Following Jesus

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By Stan Peterson

Following Jesus is simple yet profoundly difficult. To be a disciple we are called to follow Jesus in the example of His life that we see in the Gospels and through His commands to us. The simple part is that it’s very clear how we are to follow Him. But here’s where the difficulty lies: Jesus calls us to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1.15).

We can trust God and all that He calls us to because of the Gospel. The Gospel is the clarion call by and in which we can trust God. God was generous enough to give us His one and only Son as a sacrifice for our sins, once and for all—PERIOD! This knowledge is sufficient enough for us to trust God in and with all of our lives.

Therefore, at the heart of the matter, we are to be a people who walk in faith in this life (Ephesians 2.8-9; Gal. 2.20). Faith in what? Is it a blind faith that we are to walk in and by? “Just believe and your life will be better, Jesus will take care of all your problems.” No, Jesus does not take away our problems, He does not meet us on the other side of our problems (“clean yourself up before you come to Him”); instead, He communes with us in the midst of our problems. That is the good news—God is present with us. He rewards us with Himself! He is our reward, He is our treasure, He is the One Pearl of great price. Our faith is in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. It is impossible to please God without faith, for He who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11.6). By faith we enter into being a disciple, and by faith we continue being a disciple. This faith is in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

We will all come face to face with great difficulties in this life. It could be forgiving a friend who has betrayed us; loving and doing good to those who hate us; giving to a friend who continually asks of us; going the extra mile when we are emotionally out of gas; or even, to him who sues the pants off of us, giving him our jacket as well. When these difficulties come, they should take us back to Jesus’ command to repent and believe in the Gospel, for He is wholly sufficient for us. He is our reward, He is our treasure, and He is with us! Repent and believe in the Gospel.

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In Love with Death

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By Jeff Foerster

Are you more in love with life, or with death?

An odd question. Yes, it must be odd. If not, then requiring a second look. Are you aware of all the death surrounding us?

Prime time dramas featuring corpses and gore, “reporting” shows detailing serial killers and victims of various violent crimes, and movies containing dozens of violent deaths are regularly offered up. We are fascinated by “bones” and “criminal minds” and bringing vengeance upon men named “Bill.” The public has become captivated by vampires and zombies alike. So mainstream has this become that zombies have left the horror film genre and ventured into video games, documentaries, comedies, and even romances (yes, you read that right).

For those of you feeling “safe” from my description thus far, consider the UFC sporting events, hockey games, or any sampling of the nightly “news.” We are saturated; violence is a way of life here. So what?

Before you think that I am here to claim a moral high ground and spit words toward the wanton masses below, I need say that I first write for my own instruction on this matter, then pray that you may benefit as well. I am also not presupposing I know the detail of what you should feed your mind and heart upon (other than the Bible). I do not have a list of dos and don’ts for you to follow. My desire is for your careful consideration of how we live and the consequences of doing so.

That said, I believe there is a numbing quality to acts of violence, like so much novocaine before a dental procedure. The first injection assaults the senses with a sharp pain in the flesh. The second exposure is unpleasant, but with somewhat less perceptible injury. After just a few minutes the application of any further doses can be endured or even ignored, as previous exposures have numbed most feeling away. So too does living with regular doses of violence dull any remaining sensitivity.

This frequent exposure to violence and death does more than serve to generally numb us; it can make us complacent toward evil. Another murder, another death, another blow to the head. Each subsequent violation means less and less.

What are we doing?! What does a believer in the Lord of life have in common with all this death? Is it entertaining to watch vampire lore mock the sacrificial blood of our Savior? What do I gain from watching one athlete beat another man, who bears the image of the immortal God, until he can no longer stand? Is it amusing to see “zombies”—those alive in body, yet dead in spirit (sound familiar?—Ephesians 2:1-3) slaughtered in so many creative ways?

This violence, however, is yet an accomplice to a greater crime. I fear for myself, for you and me alike. I fear that I might be blunting my passion for the things that God has a passion for. I hope and pray that this possibility causes real fear within you, fear that leads you to flee from what numbs your heart into complacency and hopelessness. Fear that drives you to the pure Word of the God who has no equal. His word has power, power to deliver from death unto life eternal.

