Sermon for Christmas Day, Part 3 (Merry Christmas)

by Aaron

Well, it is finally Christmas Day and there are no services at Element…whatever will you do? How about you read this blog, as well as the ones from the last two weeks, and go over the questions with your family? Over the last 2 ½ weeks, we have been looking at pieces of a sermon by Martin Luther written in 1521 and delivered on Christmas Day. (Obviously, he was holier than we are because he went to church on Christmas). 

 
Luther has spoken of God shaking the world to bring peace, he has spoken about how we miss Jesus in the ordinary because our lives are so consumed with self, and today, we will go over where Luther begins to speak of grace in an unconventional way.
 
“Grace does not interfere with nature and her work, but rather improves and promotes it. Likewise Mary, without doubt, also nourished the child with milk from her breast and not with strange milk, or in a manner different from that which nature provided, as we sing: ubere de coelo pleno, from her breast being filled by heaven, without injury or impurity. I mention this that we may be grounded in the faith and know that Jesus was a natural man in every respect just as we, the only difference being in his relation to sin and grace, he being without a sinful nature…It is a great comfort to us that Jesus took upon himself our nature and flesh. Therefore we are not to take away from him or his mother anything that is not in conflict with grace, for the text clearly says that she brought him forth, and the angels said, unto you he is born.

How could God have shown his goodness in a more sublime manner than by humbling himself to partake of flesh and blood…But what happens in heaven concerning this birth? As much as it is despised on earth, so much and a thousand times more is it honored in heaven. If an angel from heaven came and praised you and your work, would you not regard it of greater value than all the praise and honor the world could give you, and for which you would be willing to bear the greatest humility and reproach? What exalted honor is that when all the angels in heaven cannot restrain themselves from breaking out in rejoicing, so that even poor shepherds in the fields hear them preach, praise God, sing and pour out their joy without measure? Were not all joy and honor realized at Bethlehem, yes, all joy and honor experienced by all the kings and nobles on earth, to be regarded as only dross and abomination, of which no one likes to think, when compared with the joy and glory here displayed?

Behold how very richly God honors those who are despised of men, and that very gladly. Here you see that his eyes look into the depths of humility, as is written, "He sitteth above the cherubim" and looketh into the depths. Nor could the angels find princes or valiant men to whom to communicate the good news; but only unlearned laymen, the most humble people upon earth. Could they not have addressed the high priests, who it was supposed knew so much concerning God and the angels? No, God chose poor shepherds, who, though they were of low esteem in the sight of men, were in heaven regarded as worthy of such great grace and honor.

See how utterly God overthrows that which is lofty! And yet we rage and rant for nothing but this empty honor, as we had no honor to seek in heaven; we continually step out of God's sight, so that he may not see us in the depths, into which he alone looks…He works in opposition to these temporal things, looks with favor upon that from which the world turns, teaches that from which it flees and takes up that which it discards.

And although we are not willing to tolerate such acts of God and do not want to receive blessing, honor and life in this way, yet it must remain so. God does not change his purpose, nor does he teach or act differently than he purposed. We must adapt ourselves to him, he will not adapt himself to us. Moreover, he who will not regard his word, nor the manner in which he works to bring comfort to men, has assuredly no good evidence of being saved. In what more lovely manner could he have shown his grace to the humble and despised of earth, than through this birth in poverty, over which the angels rejoice, and make it known to no one but to the poor shepherds?”

 
On Christmas Eve we talked about light, that Jesus came into the world to expose our darkness. One of the ways we live in darkness is by constantly thinking the rich, famous, or powerful have everything we could ever want or need. (I wonder if they got everything wanted today in terms of “stuff.”) We raise people higher in our own estimation and want what they have, but God comes in the form of Jesus and shows what really matters; it is not the high and lofty, it is the common and ordinary. We are a people who live in the common and ordinary places and that is where Jesus chose to make Himself known.
 
This Christmas day, ask your kids what would bring them the most joy: having God speak words of grace over them, or having their favorite movie star (or super hero) show up for dinner? Talk about how God’s grace reminds us that living in the ordinary is good, and that as we live for Him in ordinary places, His grace becomes more deeply known and understood.
 
Merry Christmas, Element.
 

Download PDF version of entire sermon

Sermon for Christmas Day, Part 2

by Aaron


From last week
up until Christmas Day, we are trying to give you and your family some short blogs and readings to go over on Christmas Day. Element is not having services on Christmas Day, but still wanted to give you something to do with your family that focuses on Jesus. We are giving you a sermon Martin Luther preached on Christmas Day in 1521 (it has been translated into English in 1906 so forgive the “Olde English”).
 
Martin Luther started by talking about how God had shaken the nation of Israel and Rome on Christmas in order to bring about peace to His people. Luke 2:1-7 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luther goes on in his sermon referring to these verses: “Observe how exact the Evangelist is in his statement that the birth of Christ occurred in the time of Caesar Augustus, and when Quirinius was governor of Syria, of which the land of Judea was a part, just as Austria is a part of the German land. This being the very first taxing, it appears that this tribute was never before paid until just at the time when Christ was to be born. By this Jesus shows that his kingdom was not to be of an earthly character nor to exercise worldly power and lordship, but that he, together with his parents, is subject to the powers that be. Since he comes at the time of the very first enrollment, he leaves no doubt with respect to this, for had he desired to leave it in doubt, he might have willed to be born under another enrollment, so that it might have been said it just happened so, without any divine intent.

Since now all the works of Jesus are precious teachings, this circumstance cannot be interpreted otherwise than that he by divine counsel and purpose will not exercise any worldly authority; but will be subject to it...behold how very ordinary and common things are to us that transpire on earth, and yet how high they are regarded in heaven. On earth it occurs in this wise: Here is a poor young woman, Mary of Nazareth, not highly esteemed, but of the humblest citizens of the village. No one is conscious of the great wonder she bears, she is silent, keeps her own counsel, and regards herself as the lowliest in the town. She starts out with her husband Joseph…Imagine how she was despised at the inns and stopping places on the way, although worthy to ride in state in a chariot of gold.

