Legacy

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By Dan Amos

The day after Christmas, with my sisters and our families, we moved my parents to a new home. It’s been a melancholy transition out of the house where I grew up and they lived for 40 years. Combing through a lifetime of things gives you a pretty good idea of a person’s priorities, and for me it was a clear picture of the legacy given to me and my sisters and passed on to the next generation.

My parents were never perfect, because none of us are, but they chose to love me and sacrifice for me. They didn’t have expensive things in their home. The things were functional and their function was to nurture a family and grow kids who came to love the Lord each on their own.

I think of my parents often now as Fran and I have transitioned to a home where our kids are gone most of the year. It is entirely different and takes me back to those first couple of years of our marriage, but with three “presences” missing.

It also makes me think of our church family’s recent anniversary. We are who we are today because, over 130 years ago, God brought together a handful of people who loved Him and sacrificed for His family. More recently, in the 1970’s, a similar handful of families chose a path of faith. They bought the property at the corner of 94th and 128th, then built some homes to sell and help fund the construction of our building. I’ve only had the privilege of meeting a few of those people. They have for the most part moved on or passed on. But, what a legacy they have left us!

When our district superintendent exhorted us to love God and love one another, we have to know this is more than a feeling: it is a demonstration of our heart. We choose and act in ways that demonstrate that love. We give our time, attention, skills and resources in those choices. By these things, people will see and future generations will benefit from our obedience to Jesus’ command.

If in God’s timing we are still here in another 50 or 100 years, I have no doubt my name will have passed from people’s memories. My hope is that we are building a legacy that brings honor to God’s name and many will know Him because of it. That will be our legacy.

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God: Just Another Cord?

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By Nate Champneys

God_Chord_Small

Over this past summer I joined a gym. This was a big step for me, as I have never really been to the gym before. And it’s funny, as I took in the whole gym experience as an outsider who also happens to be a pastor, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Church.

I have been in church my whole life, so I will never be able to experience it as an outsider. Even when I visit a new church, it’s still the Church, and I pretty much know what to expect. I can talk the lingo and I can fit right in at just about any church I walk into. But after my first visit to the gym, I thought to myself, “This must be what people feel like who come to church for the first time in their life.”

I felt like an idiot going into the gym. I had no clue what I was doing. It was rather uncomfortable. I walked up to the front counter and said, “Uh, I’d like to join.” They had me fill out a few papers, and five minutes later I was in. I walked in and I looked out across an ocean of equipment. There was a huge room with adjoining rooms with station after station of free weights and machines, some I mostly recognized and others I had no clue about. Treadmills and stationary bikes. Stair machines and bench presses. Everyone there seemed to know exactly what they were doing. It was completely normal to them and completely abnormal to me.

As I worked out over my first few weeks, it became very clear that, to some people, this was their life and everything revolved around the gym. They were there multiple hours every day, and their bodies looked like they might never leave this place. Some of them looked like they could break me in half. These people were fit! But there were also others like me, people who came whenever they had time. To us, we went to the gym not because we enjoyed it but because we knew we needed some exercise.

And this is perfectly fine right? “Different strokes for different folks,” as they say. Many things in life are like this. One thing for some people can become the object around which everything in life is structured, and for others it is simply another thing further down their list of priorities, if it’s even a priority at all. The differences between people can be funny, and sometimes even frustrating, but this part of human nature was very deliberately created for a specific purpose within the community of faith. Romans 12 makes it clear that we are supposed to be different from each other. Some of us are passionate about teaching. Others of us are not. God created our differences, and no one is more important than the other.

BUT, there is a huge difference between our passionate pursuit of what we are gifted and talented at and a passionate pursuit of a relationship with God. Unlike my relationship with the gym, with God it cannot be a “whenever I get to it” mentality. Jesus said, “Be either hot or cold, but if you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15). In our pursuit of Him, He wants it to be all or nothing. Living in our culture, it’s easy to lose sight of this. For many, the Church seems to be just another membership, much like the gym. Yes, some people make it their life, but many others have this mindset: “If I have time between work, family, camping, and my kids’ sports, then I will fit it into my life.”

Think of your life as a generic power strip. You choose what you are going to plug in; you only have so many spots because you only have so many resources. You may plug in a spouse, family, work, sports, a hobby (e.g., the gym), entertainment, or travel. The reality is that we have limited time, energy, and finances at our disposal, and many times God gets pushed to the last and final spot in the line, or He’s even removed altogether.