Our God and Father, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). Do you have within you a strong desire to see those lost in your family, in your neighborhood, and at your workplace come to a saving relationship with Jesus? In a dying generation, we have the words of life!

Many things I don’t know, but I do know this: when nightly “news” recounts neighborhood death tolls and when viewing rotting corpses and severed appendages turns from being repugnant to mere background noise in entertainment, our acceptance of something that we as believers in the Lord of life should flee gains strength and diminishes our passion to see the lost snatched from the jaws of death and the fires of hell (Jude 23). Instead, “I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil” (Romans 16:19) so that you “may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

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FINANCES: What’s Our Status?

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By Pastor Martin and Jeff Foerster

Talking (or writing) about money is usually a touchy subject with people. However, at Elim, you have asked us to keep you informed regarding the church’s financial status.

Last year was an amazing year. In its first quarter (January-March) we experienced an average weekly giving of $7,352 and our average weekly budget was $6,505. We celebrated God’s goodness and this congregation’s generosity and faithfulness.

During its second quarter (April-June) we saw a decline –which is always expected as we head into summer – but the average weekly giving was $6,606, which was still above budget.

Fast-forward to the fourth quarter (October-December) and average weekly giving bounced back to $6,903. However, this amount was buoyed significantly by the last three weeks of December, when we experienced extraordinary year-end giving, due in part to our Give Away Sunday.

When looking at the big picture for 2013, the 2014 budget, which requires an average weekly giving of $6,909, seemed reasonable and well within our financial capacity.

However, giving for 2014 has started out a lot like the stock market: Down! Our average weekly giving through February 2nd has been $4,964. As you can tell, this is $1,945 per week short of our budget. While giving will fluctuate month to month, it doesn’t normally dip this far below budget for more than a week or two at this time of the year.

As the Elders and Stewardship Team pray through this issue and seek God’s wisdom we ask the inevitable question: “Why?” Is the decline due to the mortgage being paid off, and therefore people don’t feel the need to give? Is the decline due to higher healthcare costs related to the Affordable Care Act? Ultimately, we don’t know the answers to these questions.

The Elders are informing the Elim Body of this need and then calling us to pray for discernment for the Elder board and Stewardship Team. Pray also for a renewed faith and willingness to honor the Lord with our finances. We are fond of the truth that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills but He expects us to be responsible stewards of the beef He has given to us.

In addition, we are freezing the following spending until giving meets budget.

  • Pastoral Staff expense accounts.
  • All non-essential property spending.
  • All non-essential ministry program spending.
  • Pastoral Staff H.S.A. (Health Savings Account) distributions

While we may not understand the decline in giving, I realize that many people already give sacrificially. You have said “no” to many things so you can say “yes” to honoring our Lord. Thank you! Your sacrificial gifts are sacred to God, and Elim’s leadership feels the weight of responsibility to use them wisely to further Christ’s mission for His church.

I also realize that many people may not be giving sacrificially, or some not at all. I would encourage you, like the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:5, to present yourselves first to our Lord and then to the work of Elim. Stewardship begins as a matter of the heart: A heart first for the Lord and then for His work.

Now that the mortgage is paid off, (a savings of $304 per week or $1,320 per month) what’s next? The Elders are praying through options. In the near future, we will present some options for Elim to prayerfully consider. So far, we have briefly discussed the much-needed repair and expansion of the Youth House (aka MOPs house, Children’s Ministries House …) to partnering with a church plant in the Puyallup area. I’m certain that as we continue to pray and wait on our Lord, more ideas will come to the table as well as much-needed clarity. Until then, we have established the Freedom Fund. This is a fund where we make monthly deposits out of our budget that would have gone to make the mortgage payment.

Given how God has blessed us in the past, we trust that even during this present shortfall God has great things in store as we dedicate ourselves to following Him! Therefore we will praise Him and seek Him. We worship because of how He has delivered in the past, and how He will deliver in the future. Whatever He has planned, we rush toward it expectantly, excited to see how His greatness will be demonstrated in the face of these circumstances.

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