There were, no doubt, many wives and daughters of prominent men at that time, who lived in fine apartments and great splendor, while the mother of God takes a journey in mid-winter under most trying circumstances...The Evangelist shows how, when they arrived at Bethlehem, they were the most insignificant and despised, so that they had to make way for others until they were obliged to take refuge in a stable, to share with the cattle, lodging, table, bedchamber and bed, while many a wicked man sat at the head in the hotels and was honored as lord. No one noticed or was conscious of what God was doing in that stable...O what a dark night this was for Bethlehem, that was not conscious of that glorious light! See how God shows that he utterly disregards what the world is, has or desires; and furthermore, that the world shows how little it knows or notices what God is, has and does.

See, this is the first picture with which Christ puts the world to shame and exposes all it does and knows. It shows that the world's greatest wisdom is foolishness, her best actions are wrong and her greatest treasures are misfortunes
.”
 
How often are we blind to the ordinary workings of God in our everyday lives—just like the people in Bethlehem?
How often do we overlook what God is doing because we are so consumed with our own comfort and security?
 
Take a moment to ask your family how they might have already overlooked Jesus today. Ask how, for this day, they can have an open heart and mind to see what Jesus wants to remind them of. Ask, “How can we live today so Jesus’ goodness and message are known because of how we see Him?”


Sermon for Christmas Day, Part 1

by Aaron
We’re almost through with 2016, and Christmas happens to fall on a Sunday this year. We have three Christmas Eve services at 7, 9, and 11pm; the 11pm service will actually let out on Christmas day, which led us to the decision not to have services Christmas morning (and…because I’d like to get some rest after such a busy night). However, some people really want to go to church services on Christmas day. I figured I would give you a few blogs leading up to Christmas, so you can have your own “sermon” discussion with your family on Christmas Day (if you are so inclined).
 
At Element, we believe that the first pastors to families are their parents. We believe instruction about who God is should begin at home. How to follow Christ should be modeled by loving parents who teach, disciple, rebuke, and restore the children entrusted to their care. That being said, we also know that at times, it is hard to know where to begin. What I would like to give you over the course of the next three weeks is a sermon (broken up) by the church reformer, Martin Luther, in 1521.

 
Martin Luther was German and obviously wrote and taught his sermons in German; what I give to you is the 1906 translation, so be aware of some of the older English. Before you think to ask, yes, Martin Luther gave this sermon on Christmas day, so he was obviously much holier than we are at Element.
 
He starts his sermon like this: “It is written in Haggai 2,6-7, that God says, ‘I will shake the heavens; and the precious things of all nations shall come.’ This is fulfilled today, for the heavens were shaken, that is, the angels in the heavens sang praises to God. And the earth was shaken, that is, the people on the earth were agitated; one journeying to this city, another to that throughout the whole land, as the Gospel tells us. It was not a violent, bloody uprising, but rather a peaceable one awakened by God who is the God of peace.”
 
Martin Luther’s life was marked by adversity as he attempted to properly live in and explain grace to others. He was put on trial for his views and there was a bloody and violent rebellion about “grace” during his lifetime. As www.religionfacts.com puts it, “The life of Martin Luther is one of the most fascinating stories in the history of Christianity. It has all the stuff of a good novel: parental conflict, spiritual agony, life-changing moments, near-misses, princes, popes, emperors, castles, kidnapping, mobs, revolution, massacres, politics, courage, controversy, disguises, daring escapes, humor and romance. And not only is it a good story, it marks a major turning point in western history and in Christianity.”
 
With all of these things looming in Luther’s life, it’s remarkable that he starts his sermon with how God came to bring peace to His world. He speaks of how the entire world was shaken for the purpose of peace. Luther was not against being a soldier or the concept of a “just war” (you can read Terry Miller’s great paper on it here), but he did see God’s purpose in Christ was to first bring peace--peace to our broken hearts and our broken world.
 
If you are doing this with your family on Christmas day, ask the following questions:

What do you think it means to have true peace?
How did Jesus’ birth herald the proclamation of that peace?
 
See ya next week.

Do Penance, What?!? Part 2

by Aaron
Last week in our blog we looked at the historical division that resulted in different Bible translations being used by the Protestant and the Catholic Church. The schism between the two theological perspectives hit the fan (so to speak) when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Church door in 1517…the theses seem to wholly revolve around the words repentance and penance. Here are the first two:
  1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in saying, "Repent ye, etc.," intended that the whole life of his believers on earth should be a constant penance.
  2. And the word "penance" neither can, nor may, be understood as referring to the Sacrament of Penance, that is, to confession and atonement as exercised under the priest's ministry.
What does this mean and why does Luther say this? Let me show you two verses from two different Bible translations.
 
Matthew 4:17:
ESV(English Standard Version) - From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Douay Rheims- From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Acts 2:38:
ESV- And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Douay Rheims- But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
 

If you look at the words I underlined in the verses above, you see the difference, and it comes about because of a mistranslation of the Greek word “metanoeo.” Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (which the Catholic Church used since 1582 as the Douay Rheims version) translates this as “poenitentiam agite" ("do penance"). Metanoeoi doesn’t mean “do penance” though, it means to change one’s mind, have sorrow, and experience a true change of heart. Repentance is a work that God initiates within us that works its way out. Penance, on the other hand, is outward works to atone for our own sin. Mark Sohmer writes, “Repentance is of the heart. Penance is imposed by a Roman priest. Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit. What God desires in the sinner is not a punishment of oneself for sins, but a change of heart, a real forsaking of sin, shown by a new life of obedience…in short, penance is a counterfeit repentance. It is the work of man on his body; true repentance is the work of God in the soul.”

 
This is where the rift widened during the Reformation—repentance and penance.
 
Part of the issue is the way Christians tend to latch on to pithy formulas for faith. During the Middle Ages, people liked grouping things in sevens (e.g., seven deadly sins, seven works of mercy, seven virtues, seven holy orders, seven liberal arts, etc.). The idea of seven “sacraments” emerged about 1000 years after Jesus, but was claimed to have been instituted by Jesus himself (because we love to blame Jesus for all of our stupid ideas, right?). These sacraments were: (1) Baptism, (2) Confirmation, (3) Eucharist, (4) Penance, (5) Extreme Unction, (6) Holy Orders, and (7) Holy Matrimony. The Reformers pointed out that the seven sacraments didn’t go back to Jesus. In response, the Catholic Church pointed to the Latin Vulgate passages to support their claims that Jesus instituted all seven. The Reformers said this “evidence” didn’t stand up to scrutiny because the Greek New Testament didn’t support Jerome’s mistranslation. The Council of Trent tried to shut the matter down again, however, by saying:

If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.” (7th sess. 3 March 1557).

