Challenges

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Dan Amos

I am thankful for my job. I even like my job, but it would consume me if I let it. I was issued a laptop computer and a smartphone, both of which are expected to be nearby or on me pretty much all the time. The job wears me out, and I know that if I sit down when I get home, the evening is over. I need other things in my life to pull me away, challenges that stretch me in other ways.

Ironically, one of my current challenges is generated by my employer. There’s a program across my company to count the steps taken in a day and to meet certain thresholds. What it has shown me is that I don’t get to move a lot. I knew that, but now it is quantified. So, Fran has been helping me, and we have been doing a lot of walking. I’ll come home from work and she’ll ask if I want to walk. I’ll respond, “Absolutely not, let’s go.” This has not only helped me get moving, but it also has been a great time for Fran and me to talk at the end of the day.

My family at Elim plays a life-expanding role as well. The Elder Board provides me an opportunity to serve. Community groups give me an opportunity to connect and process life with brothers and sisters. There are individuals that give me accountability and mentoring relationships. The most obvious and consistent role is every Sunday getting together with everyone at Elim and worshipping together. There we praise God in song, in prayer, in giving, and in the hearing of the Word.

This last Sunday we heard from Ernest, and he challenged me to read through the entire Bible. Fran and I have decided to do that together. Every day, the war against Christ’s kingdom grows, and the sword we’ve been given is the Bible. I need to wield that sword well.

The couch’s call is strong, but challenges keep me moving. Thank you, Elim, for your role in challenging me.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Popcorn Parallels

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Nate Champneys

Popcorn KaelenThe other day my 4-year-old son asked me if we could make popcorn (or “caw-corn,” as he calls it). So I got out the oil and popcorn and put a generous amount in the bottom of a pan. Kaelen sat on the counter next to me and waited excitedly. It finished popping and I poured it into a large bowl and handed it to him. A giant grin crossed his face as he took the bowl that was almost as big as him. We sat down to watch a movie together. Now I hadn’t made a bowl for myself but had just given him the whole large bowl, so, naturally, as we sat there I started to nibble from his bowl.

As I took a handful he turned to me and said very seriously, “Dad, don’t eat it all.” I replied, “Don’t worry, I won’t.” A couple minutes later I took another small handful.

“Dad, you’re gonna eat it all.”

“Kaelen, it’s okay, I can always make more,” I said.

As the minutes passed and we ate together from the giant bowl of popcorn (that no child could possibly finish by themselves, I might add), he got more and more adamant that I was going to eat it all. I finally turned to him and said with a smile, “Kaelen, do you realize that I have access to pretty much an unlimited supply of popcorn? If the bowl runs out I can go make more. If we run out here at home I could go and buy 100 pounds of popcorn if I wanted to. I promise you there will be enough popcorn.” Do you want to know his response?

“Dad, you’re gonna eat it all.”

Now this is a cute story of my life with a 4-year-old, but isn’t this really a picture of the way we are sometimes with our money and possessions? God has literally given us everything we have. Then when he asks us to give generously, we worry that there won’t be enough and we cling so hard to what we have. God is probably thinking, “Um … you realize that I have access to an unlimited supply of money and resources?” And, like my son, what is our response?

“But God, you’re gonna take it all.”

My wife and I have been married almost nine years, and for a long time we did not give faithfully. We had the same attitude as Kaelen; we gave only when we could see that there was more than enough, or when we felt guilty about our lack of giving. But God taught us through many difficult circumstances that he doesn’t want us to live in either of these places. Rather than saying we trust Him when things are easy and grasping for control when things are hard, He wants us to live in faithful dependence, trusting Him to provide for all our needs, in good times and bad. Rather than feeling guilty about our lack of trust, He wants us to live in joy by giving generously.

God doesn’t need your money. He just doesn’t. But that’s not the point of giving. God is not a God that needs anything from us, just as there is nothing that I technically need from my son. That is not why we are called to give. Giving is not about meeting God’s needs, but rather it is about our human need for prayerful dependence on our Father. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). This is a brutal truth and a haunting reality. We cannot cling to the control of our lives and possessions and serve God at the same time.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”—Matthew 6:25-27

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

The Last Word I Didn’t Want to Write!

