The Downside’s Upside

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By Jeff Foerster

Trouble in the news. Trouble in relationships. Trouble with work. Trouble with finances.  Trouble with bodies. Trouble with motivation. Trouble with the past. Trouble with the future. Trouble with ignorance. Trouble with vision. Trouble with planning. Trouble with sin. Trouble with a side order of trouble.

Looking left and looking right, there seems to be no end to the variety of troubles, nor to the manner in which they enter our lives. Truth be told, I could identify a number of these examples myself as unwelcome strays which linger near my door because I have fed them in the (sometimes recent) past.

Trouble, however, is not all bad news. Sure, it can cloud my mind and my vision. It can speak to me things untrue and, if allowed, manipulate my understanding of reality. It can make my present circumstances seem more important or overwhelming than they need be.

Yet there is no better place than down, no better position than low from which to gaze upward.  Upward is where a heart once emptied can be filled to the full. Upward is where hope pierces the veil of cloud to reveal starry night. Upward is where my life takes meaning and the mundane task bears significance. Upward is praying for those in positions of authority. Upward is submission. Upward is fighting for those without voice or power. Upward is a kind word to someone I don’t particularly like. Upward is giving when receiving seems a better idea. Upward is taking one step not knowing where the next footfall will land. Upward is repentance. Upward is forgiveness — both outward and inward. Upward is knowledge of God. Upward is seeing Jesus seated in Heaven. Upward is victory already won.

Looking around we will surely find trouble. Looking upward we will surely find Jesus. Fix your eyes upon the One who loves you with a love never known before and still not fully understood. Fix your heart on the hope that headlines can’t write. (Colossians 3)

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Change in the Making

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By Tom Chase

It’s funny … the older I get, the more reflective I guess I become. I find myself wanting to have lived well. And asking myself if I’ve done so. It can be really easy to get to the place where we come down pretty hard on ourselves. Maybe at times that is warranted — a simple kick in the pants to remind us who we are. However, when we dwell in that self- (or other-) inflicted perspective, that we will never measure up, it can be difficult to move in a positive direction. The great news is that God does not expect us to live in that environment. He is not the source of the condemnation. He does and will convict us, but He does not hold us down with our condemnation.

Romans 8:1 tells us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

In Christ, we do not stand condemned!!!

As Ephesians 1:2-14 tells us, in Him we are:

  • Blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
  • Chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.
  • Predestined for adoption (to be his kids) by His pleasure and will.
  • Redeemed through His blood.
  • Forgiven of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
  • Grace-lavished people (recipients of God’s abundant grace).
  • Made an insider to the mystery of his will—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
  • Chosen for the praise of His glory.
  • Marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession

All this is to the praise of His glory! In addition, we can remind ourselves of this because He has reminded us that He is not through with us yet.

Philippians 1:6—“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

It is from this perspective that we can be freed to experience God’s changing power and live in the hope He has called us to.  The rest of chapter one of Ephesians tells us of that hope and the amazing power that is available to us.  If you would like, just read it and allow Him to heal the hurts that may be holding you back.

If music speaks to you, one more thing that may encourage you, like it does me, is this song by Addison Road:

“Change in the Making”

There’s a better version of me
That I can’t quite see
But things are gonna change
Right now I’m a total mess and
Right now I’m completely incomplete
But things are gonna change
‘Cause you’re not through with me yet

This is redemption’s story
With every step that I’m taking
Every day, you’re chipping away
What I don’t need
This is me under construction
This is my pride being broken
And every day I’m closer to who I’m meant to be
I’m a change in the making

(for more see link below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU2drg8FtBg

Enjoy!

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Ebenezer

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By Brian Waple

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the LORD has helped us.'”(1 Sam 7:12, ESV)

The Israeli people had just gained a major victory over the advancing Philistines. Samuelwisely and gratefully acknowledges that it is the LORD who has given them the victory, for it is only through His help and provision that Israel is able to succeed in spite of overwhelming odds.

In 1758, drawing on inspiration from this 1 Samuel passage, Christian scholar Robert Robinson wrote the song “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The second verse of Robinson’s version of the song starts “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” followed by “Here by Thy great help I’ve come.” The idea here is that Robinson, and all who have sung this song, are acknowledging God’s help in every aspect of their lives.

What about us? Do we acknowledge all the ways in which God has helped us and continues to help us and provide for us? As you look at your life, take a few moments to reflect on those times that God’s providence has intervened. And then, like Samuel, raise your Ebenezer and give thanks to Jehovah Jireh — the Lord who provides.

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Sabbatical

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By Dan Amos and Pastor Martin

As we engage in ministry there are ebbs and flows, seasons of work and seasons of rest — because, let’s face it, ministry is hard work. Elders are only allowed to serve in their role for six years, and then they must take a break for at least one year. Most of us will serve in a role within the body for a time and then step back for a time while another volunteer steps in to carry the load.

The periods of rest and renewal are more difficult for the full-time ministry worker, when times of professional growth have to be crammed into a 24/7 commitment. This is the practical basis for offering a sabbatical to our ministerial staff. We ask them to step back for a time and experience renewal in their relationship with the Father and pursue personal spiritual growth.

Jesus modeled this behavior during His public ministry by getting away from the crowds and concentrating on His relationship with the Father. Perhaps when He sent the disciples out to experience ministry on their own He experienced a longer period of spiritual refreshment.

The Elder Board began seriously pursuing the sabbatical model over the last couple of years. Our goal is to give our pastors this break every six years. Pastor Martin has been faithfully leading and shepherding us for 19 years without this opportunity. Pastor Brian has also been asked to begin planning for his own sabbatical next year.

We are asking Martin to take this break with specific professional and spiritual goals. We are convinced this is good for him and good for all of us at Elim. The Evangelical Free Church declares that taking sabbaticals is a “positive trend reflecting increased awareness of a series of work/rest cycles found in the scriptures. Observing them is a healthy practice that assures sustainability in ministry.”

Martin will be away from Elim from May 1 through July 31, 2013. Pastor Brian and others will fill the pulpit during this time. Brian will lead the staff and day-to-day ministries, while being supported by a host of people, including the Elders and all of us at Elim. We ask for your prayers for Martin and Kim as he is away from us and for the staff and Elders as they fill in.

Elim is experiencing a time of health and growth, and it is my prayer that we put into practice what Martin has modeled for us. We trust we will welcome him home in August healthier and stronger than when he left.

From Pastor Martin:

The big question is, what will I do on this sabbatical? In addition to getting some rest and some much appreciated “wind therapy,” I will go through some life coach training which deals with the integration of the spiritual, relational, professional, and personal dimensions of a person’s life. This training will be a benefit to my ongoing ministry at Elim as well as to other consulting opportunities that may cross my path in the future.

Second, I will seek out a pastoral prayer mentor. It has been my desire to deepen my prayer life and to better shepherd Elim toward becoming a “house of prayer.” There are a couple of opportunities that I will explore to find the person who will best equip me to fulfill this vision.

Third, I will visit some churches which have a clear strategy for discipleship. I want to continue to sharpen my strategic understanding for growing passionate, persevering followers of Jesus. This is our mandate; therefore, it must be our mission.

Fourth, I will immerse myself in reading the Gospel of Mark multiple times in preparation for preaching this Gospel beginning October 6.

One final question must be answered: “Do I plan on staying at Elim after I return from this sabbatical?” The answer is yes. I have no plans for leaving and have no intention of using this time to look for other ministry opportunities. Kim and I love this body and we look forward to having many more years of growing disciples at Elim.

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