Hunker down … or take a risk?

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By Larry Short

I recently read a very interesting article in the Washington Post on the fear that causes us to “hunker down,” which in itself adds to the negative aspects of the economic cycle which afflicts us.

Because of a pessimistic sense of where our economy will be in the future, for instance, people might put off making a significant purchase such as a new car or home. Instead of sending their children to an expensive academic institution, they might opt for a less expensive public college or even delay education altogether and ask their child to flip burgers at MacDonald’s until the economy lightens up a bit.

Each of these things, of course, actually contributes to the negative cycle and makes it worse. Hunkering down has the opposite effect (corporately speaking) as the one we are hoping for.

This article made me think about my faith, and about how many of the same dynamics hold true. If I am feeling somewhat pessimistic about my life, my church, and my faith, I might have a tendency to “hunker down.” Rather than stretching myself in faith, to serve others, to take risks, to share Christ with my neighbor, to give more generously of my time and money, I have a tendency to clam up, to become more stingy, to focus my time and effort on things I think will benefit me personally, rather than others.

In faith, as in the economy, this may create a vicious cycle. People I fellowship with are more withdrawn and self-centered, so I might conclude “They don’t really care about me; they are just a bunch of hypocrites,” not realizing, of course, I myself am doing the very thing I accuse them of, and contributing to a vicious cycle of faithlessness.

I think the answer for us as Christians, in breaking this cycle, is the same as the answer for our economy. We must be willing to stretch, to have faith, to express our confidence through taking risks. We must open up, be vulnerable, reach out, share God’s love with others. It only takes a small group of faithful risk-takers (spiritually speaking) to get the steamroller rolling and to help create an environment of “spiritual recovery,” with God’s help.

So, I probably won’t go out anytime soon and buy a car, or a new house. (I don’t need one, anyway!) But I would ask you to pray for me as I seek to take some spiritual risks, to “give my life away” in ever larger ways, for the sake of a spiritual recovery in God’s Kingdom!

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Growth: Embracing the challenges and the opportunities

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by Martin Schlomer

If you hang around on Sunday mornings for very long, it won’t take long to notice that this group of God’s people is rapidly changing and growing. There are a lot of new people representing all generations and backgrounds!

Growth always raises new opportunities and challenges. One of the challenges we currently face is financial. Let me assure you, finances have remained stable even in the midst of a very difficult economy. As of last Sunday, September 18, our giving is only $300 behind budget! Considering that we are just coming out of the summer months, this is incredible! Thank you for your faithfulness!!! However, even though our spending is only $1,800 over budget as of August 31, the pressures on spending are mounting. These pressures are due to expanding ministry demands — which are to be expected with the growth — as well as numerous property issues.

This summer, we built a new shed to replace the one that was literally falling down. We also poured a larger porch on the north entrance to help keep people from falling off the smaller one that was there. We replaced the roof on the annex to avoid the kind of major leaks we had last year.

There are several property issues that we still need to address.

  • We need to repair the septic system at the Youth House which is currently inoperable. The cost will be $1800.
  • We need to replace the stove in the kitchen to accommodate Freezing Nights, KidReach and various other ministries. The estimated cost will be $1100.
  • We are starting a food pantry over in the Youth House to accommodate the needs of Freezing Nights and MOPS which means we needs shelves to store the supplies on. In addition, MOPS would like to have a sink and counter space in the Youth House to prepare snacks for their meetings. The estimated cost is $1000.
  • We are in need of a projector screen for the front of the sanctuary to make it easier for people to see the words for the music and sermon notes. This has become more evident as we seat people further back into the fellowship area. The estimated cost is $800.

These are exciting times at Elim, but how will we meet these needs? On October 2, we will receive a special offering following Communion. Our goal is to raise $5000 over and above our normal offering to cover these needs.

We realize that these are difficult economic times for most. Please seek the Lord regarding how He would have you contribute, and please continue to pray for the health and growth of Christ’s body. My goal, along with the Elders’, is to make sure we glorify Christ in our leadership of this church and in the shepherding of your lives. This is of the utmost importance!