 
This became too much for the Reformers, most importantly Luther, who believed that the Bible clearly taught salvation through faith alone. He pointed to Jesus’ real words when he said, “repent” and not “do penance.” We do not atone for our own sin; Jesus did so at the Cross. Too many Christians today live in the Catholic Church’s mindset from the 16th century, trying to “do penance”…too many churches who claim to believe in grace encourage this mindset as well. Human beings cannot atone for their own sin before God. If they could, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die and rise again; the Gospel would cease to be the “good news” it is and become useless news instead. The truth is that we can never pay for what separates us from God; this is why God does it Himself in the person of Jesus. We do not have to “do penance”; we get to live lives of hope and freedom because Jesus has set us free to love God.

To bring this whole thing to a close, it is important to be discerning regarding how Scripture is translated, interpreted, and lived out. Remember that Scripture is all about Jesus and His saving work in our lives. He has paid the price we could never pay once and for all, this is why our lives should be marked by gratitude and joy…it is why they should be marked by repentance and not penance. 

Do Penance, What?!? Part 1

by Aaron
If most people know anything about the Reformation and church history, they think of Martin Luther, church doors, nails, grace versus works, indulgences, and a whole lot of fiery debates. Many today that look back on this movement think Protestants and Catholics were just splitting hairs on issues that today we could just live with. What most people miss is that there were, and I would say still are, some good reasons to vigorously disagree with poor theology.
 
The thing I would like to explore in this blog is the idea of penance versus repentance, but it is going to take us a long time to get there because I have to explain a lot of stuff first. The Protestant Church, after the Reformation, started translating and releasing Bible versions that went back to the best copies of manuscripts available. Today our translations are very good and also refer to the best available manuscripts. The Catholic Church, after the Reformation, stood firm in their longstanding use of the Latin Vulgate (a translation of Jerome, an early church father). (Please understand that this is a very simplistic rendition of many debates and things you probably would get lost in and not care much about.)
 
People in our Gospel Class like to ask, “Why does the Catholic Bible have extra books?” The answer is that before the Reformation, the extra books (Apocrypha) were not considered to be within the canon of Scripture. (Again, many people would like to disagree on this point, but I think history can prove me correct in this.) Please note these extra books were not considered bad; Luther even said they were useful and referred to them, but he did say they were not on par with Scripture. After the Reformation, the extra books became a way to distinguish ‘their’ Bible from ‘the other’ Bible (again, a simplistic interpretation).
 
Today, the five most popular Catholic approved Bibles are: Douay Rheims, New American Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition, and the New Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition. Some of these are good translations, and the Catholic Church has made some strides forward as the Vatican has now called for translations from the original languages in Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spirit. The Church has encouraged the use of more modern translations that utilize the best and earliest manuscripts, but—and this is why I write this as my “Part 1” of the blog—they still hold to an archaic translation of certain verses that skew the idea of grace.
 
For Luther, one of the largest issues he had was with the Catholic Church’s translation of Acts 2:38 and Matthew 4:17. We will explore this more in Part 2 of the blog. Luther noticed that the Catholic Church, in using Jerome’s translation, used the words “do penance” instead of the more proper “repentance.” I know, both of the words sound vaguely familiar to each other, but they are completely antithetical in terms of the Gospel (the Gospel being the good news that Jesus has come to restore and renew us through His own death and resurrection).Luther said that Jerome’s translation misled people into thinking that people must atone for their own sin when Jesus clearly died to pay that penalty before God, once and for all.
 
When the Reformation was in full swing, the Catholic Church shut down any conversation about the topic by saying in 1546, “If anyone shall not accept all these books in their entirety, with all their parts, as they are read in the Catholic Church and are contained in the ancient Latin Vulgate edition as sacred and canonical…let him be anathema (meaning “let him be accursed, or excommunicated,” 4th session, 1546).
 
At that time, the Catholic Church also showed disdain for the original Hebrew and Greek translations when they came out with what is known as a polyglot (meaning using several languages). This allowed the reader to compare the text in multiple languages side-by-side. There was Hebrew on one side, Greek on the other, and in the middle, Jerome’s Latin translation. The Catholic Church had this to say about the polyglot: “We have put the Latin translation of St. Jerome [the Vulgate] between these versions, as though between the synagogue and the Eastern Church, placing them on each side like the two thieves, with Jesus, that is the Roman or Latin Church, in the middle” (16th Century Complutensian Polyglot).
 
Pretty far reaching comparison, huh? I know, it sounds like I am bashing on the Catholic Church, but that isn’t my intent…really. I want to give you the historical background for what next week’s blog will cover when we talk about one of the main schisms of the Reformation, and to help us realize that today we are no different in how we let our personal biases influence what we believe as truth. Maybe, at some future date, I’ll even show you some ways the Reformers did this, too.
 
For now, simply keep in mind that repentance is what Jesus calls us to—to repent of our self-righteousness and pride, to turn from ourselves and to Him. Matt 4:17 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Who Doesn’t Love A Good Toy Story?

by Aaron
Sometimes I wish the cartoons I watched as a kid (and even watch now) were more biblical. I think it would be great if the Bible started like this: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And in the deep recesses of space, God hid five robotic lions, that when combined form Voltron, the legendary defender of the universe.
 
I am sure I could make almost any toy story into a biblical story. Adam and Eve with Ken and Barbie, Spiderman and responsibility, lightsabers and battling darkness, or Voltron and defending the universe from King Zarkon, Prince Lotor, and Witch Hagar (all of which I am sure you know). We love toys, heroes, and games because it allows us to step in and be the savior of our own story…which is the exact opposite of the real, biblical story.
 
