Coming Soon To An Element Near You

by Element Christian Church
This year at Element we are doing something we have never attempted, we are celebrating a season of the church calendar called Advent. This will be arriving to you in the form of an Advent booklet that we have been painstakingly putting together for the last few months. On November 22nd we will all take this Advent journey together as a church. It will start in a time of sober reflection that should (and will, in our case) lead to a time of loud joy.
 


Advent takes place over the four weeks that lead up to Christmas, with each week being a reflection of Christmas (Christ’s) fulfillment. Why are we doing Advent this year? I would love to explain.
 
As a culture, even in churches, we tend to forget what Christmas truly entails. We buy gifts, run to parties, eat too much, possibly drink too much, and when Christmas is over we feel the presence of Christ less than when we started. This should never happen as the point of Christmas is Jesus, the word Christmas even starts with “Christ.”
 
So, prepare the way…and prepare yourselves. There will be more coming.
 
Advent 2015

Ch…Ch…Ch….Changes

by Christie Marangi
I have to admit, I love change.  For those of you who haven’t heard, Children’s and Youth ministry here at Element are going through some changes.  Our beloved Youth Director, James, is flying out of the nest and spreading his wings (like one of his many animal t-shirts, he has to own an eagle one, right?). He will be heading to Washington, and as a result of that flight, we are taking this time to do something that we’ve been contemplating for a long time, merging the Children’s and Youth ministries under one heading:
 


This is an exciting time, and the best decision for our church (in my humble opinion), but I’d be lying if I didn’t say change is hard and nerve wracking. First of all, who wants to try to fill James’ shoes? Certainly not me, that’s why I’m not even going to try. We have amazing leaders in the youth program, and that isn’t changing. The relationships your kids have developed will stay constant.
 
And the Junior High?  They’ll still get to do all those weird youth games on Sunday morning just like always (even the ones I don’t understand, like the Goldfish Game). There will still be service projects, Music, and Youth Trips. ? Check. Thursdays? Check.
 
The things that are changing are all for the better.  We want to turn ministry to families on its head.  We want you, as parents to be empowered to teach your kids spiritual truths, and then turn to Element for support in that job.  That’s how God laid it out in Deuteronomy 6:6-9  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
 
As Element itself focuses on Gospel Communities, eFamilies will be placing a large emphasis on Student Communities.  At Element we want to, "transform community into Gospel Community" as evidenced by our mission statement.  The understanding of GCs will start from the youngest child up. We want our students to experience community at their level, and then transition from student community to a contributing member of a church Gospel Community upon graduating from high school.
 
Our hope is that our student communities relationships will flourish and grow with the leaders they already know, and that will give the students the confidence to start new relationships with those outside of their circles to show Jesus to the people around them.
 
My hope is that I can serve as a resource to you as parents. I trust that with the Youth leaders’ help, we can add on to the foundation that Jesus has laid through James, and continue to see this ministry flourish and grow (to a point that we have trouble fitting the students into classrooms). My desire is to equip the leaders that are working with your kids to build relationships with them that model the love of Jesus as a supplement to the relationships that you hold with your children. My desire is to work with you to lead your kids to love Jesus, and your kids in turn to lead others to love Jesus as well.
 
I do love change, but I love change with purpose.  The best change of all is to see people come to Christ and to witness that magnificent transformation. I’m excited to take this journey with you and see what changes Jesus has in store in the lives of the students at Element.
 
If you want to sign up and get involved from the beginning, sign up here.  We have lots of ways to be involved, both on the front lines, and behind the scenes.
 

Baptism Stories - September 6, 2015

by Element Christian Church


Last Sunday was our Baptisms, and we had 9 people baptized! If you didn't make it, or missed reading the stories, this weeks blog is simply a link to them. Please read them, be excited for them, and always stand amazed at the goodness of our great God.

The Big Goodbye

by Element Christian Church
This is James, and if you haven’t heard yet; I’m moving to Washington. I have felt this leading for over a year, maybe even closer to two years. Last year I went to Aaron and talked about this call in my life; he and the elders gave me the freedom to explore. After almost a year, and some craziness, I found a job I’m really excited about: I’ve been hired as the director of High School Ministry at Bethel Church in Richland Washington.
 
I was hoping that God would send me to the woodsy forest area of Washington, but He has His own plan and is sending me to the high desert with rivers. To be honest this has not worked out like I planned, my plan put me leaving a few months ago and settled me in the cool forest part of the Pacific Northwest, needless to say it’s been a little frustrating. In my plan failing God has been at work. God has provided better than what I envisioned.  With this post I would like to simply share some of my heart with you.
 