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Spinning out of control

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by Jeff Foerster

Wings spread wide. Whirling and swirling. Nothing within grasp. Three choices were before me: Do nothing and watch. Hasten its demise. Save. I reached down and the moth pressed into me as it made another rotation in the water. I lifted it from its watery mess.

I don’t know exactly what incited me to keep this tiny creature, whose relatives I have quite frankly often viewed as pests, from drowning. I placed it on dry ground and watched as it stretched each weary leg slowly outward and away from the churning water. On its own it would not have ended well.

That’s when it hit me – no, not the moth. It was Jesus. I realized I had been the one twirling to and fro, grasping at many things, but securing nothing. But God reached down, gently, until I pressed into Him. He lifted me from the mess.

Think back to what your life was like before Jesus. Thank Him. Praise Him. Recall and recount the ways He has changed you. He is not through with you, and no one is beyond His reach.

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Intentional living

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by Brian Sharpe

Intentional living is tough. It is easy to make plans…it is hard to carry them out. In life we are thrown many curve balls that take us out of our routine and often messes with our intentionality. Even good things can take us away from intentional living.

Recently Tomina and I went on vacation. While on vacation we wanted to make sure we didn’t take a vacation from being intentional so we talked through what we would like to do on this vacation to keep being intentional. I have a friend who has been an unbelievable model of intentionality with his family. He went away with his wife and while they were away for their anniversary they read a book together, they studied the same passage in the bible for devotions and they walked through some goal setting. Remembering this, that was what I talked to Tomina about. Tomina looked at me and said “Thanks for leading.” Men that was an amazing feeling to feel for what seemed to be the first time like I was leading my family well.

Well, we read “Radical Together,” which was a great book. We also studied Hebrews. Those were the easy things to do. The setting of family goals seemed to be the hard part. We finally did it, but it wasn’t till the 18 hour car ride home. Now that the goals are set we need to keep them in the forefront of our minds, so that they can be accomplished.

I write this to encourage men and families to take time to get away from the norm, not to just get away, but to get away and reflect, plan and set goals as a family. We don’t just become the people God wants us to be without a consistent refocusing time where we make sure we and our families are on the right trajectory. It is way too easy to think that we are living for God without asking God if we are living for him. When we take time away and seek him, he will reveal who he wants us to be and who he wants your family to be.

Jesus modeled this throughout the gospels. Jesus would leave the crowds. He would leave the disciples. He would go off to be alone with the father. It is something we need to do. Vacation is a great time to do it because we are away from the everyday demands of life.

My challenge to you between now and the end of the year is to get away for a day and seek God and ask him what are some things he wants to do in you and your family in 2012.

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Chainsaw theology

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by Dan Amos

I have an electric chain saw that I’ve been using since the mid-90’s. On the manliness scale of tools it doesn’t rate very high, but it gets the job done. It’s not uncommon though that when using it, some well-intentioned person will say they have a gas-powered chain saw that will easily do the job. I generally acknowledge the prowess of their chain saw and continue on.

The point is, I have a job to do and I can get it done now with the tools I have available to me or I can I accept the potential of help at a later time that may never come. With my old chain saw I get the job done now; with their chain saw it may never get done.

As this scenario played out again for me recently I thought about how we can always wait for the perfect solution to come along and not accomplish anything. But, God has chosen to work through the imperfect — us. By doing so, His glory is shone, not ours and we are forced to rely on Him.

Put another way, Martin recently advised someone they could do nothing and 10 years from now they would be in the exact same situation. Or, they could pursue a path that will take a long time to accomplish, but at the end of it, they will be a different person, prepared for a different path in life than they are now.

Think of all the heroes of the Bible, besides Jesus, and they all were imperfectly suited for the task God had for them. For some we are told of a lifetime of service where they grew in effectiveness the longer they followed God’s path for them. But for many, we know of only a short-term task where God used an electric chainsaw and did something wonderful. As we at Elim seek to follow him and serve in ministries, sometimes we’ll feel and look like that electric chainsaw — not the seemingly perfect fit, but the job gets done and God’s kingdom is built.

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