It is interesting to me that whenever we write stories today, we find a way for humanity to be the answer—whether it’s through powered suits, powered spiders, or powered lions. I think we’re drawn to the idea that rather than being part of the mess, we are the answer to the mess. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the Bible tells a completely different story. The Scriptures tell a story that the universe needs to be defended, in major part, from humanity and its self-centered mindset.
 
We have told ourselves stories today that help us avoid the reality of who we are. Have you ever heard anyone say to you, “They’re a good person”? It sounds like we are always trying to justify each other and ourselves. In the Bible there is a concept that comes out of our original fall from relationship with God called “original sin.” Today there are a lot of people who fight against this idea (like Voltron fighting against King Zarkon). Where the Bible teaches that we are all born with a sin nature and a proclivity toward evil, there is a whole push today that says that human beings are essentially born “good.”
 
What is so wrong with thinking we are born good? It hides the true nature of humanity behind a veil of lies as thick as the mirror world in Doctor Strange. By believing we are born good, we get to write off any bad thing we do as not truly being our fault. What I mean is that if we can convince ourselves that we are good at our core, then some outside force, a villain, has done something to us to make us do something evil or wrong. If we are essentially good, we would never choose to do wrong of our own volition. Something must have made us do it…therefore what we did is really not our fault.
 
If we accept the Bible’s proposition that we are born into sin, with a propensity for evil, then the things we choose to do that are wrong become our fault completely. It means that adversity doesn’t make us lash out and respond poorly; it simply shows us who we really are. If we are truly born into a sin nature, it shows us the necessity of a savior—and that savior cannot be one of us. This is exactly what the scriptures teach us, that God Himself had to come to rescue us from ourselves. Jesus wasn’t a man who placed himself in an Ironman god-suit; He is God who placed himself in a man-suit to pay the penalty for our sin that we could never pay.
 
A toy story mentality always ends up with us as the center of the story because we like being the center; we like not thinking we have to rely on anyone or anything else. We’re tempted to believe that if we just had that special suit of armor, that magic wand, the powerful lion, we could solve our own issues. I love toy stories as much as the next guy, but I believe it is more important to live in reality. The reality is that our God came to rescue us…and that is the Christmas Story that trumps all toy stories.
 
1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

What Election Are We Focused On?

by Aaron
I am sure there are a million blogs about this past election and I don’t want to simply be another opinion in the cacophony of voices saying the same thing, so let me try to take a different approach. I am in the middle of writing a series we will go through when we are in our new building that is a re-centering on the Gospel of Jesus (I know, you are thinking ‘what’s new with that?’ You are always talking about the Gospel).
 
Today, in my message hopefully destined for 2018, I am writing about the death of Jesus, the centrality of that event, how it overshadows all of time…and the election. When Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem the week before His death, the crowds show up and they start singing and shouting (and I know some people’s singing sounds like shouting). John 12:12-13 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, (this is from Psalm 118)"Hosanna!" (Which means, “save now”) "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Even the King of Israel!"
 
At first this all looks great, but what they are really doing is telling Jesus what to do. ‘Save US NOW – Blessed is the King of Israel’—that’s the key, they are calling for a revolution and they want a King.
 
Jesus has, at this point, been preaching for 3 years in His public ministry and teaching people about what the Kingdom of God truly is. He keeps pointing them back to the rule and reign of God in our lives first, but no one hears His message for what is truly was. Instead, when Jesus comes into Jerusalem they bare palm branches which was indicative of receiving a military hero or king. They have missed the point of all of Jesus’ teachings about the “Kingdom of God.” People have agendas and because Jesus won’t fulfill their agenda they will instead yell, “Crucify him” a mere few days later. These people wanted to elect themselves a king who would rule how they wanted, when Jesus doesn’t do it, they turn on Him because we all think we know better than God how to rule.
 
We today call the presidential race an election because it comes from a Latin root meaning “choice,” we get to decide who holds offices that govern our laws. When we talk about the Gospel though, it was also an election, a choice, not made by us, but made by God Himself. God elected to save us by making a choice to send Jesus as a substitute for our sins. The death of Jesus for our sins is what God elected to do for us, but He used people’s rebellion to bring it about.
 
The chief priests arrest Jesus and send Him in front of the Roman governor Pilate to be tried (and sentenced to death). There is this very interesting interchange that takes place during His trail…it’s in John 18 & 19. The Israelites and Romans were a lot like us and they thought political power was the power to influence and fix the world, this is why Jesus keeps talking about the kingdom of God…this is why God keeps reminding them who the Messiah would be… Is 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. See, it’s a different kingdom. God keeps saying that what the human race needs is something that no human can give.
 
When Jesus is standing before Pilate being questioned He says John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” This is a remarkable statement and Pilate becomes totally dumbfounded by it…kingdoms work through military/political might and yet Jesus’ followers won’t rise up? The Jews wanted someone to slaughter Romans not save Romans, but Jesus came to save the Romans too!
 
We need to understand what the people in Jesus’ failed to grasp, we don’t elect Jesus, but He elects to save us and call us to be those who live in His kingdom now, today. He calls us as those who live in His kingdom to try and understand the motivations of those who disagree with us in order to help them see the reality that the Kingdom of God can be (here and now). Even as Jesus died for our sins on a cross those that trusted Him thought their “candidate” not only lost, but died. They in turn, on seeing, hearing and understanding the resurrection will in turn respond with love and grace that embraces those they consider their enemy and eventually change the world.
 
This is why the Gospel, the right understanding of God, Jesus death and ultimate resurrection, brings many things.
  • Hope – because we know our circumstances are not the final word, God’s is the final word. The Gospel reminds us that God will bring about His will because He is good for His promise.
  • Peace - The ability to yield ourselves to the will of the Father doesn’t mean we are passive and throw our hands up, we yield to God in the hard places so we get through it and move on to what God desires.
  • Clarity of the Love of God – We must remember in whatever circumstance that we find ourselves in, that the ropes and nails did not constrain Jesus to His beating and execution...His love for us did. God is bigger than our sin, our error, our mistakes, our elections, and He will bend all of this to His will. Our God is tremendously mighty and nothing is greater than our God.
  • Freedom – We live in a world obsessed with controlling and predicting tomorrow. Jesus says “don’t worry about it.” Plan, but don’t worry. We do not need to know the future because we know God and God knows the future and He is trustworthy. There is freedom in that. We don’t need foreknowledge we just need faith.
 
