WHAT’S UP? An Exciting Announcement

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By Martin Schlomer

Six months ago, we found ourselves faced with the need for a new Children’s Ministries Director. Now, in case you haven’t noticed, Elim has A LOT of children running around (80+ kids 5th grade and under)! We have A LOT of volunteers who lead out in this ministry (50 leaders and helpers)! It can feel overwhelming.

“What are we going to do?” was my first thought. My second thought was, “Father, these circumstances did not take You by surprise. What do You want to do?” As the elders and staff prayed, there was peace. We sensed the need to wait to see how things developed over the next four to six months. Cheryl Weller stepped back in as our interim Children’s Ministries Director.

Then, we waited. We prayed. We clarified the skills we wanted the person to have. This was going to be a big decision. Ministry to children is VERY IMPORTANT in this body and to our Father.

In late June, we sensed it was time to take the next step. We put the information out to the congregation and invited those interested in the position to apply. We were blessed to have two well-qualified, enthusiastic people apply. The decision was difficult!

But now I want to introduce to you Geneva Mooney as our next Children’s Ministries Director. Geneva is no stranger to Elim or Children’s Ministries. Jean and Geneva have been actively serving at Elim for three years. Geneva brings a lot of spiritual maturity and discernment, enthusiasm, creativity, organization, and team-building skills to this core ministry. Her heart is to serve the volunteers so that they can thrive as they use their gifts. When Pastor Nate resigned, she volunteered to lead Elim’s Sunday-morning children’s program. Her passion is to serve!

As we prepare to enter the fall months filled with activities and ministries, please pray for Geneva and the entire Children’s Ministries team. Their task is huge, and the weight we all feel to nurture our children as passionate followers of Jesus is significant! While we have a great team of volunteers, there are some specific leadership positions we need to fill with qualified individuals. There are opportunities on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday evenings with AWANA. Would you consider serving and discipling our children? It is a significant calling our Father has placed on this community as He has blessed us with these children.

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THE CONGRUENCE OF CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIP

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By Larry Short

Pastor Martin recently posted an article from Relevant Magazine titled, “What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?” The article is a conversation with Eugene Peterson, the renowned author of The Message.

At the article’s core, Peterson addresses the issue of incongruence in the Christian life. “Incongruence” is the gap between what we say we believe and what we act like we believe. A pastor for a number of years before he became a theologian and author, Peterson was shaken by the incongruence he saw in himself (as a preacher) and those who sat under his sermons each Sunday, so much so that he considered himself a failure as a preacher.

I would encourage you to read the article for yourself, and I won’t lengthen this blog by summarizing it. But I did want to present a couple of ideas that really jumped out at me, that resonated with my heart.

One is that the solutions to most of our problems really are quite simple. They aren’t necessarily easy, but they are simple. Peterson talks a lot about the importance of faithfulness, about which he coined the phrase “a long obedience in the same direction” in a book by the same name he wrote over 20 years ago. We have problems that may seem intractable, but the solutions are usually quite simple: disciplined financial management, thinking and praying before we speak or act, seeking to focus on the needs of others before our own, etc. Simple . . . but not easy.

A second thing that he said that really jumped out at me was that authentic Christian friendships are our best weapon against incongruence. I know many of us struggle with a sense that we don’t have many, or possibly even any, authentic, honest Christian friendships. In our culture, in particular, this feeling of loneliness, a lack of true friends, seems epidemic. We don’t stay planted in one place for very long. (I’ve read that the average American moves every three years.) And when we do have a place to call home, we usually hunker down inside it and hardly spend any time out-of-doors, getting to know our neighbors. (Darlene and I walk around our neighborhood daily, and we always marvel how rarely we actually see any of our neighbors out-of-doors.)

When EFCA missions director Nubako Selenga was visiting the United States for the first time, I asked him (while driving him to our church) what struck him as the strangest thing about America. “It’s so empty,” he replied without hesitation. “There are all these beautiful homes, but I don’t see people around them. When you drive down a road in Africa, everyone is outside their home, visiting with their neighbors.”

