbage men because we have demeaned those jobs. We must allow kids to flourish AND fail so they can grow into those who trust Jesus and not their own intellect or effort. That their salvation rests in a person and not a piece of paper handed out by a university. That redemption is a gift of grace and bestowed NOT by our own works or what we have attained.
 
Many people, Christian and non-Christian, like to quote the verse in Proverbs (29:18) that says, “where there is no vision the people perish,” but the actual rendering in the original language is, “where there is no PROPHETIC vision.” The word “prophetic” doesn’t mean some hokus pokus future horoscope foretelling, it means GOD’S message of the truth. Our culture is very quickly becoming disillusioned with our own dreams and visions of the future because they are so small. All of our efforts at bringing about our own view of what would fulfill ourselves is too little. It is God’s vision that is bigger and greater than anything we could imagine, it is His vision we must begin to live for. 
 
Is college a good thing? Yes. Is it the best for everyone? No. How can you know if it is right for you or your children? That is the much harder question. I would say that no matter what age your kids are, instill in them NOW the value of a good work ethic. That God Himself works and if we are to be imitators of Him (Ephesians 5:1) we should work as well. Remind them that God’s love is not predicated on our work, but when we imitate Jesus we will find value in what we do. Ask your kids their dreams and then help them devise a plan to get there. Sometimes it will work out and sometimes it won’t, but God stands above it all and that is what we trust in.
 
May you be reminded of God’s goodness, that His vision for us is deeper and more nuanced than we could ever imagine, and that though our dreams do not always work out the way we want, Jesus weaves it all together with His unstoppable grace.

Important Conversations

by Jonathan Whitaker
Recently, I stood in a pulpit in small town rural Virginia.  Staring at me, as I gathered my composure to give my talk, were most of the living relatives on my father’s side.  A sense of deep relief washed over me as I began to eulogize my grandfather, who lay next to me draped in the American flag.  I smiled because we have a God who saves, and because of an important conversation I had with this man whom I loved, I knew that he was with the Lord. 
 
Two years ago, when I was serving with you at Element, I received a call from my dad.  He said, “Son, your grandfather is in the hospital and he may not be with us for many more days. You should try to call him if you can.”  My grandfather was 92 at the time.  For me, he had always been there, and it seemed like he would always be there.  What would I say to him?  I knew Jim Whitaker as a moral man, a good provider and a loving grandfather.  I knew that after he retired from the Air Force he worked as a gentleman farmer for 50 years in central Virginia.  He was a hard worker.  I knew that he had struggled with alcohol for a period in his life, which he blessedly overcame.  But there was one very important thing I didn’t know about my grandfather: was Jesus Christ his savior?
 
I was a wreck.  How could I let a man I love pass, without introducing him to Jesus?  I have shared my faith with hundreds of strangers, but the thought of confronting my own grandfather about the state of his soul was terrifying. I had considered this dilemma before; I even prayed that God would send someone to talk to him, to get through to him, to lead him.  As I cried thinking about the hopelessness of dying without the sweet salvation of Jesus Christ, I started a conversation with God.  I asked, “God why won’t you send someone to minister to my grandfather?”  The answer came softly and swiftly.  God’s reply was clear: “I send you.” My answer came when I turned on the radio, and KLove was on, which Jennifer will tell you, I don’t listen to KLove that often (I must have been driving her car).  On the radio a young woman gave her testimony about how glad she was that a stranger had given her the gospel; of course she was glad, she was saved! I felt that God told me then and there that I had nothing to fear. 
 
God made a promise to Israel through the prophet Isaiah that applies to all who serve the Lord, and should give us strength when He sends us to proclaim the Gospel. “You are my servant; I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand”  (Isaiah 41:9-10).
 
When I got home, I called my grandfather at his hospital bed.  He answered the phone with a weak but clear voice.  I told him that I loved him and wanted to be with him in heaven.  I told him that Jesus was my Lord and savior and that I believed in His sacrifice for my sins.  Before I could go on, my grandfather stopped me and said, “I have believed those things for a very long time.”  I had never known that about my grandfather, but in an instant God gave me peace.  It turns out the Holy Spirit had been at work answering my prayers long before I was even alive to pray them.
 
What important conversations are you waiting to have?  My grandfather lived two more years, but he could have only lived two more hours.  None of us know the hour, but, for those of us who love the Lord, while we are here we can’t waste a minute. For everyone who calls Jesus Lord, believing in His resurrection, God is faithful to save.  If you are waiting for the right time to tell someone about Jesus, don’t wait; now is the right time. If you are waiting to confess your sin and ask forgiveness from God and those you’ve hurt, don’t wait; now is the right time.  If you are withholding forgiveness, don’t wait; now is the right time. Trust God. You can be assured that He has gone before you in what may be the most important conversation of your life.  “Fear not, for I am with you.”