In your life what is going on right now may seem very big, but God is not just bigger, He is also close to us. When we rely in His strength we can have the strength and confidence to see the other side of an issue. We can become those who understand why people do what they do. We can then ultimately steer everything back to God’s Kingdom. We don’t need to teach our children to fear the future because we get to teach them to have hope for what God can and will, do even in the midst our sinful choices.
 
The Gospel trumps Hillary, Johnson, Stein, and even trumps Trump. Let us live in the Gospel and not in the passing fears that today brings, let us live in hope with the ability to listen to how one another thinks and feels, let us honor the image of God in one another, and let us put Jesus first in all things.
 

Agape - Thanksgiving Community Dinners 2016

by Element Christian Church


Join us on Sunday, November 20th as we Celebrate Thanksgiving with our Agape Dinners, hosted in homes across Santa Maria and Nipomo and Lompoc. 

"Agape," that is what the original church called their feasts where they celebrated the goodness of what Christ had done in their lives. At Element we are trying to give a small reflection of that event, providing you with dinner, some great conversation, and thoughtful reflection...

Last year we did a huge dinner at the church, but this year we would like to make it more intimate. Each of our Gospel Communities and some families will host a dinner. Everybody is invited to attend one of these dinners! If you are in a Gospel Community, then you will be with your GC. If you are not in a Gospel Community, you are invited to join a host home for the evening as we offer up prayers of Thanksgiving around a meal.

RSVP here and you'll be contacted with time and location by the Host Home.

Is Life Worth Living

by Aaron
This morning I showed up to Element and there was a piece of paper taped to the main entrance door. You have to understand that this happens every once in a while. Sometimes it is other churches asking us things, sometimes it is crazy Christian gibberish about the wrath of God being poured out (complete with verses taken out of context), and sometimes, like this time, it is a question that seems genuine. I opened up the piece of paper and this is what it said in its entirety: “Is life even worth living?” Here it is in case you want to see it:


Because I have deep-rooted issues of my own, my mind immediately starts racing with a couple of questions. “Are they asking me, are they asking the church as whole, or are they asking God?” I wonder if there is a reason they didn’t stick around for an answer. I wonder if it was a homeless person, but then wonder where they would get paper, pencil, and tape. Like I said, I have my issues. My first and natural inclination is to want to answer the question, but because no one stuck around to hear the answer, I was just left frustrated. So…I wrote this blog about it instead.
 
Let’s ask the question (by the way, this is typically not how I would answer this person face to face…I would be much less logical and try to speak to their emotions), “Is life worth living?”. The word “worth” means to have a value, and as an adjective, it means “important enough to justify.” Is someone’s life important enough to justify? According to the Scriptures, the answer is a resounding “yes.” We are told that God made mankind in His image and that is what gives us our “worth”; we have worth simply because God says we do. Matt 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” That worth that we are assigned means that life is worth living.
 
I started to wonder what would make me question the worthiness of life, and I decided that if my wife died, I might ask that question. I would have what I imagine to be unbearable pain, heartache, and sadness; my life would be placed into turmoil because of what happened to me. Then I started to think that there would lie my issue: I had made my life all about myself. If I asked, “Is life even worth living?” it would be because I had centered my world upon myself and my own circumstances. Don’t get me wrong here, I understand it is much easier to say this and think this way when my world hasn’t collapsed around me…but it makes it no less true. The more we make our lives and our happiness dependent upon ourselves and our circumstances, the more we will be at the whim of circumstances beyond our perceived control (which is truly every circumstance in life). When our lives become about us, they will all eventually become not worth living, because in reality, we can’t control anything.
 
Ephesians 2:4-9 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…Worth can be defined by how much someone is willing to pay for something. The God of the universe gave the life of His son to pay the penalty for our sin and redeem us from a lost way of life. This redemption is not based up on our merit, but upon God’s goodness, upon the value He has given to us. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” These are words of worth and value.
 
If we are a people who live our lives for ourselves, focused on ourselves and our desires, we will always end up in a place of regret. However, if we live our lives centered on Jesus and the good news of His hope and redemption, while we may still find ourselves in times of sadness, we will have a life that is full and free.
 
“Is life even worth living?”
 
I think the answer to that question depends on who we are living for—ourselves or Jesus. I think it depends on whether we allow our circumstances to define us or Jesus to define us, because Jesus defines us as worthy, which makes life worth living because our lives are about Him.

Baptism Stories - October 23, 2016

by Element Christian Church



Ahead of this Sunday's Baptisms, check out the five stories of those who are getting baptized this weekend! Please read them, be excited for them, and join us on Sunday at 1pm to witness and celebrate this amazing step in their walk with Jesus!

Acts Part 1 Video Recap

by Element Christian Church
This week we finished our series of Acts Part 1. We found this fun video to help vizualize what happened in the first twelve chapters of Acts by our friends at the Bible Project. View more of their videos at: http://www.jointhebibleproject.com. Enjoy:



 

Happiness, Contentment, and Sobriety

by Aaron
I was reading an article on ESPN two days ago. For me (yes, Aaron), that is an odd way to start a blog because I do not normally (or ever) read ESPN, their website, or sports commentary. I would rather play sports than watch them or read about them. I am pretty sure it was click bait of some sort that made me look at it—if you’re friends with me on Facebook, it just might have been your fault. Either way, I ended up on ESPN’s site reading a blog about Michael Phelps, swimming, and how he is going to cope after the “golden age” of his life.
 
If you don’t know, after Phelps retired the last time (a few years ago), his life became meaningless because swimming, once the center of his life, was now gone. He went off the rails, so to speak, became addicted to prescription drugs, and wanted to commit suicide—all because he felt there was nothing in his life to give him meaning and purpose. Phelps went through rehab, got cleaned up, started swimming again, and at the 2016 Olympics won 1 silver and 5 gold medals. He has now said he is retiring again, but the question becomes: how will he stay sober, focused, and have purpose in his life?
 