Before our lives in Christ, this power strip analogy was perfect. Back then it was our life and we lived it for ourselves, but as Christians this analogy is completely backwards. We like to think that our lives are just that: our lives. However, Paul tells us the opposite in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.” God bought your life. He doesn’t want to simply be another part of your life, just another cord to plug in. You cannot simply “plug in” God next to your spouse, kids, work, or hobby and think that He is simply another cord. God is the source of all power. He IS the power strip. He gave you your life and He has asked you to give it back to Him. So the question is now, what does He desire you to devote HIS resources to? Spouse? Kids? Education? Work? Hobbies? Ministry? These are not bad things. They are actually great things. But just what is your number one priority? Are you living your life as though it is your own, or are you living your life as though it is the life that God purchased? God has said to us, “Love me with all your heart, soul, strength and mind” (Luke 10:27).

What does it mean to have God be number one? What does it mean for Him to be the Sun that your life revolves around? Take a look at your life. Think about what all your time, your physical and mental energy, and your money is devoted to. Whose life are you living?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:1-4, 17)

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Community: Are You Ready to Give Up?

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By Martin Schlomer

Have you ever had something really important that you wanted to talk about, but you didn’t know how? It’s a frustrating experience to say the least!

My issue is community or, more appropriately, friendships. Dan Amos, at the end of his Annual Report, writes a sentence that feels totally out of context. He writes, “Community is an Elim strength, but there’s much more to do as many are lonely and hurting, leadership included.” Why does he write this at the end of his report? He—and we—are frustrated, and he doesn’t know what to do about it. Dan and I have wrestled with this issue for many years. Overall, people experience Elim as a friendly, welcoming, and genuine community, but many experience great difficulty making friends. When push comes to shove, they admit they’re lonely. Some of these individuals are even leading ministries.

Why is this a problem? Is it just an Elim problem? This week, I’m in Phoenix visiting a church and shadowing their leadership team. This church has a reputation for “having their stuff together.” There are a number of things they’re doing that I’m interested in learning more about, and the way they catalyze community is one of them. Imagine the frustration I felt when I pressed them on the question, “How do you move your people into meaningful and engaging community?” and they said, “This is one of our weakest areas. We’re not doing very well.”  This is one of the reasons I flew 2,000 miles and sat in a very small seat between two large men for three hours! Needless to say, this is not just an Elim problem; it is a human problem. We give reasons such as busyness, an inability to connect, shyness, lack of reciprocation, not knowing how, or past hurt. The reasons are numerous and varied. The result is that people often give up, throw in the towel, build walls of self-protection, or look for greener pastures.

What can a person do to deal with the problem? I used to believe that if we addressed the people’s reasons by structuring solutions or giving more biblical understanding regarding community, the problem would be fixed. However, while those strategies may have helped, the problem still persists. Believe me, over 20 years I’ve tried everything I could think of. Recently, however, I’ve been thinking about a simple yet profound verse that Jesus told all those who want to be His disciples.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.   John 13:34-35 (NLT)

These words provide the motivation and method for community relationships. Jesus is our motivation, and how we have experienced Him is our method. “What about me and my needs, my hurts and my disappointments?” According to Jesus, these reasons don’t determine my decisions or approach to relationships. I know, that sounds calloused. However, if Jesus used our reasoning, He would have thrown in the towel early in His ministry and left us for greener pastures. He never would have washed their feet. He never would have gone to the cross. Then where would we be? Jesus knew loneliness. He knew betrayal. He knew disappointment. He knew rejection. He knew [fill in the blank], but He never threw in the towel and left for greener pastures. He simply chose to love. He experienced community in the midst of the Trinity and He chose to share this community with us.

What’s the answer? My encouragement is threefold. First, as you engage individuals, speak into their lives words that Jesus has spoken into your life.  Second, do for others what Jesus has done for you. If you have received mercy, show mercy; received grace, show grace; received encouragement, give encouragement; received forgiveness, show forgiveness. You get the idea. Third, think about the words that you long to have spoken into your life and give others the gift of these words. By doing these simple things, we may change another person’s life as well as our own. We begin to change from the inside out! But there is more: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.” In doing these things, we begin to change from the inside out, and we show to the world that we are Jesus’s disciples.

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Exalting God in the Everyday

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By Beau Leaman

About 3 years ago our men had the pleasure of hearing from a renowned speaker at the yearly men’s retreat. This speaker put a passion and fire within our guts to go out and live a special phrase many in our congregation still chew on and think about today: “Put God first, life goes best.” It was a simple phrase, yet thought provoking to say the least. As we all know, with every mountaintop there is always a Blue Monday (or valley). How do we meet God in the everyday, valley-like, mundane we call “life”?

