Women and children

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by Stan Peterson

Whenever I think of women and children (especially girls), I tend to go towards a frilly, dainty, petite, foofy characterization of them. God has blessed me by giving me five beautiful yet powerful women in my life. First is my wife Jackie, the strongest and most courageous woman I have ever met. She is resourceful and creative (cooks on a budget), she is wise and witty, she is a great encouragement to me and our girls and others in our community. She gives me great comfort and security in her love and affections for me. I could write volumes about my beloved bride, not to mention my beautiful girls; I thank God for them every day and take not the gifts He has given me for granted.

“God has chosen the weak things of this world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1.27).

I believe that women and children will play vital roles in reaching the unreached people groups that are left in the world. I look to the Bible and see numerous accounts of God using women and children. I see Mary the mother of Jesus, probably the most famous woman in all the world. Betrothed to a carpenter, becoming pregnant before her wedding, living on the run with no real place of her own in the early years. Mary nurses, swaddles, nourishes the very Son of God in order that she may see Him lay down His life for the sake of many. Mary was an unlikely candidate, but God chose her and used her to usher in Immanuel, God with us.

Children too have a special place in the heart of Jesus. He does not refuse them in coming to Himself and uses them mightily to teach us great lessons in and throughout all of Scripture. Abel, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Samuel — the list goes on — God took these children and used them for His glory and our good.

As the Gospel penetrates deep into the unreached areas of the world, it will be done in and through crucial relationships being formed by women and children. Women and children often fall into the category of left out, overlooked, downtrodden, and poor. I believe that the next revivals will be fueled by those we never expected. Women and children, the very despised, reaching out to their enemies through love. The reason I say this is because of the position that women and children have in Muslim-majority countries: they are the epitome of weakness, frailness, and degradation. These are precisely the ones that our God came to save and whom He loves to use in spreading His good news. Please pray for the women and children that are in Muslim-majority countries. Pray God would give extraordinary boldness to proclaim His Word.

Pray for their peace in the midst of a land filled with persecution and that their actions would soften the hearts of their oppressors. Pray that God would be glorified greatly in and through the salvation of the men of this region by way of the women and children.

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What steals your joy? How do you get it back?

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By Larry Short

Did you know that Jesus wants us to experience joy? In His “high priestly prayer” in John 17:13, as He was getting ready for a torturous crucifixion and departure from this earth, Jesus prayed in the hearing of His disciples: “I say these things while I am still in the world, that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”

Christ’s desire for us is that our lives be overflowing with joy! But we too often allow that joy to be stolen away. In our May 27, 2012 worship service (MP3) we looked at one thing, and a very subtle thing, that frequently steals our joy: distraction.

In the parable of the sower, Mark 4:18-19, Christ warns of the serious danger of distraction: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Did you know that “the worries of this life” are one of the distractions that has the potential to choke out the word of God in us and make us unfruitful? Like Martha in Luke 10, we might feel we are only “merely distracted,” but Jesus looks at our fixation on busyness and our worries and our upsetness, calls it what it is, and warns us that it can derail us. Distraction can rob us of the joy that He desires us to experience as we abide in Him.

Those of us with this addiction to busyness might think that happiness comes from much activity. But the reality is the opposite: True joy comes when we learn how to release the “good things” in order to focus on the “best thing.”

So, what’s the alternative to distraction? It’s a choice, according to Jesus, and it’s the choice that Mary made in Luke 10:38-42. Martha was preparing her home for a special guest, and Mary came over to help her. But when Jesus arrived, Mary left her sister working and went and sat down at Jesus’ feet, listening to him.

After Martha complained, Jesus revealed that what she had seen as mere distraction was in reality a far more serious problem: “Martha, Martha! You are upset and worried about many things. But few things are needed — indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better.”

Mary sat quietly at the feet of Christ and let His Word wash over her. That alone had the potential to transform her life.

When confronted with such a choice, what do we need to do? First, count the cost. As with finding freedom from any addiction, there is a price to healing. In order to focus your attention on the best thing, you may have to give up a good thing or two: a hobby, a favorite TV show, three cups of coffee in the morning, perhaps even a ministry task. None of these are bad things. But sometimes we must give up a good thing in order to find the best thing. Jesus told the rich young ruler to “Go, sell all that you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me.” He knew that was the bitter medicine that young man needed to find freedom from his distractions, and to focus his all on following God.

With Christ, it’s all or nothing, isn’t it? The man in the parable who found the pearl of great price, went and sold everything that he had to obtain the field it was buried in. God’s grace to us is free: but it’s not cheap. It cost Him everything to purchase our freedom. We must be willing to give up everything for Him.