It is here I would like to quote the ESPN article: “This time, Phelps insists it's different. He will no longer have swimming to keep his life within the boundaries -- to bring him happiness, contentment, sobriety. But he doesn't need it. He finally knows who he is beyond a swimmer. He no longer needs gold medals to define himself as a successful and productive human being. He has a fiancée who has been there through the good times and bad and loves him for the man, not the medals. He has a son who will blindingly care about him and has cried in recent days during FaceTime chats because he misses Dad.”
 
I hope you guys caught what the article actually said. Swimming will no longer give him “happiness, contentment, and sobriety.” That will now be provided by his fiancée and his son (who is an infant at the time I write this blog); this son’s job, according to the article, is to “blindingly care about him [Phelps].” Isn’t it obvious that this is a recipe for disaster? Has Phelps’ son agreed to these terms? If I was in Vegas and were to run odds on people’s misery, I would start taking bets against Phelps right now…not because I dislike him, but because I know basing his “happiness, contentment, and sobriety” on others will fail.
 
While not many of us are Olympic swimmers, this happens quite often in our culture. We have laid the things of God on people, because we think people can stand up under the pressure. When people fail to live up to the God-like standards we have set for them we think they have let us down. In actuality, we have failed them by putting them in a position they could never hope to fulfill. This is idolatry. How sad is it that an infant isn’t sacrificially cared for by a parent, but instead is seen as the thing that gives the parent’s life meaning?
 
Since the beginning of creation, man has always been drawn to becoming his own God. When that fails, as it always does, he is drawn to make something in his life, that he can control, become his God. Psalm 115:4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. Isaiah 44:13-17 speaks of how we will cut down a tree and use half of the wood to make furniture and use the other half to make a god we will fall down and worship. “Anothershapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.” God goes on to say, “How dumb are you?”
 
The answer is…pretty dumb!
 
One of the reasons God continues to remind His people who He is throughout the Old Testament (which is often) is that they needed to remember that He is God—not people or things. Fiancées, children, friends, parents, spouses—no one can live up to god-like expectations, because none of us are God. My advice for all of us, including Mr. Phelps, is that if you want your life to have meaning and weather the challenges of life, stop exchanging one corruptible self-centered god for another and surrender ALL of your life to the true Lord, Jesus Christ. After all, no one else can promise true fulfillment and rest as Jesus can. He doesn’t “blindingly” care for us, but rather, died for you and me fully aware of our sin and betrayal. In spite of our brokenness, He paid the final and ultimate price so that we can be fully confident in His power to redeem our lives.  
 
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. The rest we long for is found in Jesus—there’s no need to look elsewhere. Jesus doesn’t help us fulfill our potential. He re-orients our life to how it was created to be, with Him as the center.

What the What? True Confession

by Christie
The following is a blog post written by Christie Marangi on our eFamily! website.

True confession
:  I’m not good at vulnerable.  Because I’m not good at vulnerable I’ve put this blog post off for far too long.  I’m going to be honest, this one hits me close to home, and in answering it, I feel like I’m leaving myself vulnerable to people seeing shadows that I’m pretty darn good at hiding.  God, however, has different plans for those shadows, so hence the blog post. This is the second in a series of posts that I am writing to answer some of those questions that make us scratch our heads. These questions were gathered at camp from a bunch of high school students from all over the country.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to do justice to the feeling behind these questions, and while not all of the questions are easily answerable in this format, I’m praying that through this series that Jesus will be glorified and that those of us with these questions are not alone in our ponderings and our sometimes pain.

How do I fight through pain, depression and eating disorders?

This one breaks my heart.  It breaks my heart because I have been there, and it’s a place I would never wish on another soul.  If this is a question you are asking right now, just know that I am praying for God’s comfort to come upon you.  If you are currently living this question, please make sure you seek help.  Tell a parent, tell a trusted leader in your church or at your school. Get support.  DO NOT GO THROUGH THIS ALONE.  That said, the answer to this question on a practical level is personal for each of us that struggles.  But I can tell you what I’ve learned and about my continued fight through some of my own personal demons.

The first thing I had to discover was that God is Relevant. We have a God who relates to every struggle that we have.  When He sent His son, Jesus, to earth, the Son of Man wasn’t sent as a fully developed adult male, he was sent as a helpless infant.  He had to learn and struggle and grow and go through puberty and do all of those things that we struggle through as well. 

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

God knows the ugliness inside me, He can relate, and He loves me in the midst of that. God knows that some days I struggle to even look at myself in the mirror because I hate what I see.  God knows that there are days when I just want it all to end because it’s exhausting to be constantly working through issues.  And even though He could be angry at me, because I’m hating on His creation, He continues to walk with me every step of the way, and wants to walk with those of you that struggle as well.  But I had to surrender that pain to Him, and it’s not a one-time surrender, it’s a constant surrendering.  Because sometimes we wear our pain and hurt and issues as a sort of badge of honor. I used it as an excuse to lash out at those who love me, maybe you use it to lash out at God. Sometimes it’s easier to live in that place of struggle and anger rather than admit that we need a Savior to rescue us.

When we allow ourselves to stay in that place of pain, it’s very easy for that pain or that struggle to become our identity.  Which leads me to my second take away; Know Who You Are.  We are not our struggles.  We are not our sin.  We are not what has happened to us. We are God’s Children who are redeemed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ His son.  My identity was (and if I’m honest), at times still is, a “Depressed” person.  When what I really should label myself is is a child of God that struggles with depression. If you haven’t already, surrender your life to our heavenly Father, allow His power to transform your heart.  Give yourself to Him and take on your true identity, as one who is loved and forgiven. Don’t allow people or Satan or yourself to define you as anything else.  When you take on the true identity of a loved and forgiven Child of God and take off the false identity of whatever it is you have labeled yourself as, you will find that your struggles get framed in a different way, and for me, it is easier to deal with my struggles when I see them in that light.

All of this to say, I still struggle.  There are good days and bad days.  But because I know that God cares, He relates, and I am His, on my best days I can try to use those struggles to God’s glory.   But I’m only able to do this through God’s power, and not my own.  My prayer for those of you who can relate to this question is that you will rely on God’s power as well.