That was convicting. How well do I know my neighbors? How many do I consider friends?

And it seems, to me, to be getting worse in the younger generations. I’m always astonished when I see at a restaurant a table full of young people, and everyone is engaged deeply . . . in their smartphones or personal devices. A whole table full of silent people who are doing God-alone-knows-what on social media, but are barely even talking to one other.

Does it surprise us to learn that friendship is an extremely high value to our Lord? “No longer do I call you servants,” Jesus said, “. . . but I have called you friends.” Exodus 33 tells us that the Lord would speak with Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Job said he was “in [his] prime, when the friendship of God was upon [his] tent.” Jonathan and David had “sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord,” and the power and poignancy of that particular relationship rings down to us through the ages.

Solomon told us that “faithful are the wounds of a friend,” but “profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Herein, perhaps, lies the secret to the power of Christian friendship to create spiritual congruence (people who live like who they really are, adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God): people willing to tell each other hard truth, even if it hurts, because their love and friendship makes such truth both necessary and beneficial.

Sounds great, right? But how? What if you are reading this and frustrated and tired of feeling alone? You wish you had intimate and authentic Christian friendships, but they just don’t seem to be happening?

I can’t think of how to say this without sounding trite, but this, once again, is something that I think is both simple and hard. It’s a “long obedience in the same direction.”

First of all, Scripture advises us to choose our friends carefully. “Be not unequally yoked,” we are admonished. I can’t tell you, however, how many times I see young people willing to enter into dating relationships and even become engaged and married to someone who does not share their faith. I understand that loneliness can drive us to make poor choices. But that’s one poor choice that has little chance of doing anything other than later enhancing and ensuring continuing loneliness.

One of God’s richest blessings on my life I am celebrating today, on the 38th anniversary of my marriage to my best friend. Actually, Darlene and I probably became the best of friends some six years before we were married, so that makes it 44 years and counting. She models to me what it truly means to be a Christian friend: she is unafraid to tell me hard truth, when I need to hear it, and I know that she is 100% committed to me and my best, no matter what lies ahead. A friend like that is worth more than all the money in the world.

Young people: please, please, please, hold out for God’s best for you! Don’t give in to the temptation to date people who do not share your faith. Could they become a believer? Sure, we pray so. But don’t take the chance that their interest in you lies in places that will eclipse their interest in Jesus.

Dating and marriage aside, my other “simple but hard” point is that any friendship requires risky investment: time, effort, love, whatever. Time is probably the big one we struggle with. But you can’t really expect to develop meaningful friendships if you aren’t willing to invest the time.

And I say “risky” because I know it doesn’t always work out. I’ve had people I invested in that I hoped I would be lifelong friends with, who for whatever reason didn’t reciprocate, and we drifted apart.

But true friendship is worth the risk! So get started today. Enroll in a community group at Elim and get to know others who love Jesus. If you make the investment but don’t find any solid friends there, move on to another group. Sooner or later, you’ll hit pay dirt!

And then, allow those friends to speak truth into your life! Each of us has a congruence problem—and part of the answer is finding good Christian friends.

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There’s gotta be more to life…

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By Bill Naron

No doubt life is a balancing act, learning to juggle — work, home, relationships with spouses, children, and friends. We spend our days racing from one place to another and from one activity to another. We must balance the checkbook, do the dishes, get gas and groceries … on and on it goes. We rush and rush and we try to hold on tightly to as much as we can. This is life in America, right? This is the American dream, isn’t it? We work 40 hours, sometimes more a week to get as much money as possible to line our pockets so that we can afford nice cars, houses, a yard that looks better than our neighbors’. But, is there something more?

Jesus has showered blessing upon us, in ways we cannot even fathom. A couple of years ago we lived in a house that was 990 square feet. It had three bedrooms and we felt we were bursting at the seams. Our little family of six at the time was outgrowing the house so fast, and we had no clue what we would do. We began to consider our options and as we did it started to feel overwhelming. The thought of moving and trying to purchase a home all seemed so impossible because we wanted more kids, which naturally meant we needed a larger house than we could afford in our price range.

