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While Jefferson advocated that the things our ancestors believed become outdated and practices need to change with the times, James tells us the very opposite about God in 1:16-18.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

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By Dan Amos

A couple of weekends ago we had a crazy Sunday. Right after church we had a meeting which was followed by a graduation party and then another meeting. It was go, go, go, right until it was time to collapse into bed that night. It was not much of a day of rest.

The next weekend was similar. I knew that Sunday afternoon was completely filled and Sunday evening was another meeting. So, on Saturday, which was really another day of work, I recognized I needed a break. I chose then not to attend church in the morning. We rarely miss when we are home and we rarely go anywhere, so most weeks you’ll see us at church.

Now that the sun has returned, I realize my Sunday community is going to get smaller for the summer. Many of us take breaks when the weather is nice and kids are out of school. But, according to Hebrews 10:25, we are a community and we gather together for mutual benefit, instruction and encouragement. The verse implies it is easy to get out of the habit of meeting together and we should not neglect our community.

I think I can safely say it’s okay to miss a week. I’m pretty sure all of our Elders and Pastors have taken a break. We need to rest and sometimes say “no” to very good things in order to be healthy. Demands on our time can add up and have a way of growing without conscious assent.

The wise person maintains the margin in their life, leaving capacity for others, taking time to be still and listen, honoring their responsibilities and not neglecting assembling together. Enjoy these precious few days of sunshine and try to keep the complaints about it being too hot to a minimum. It’s already been too hot this year.

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On Giving

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By Dan Amos

Shame gets in the way of being a disciple, because it drives us to hide things in our lives that we do not want to give over to God. In terms of the front stage-back stage metaphor, shame is the stuff we keep behind the curtain in a locked, unmarked room. In many ways, “giving” shares that room where we keep shame. We don’t talk about it … much. We don’t get really personal when we do talk about it. We certainly don’t tell people how much we make or how much of that we give back.

I checked Dave Ramsey’s website, because many of us are familiar with him and have taken the course to get our finances in order. He’s very simple in his methods and definitions — save, spend, and give. Giving is every bit as important as saving and spending. Our basic giving is called tithing.

Tithing is a scriptural mandate and is 10% of our income that we give back to God. Practically and simply, we give a tenth of what we earn to our home church. Elim’s ministry leaders, staff, and elders put together a budget each year for spending what is given to financially support the mission and vision of our church. Believers are led by God in Scripture to tithe. It is part of being a disciple.

Dave Ramsey writes, “Tithing was created for our benefit. It is to teach us how to keep God first in our lives and how to be unselfish people. Unselfish people make better husbands, wives, friends, relatives, employees, and employers.”

We believe many within Elim are faithful givers, but we also know that many don’t understand the principles of giving. I was in a community group with one couple who were new believers. We should have discipled them in all aspects of being a disciple, including giving, but because we were afraid to tread in this sensitive area, we did not. When they learned of what the Bible tells us, they were happy to know it. They told us of the joy they had in giving and knowing the truth. I regretted not being the one to share that with them.

The Stewardship Team and the Elder Board want to partner on making our finances a vibrant part of our growth as disciples. Giving isn’t a dues we pay to keep the Elim club going; it is our opportunity to be part of building the Kingdom on South Hill and beyond.

Make giving part of the conversation with those closest to you. Tell your Paul, ask your Timothy, or discuss it with your Barnabas. We would love to hear your story about how giving has impacted your life. You can comment on Facebook or the website or tell one of the Stewardship Team members or Elders. The Stewardship Team is led by Mark McCullough and includes Phil Pavey, Gregg Zimmerman, Bethany Gapsch, and Dan Amos.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

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By Dan Amos

Women’s retreat weekend found me home alone, with some free time on my hands. Sure, there were things I could be doing, many of them actually productive. But instead I burrowed into the couch and watched Guardians of the Galaxy (trailer). Again. For the third time.

I felt some guilt over it, so I started thinking of a way to justify the experience. I’ll share it with you.

