Am I Wasting My Life?

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by Stan Peterson

I can so easily compartmentalize my life and separate it into nice, easy-to-manage little chunks.

I wake up early, spend time with my Lord, run off to work, come home, love my wifey and kids, eat dinner, do family devos, check the computer, send off a couple of e-mails, make a couple of phone calls, read from my book, then go to bed!!!!! I can do all these things, but without faith I am just a dead man walking.

I can go through the motions and say all the right things but on the inside be filled with bitterness, anger, criticism, and self pity. I might be passionless, without joy, without peace, without love … and BEARING NO FRUIT! I might be merely existing and not living out the life that God has intended me to live, the abundant life (John 10:10).

Life might be wasted because I did not seek the One who gave it to me, and failed to see and hear the Lord in the “little things of life” — because I was too busy. I might miss the beautiful sunrise stretching forth over Mt. Rainier, while working on the 27th floor of the Columbia Tower. I might miss being able to encourage a coworker as he tries to open up to me about his life. I could fail to see and meet the need of my beautiful wife when I come home and not make couch time (conversation time). I might walk right past my daughter, who is begging me to come swing her, as I take out the trash and do my duties around the yard.

But oh! how wonderful our God is when I am abiding in Christ. He gently prompts me to walk in the opposite spirit, so I miss less and less of the really important things in life. I am reminded of His mercies and grace, and of my ever-present need for them. I can access the wonderful power that is greater than the power of sin in my life. I experience His love for me and the payment He made, that I am His and He is mine. The Spirit and I work together and I am washed with His great and marvelous Word!

These powerful truths wash over me like a flood, and I am renewed by them and marked by them. The affections of my heart are made alive for my Lord. I am reminded that I am more than a conqueror, and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

May our hearts be made alive together in Him to His Glory.

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The high standard that we will be held to

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By Larry Short

Are we, as fallen people, capable of doing good things apart from God?

I think the answer is a qualified “yes.” Please let me explain what I mean by that.

We were created in God’s image. God is love. We are obviously capable of love. But I do not think we can love, perfectly, apart from God’s help, and the motivation He provides for truly loving unconditionally.

An unbelieving soldier gives his life for his country, and a father takes a stand against a mugger to safeguard his family. Or perhaps, a mother who does not know the Lord carries to term a young child even at the risk of her own life. All are acts of selfless love. They are inspired by (godly) ideals, ideals placed into the heart of man by a God who created us in His own image.

That image was, of course, grossly tainted and distorted by sin in the fall. Too often, now, we are capable of the opposite of love … or perhaps of acts of what we think is love, but what is in reality, at its core, something far worse and not God-like in any sense.

While traveling last year I enjoyed very much reading a book called “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson, the inspiring story of a former mountain climber who began to build schools in impoverished communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, after a failed attempt to summit K2.

So it was very painful for me to watch a “60 Minutes” expose recently which claims that many of the stories shared by Mortenson in his book were either gross exaggerations (at best) or outright fabrications (at worst) — and that, while Mortenson had indeed helped many poor children by building schools in the area, he hadn’t built near as many as he claims, and much of the tens of millions of dollars raised for this purpose by his speaking and his writing and through his nonprofit organization have actually been spent for other, less noble purposes.

Disappointing, if true. (And I’m also naturally suspicious about the media’s role in uncovering these seeming inconsistencies.) I think the jury is still out on these claims against Mr. Mortenson.

But I do remember wondering, as I read about Mortenson’s philanthropy, of his core motivation. As far as I can tell, he’s not a believer, at least not in the sense that you and I classically understand that term. Are nonbelievers capable of doing good things? Yes, of course. But even those good things will be put at risk of being tainted by evil, if the godly motivations for doing them are absent or in question.

Far sadder, of course, is the case of people who should be doing good works as a demonstration of their authentic faith in Christ, but who fail to do so. James writes in the second chapter of his epistle:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds ….

26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

If some good can be done apart from God, what kind of good should be done by those of us who claim to be acting together with God?