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Martin Schlomer

“Overwhelmed” describes my emotions this week. There are no easy outs to the painful dilemmas many people we know are facing. Their only option is to endure. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just neither easy nor pleasant.

Our lives are both fragile and short. I know it doesn’t always feel like it, but they are. James said that this life is like a vapor; here today and gone tomorrow (James 4.14-15). How often do we ask, “Where has the time gone?” Honestly, this truth is unsettling! Why? I realize that I make a big deal over this very short earthly existence. This is not unreasonable. This reality is all I’ve experienced. Therefore, it seems reasonable to make a big deal over it, to hang on and fight for it.

However, there is another perspective, which I am trying to bring into my experience. This is the hope and reality of eternity. Instead of making a big deal over a very short and fragile period of time—70 years if we are fortunate—I want to loosen my grip on the here and now and make a big deal over our eternal existence. Eternity will never end! This is what counts! Preparing for this reality and living in light of this truth is the big deal! Without this perspective we easily lose hope.

At Elim, we enjoy the presence of those who are confronted with these painful realities of their immortality. Nancy and Doug Ide, to mention just two, are right there as they continue to fight the cancer in Nancy’s body through prayer and medicine. As they fight this battle, one can easily despair. However, as I pray for her I ask God, in addition to her healing, to overwhelm and speak to them with His presence—through His Holy Spirit—in a way that surpasses what human words can accomplish. This is what is happening! Nancy continues to hold onto Jesus as He holds onto her! While her circumstances are difficult, her peace is compelling! I want that kind of peace!

Please, continue to pray for Doug and Nancy along with Bethany, Taylor, Brian, and Andrew and his wife, Micha. Pray that God will meet them in this sacred time in those places words cannot touch!

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. — 1 Peter 1:3-8

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Pass the Baton or the Remote?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Beau Leaman

God has a sense of humor with these things. As I began to write this I violently choked on the glass of water I was drinking. Self-examining my heart is often difficult, but when writing about a subject like this it is intriguing the way the Spirit nudges oneself to examine their heart before talking on specific subjects. Oftentimes I have a sense that the closer I get to Jesus Christ, the more the enemy wants to turn up the heat. Living our lives in bold action is a dangerous and risky lifestyle. At the end of day we all attend the track meet, but some choose to run the race, while others choose to be spectators.

One of my favorite passages comes from 1 Corinthians 9:22-23. It says, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” Paul lived his life through confidence in the power and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul knew what it meant to draw near to God, and be a fisher of men. Today, we have an even greater gift in the life-giving nature of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit walks with us to conquer our greatest fears, and all too often His power is forgotten. Tertullian said, “The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit. A Christian is fearless.”

Part of Elim’s Mission Statement is too know, grow, and go. These three keys all go in succession. When we know God we will grow. When we grow we will want to go. There is an important key here that I want to communicate. We cannot pass the baton on the couch, and passing the baton is not the first step. The first step is knowing and drawing near to God. We do this by loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. How do we do this? We pray, we read his Word, we involve ourselves in life-giving community, and we cling to Ephesians 2:8-9. Through this process God begins to open our eyes and rip off the calluses, and we begin to have encounters with God.

Passing the baton must be a work of the Spirit. In John 14:17, it says, “the Spirit dwells in you, and will be with you.” Also, in Mark 13:11, it says the Spirit helps us speak in difficult situations. J.I. Packer says, “The Christian’s life in all aspects—intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness—is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it. So apart from Him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all.” The Spirit bears witness to the fact that we are sons and daughters of the Most High. We receive our boldness from the Spirit and He walks with us in our most difficult circumstances. To pass the baton, whether it be in the mundane or the crazy, we must draw near to God and fight for what Paul found most precious, the furtherance of the Kingdom and the fellowship of the saints. May we trust God in our encounters with others, live life in bold action, and answer in a firm “YES” when the Spirit beckons on this day, and forevermore.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.