Oh The Humanity - Community Good Friday Service 2015

by Aaron
Two years ago I was asked to part of the community Good Friday service in Santa Maria. The service is held at noon and many of you couldn’t make it so we posted the transcript of what I was going to say online as a blog. This year, same deal. Many of you cannot make it so I am posting what I am going to say three days before the service. I was given John 19:28 to speak on…here it is (under five minutes):
 
Almost 80 years the global travel industry was about to be quickly transformed by the invention Zeppelins. Huge flying blimps that resembled gigantic eggs made of Duralumin, steel, hydrogen, and various other materials. The most famous of these Zeppelins was the Hindenburg. After making a flight from Germany to Rio De Janeiro and up to New York in 1937, the passenger Zeppelin Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed, killing dozens of people. As the cameras rolled and the Hindenburg burned, the American Radio Reporter Herbert Morrison said this famous line, “Oh the humanity.”
 
The term, “oh the humanity” over the years was a cry over the anguish of human suffering.
 
The theological term we use today for understanding Jesus being both God and man in one person is the “hypostatic Union.” This causes many to look at Jesus’ life and see him a bit like Superman. How did Jesus never sin? How did He please the Father? How did He go to, and endure, the cross…well, we say, “He was God, of course could do it.” But the scriptures are clear that Jesus did not lean into His divinity to not sin or endure the cross. We are told He lived the life we should have lived because He lived how we were to live, in His humanity, through the power of God’s Spirit.
 
When we look at Jesus and the cross, the suffering of Jesus for us and our sin, we tend to miss or gloss over the fact that Jesus suffered in his humanity…how do we know this? Because on the cross Jesus says these two simple words in John 19:28 “I thirst.”
 
Let me tell you about the cross…The cross today is one the most recognized symbols in the world, but it is far cry from the piece of jewelry we make it out to be; it was symbol of brutal agonizing death. The early church never used crosses because it was too grizzly, and they believed too humiliating, a remembrance for Jesus
 
Crucifixion was always reserved as the worst punishment. Crucifixion was so horrendous we made a new word to describe it, “excruciating,” meaning “from the cross.” Persians invented it, Roman’s perfected it. It was done publically (down in front of Wal-mart or at the Santa Barbara bowl). Death could take days and people would come to mock, throw stones at, and spit upon those being crucified. To prolong the agony Romans put a seat under the buttocks of those being crucified so they would take longer to die. Some men, wanting the agony to end, would slide off the seat. Eventually, the soldiers started nailing a mans penis to the cross so he couldn’t slide off the seat to make his death any faster and the torture would last longer.
 
Crucifixion was done at EYE LEVEL (not all high like the pictures) eye level so you could watch a man die. Even though all of this is true Christians (including me) call this GOOD NEWS. How is this good news? The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died(by itself not good news…but the theological understanding of that event is. Paul uses the word “for” to move you from the fact to its implication for us….) for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. That’s why it is good news, the cross is the only hope we have ever had. This is what is called propitiation and atonement, which is what Jesus made for us on the cross on Friday.
 
A lot of pastors today have brought the doctrine of substitutionary atonement under attack; people want to shy away from the cross because it is offensive. The truth is, YES IT IS offensive! People trip over it because they think they are good enough. You and I need to grasp the severity of the doctrine of Atonement and what it meant for God to declare us clean in His eyes.
 
Heb. 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.So Jesus Dies in our place as our perfect Lamb. Friday is the language of love, restoration, and reconciliation. Why would God do this? I love how John Calvin says this: “The Father wanted His kids back.” Atonement is what weaves scripture together.
 
Jesus dies to defeat our enemies of Satan, sin, and death, not His enemies because no one can stand against God…but Jesus came in the flesh, real flesh, to save and redeem us.  Too many of us have the view when we look at Jesus on the cross of “Oh the divinity, look at the suffering of God,” but it was truly the most incomprehensible, tragic, horrific, blood curdling “oh the humanity” moment of all human history. All sin, in one moment, laid upon Jesus. He bore the brunt of it all. Not just other’s sins, YOUR sins and MY sins.
 
Sometimes I have a fear of calling Good Friday “good,” it was only good for us. All God got out of the deal is self-serving, self-focused, self-centered people. We must remember, this is Friday not Sunday, this is a day to lay ourselves bare before the cross of Christ and remember that He died for us in His humanity, to save humanity.

Being Cold For Jesus' Name

by Aaron
We recently finished looking at the 7 churches listed in the book of Revelation as a way to examine our lives, and church, in light of what Jesus said to those early churches. Jesus had strong words of comfort (as He first reminded them who He is), then He offered them words of rebuke (reminded them of mission), and ended with words of encouragement to either return to, or continue in, His mission. I think, if we took all the words to heart, we could walk away with a deeper understanding our life purpose in the Kingdom of God.
 
The last week we finished with the church of Laodicea. The church in Laodicea was rebuked very harshly with these words from Revelation 3:15-16 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. To the north of Laodicea is Hierapolis, a city that was built upon a thermal hot spring. It was famous for its medicinal qualities because of all the minerals in the water. The water that flowed from this city’s springs are boiling hot! To the south of Laodicea is the city of Colossae (which the book of Colossians was written too), and next to this city is a stream that flows from a mountain spring; the waters are exceptionally cold and refreshing. Laodicea sits in between these two cities, one hot, one cold, but both with good water.
 