I have served as Director of Youth Ministries at Element for 7 years, and for each week of those 7 years I have looked forward to Thursday night as my favorite night of the week. In my 7 years I have grown a lot…I started this job when I was 19. I have learned a lot, I have failed a lot, and I have loved getting the chance to minister to your children. Sometimes (lets be real) as parents it’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of teenagers to the point that we don’t actually get to enjoy them. Let me remind you; you have awesome kids! The group that we have right now is a fun one, I have loved being involved in their lives and getting a front row seat to watch them grow in their love of Christ!
 
Children are a blessing; we say it often because we forget it often. Let me encourage and challenge you to enjoy the blessing God has placed in your life, lead them, teach them, and grow with them. Your children have been a wonderful blessing to me, and I will miss them greatly.
 
Leaving Element has nothing to do with me being mad at anyone who goes to Element (or especially) the leadership here. I love Element and I love its leadership. I’m excited to see what God has in store for Hailey and me, but I am terrified to leave (not because I worry for Element, but selfishly I’m worried for me). I’m hurting in leaving these great relationships that have developed over the years. I want to thank you for letting me speak the truth of Christ into student’s lives and into your lives.

Many of the students have surprised me with their reactions to the news that I am leaving, because many of them have said that the youth ministry is going to be just fine. A few students said, “We have been learning how to care for each other as you have been caring for us, you left us with a great example and we will be ok.” These responses have brought me the most hope as I get to look back on my time at Element not wondering if I could have done more (there is always more), but I get to look at my time at Element as a season where God used me to grow and develop these students. 
 
As I said, I have been working on moving for just about a year now, Christie and the team has been coming up with plans when I step out of youth. The plan they have is a brilliant one (and I’m not just saying that because that’s the right thing to say when you leave). I truly believe this plan is the best option for Element and our ministry to you, your children, teenagers, and all the families that come to Element.  
 
With the plan there is going to be some restructuring, with all restructuring there will be hick-ups because it’s a time of growth, Element’s ministry to families is growing, please be patient and helpful in this stage of growth. Ultimately I believe these changes will platform Element, and you as parents, to better minister to youth and children so get involved!
 
There is so much to say, but I’ll end with these two things; 1. God is very good and I can’t wait to see what He does through Element and our ministry to Santa Maria. 2. Thank you for being patient with me as I have grown.
 
I will truly miss you all and the family that Element has been. 
 
Humbly,
James.
             

Gospel Truth and Gospel Trust

by Aaron

Today I did something really bad, actually I did something bad a couple of weeks ago and I was confronted on it today. I hurt someone’s feelings because of my own short comings and issues of trust. Essentially, I asked someone to do something and didn’t trust them enough to follow through and stuck myself into their business.
 
As this person sat across from me and said, “you don’t trust me,” my honest answer was that he was correct. As much as I wanted it to be untrue, it was true, but the fault was not in the other person, no, the fault was in me. This person has never done anything, that I have seen, that could be construed as untrustworthy (and even if he had, there is a graceful presence about him that has been shown over and over in how trustworthy he is). As I processed his statement I started to look at my own life and see why it was that I couldn’t let go of control.
 
As I grew up, I felt abandoned at times by my father. I grew up with a fear of being left alone and not trusting anyone. Today this translates into me having a hard time letting go of all of my hang-ups and letting other people do what needs to be done.
 
Now, why do I write this blog to tell you all this? Because I, as one of your pastors, am not perfect and need grace; it comes down to issues of the Gospel and community lived in the Gospel. 
 
First off, the other person valued relationship enough that they sought me out to talk about it. They didn’t run or let it fester inside of them, they came and talked about the issue and we were both better off in the long (and short) run. In Matthew 8:15 Jesus tells us, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” This is exactly what happened.
 
The second thing (really this is the first thing) is that the Gospel changes people; it changes me, daily. God is my Father. When I cease to rest in the fact of who God is (His character and His actions), I begin to respond in ways that are inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am reading this book by Tim Keller and he writes, “I continually observe that ministry amplifies peoples spiritual character. It makes them far better or far worse Christians than they would have been otherwise, but it will not leave anyone where he was!" I wish my character was better at times, but with all of us following Jesus together, living the Gospel in each others lives, we will be better.
 
As Hebrew 12:2 says, we must look 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.” Our hope lies in Jesus and Him alone. We are not undone by the shame of our own failure, but use it to grow to be more like Jesus.
 
Let us all become people who live and speak the Gospel into one another’s lives and have it spoken into our own. This will most often happen during difficult conversations that we will naturally want to avoid.

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.