I first watched the movie on an airplane, and I didn’t quite catch everything, so right there I was justified in watching it again. And Guardians is based off of a graphic novel series with lots of detail compressed into two hours. It takes more than one viewing to catch everything. It probably takes two or three additional viewings …

So, here’s the lesson I came up with while musing on the subject. Each time I have watched this movie, I have seen new things in it. Parts of the plot make more sense as I understand the characters better and what motivates them. The music is really catchy, and I start to remember the songs.

This reminded me that I should be reading the Bible the same way. There’s a whole universe of God revealed in the Bible, and it takes more than one reading to understand it. The more I read it, the better I understand the character of God. The events of this life make more sense in the context of what the Bible says. The words are so powerful, they should be committed to memory.

It’s okay to watch Guardians of the Galaxy. I just need to spend more time with the Creator of the Universe!

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My Westminster Confession

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By Dan Amos

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling for work lately. When I’m walking or driving in unfamiliar areas, I often get the sense of being disconnected from those around me. TV, radio, and the Internet all tell me that the world is in conflict with God and us with one another. So, as I’m driving in Ohio, I look around and see strangers, people with whom I have nothing in common.

Recently I went to London for a conference. I arrived early enough on Sunday to make it to the 10 a.m. service at Westminster Abbey. If the Internet service on my current flight would work, I would look up the dimensions of the cathedral and tell you how old it is and how many famous people are buried there. I can’t, so I’ll tell you about the worship service.

2099709447003220150927_105412Other than the people running the service and the men’s choir, everyone in attendance was probably a tourist. Most of the service was sung by the men and the boys of the Abbey school. It was nothing we would recognize; there was no familiar melody. It was all poems to God set to music and accompanied by the huge pipe organ. Our participation was limited to listening, a responsive reading, reciting the Apostles’ Creed, and giving in the offering plate.

Then the first man in a gilded robe walked to the front, climbed into the cupola on the right, and read from the book of Luke about Jesus having dinner with the Pharisees. Another read a different passage. Finally, the senior pastor ascended into the ornate cupola on the left and gave a 20-minute sermon based on the passages that had been read.

The following Sunday I was privileged to hear Pastor Brian speak from Matthew about Jesus and His interaction with the Pharisees. How wonderful it is to be a part of a Church whose God is the same on the other side of the world as He is on ours. They worship the same God as we do. We have a connection that cannot be broken.

It is clear the world and its prince would have us stay disconnected from one another. Satan is working hard to divide us, and he’s having great success. But Christ binds His Church together, and as we get separated from the world as children of God, the difference becomes starker. “An Oasis for Renewal with God and One Another” is more than a motto. It is our mission, because it is God’s mission for us.

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A Message from Antebellum America

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By Dan Amos

Commuting is a painful necessity of working, but good can come from it. As an example, I offer the last book I listened to — A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845). His writing made me think about how we as a nation have come to where we are today.

Frederick was born into slavery in the early 19th century. In captivity he lived as far north as Baltimore. His writing reveals an intelligent man who taught himself to read as a boy and taught others from the New Testament. Jesus found him and claimed him as His own. This is clear in his writing, even as he rails against the pastors, church board members, and regular attenders who persecuted him and the other people tortured in slavery. He clearly distinguished between Christ’s Church and the American church that permitted, encouraged, or merely stayed silent against slavery.

He observed that the sin of slaveholding was a wickedness that deformed the spirit and made the practitioner miserable. As a boy, he was under the detention of a husband and wife, though the wife was kind and began his lessons in reading. Her husband ended the lessons and, as time wore on, she became mean and hateful towards him and all slaves. The sin of slavery infected her entire being.

His account of the cost of sin upon the nation is one we can recognize that we still suffer from today. In our hate for our fellow man, we have hated ourselves and our Creator. We have created divisions between ourselves and have destroyed the helpless and unwanted. We are in a time now where evil is called good and good is called evil. As individuals and as a body, we must measure good and evil not by society, but by the Word of God.

Frederick lived until 1895 and, by all accounts, he will be among the great crowd in Heaven. His was a difficult story to listen to, but powerful in its redemption and his reliance on our common Redeemer. If you read it or listen to it (available at the Pierce County Library), I would love to hear your opinion.

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