Larry’s last, Last Word?

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By Larry Short

It’s been several years since we elders started writing the weekly “Last Word” in order to more effectively communicate with the body at Elim what the Lord is doing here … and this morning I’m feeling a little wistful about the fact that this may be my final “Last Word,” at least for a little while! (I really do enjoy writing these! I counted recently and I believe this is the 120th Last Word that has been published … not all of them by me, of course!)

Why so wistful? you might ask. Well, the Lord has been doing something interesting in me ever since I preached (about a month ago) on the topic of “margin.” I shared then how He was challenging me to increase the margin in my life … the space “around the edges” of work, ministry and play, time available for the Lord to do a better work in me and through me. Time for just me and Him to continue to get to know each other better, as well as for me to become better equipped to do whatever He is calling me to do.

I pointed out that sometimes, like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, we need to learn to say “no” to good things in order to make more room for the best things. As a result of this conversation with the Lord in my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to focus my ministry efforts here at Elim. As a result I’ve informed the elders that I would be stepping off the board (before the completion of my term) after this month.

I mentioned focus … I think you all are aware that the Lord has brought Darlene and I a truly fruitful and fulfilling ministry in the form of Pulse, Elim’s young adults ministry. We now have an awesome group of young adults, college and career-aged, who are sold out for Jesus and getting engaged in ministry and outreach with Elim. Between the two of us, we are mentoring five of them (and many of the others are being mentored by yet other leaders at Elim). We have nearly 50 on our roster, but at least 20-30 of these are “core” young adults, actively involved in Pulse. Even larger churches in our area frequently struggle to maintain healthy young adults groups, so we feel incredibly blessed by what God is doing here!

We are also in the midst of one of those many periods of transition, as many (three couples) of our young adults have recently married, and others are getting near the age where they may be transitioning out soon (into other groups and ministries). These faithful have been with us long and we will really miss them!

And of course God is bringing in new young adults, including some high school graduates. So, after praying this through, Darlene and I do feel like this really is a season where we need to focus all of our best efforts on what God is continuing to do in this group, through leading Bible studies and prayer times; book studies; special events; and mentoring. Your prayers as we seek to “up the ante” with Pulse are much needed and appreciated!

Fortunately right now I can depart the Elder Board with a clear conscience, as it is perhaps in a stronger position than it’s been in a long time. Even with me stepping off and Mike being called to pastoral ministry, the Board still is a very strong group of men who are passionate about seeking God’s best for Elim. Pastor Martin has been challenging us all to step up our board involvement to meet the need for strategic preparation for the days ahead, and I’m convinced that this awesome and committed group of guys, under Dan’s leadership, are more than up to the challenge.

Anyway, I just wanted to say I really appreciate all of you (especially those of you who read these Last Words!) … your prayers and support; as well as the privilege and opportunity of serving with the elders these past few years (as well as the six years before my constitutionally required one-year hiatus!). Now, off to a little Grandpa vacation with Annabelle, for some real “margin” time! Be back soon!

 

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The book of love

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By Jeff Foerster

The pastor said, “Turn in your Bibles to the book of love.”  Pages were turned to the Psalms while some chose the Song of Solomon. Others found themselves preferring Philippians or Ephesians, and still others moved on to 1 Corinthians in anticipation of a sermon on chapter 13.

As the pastor began to read from the beginning of the book, he spoke these words: “Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel…’” Upon hearing many low-intoned voices he understood there was confusion among the people. “I’m sorry,” he returned, “Turn in your Bibles to the book of Leviticus.”

It is here in the third book of the Law that we find God’s proclamation of His great love. Wait. Isn’t this where we find rules and regulations concerning grain offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, and sin offerings? Isn’t this also where we find details on parts of the animals offered, such as the kidney, fat tail, fat-covered entrails, lobes of liver, blood, breast, and thigh? Do we not also read of the intimate anatomy of both male and female alike, concerning their cleanliness, or the uncleanness of those with “raw flesh,” boils, scales, and leprous marks? These images don’t conjure up amorous thoughts or feelings. They don’t inspire me to write a poem or sing a song to a loved one.

However, just as God was not in the strong wind, earthquake, or fire before Elijah during his days of confusion, the LORD speaks to us likewise here with a gentle blowing and a whisper for those who listen. Throughout Leviticus God weaves in the Gospel message, 1,500 years before the breeze of the Spirit came and quietly placed our Savior in the womb of a young girl named Mary.

We are given a glimpse of our sin nature through “unintentional sin” (4:2-3). Romans 3:10, itself a reaffirmation of Old Testament writings, is brought to mind here. Gently we are shown our need for confession (5:5) and graciously we are brought the solution (atonement through sacrifice) for our sin. We didn’t go seeking after it, yet He came seeking after us, instructing, guiding, loving.