In other words, how much higher of a standard will God hold us accountable to? There is a great deal of media scrutiny on faith-based organizations such as World Vision, and perhaps deservedly so. If we claim to be loving people in the name of Christ, we had better do so in a manner worthy of Christ — selflessly, with the high level of excellence, and with the motivation, He demands of us.

We as a church are just beginning this adventure of demonstrating our sincere faith, through our deeds. Through the Elikya Center we are seeking to show God’s love to orphans and widows in the Congo. Through KidREACH we are tutoring at-risk children. Through MOPS we are reaching out to young moms with the love of Christ. Through Freezing Nights, the Salvation Army, and Francis House we are seeking to be the hands and feet of Christ to the homeless and vulnerable in our community.

My prayer is that as we seek to do good, we will share the Whole Gospel with the Whole Person, and do so in a manner worthy of those whose motivation is the true grace, mercy, and love of Christ, extended compassionately and without condition to the Whole World. He is holding us to a higher standard! In response to His amazing work in our lives, let’s pursue this goal with our Whole Hearts!

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Are You On the Right Track?

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by Gordy McCoy

As most of you know, I spent a little over 40 years working on the railroad.  One of the jobs I had for about 15 years was being a “goat chaser”. A “goat” is a switch engine used for building trains in the yards. On this job I traveled thru out Seattle, Auburn and the Tacoma area searching for these “goats” to inspect them daily. One of the tough things about this job was finding the location of a particular yard and then wandering thru the yard looking thru the maze of tracks for all the “goats”.  I often wondered, “Am I on the right track?” When you have 20 to 30 tracks to choose from that are 1 to 2 miles long, it’s easy to get confused.

As believers, we need to ask ourselves from time to time, “Am I on the right track?” We need to follow our instruction manual, His Holy Word.  We need to allow Him be the Conductor of our lives. He knows where we should be heading. We are on the Main line that leads to Heaven.  He knows the road blocks up ahead, the dangers around the bend, the darkness in the tunnel, or whether the bridge up ahead is strong enough to bring us to the other side.

In Matthew 7:13-14 it says, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway (track) to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for all who choose that way. But the gateway to eternal life is very narrow and the road (track) is difficult and only a few will find it.”

Proverbs 16:17 warns us to keep our eye on the road (track). “The path of the virtuous leads away from evil; whoever follows that path (track) is safe.” Also, in Proverbs 19:16 we get this warning signal, “Keep His commandments and keep your life; despising them leads to death.” We do not need to travel this journey alone. We have a community of believers, our forever family, to help us keep on the right track. They are here to warn us if they see something that we do not or they see us taking a dangerous side track. We need to be aware of what is up ahead. We need to make sure the light at the end of the tunnel is the Light of the Lord……not a train.

One of the ways to keep us from harm and disaster is being led by the Holy Spirit. He is here to lead and guide us. We will save ourselves from a lot of heartache and back tracking if we daily follow Him. Some of the mistakes along life’s journey can also affect our family and love ones. That is where confession is vital and asking Him to help us stay on track.

To illustrate this message I have included a clip that puts you behind the controls of a 4000 horsepower locomotive. We think we are safe. We ignore all the danger signs by getting too close to sin and we have the scars to prove it. Depend on your Safety Manual, His Word, obey it, and respect its power. Stay close to other believers that keep us on the straight and narrow path. Keep your eyes open and firmly fixed on The One who is leading you. Be thankful for the journey and the many things He has taught you along the way.   Shine your Light, honk the horn………..and praise His Holy name!! He is bringing us safely home.

Make sure when you watch the video, watch for the guy that jumps off the train. Corrie ten Boom says, “When the train goes thru a tunnel and the world gets dark and we can’t see ahead, do we jump off? Of course not! You sit and wait and trust the engineer to get you thru the darkness.”

