32 Years and Counting

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Martin & Kim Wed Pic (2)By Martin Schlomer

Today, Kim and I celebrate 32 years of marriage! How could this happen? After all, over the years many of our friends (who say they love Jesus, too) have opted out, choosing to divorce rather than honor their marriage vows.

I need to admit something. Saying “I love Jesus” is not enough to stay in a marriage until death do you part. Staying in a marriage takes more than this. I know this isn’t something a pastor is supposed to say, but I’m being honest. Over the years, our marriage hasn’t been bad; it just hasn’t been bliss. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had bad moments and we’ve had blissful moments. But there is more to this journey than these moments.

Thirty-two years ago, when we said to God and to each other “I do,” we were very broken, sinful individuals. Sure, we thought we had it all together (at least I did). However, 32 years has taught me some hard lessons on what it means to grow up and be a man.

I’ve learned that Jesus is not just my Savior, He is my example and I must follow Him even when I don’t want to.

I’ve learned that God wants me to grow up, and He will use Kim to accomplish this goal. I need to put on my man pants and stop whining and feeling sorry for myself, because I don’t always get what I want when I want it and how I want it.

I’ve learned that if I want something done and I want her to do it, perhaps I’m the one that needs to do it. Kim is not my servant; she is my partner, my lover, and my best friend.

I’ve learned to enjoy the activities she wants to do (like hiking, bicycle riding, walking). While I may never enjoy these activities as much as she does, my world expands beyond my own desires and the bonds between us are strengthened. In doing so, she has learned to participate in the activities I enjoy (like motorcycle riding, road trips, and motorcycle riding).

I’ve learned to discuss the mundane topics of life (“How was your day?”, “What do you think about?”, etc.). By doing so, connections are formed and strengthened so that we can handle the hard discussions of life.

I’ve learned to be kind. After all, she is the daughter of Almighty God and He assures me that He has her back!

I’ve learned to love her for who she is, not for who I want her to become. Early in our marriage, I had idolatrous fantasies of who I wanted her to be. These were toxic! I’ve learned that the “real deal” (who she is) is the “best deal.” Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I’ve learned to repent frequently because my sinful desires continue to war against my soul. While I’m not who I was, I’m not who I will one day be. God uses Kim continually to work on me, exposing fault lines in my character that need to be transformed. Repentance is what keeps this process moving forward. Without repentance, I sabotage this process and poison our joy.

While the past 32 years have been an adventure with many peaks and valleys, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier and more content in my marriage. Kim has allowed me to flourish as a man.

Kim, by God’s incredible grace, here’s to another 32 years! I love you!

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Starting Point to the Kingdom

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By Beau Leaman

Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” (Matthew 5:3). I believe all Scripture to be intentional, persuasive, and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). It is for this reason that Jesus intentionally started the Sermon on the Mount with this key phrase, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.” What exactly does this phrase mean? Does it mean the Spirit of God inside us must be poor? Is it talking about our own spirit? Does it refer to our personal happy barometer in how we’re feeling? Does it refer to our hope and endurance? Does it mean that those feeling thankful in the moment are blessed? I believe in order for us to ask the question we have to understand two points. These points are both fundamental and foundational if we’re to ask the question, “What exactly does this phrase mean?” Let’s begin discussion.

The first of two points we must ask ourselves in answering this question has to do with the awareness of our depravity. As fallen creatures, we often stumble around keeping clear of the “major sins” of today’s evangelical Christianity. For some of us (depending on where you’re at), I think it’s easy to get caught in the feel-good bubble because we have not committed adultery, engaged in drunkenness, or are in a homosexual lifestyle. We often replace these “major sins” with “respectable sins.” Examples would include: gossip, gluttony, outbursts of anger, lust, slander, etc. Later, in Matthew 5:8, He continues with saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God calls us to purity and holiness and the more we are pure and holy, the more we shall see God. Our depravity fits perfectly with this analogy. The more we realize what separates us from God, the greater the realization of our depravity. Oswald Chambers says, “The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, ‘Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.’ … The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Chris accomplishes His work.” This leads to the second point.