So, amid our running around frantically trying to figure out what we were going to do, we realized something: We had not sought out what God would do for us in this situation we were in. The Bible says that God cares for his children, and that He knows the plans He has for us. So, in our newfound clarity we decided to stop pursuing options and simply wait on the Lord to see what He would do.

Less than a month later we were offered the opportunity to move into the house we currently occupy. God brought us a larger house, in the exact perfect way that we needed it at the time, and in His perfect timing — because six months after moving into this house, our family of six would be prompted to enter a fostering situation where we would find ourselves growing in size, from six to eight.

I share this as a hopefully encouraging testimony of God’s goodness and provision that we have had the chance to experience, as a family. I have been reading on the topic of “reverence.” As we see God work in our lives, through the events and people we encounter, we grow deeper in our awe and respect for our Father. We learn that we can trust Him and gain an awareness of the way He is working within our lives.

I believe that this is the “something more” that is there beyond the facade of the so-called “American dream,” beyond the glamour we are encouraged to seek, beyond the glory of the kingdoms of this earth. There is a life lived in reverence to our Creator, Father, and Redeemer. There is a life lived in dependence on Him for our sustenance. There is a life lived as a disciple of Christ, where the desires of our hearts become the same as His. Where we desire to share the experiences that have made the power of God a tangible thing to us. Because our desire becomes like the heart-cry of the Father, that we who act orphaned would come home.

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Truth

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By Dan Amos

About the time we started the series on James at Elim, Fran and I visited Washington, DC. One evening we visited the Jefferson Memorial and I was struck by the inscription chosen for the southeast portico wall. I could not help comparing those words to those Pastor Martin led us through from the first chapter of James.

The memorial’s quote was from a letter Jefferson wrote extolling man’s growing wisdom, but instead, I see it as an illustration of our arrogance.

It is this thinking that leads to calling good things evil and evil things good. It leads to questioning who God is and what role He plays in our lives. It leads to changing the teachings of Scripture and replacing the words of life with pretty but empty words that suit our modern sensibilities. Ultimately, it leads away from salvation and instead to death.

While Jefferson advocated that the things our ancestors believed become outdated and practices need to change with the times, James tells us the very opposite about God in 1:16-18.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.

James is using words that inflame contemporary wisdom, such as “Father” and “does not change” and “truth.” In his own life, Jefferson did not want to accept the deity of Christ and the teachings of the Apostles. We reject the wisdom of man and proclaim the following in our statement of faith:

We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.

That the Word of God is under attack is nothing new. It has been happening since the serpent spoke to Eve (and Adam passively listened). Great councils used to be called together to debate heretical teachings. Now the attacks are less dramatic, but they are everywhere, coming from every media, impossible to avoid. But the truth remains, and our access to it is as unprecedented as the lie is prevalent. All we have to do is open it.

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Emotional Quotient

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By Brian Sharpe

Growing up, I remember watching the Bills in the Super Bowl. I know “Bills” stands for “Boy, I Love Losing Super Bowls.” I remember during one of the Super Bowls that I left the party I was at and just walked outside. At that point in my life, I wasn’t sure why I was leaving the party to go outside. I felt something. In my head, I wanted to see if anyone would notice that I left. I wanted to be noticed. Looking back, it was rooted in selfishness. I am sure I had a real low emotional quotient.

An emotional quotient has to do with emotional intelligence. “Emotional intelligence” is defined as “intelligence regarding the emotions, especially in the ability to monitor one’s own or others’ emotions.” I was not aware of my emotions or the emotions of others around me. I feel like I am getting better at this, but dealing with emotions is still tough.

I was introduced to the idea of the emotional quotient (EQ) in a book called The Emotionally Healthy Church, by Peter Scazzero. In that book, we had to take a test to see how we scored in EQ. I was in my late twenties at the time, but the test revealed I had the EQ of a teenager. We took this test as a staff, so it was fun to see how unaware we all were when it came to EQ.