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Out of the Dark

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by Dan Amos

One of the big lies of sin is that we are alone.  For those who were there on Sunday, you know that you are not alone. Sexual sin, lust, is not unique to men, but the temptation and attacks are common to most every man. Even though the Bible tells us repeatedly that sin is used to damage our relationship with God and others and that light chases away the dark, this is an issue so wrapped up in fear and shame that it is easy to think we are alone.

I am thankful for the first couple of men to speak with courage and boldness.  That was an act of throwing light on the dead moose in the room. And I have to believe the timing coming one week before the men’s retreat is not coincidental.  I’m anxious to hear the stories that come back of men teaming up to put this sin to death..

Accountability is a key part of conquering sin, any sin.  God knew what he was doing when he made us relational people.  These relationships take work and I confess I let my accountability relationship fade away.  I need to reconnect.  As Woody said in “Toy Story” about accountability partners (“moving buddies”), “If you don’t have one, GET ONE!”

Men, find another man; women, find another woman.  If you need help getting connected, talk to Martin or Brian.

One last thing, there are resources available to help with accountability in this area.  We have X3Watch ( loaded on our computers at home.  It runs in the background and keeps track of the urls for questionable websites visited and sends an email to two accountability partners every two weeks.  Programs that attempt to filter out inappropriate content will often degrade computer performance but X3watch does not.  There is a free version and a more feature-rich commercial version.

This note will be posted on the Elim Facebook site.  I invite you to go there and discuss this issue.

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Why tithe by electronic billpay?

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By Larry Short

Ever since we started attending Elim 15 years ago, Darlene and I have given our tithe by electronic billpay. I realize this may be a little unusual, but it is getting less so in our current day and age. So Dan asked me if I would write a quick Last Word explaining why we do this, and how you can too.

First of all, what is electronic billpay? If you have an account at a bank (and most of us do), electronic billpay simply is a service where you can schedule your “bills” (any recurring payments) to be paid automatically, either by direct transfer from your bank account to someone else’s, or else by having your bank automatically create and send a check on your behalf. For a number of years we have used a service called CheckFree to do this with all our bills. They charge us less than $10 a month for this service and we find that we can barely live without the convenience.

But you don’t have to use CheckFree, and nowadays you may be able to do bill-pay for free through your bank. But first let’s ask, why should you?

There are three key reasons why we use electronic billpay: It is strategic, it is consistent, and it is convenient.

Strategic: At least once each year, Darlene and I sit down and review our current financial situation. How has the Lord blessed us during the past year? What do we, in faith, want to do in order to show our gratitude and to be obedient to His command? We pray, decide on an amount, and then log onto our secure billpay site and make a simple change instruction. CheckFree then sends a check to Elim, every single week rain or shine, in the amount that we have specified. They also provide all the accounting to help us track our giving. And then, on the occasion that we want to give a special gift above and beyond, we simply write a paper check.

Consistent: I don’t know about you, but I lead a busy and complicated life and it’s too easy for me to forget even the important things. With automatic billpay, I don’t worry that if I go on vacation or camping in the summer and miss a weekend worship service, the church will be left holding the bag without my tithe. (To do so, even once, I feel would be unfaithful.) The hard, cold truth is that church giving always dips — sometimes significantly — during the summer months. Why? If people aren’t there (and attendance is lower in the summer), they forget to tithe. Automatic billpay helps me to be more faithful, and blesses Elim as a result.

Convenient: I don’t have to worry about bringing my checkbook with me to church each week, just my Bible. One less thing to carry!

Are there any drawbacks to using automatic billpay for my tithe? I think I’ve only found one: I sometimes feel a little awkward letting the offering plate slide on by me, without putting anything in it! I wonder if people think, “Tsk, tsk. He’s an elder and he doesn’t even give!”

But then, I catch myself. We’re not supposed to be tithing for the sake of being seen doing it by others, right? So, who cares what they think? My giving is just between me and the Lord. Hence, in reality, I think this (somewhat humbling) experience is probably, in reality, good for me!

Please consider setting up automatic billpay for your tithe. I think that, like me, you’ll be glad you did! If you have any questions about how to get started, let’s chat. Thanks for reading!

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