Laodicea’s water source was terrible, it wasn't hot or cold, it was lukewarm, reddish in color, and induced vomiting. Like the city’s water, the church was lukewarm and Jesus was on the verge of spitting them out of His mouth. A lot of people have taken this verse out of context and said incorrectly, "be hot for Jesus or be cold to Jesus, just don't be in the middle." The verse doesn't say Jesus either wants you for Him or against Him, it says He wants you to be on mission in the world for His name. Be Hot and have a passion for Him AND be cold like a refreshing glass of water on a hot day, BE GOOD THINGS…just don't be Lukewarm.
 
A few of our Gospel Communities have had discussions centering on this idea of being “cold for Jesus,” but are wondering how to do it. I think the best way to think about it is to be, as Matthew 5:13-16 in the Sermon on the Mount says, Salt and Light. When Peter preaches the second sermon ever recorded in the New Testament, he makes a statement about what happens in midst of hope and salvation, he says that “Acts 3:20 times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…”
 
How are we cold and refreshing? Think of it this way, when a tragedy happens in someone’s life they are full of doubt, anger, fear…they have lots of emotion; you could probably say their emotions are running hot. In those moments God’s people need to “keep their cool” and not become all hot with emotion as well, but instead speak words of hope healing and grace. We are to bring a coolness to situation.
 
This coolness applies to much more than tragedy. We are also called to be peacemakers in the world (Matt 5:9), peacemakers usually diffuse hot and tense situations with grace. How often are you with a friend who is “steaming” because someone said or did something to them that they didn’t like? Our job as followers of Jesus is not to “stoke the flames,” but to try and reorient people to understand that there are a million things that happen in other people’s lives every day and we do not know what lead to the inappropriate exchange (from being flipped off to being demeaned).
 
We are to do our best to re-center the world around us on the person of Jesus that He may bring hope and healing. Too often we do just the opposite by not being cold and refreshing in Jesus’ name.
 
Be hot with passion for Jesus, be cold and refreshing for Jesus, live the life purpose of anyone and everyone that calls Him “Lord:” MISSION. Glorifying God and being a disciple of His in the world by having your life centered on the amazing heat given off my God’s passion for His people in Gospel, but also the refreshing coolness of the stability and hope that comes from the Gospel as well.
 

Truths From 2014 - Part 2

by Aaron
Here is a big question for you, especially coming out of the Prodigal God series, "what is a practicing Christian?" There are so many ways and qualifiers to that question. Is it based on performance? Is it based on how many Bible trivia questions you can get right (I mean the shortest verse in the bible question really depends on what translation you are reading)? Is it faith and how that faith is lived out? What is this elusive creature we would like to view in its native habitat known only as the "practicing Christian?"
 
The way Barna research describes them, they are people who go to church services at least once a month and say that their faith is "very important to their lives." How about that? Seems like they just described every single person involved in a cult across not just the United States, but also the globe. Do you see how hard it is to define this?
 
According to Barna Research, Intervarsity, and the American Bible Society those who call themselves "Christians," and meet the above criteria, have a few things in common about the bible. First, is that they believe the bible is their top source of moral truth, outranking church and parents both. Sadly that outranking is only 36%, compared to church at 16% and parents at 14%. What that tells you is that there are 64% of "practicing Christians" who believe there is greater moral authority somewhere "else."
 
Second, is that they are more likely to believe the Bible is the word of God, a staggering 96% believe this. This 96% also believe that the Scriptures contain everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life. Sadly, again, only 46% of the "practicing Christians" believe the bible should be taken in a literal manner. It seems dropping from 96% to 46% based on those two questions is a little bit of a head scratcher.
 
If we take a step back and ask ourselves a different question, it might help. That question is, "what is salvation?" The bible defines salvation and as deliverance by God FROM God and his wrath. Romans 5:9-10 tells us Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Our God is loving and forgiving  while at the very time He is Holy and righteous. Our sin against Him causes His wrath to burn because of his righteous holiness, but His grace and glory cause Him to seek and save His lost children.
 
We don't understand how God can be both of these at the same time without being schizophrenic, because we don't know how to be more than one thing at a time. When we are mad…we are mad,  when we are happy…we are happy, we find it near impossible to have wrath and love burn at the same time. Because we view God as being "just like us" we diminish who He is in His grace and Holiness. This is why, to be a "practicing Christian," that lifestyle must begin from a place of humbleness.
 
Humility allows us to stand amazed at the goodness and grace of God for rescuing us, humility puts us in a place of trust with Jesus when our views and His conflict, and humility lets us worship Jesus through even the toughest of circumstances because we know that in areas that we don't understand, He is still sovereign.
 
Don't get me wrong, we are not saved by humility, we are saved by grace through faith…And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8-9). We are saved by GOD, beginning to end, but if we want to live as practicing Christians in our natural habitat, that habitat is humility. It will allow us to honor Jesus in ways where we trust His words when we read them, gather with other believers to worship Him corporately, and surrender our wills to his on a moment to moment basis.