In Matthew 4:17 it says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus starts his initial preaching with a call to repentance and starts the Sermon on the Mount with a call to realize our need for God’s help. What a point to be made! Repentance is the natural follow-up once we realize the proper place He holds in our life. This repentance cries from a genuine heart of poverty and genuine trust that He will and has the power to forgive us. This forgiveness frees us to do His work without any footholds restraining us to doing His work.

May God grant us the wisdom to realize and acknowledge those areas of our life we’ve held back from having a genuine and heartfelt relationship with Him. May God grant us the power to talk with Him no matter how big or small the circumstance may be. May God open our eyes so our faith and trust in Him would increase all the more for His Kingdom’s sake.

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From Trash to Truth

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-Jeff Foerster

I was minding my own business when BAM! God did it again. He has an uncanny way of taking truth revealed in Scripture and putting flesh to it. From the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision and Jesus Christ’s incarnation, to a recent garbage collection day, God teaches us in many ways.

I remember it like it was only two weeks ago. A warm summer Thursday had turned to evening, and with it plans for the next day were being hatched. Friday is pickup day for garbage, recycling, and yard debris; however, this was no ordinary Friday—it was July 4th. As you will recall, this day marks the Declaration of Independence from the monarchist regime known as Great (though not to us at the time) Britain and its head, King George III. Well, I don’t need to tell you what happened after our forefathers issued this most famous proclamation (hint: we won).

This holiday in remembrance of such an historic, world-changing event could arguably be the most important uniquely American holiday on all of our calendars. Though some may beg to differ, I will assume you’re agreeable and move on.

You see, I was abiding in Oregon for a few days at my mother’s place, and when I am in town I take care of a few household chores, such as setting out the curbside pickup items. This particular evening my mom and I had a conversation that went something like this: “Remember, trash gets picked up tomorrow.” “Does recycling go out tomorrow?” At that time I looked at the schedule on the door that indicated this was in fact a recycling waste pickup week. “Wait, tomorrow is the Fourth of July. They’re not coming ‘til Saturday.” “Today is Thursday; this is the day I put my garbage cans out.” “There is no way they’re going to be working tomorrow, on a holiday, one of the most important American holidays. If they work tomorrow, when would they ever get a day off? It just doesn’t make any sense. No, they’re not coming tomorrow.”

Now, I had already placed the garbage can out and had no desire to undo work only to do it again the next day, so I left it curbside. The recycling can was full and by the house, and the yard debris can I left empty as I planned to fill it on Friday for the day-late Saturday pickup.

“I need you to trust me,” I said. “This will be a good exercise for you to relax and know that it will all work out.” I went to sleep, confident that my plan was well thought through. And then it happened. I awoke with a start. There have been less than half a dozen such awakenings in my life, the last which I remember having occurred on September 11th, 2001.

What did I hear, but the sound of moving parts and engines revving. “What!?! This can’t be! They’re not supposed to be here!” My mind raced from thought to thought. My body leapt from sleep and propelled me toward the door to confirm my fear. My eyes darted from can to can around the cul-de-sac desperately trying to determine what had already taken place and what I could still salvage. Was there time? Did they only pick up the trash which was curbside already? Could I still get the other two cans out? I don’t need to tell you that I was wearing less than the standard uniform for such public activity, and I imagine my rapid and confused motions may have been enough to elicit comparison to a Charlie Chaplin film.

I dashed to the yard debris can, jerking it into motion and around the corner to a small pile of arborvitae trimmings. In they went, and out it went to the curb as the sound of trucks broadcast their presence throughout the neighborhood. Through foggy eyes and an even foggier mind I quickly decided to grab the trimmers and head out back to the plum tree. A few hasty slices later I could see through the chain-link fence and across the street the truck against which I raced. My armload of branches jostling, I hustled to the can. No truck in sight. I made my way back toward the plum tree, but it was not to be. Like a hawk upon a field mouse, that truck and its driver swept in and took away what little I had assembled. The recycling waste, it turned out, would have to wait for another two weeks.

I realized somewhat later that morning what really happened. You might see these events as nothing but a little arrogance followed by an opportunity to eat a little crow over breakfast, but you’d be missing something, and so had I. On the pickup schedule, posted carefully on the door, was all I had needed. It was the same schedule I had used to determine this was the week for recycling. At the bottom of that printed page were the words: “Drivers work all weekdays except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.”