Q&A: Peter's Vision

by Aaron

Years ago, a friend of ours told us he believed that Christians misinterpret Peter’s sheet vision in Acts 10 to mean that we can literally eat all kinds of animals previously considered unclean. Peter’s vision is later explained (as you've pointed out in recent sermons) to mean that no person (i.e. Gentiles) is excluded from God's message/kingdom. My friend's point is that this is the only meaning of the vision, that we read too far into it by taking it to mean that we can literally eat any animal.

Have you considered this stance? What are your thoughts?

(Even further, what do you think of the idea that we were created vegetarian, if not vegan, based on the available food in the Garden of Eden?)

 

I hope I don’t sound too harsh, but your friend is a legalist. Legalists will look for any reason to ADD laws where there aren’t any laws.
 
Let me start at the beginning. (Or, in the beginning, if you will…)
 
In the garden, we were probably vegetarians…but remember the garden was called “good” and not perfect. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with being a vegetarian; we just can’t use the Garden of Eden as the standard to say this is how everyone should live. Everything changes once Noah exits the ark in Genesis 9:3. God says to him, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” He does go into prescriptions about blood and such after this, but here we get the idea that we get steak (praise the Lord!).
 
When Jesus comes, He does follow dietary laws because He came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). He couldn’t do that by ignoring it (haha). Jesus was showing us the true intent of the law…it was made for man’s benefit. The law was meant to lead us to Jesus and His grace as we realize living up to it is unobtainable. This is why Jesus fulfilled the law for us.
 
When you get to Peter and his vision, you see God moving his church toward understanding the greater call of mission. Dietary laws were part of the civil law (as was not wearing blended fabrics or cutting your sideburns). These laws limited the interactions that God’s people had with their surrounding neighbors, because they couldn’t eat the same things; they essentially hindered mission. One of the reasons God showed Peter the vision in Acts 10 was so Peter would understand that he COULD now eat with Gentiles.  It was about witness, and that witness included food.
 
A few years later, Peter actually forgot this and Paul confronts him in Galatians 2:11-14 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?

The circumcision party said what your friend did. “You can’t eat that; God’s vision for you wasn’t REALLY about food.” They tried to make everyone start to follow dietary laws again. Paul goes on to say, Galatians 2:15-16 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
 
Think about this…because we talked about this during Acts as well, is the prescription for circumcision still valid if the dietary laws are? That is part of the civil law as well. Why not tell everyone they have to be circumcised? Paul goes on in Galatians 5:2-12 and essentially says if the Law and circumcision is so great, why not cut off your whole penis? Then you will be REALLY spiritual! (Paul is being sarcastic). Paul then says these amazing words in Gal 5:13 For you were called to freedomGal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
 
I have no problem if someone wants to eat a certain way; they have that freedom. However, the second they say others have to eat a certain way (or be circumcised, or wear certain clothes, or cut their hair a certain way), they have left the realm of freedom and entered slavery. They have cut themselves off from those God has called us to minister and serve. The point of the freedom God gives is that we can worship God in any context we find ourselves in…serving others is worship, and we cannot serve others if we feel like we are better than them.

Planting Roots Re-Mix Week 4

by Element Christian Church

Within our Gospel Communities, or as a family or group of friends, we encourage you to watch this recap video together and answer the following questions.

 

Introduction
At Element we believe there are 4 main things to remember about generosity:

  1. Generosity is how we learn the best stuff in life isn't stuff. When we live in generosity, we find out that we really trust in the good and faithful providence of God to sustain us and bring us true joy.
  2. Generosity creates humility before God. In the early church, they didn't just give up money; they gave up control. This was demonstrated in other areas of their lives as well.
  3. Generosity strikes a blow at our core sin. We are meant to be something more than just consumers. In the early church, the Holy Spirit developed a habit of giving in His people instead of simply getting.
  4. Generosity is part of God’s character. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, what we take for granted is that God Himself is the ultimate giver. We see God’s invitation for others to take from Him at the end of Scripture: Rev 22:17 And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. We can't change our clutching hearts to giving hearts, but Jesus can. 

Discussion
How much stuff do you have that simply takes up space and never gets used?

Explanation Read Isaiah 55:1-2
Do you think how you interact with others gains favor for God’s Kingdom or destroys it?
Do you think the lure of materialism and acquisition has gotten weaker or stronger in our day versus Jesus’ day?
How does the lure of materialism show itself in your life?

Application – Read Luke 12:15
How has God been generous toward us? Toward you, specifically?
God first gave us, and our giving is meant to be a response. How does that challenge your views?

Mission
If someone were to give you a nickname based on your financial behavior, what would it be?
How do you want to be known for your financial behavior?
What steps can you take to live more that way?

Prayer
Our city and surrounding communities: for the grace to redeem culture, to share the gospel in all opportunities, gangs, drugs, crime, prostitution, human trafficking, homelessness, under employment, marriages in crises, families/parenting in crisis, racial and economic division.

 

Watch the original full-length message here.

Planting Roots Re-Mix Week 3

by Element Christian Church

Within our Gospel Communities, or as a family or group of friends, we encourage you to watch this recap video together and answer the following questions.

 

 

Introduction
The researchers Lea and Webley coined a metaphor for American culture and our use of money. They say money is a tool and also a drug. They say, “For a long time economists thought of money only as a tool. We value money because it's useful.” Money does lots of useful things as a medium of exchange. For example, we can pay the bills to keep our lights on and stay fed, but, they point out, if money is only a tool, then why do people who have a lot of it want more? This shows, they say, “Money is also a drug.” Money makes us feel things we would not otherwise feel and gives us a temporary escape from reality with the illusion of wellbeing.  Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

 

Discussion
Give some examples of money being used as a tool and as a drug in our culture.

 

Explanation
Based upon how you use money, would you say money (for you) is a tool or a drug? How?
Do you feel tempted to make money a drug in your life?

 

Application – Read Proverbs 30:15 and 1 Timothy 6:9
When are you most prone to forget that God is the owner of everything?
If you were to die today (I know, morbid thought), what money regrets would you have? What things would you rejoice over?
How can an eternal mindset change how you handle money today?

 

Mission
In what ways do you, or don’t you, equate giving with worship?
What would your kids, friends, and/or family learn about money by watching your life?

 

Prayer
Element as a gospel community of faith: Humble thankful people of grace and goodness, Philosophy of Ministry, Gospel Communities, learning to live on mission, becoming disciples who make disciples.