Fast-forward to the present. I see a huge need for all of us to understand our EQ. If we can understand our EQ, it will help us with the teams that we are on at Elim as well as at work. It will help us as we submit to the leaders we are under. It will help us understand how to deal with our kids. EQ is in every part of life, yet it is something that I went most of my life not knowing about.

As I have grown older, I have seen just how I have changed. One of the main ways I have changed is understanding my emotions. I understand that my first emotion for some reason is frustration. I understand that I often say no, without even considering yes. Again, I am not sure why, but I believe it is tied to my EQ.

How well are you at understanding what is going on emotionally inside of you? Do you understand those internal motivations? I think it is important as we move forward as a community of faith that we consider what is going on in the backstage of our life, where the emotions live. As we seek to gain health in our understanding of ourselves, it will lead to health in our relationships and in our church. You may see more coming in the future about EQ. Embrace and lean into it, because it is all about understanding the backstage.  After all, don’t we all want to be known and noticed? I know I do.

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The Story of the Dress

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By Tom Chase

My daughter was getting married! It was then, about a year ago, that God gave us a window to what He has done for us. I want to share that story with you—the story of the dress.

I had never given a daughter away. I didn’t have a sister who was given away. I was inexperienced, but she was getting married. We needed to figure this out. I am sure there are lots of ways to do this, right or wrong, but here is what we did. We, as her parents, decided to give the couple an amount of money to use for the wedding, but as we talked about it, my wife suggested that we should buy the dress apart from that amount.

As we began to process this, we loved the idea and loved the symbolism. Scripture talks about how we are clothed in God’s righteousness. The Father provides the dress (His righteousness) to prepare the bride for Jesus.

. . . he [God] has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness …

Isaiah 61:10 (NIV)

As we moved ahead, we found this article by Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic who has been bothered by the reality that she cannot dress herself. She shared, in part, that being clothed in His righteousness is always what He, the Father, does for us, doing what we cannot do for ourselves.

I love that about the gospel message. I am pure and clean and righteous because God has made me so—not because of anything I have done, but all because of Him.

We planned to go dress shopping. I know there are other traditions, but we (mom and dad and daughter) alone went to find the dress. I later found out that the gal helping her with the gowns commented that it was very unusual to have a dad there. She tried on very few dresses until the one was found. If I remember right, there were only one or two more dresses tried on after the one. She put it on again. There she was, standing in this beautiful dress, looking amazing and radiant. She stood there admiring the dress as we too looked on. Wow!

I asked, “Will this one work for you?” Her response was something to the effect of, “It’s too much . . . more than necessary, way too costly, outrageous.” I said, “That’s not what I asked. I asked, ‘Will this one work for you?’” She reluctantly said, “Yes.” That was it. She would be clothed in a dress provided by her father for the wedding.

Over the next couple of days, I continued to think about this intimate time, about how wonderful it had been and my daughter’s response. It made me think about the incredible reality, that we have been clothed in the Father’s righteousness. He has clothed us to look amazing and radiant in what He alone can provide at a cost beyond belief—outrageous! When the Father asks us, “Will this work for you?” all we have to say is, “Yes.”

If you are reading this and in response to the Father’s question, “Will this work for you?” you find yourself having said, “No, it’s too good for me,” “No, it’s not for me,” or “No, it’s unbelievable!” my hope is you will understand afresh and anew that the Father loves you! He really does, or He would not have offered. He wants what is best for you and to give you what you cannot provide for yourself! His provision of righteousness comes at a great cost! All of this demonstrates just how He feels about you! He has provided everything and exactly what you need. Please accept His gift and say, “Yes!” to Him.

If, on the other hand, you are reading this and you have already told the Father, “Yes,” my hope is that this, too, will be a reminder of the incredible and precious gift the Father has given to you—His righteousness! It’s amazing, beyond belief, and yes, even outrageous! Revel in your new garments! He loves you very much!

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