Right there: everything I needed. I had used careful reasoning with all the information I had, as logically as I could. I had no misgivings. I was certain I was right. I counted any other idea as not worth the time to consider it. But in the end my sincerely held belief was simply wrong. The truth was knowable and it had been made available to me in writing and through another person. I had even read the very document containing the information I needed, but paying attention only to the parts I wanted.

Just like this anecdote illustrates, truth is knowable, and this, through the Bible, God’s Word. It is there in writing, and echoed through the lives and words of believers around us. We must seek out the very truth of God in the words of life He has given us. Our own thoughts, however carefully crafted, are not enough. Recall what God has said: “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

As I had referenced the schedule for pickup, but had missed a crucial aspect of it, so too is it possible to read the Scriptures and miss its most vital parts. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful …” (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus, while recorded as praying for the disciples in John 17, says, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth.” This is profound in itself, but when strengthened by other parts of Scripture (see John 1:1 and 14:6) it brings great depth of understanding and makes visible the truth in flesh.

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Staying Connected

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By Jim DeAngelo

With the summer in full swing, kids out of school, and family vacations abounding, we set out on our annual 4th of July extended family vacation. This year we went to the lake rather than the beach and spent seven days in the sun. During these trips, we get the chance to connect with our adult children, their spouses, grandchildren, and the friends they bring along.

These times can be stressful with all the activity, changed environments, hard beds, sore muscles, late nights. Old conflicts can surface, and, if given a chance, they can damage our relationships rather than renew them. We have a choice on how we provide an environment for renewal. We need to ask ourselves if we remembered to bring Jesus on the trip.

I struggle with being who God designed me to be if I don’t spend my daily personal time with Him. Spending quality time first thing in the morning works best for me. When I make God the priority and put Jesus on the throne of my life, I find that I can be the patient, understanding, helpful, loving servant I am called to be. When I am who God designed me to be, being the leader, the whole family does better and we connect and share in a much deeper way. When I fail to lead, the connections become more about the activities instead of the relationships we have with each other. The enemy can get an opening and conflicts can surface.

Having fun and doing exciting activities is great. Most of us desire adventure and change from the routine. Yet what I remember most about these times together are the connections and time we spend in loving each other. These are what I think about when I recall my time spent on vacation. And it’s only through Christ that I’ve found it possible to do this in a meaningful way.

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Renewal

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By Jeff Foerster

“How are you?” – “I have been so-o-o busy.” How many times have you heard someone tell you the same, or even said it yourself? Amidst the action items, priority lists, or errands being run and yet to be done, where is rest?

Rest is a reoccurring theme found in Scripture. In the beginning God performed His creative works and then, on the seventh day, He rested. We find it again in God’s commands to His people Israel, and it even makes His top-ten list, telling them to weekly imitate Him in obtaining rest. As those invited into His family, to be His children, we are told that we can rest in the Lord Jesus Christ and upon His finished work. Done. Complete. Finished. Did you hear me?

In Hebrews we are told of a rest that had not yet been entered into by the Israelites. It was a rest beyond physical boundaries into spiritual ones. And again, in Revelation God reveals that we will find rest from the weight of this sinful world and all those who detract from the gospel of our Lord and Savior.

Rest is good. In seeking rest we acknowledge our own limitations and shout, “God is my Victor, His grace is sufficient for me!” In one month we have the opportunity as a congregation to do just that. Beginning in August and ending in November we at Elim are sending Pastor Brian Sharpe into a time of rest, a time of renewal.

This three-month sabbatical mirrors that which Pastor Martin entered into last year. It’s a time of declaring God’s provision for the church and a time of rest and renewal for Brian, that he may focus all his mind, his heart, his soul, and his strength upon the Lord. In doing so Brian is strengthened and prepared for the good works that God will do through him, which have been planned since the foundations of the world.

For us at Elim it brings opportunity to see the work that God is accomplishing here as larger than any one person. This period of rest can accomplish the same for us as it is accomplishing for Brian: serving to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. May His name be praised forever!

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