He provided a way for us to be in His presence (9:4). Carefully crafting and designing, the Father lays out the requirements for sacrifice (3:1), echoing into the future, “Jesus…Jesus.” Our perpetual need for this Savior is seen glowing in the firelight (6:13).

God deepens our gaze, giving a foretaste of the coming transfer of sin from the guilty to the One being sacrificed (16:21 and chapters 3-4), and the expiation (taking away) of those sins far from us (16:21 and 14:7).

My heart is heavy as I read of the blood of sacrifice being poured at the base of the altar (4:7 and 9:8) and realizing that God’s perfect sacrifice, His beloved Son, would do the same, pouring out his sacrificial blood at the base of His altar, pooling below, covering the dirt, reflecting the final cry, “It is finished!”

Rejoicing, I can see a foreshadowing of the empty tomb on the third day (7:17). He has done it! Carefully, patiently, intricately our God revealed to us our need and His wonderful solution, whispered to us, in advance, in the Gospel of Leviticus.

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Letter from Pastor Martin, Dan Amos and the Elder Board

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Dear Elim members and friends,

Six months ago, Stan Peterson began a one-year internship with us in holistic outreach and assimilation. During this year Stan was challenged to finish seminary with a Master of Divinity degree, pursue credentialing with the EFCA, help equip us to reach out to our community, and help us care for guests who visit with us on Sunday mornings. This was to be a year of exploring opportunities as well as having a role in preparing Stan for full-time ministry — possibly at Elim.

During the past six months Stan has jumped in head-first and has gotten well underway on each of those tasks. In addition, the entire staff, including Stan, has undergone an intensive profile assessment and coaching process to help us all better understand how God has wired and equipped them to be most effective in serving Him by leading His church.

As a result of this process, it became clear to Stan that an associate pastor position at Elim would not be a good fit. It became clear that Stan’s gifting leans more toward shepherding a church plant, being an army chaplain, or possibly a professor. All of these options are exciting to Stan! Please pray for the Petersons as they pray and discern their next steps.

This begs the question, “What’s next for Stan and Elim?” Stan will continue with the Elim internship through December. During this time, we will continue to do what we can to help prepare him for his next season of ministry. He will also finish his licensing through the EFCA in November.

We want to thank those who have been praying for this effort as well as contributing financially to Stan! Without your sacrifice, this internship would not have been possible.

As Elim grows, there is still a need for another staff position. As an Elder Board we are evaluating exactly what that need is, and how to best fill it. Please be in prayer about what this means for Elim moving forward. Pray for God-given discernment for the Elders as we process through the unique gifting of our staff and seek to identify the best way to organize and build our staff to meet the opportunities God has entrusted to us.

Thanks for your prayers! It is an exciting time to be at Elim right now. We look forward to seeing what God is going to do both in Stan and at Elim. If you have any questions, please talk with Pastor Martin or the Elders.

Sincerely,

Martin Schlomer
Senior Pastor

Dan Amos
Elder Board Chair

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Teachability

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by Brian Sharpe

Have you ever had an “Aha!” moment? It happens to me a lot. Most of the time it has to do with being convicted by something God is trying to teach me.

Conviction is a good thing. As a person and as a leader within the church it is important to be teachable. I am not always teachable. I remember two years ago at the Challenge conference, being convicted to not just bring students to learn, but to learn myself. I walked away from Challenge provoked to implement the beatitudes into my life. It was the first time in a long time that I remember being taught at a student conference. But it was also the first time in a long time that I was willing to listen to what the Spirit of God was trying to teach me.

As I teach others, I am convicted to not simply teach, but to myself follow the instruction that I am giving. Most recently I was teaching on living by the Spirit. I taught that material because I felt like the students needed to hear that message. When I was done teaching, I hoped that the students understood the importance of living by the Spirit. Then I moved on to the next subject.

This past week as I was going through life, I was feeling convicted that aspects of the fruit of the Spirit were not present in my life. Then God continued to teach me my need to allow the Spirit of God to change my actions while I was reading a book. The quote had something to do with the fact that many times leaders in the church are calling people to live by the power of the Spirit and let the fruit of the Spirit be present, but they don’t hold themselves to that same standard. That hit me between the eyes.

I want to be used by God. I love to teach, but the message of my life needs to align with the message God has given me. This brought me back to the place where I remembered I need to be teachable. I need to be willing to listen even when I am the teacher. I need to be a doer of the Word of God, and not just a hearer.

James 1:19-26 says:

My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls. And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you keep looking steadily into God’s perfect law — the law that sets you free — and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

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