There have been many times in my life when insecurity, discontentment, and promises for a brighter future have crept up into my flesh and made me question if there is purpose in my every day. It creeps up while working a job that pans out to be the opposite I always envisioned for myself growing up. What is my purpose? Where is God’s will? What am I doing?

As a Christian in the workplace, I have wrestled through countless thoughts on what my primary focus should be as a member of God’s Kingdom. Should I be a simple and humble man that takes no part in the works of the flesh? Should I be characterized as someone with great passion and energy in what he does? Should I be silent in my representation and let my actions speak for Whom I truly work for? Should I display stress and frustration in the workplace or my neighborhood? In the mundane, how do I exalt God and enjoy Him every moment of every day?

As I write these words, please understand that I come with a posture of complete humility and an awareness of a continual need of sanctification in all areas of my life, but this subject weighs heavy. Whether you are a full-time worker, part-time worker, retired, enrolled in school, or a stay-at-home parent, I know we all wrestle with similar questions. I was encouraged by this scripture and I hope you are as well.

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, and He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, NKJV)

I embrace these words as David embraced the promises of His Shepherd in Psalm 23. I embrace the fact that we are a special people that are set apart even in the valley and even in the mundane. Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” I’m comforted to know that, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:13, I’m chosen for salvation through sanctification by the help of the Spirit. I’m not alone! I have an Advocate that sits at the right hand of the throne of Yahweh! I have help and that’s God Himself in the Spirit living inside me! What great comfort and peace this brings: I’m not alone.

I want to leave us with a few questions that require some thinking, questions I currently wrestle with. Should we be a people with the most passion and energy in our neighborhoods, homes, and workplaces? Should we be the absolute best at what we do for our Lord’s sake? Should we be a humble people that boasts only in Christ crucified? How do I put God first in this situation? I conclude with a statement from John Piper: “Eternal security is a community event.” Paul is specific that our communication should build up and give grace to the hearers. May the Spirit walk with us both individually and collectively as a Body as we pursue our daily goal of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

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New Life’s Resolution

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By Jeff Foerster

Ick. I feel like I need to wash my soul. There’s so much sin being exalted everywhere I look and listen. The stench is almost palpable. My eyes are assaulted and my ears bombarded with tales from this mad, mad world. Evil is celebrated and good is denigrated. For the unrighteous there are parades and guest appearances and accolades heralding courage. The righteous receive scorn and abuse.

I could sit with you and spout example after example of our wayward culture and the broken people we champion. I could explain how shame has been banished to a foreign land while new ways of doing evil are eagerly pursued and found greatly amusing by the many. I could and you could as well, but to what end? It’s easy to get lost in the fog of it all. But find our way out we must.

We grieve over the state of our country. We want our culture to repent. But do we recognize our own sin? Do we grieve over our sin? Is there mourning in the house of God? What I speak of is our need for repentance. We began this way. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ began their journey with it. Far from being a one-time event, repentance is a daily need for every Christian. It’s a way of life. When I repent I am agreeing with God that the sin in my life stinks. I am calling it what it is: not a “mistake” I have made, but evil I have chosen. I declare that it hurts the God who died for me and mars the relationship between us.

Repentance begins when each of us takes an honest look inside our own heart. Paul encourages us to pursue this evaluation of self; as he writes in 1 Corinthians 11:31, “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged” (by God). I write this to you knowing that just as Scripture says judgment begins with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17), judgment falls on my own heart with the pouring out of these words. How can I help those drowning in our culture if I have sin unresolved within me (Matthew 7:3-5)?

This life of repentance requires a knowledge of sin. Instead of looking to my neighbor to determine right and wrong, I must turn toward God and His instruction, written for us in the Bible. Regular reading, listening, and studying provides a foundation of truth. “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).

What if I still don’t know, or can’t put a name to, my sin? Ask of God and He will help. It is His joy for you to be purged of sin, being conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Furthermore, David prays, “Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression” (Psalm 19:13).

It’s true one needn’t be a Pharisee to find fault in our generation, but our first order of business must be to face our own lives with a sense of humility before our Righteous Judge. If you care about our country, if you care about our culture, if you care about the lost ones whom Jesus loves, start off this year with a bang! I invite you to join me in making a resolution for 2014. Better than exercising more or eating healthier, this resolution will truly change your life and the lives of others, forever:

“I resolve to spend 2014 in daily repentance of my sin before our holy God.”

—Who’s with me?

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