 

Watch the original full-length message here.

Planting Roots Re-Mix Week 2

by Element Christian Church

Within our Gospel Communities, or as a family or group of friends, we encourage you to watch this recap video together and answer the following questions.

 

Introduction
There are two simple reasons God gives us money and things:

  1. To enjoy them. It is not a sin to have fun with the money you have; as a matter of fact, the scriptures repeatedly tell us that our pleasure and joy come from the right hand of God. It’s fine to sleep in a nice bed, wear comfortable shoes, and eat nice meals with your family. The problem arises when we close our hands and make our pleasure all about us.
     
  2. The be generous and share. Some of God’s blessings we enjoy, and some we put into others’ hands. We are to understand that we are not simply receivers, but also givers; God has entrusted His stuff to us so we could distribute and share it. God’s goodness is meant to flow through us to others.

Discussion
Are you someone who mainly focuses on enjoying money or being generous with money?
How do you enjoy what God has given you?

Explanation
How do you strike a balance between generosity and enjoyment of your money/stuff?
In what ways would you say money has its “hooks” in you?

Application – Read Matthew 6:19-21
How has money become like a god in our culture?
In what ways do you currently serve that god?

Mission
Where is your treasure currently stored?
How is God trustworthy with financial matters even in spite of our fears?
What would it look like for you to enjoy your money and be generous with it at the same time?

Prayer
Construction: Weather, materials, laborers, inspectors, permits, plans, etc….. Timely management of the project and successful on time completion.

Watch the original full-length message here.

Planting Roots Re-Mix Week 1

by Element Christian Church

Welcome to week one of our Planting Roots Re-mix. Our goal for the next four weeks is to revisit the Planting Roots Journey on Sundays, in our communities and personally as we seek God in our finances, giving and our future at Element. Click here to download our Re-mix brochure with update letter, next steps and the Re-Mix Commitment card, where we will ask everybody to confirm, renew, modify or make a brand new commitment to our journey.

Within our Gospel Communities, or as a family or group of friends, we encourage you to watch this recap video together and answer the following questions.

 

Introduction
Everybody has a desire to be “rich.” We all think we would handle finances better than other people who are rich, because we secretly see ourselves as being better than them. In reality, if we were rich, we would handle our finances in the same way we do now, just on a larger scale. This is why the Scriptures invite us into a redeemed life that shows us the reality of who we are, and one of the ways that is done is through how we steward our finances.

Discussion
Who would you say is rich? Why?

Explanation
What things do you lack that prevent you from feeling “rich?”
What is something you hold on to that would be hard to give up if God asked you to?

Application – Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Do you typically view your possessions as God’s or yours?
Have you ever had the thought that if you just had “more money” you would then become “more generous?”
Why do we tend to think we need to reach or attain the “next level” to do so? How can you find a way to be generous now?

Mission
What does generosity mean to you?
How have others shown you generosity?
How do we model and teach generosity?
How often do you use what God has given you to bless others?

Prayer
Financial Resources: Fulfilled and exceeded commitments, the loan, the sustaining giving to manage the mortgage and maintaining the building while growing in our ability to love and minister to our city and to one another.

Watch the original full-length message here.

A Prayer for Planting Roots

by Mike Harman
The following is a prayer written by Mike Harmon, one of Element’s elders, for reflection during the Planting Roots Re-mix journey. As you pray during the Re-mix we wanted to offer it to you as way to seek God refocus on Jesus.
 
Father, we ask for your good blessing as we continue on this journey of building a facility as a place for Element to gather and to grow, a place to mature and become a community who would love and influence our city with the gospel. We ask that your gospel would redeem and transform our city as you have redeemed and transformed us.
 
We continue on this journey knowing that any facility we would undertake to build is no substitute for Jesus’ rule and reign. A building is not meant to honor us, cause us to feel good about ourselves, or even to somehow contain Your glory as no building built by human hands could ever do so. We don’t do this for You because we think You need a facility, we do it as a mean for You to continue to reveal Yourself and bring redemption to our community. We recognize that it is Jesus who is building a place for You to dwell, purchased by His blood, and we are that house, that dwelling! Teach us to understand that we, as your people, are being built up into a dwelling place for Your presence and power, that we might become ambassadors and representatives of You in our city!
 
Father increase our faith and our trusting You more deeply through this process of building and moving into our permanent “home.” May we grow in Your likeness through it all. Keep our focus centered on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith, worshiping and rejoicing with thanksgiving at the gift we’ve been given. Teach us live knowing that a facility is nothing more than a tool to facilitate what You are doing in us individually, collectively, and in our city by transforming it by the gospel lived out in and by us.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV)
 
You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)
 

Planting Roots Re-Mix Coming

by Element Christian Church
It’s been almost two years since we started our Planting Roots Journey. Since that time families have moved away, other families have moved to town and started attending Element. No matter where you find yourself today we think we could all use a refresher of the practical wisdom of stewardship and sacrificial giving that we walked through during Planting Roots two years ago. That is why we are about to set out on a shorter journey through our Planting Roots Re-Mix.


Our goal through the Re-mix is the same as when we originally went through Panting Roots: to understand God’s call in our lives, to understand the vision God gave Element, and to all find ourselves on the same page in regard to giving and honoring Jesus. We will revisit the teachings, videos, and ideas from two years ago. At the end our Re-mix four-week journey you will have the opportunity to recommit, or make a first time commitment, towards our future home.
 
We have a realistic time frame where we believe we will be able to break ground during the Re-Mix! I know this sounds like a late-night infomercial, but that’s not all, during the Re-mix we will also have Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, prayer gatherings, and family/GC discussion evenings.
 
If you’ve made a commitment in the past to Planting Roots, you will receive a letter in the mail starting next week with your giving records for corrections. You will also receive a Re-Mix brochure that will have an update on our Planting Roots Journey Progress, ways to respond, and a new (re)commitment card.
 
Please keep Element in your prayers as we continue to walk toward building our future home and listening to what it is God would have us do, individually and corporately, in these coming days.
 
Our Re-Mix Journey will start August 28th, 2016 and culminate September 18th, 2016 where we will all turn in our (re)commitment cards!