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Design

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by Dan Amos

A coincidence is when seemingly random events are perceived to be connected.  Coincidences form the basic structure for many movie mysteries and thrillers but by the end, the coincidences seem less random or are even wholly exposed as by design. Leadership at Elim is experiencing the benefits of events too purposeful to be considered random. Therefore, design, and we know the Designer, must be the answer.

I could recount events from years and years leading to where we are at now, but I’ll start with last year. Our associate pastor, Brian Sharpe, asked the Elder Board for authorization to go through a profile assessment and coaching process. We dragged our feet and made him do some research but ultimately said “yes.” Early this year, his coach gave the board an outbrief on the results.

Leading up to the profile assessment report we were wrestling with the realization that Elim is growing numerically and it is fundamentally changing how we do things. This was addressed in our 2012 Annual Report and discussed at our annual congregational meeting in January.

Shortly after that, Pastor Brian’s coach, presented his report to the Elder Board. This happened on a Saturday. On the Tuesday before that, at our Elder meeting, Pastor Martin had talked about needing to change his role in the church within the context of how we are growing. He described the tasks he felt he needed to take on as being extremely demotivating for him.

So several short days later, we got a lesson in how people are wired differently and it just jumped out that the roles Martin was talking about taking on were contrary to how he is wired (and why they would be demotivating). The Elder Board quickly saw the value in having all of the staff go through the profile assessment and coaching process and two weeks ago we and the ministry leaders and staff heard the results.

It is so exciting to see how God has put all of the pieces together and how he is revealing them to us. We have a lot to work through and apply and make sure we don’t force people into roles for which they are not made. We’ll talk more and more about this, but right now we ask for you to be praying for the leadership as we seek his design. There’s no coincidence in this at all. Praise God!

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His grace is enough

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by Chris Pace

I have currently been dwelling on a passage these past two months. I find such an amazing joy when God brings it to mind. Lately, He has been bringing it up rather frequently; at the men’s retreat, in worship, conversations, lessons, and sermons. Of course, He knows it takes a few times for me to be told in order for it to really sink in.

In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 God tells Paul, after he asked God a few times to take a thorn from his flesh, that “My grace is all you need.” How extremely powerful! To know that I’m capable of nothing without Him; that my faults are not limiting what God can do through me. In fact, God goes on to say that “My power works best in weakness.”

I am now beginning to learn the lesson and understand what Paul figured out: “…to boast in my weaknesses; knowing the power of Christ CAN work through me.” This means I need to learn how to not only “take pleasure in the insults”, but the “hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ,” as well as “For when I’m weak, then I’m strong.”

So my prayer is that God will make me weak so that He can be my strength and continue to use me however He wills.

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Clubs

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by Mike Hellum

There was recently an article about Augusta National Country Club coming under attack for its policy of men-only. They should’ve seen it coming. If the boys of Little Rascals took heat 80 years ago when they formed the “He-man Womun Haters” club then it was only a matter of time for Augusta. But I digress. I started thinking about the whole exclusivity thing and what it means to belong to a club. Clubs bring benefits, or nobody would join them, but they also limit your freedom. There are certain rules that come with belonging to any club. We expect that.

I suppose there are (at least) a couple of reasons why clubs have rules. First, when you belong to a club, your behavior affects other members. No doubt the dress code at Augusta prohibits golfing in a mankini. We’re all grateful for that one. Sports teams typically have curfews because athletes who have been out all night don’t perform at their highest level; the whole team suffers. Or if you’re out late and your name is Tiger, you’ve got even bigger problems. The list could go on, but you get the idea.

Second, as a member of that club you are also a representative of the club. Outsiders naturally form opinions based on what they know about that entity. I have a rather positive impression about motorcycle riders, because I know some that I like and I don’t know any Hell’s Angels. What about Christians? Somebody once said, “There are five gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Christian; most will never read the first four.” If I’m all others know about Christianity, I hope they have a positive impression of it.

Like a club, Christianity has its own identification marks and behaviors. Jesus said so when he identified how people will recognize us (by our love — John 13:35). So what about when the church asks people to maintain certain standards of behavior? We’ve all heard people say, “They can’t tell me how to live!” If someone’s an outsider, the complaint is fair — I can’t expect them to live by the same code I do. G. K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried. ”If it is a higher standard — and it is — why would an outsider want to be bound by it? On the other hand, if one identifies themselves as an insider, a different dynamic is in play. The insiders are bound together in a common cause and a common identification for a common good. It’s what it means to be in community — thus, we lay down our individual interests for the benefit of everyone else. It’s what Christ modeled for us (see Phil. 2, esp. vv. 1-4), and commanded us to model to the world. And with this “club,” the cost of admission is an investment that reaps infinite dividends.

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