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By Jim DeAngelo

I am profoundly blessed to regularly have the opportunity to share Jesus with friends, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and those who do not yet have a relationship with Jesus. I often think of these opportunities as having a meal with them, to taste and see how good the Lord is. I often receive more than I give. I’ve come to realize how I receive what is being said has significant impact on how receptive I am to the Holy Spirit’s direction of me through the conversation. I ask myself, “When I share, am I saying what the Holy Spirit wants me to share?”

These conversations about God in our lives are important. It is how we feed our spiritual selves and encourage each other toward the truths of God and His character. Like with a meal, God many times sets the table (agenda), prepares the meal (opens the heart and mind), and facilitates understanding (lets them digest the morsels). Given this, what part do we play in this important sharing experience?

Pause and think about this. None of this can occur without our participation with God. To be successful, God has to lead us.

I’ve found the biggest challenge is in learning to let God have the lead. I call this surrendering. Surrendering should be easy, right? Let God have His way, and I’m only along for the ride. I’ve found this to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I practice this every day, sometimes getting better at it and sometimes not.

What does this surrender look like? Jesus gave us many examples of surrendering, being obedient to the Father’s will, the most important being when Jesus surrendered to His Father in Matthew 26:42. “Again, for the second time, He went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.’” Jesus surrendered to the Father, going willingly to the cross so that we could all receive redemption from sin through Christ.

I found surrendering to God requires my active participation (agreement with and permission to lead me) in being transformed by the Holy Spirit. This includes:

  • Loving Him with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength,
  • Loving my neighbor as myself,
  • Being obedient to His commandments,
  • And recognizing that I am His ambassador.

I need to daily ask the Holy Spirit to show me where I err. I need to repent and turn away from those old behaviors, looking again at being spiritually minded and empowered through Him. I need to see my daily tasks, attitudes, and behaviors as acts of worship (doing what is right because I am in love with Christ). I need to recognize and appreciate my deep, abiding joy that I receive through doing what I know Jesus would have me do. I need to see “a joyous life” as the profound reward it is. I need to love my wife as Christ loves the church, to serve others as I am serving Christ, to receive truth in my life, and to always be receptive. I need to be willing to listen, to judge myself from another’s point of reference.

I find it necessary to check my feelings. If there is resentment, anger, frustration, a critical spirit, or defensiveness, then I know that I have a problem. The other person may or may not be correct in their assessment or point of view, but that doesn’t matter. I immediately know that I have wrong thinking and a bad heart condition when these negative emotions surface. My heart has hardened, I have judged myself better than the other person. I failed to understand that we all fall short, especially me.

When speaking into someone’s life, it is important to start from the right perspective. Truth being spoken in love, scripturally sound, consistent with God’s character, and Holy Spirit empowered. It is important to speak without criticism, judgment, condemnation, or manipulation. If I start by ensuring that I am in the right spirit, surrendered to God, then speaking truth into another’s life becomes what God intends and not what I might direct. In my experience, the other person seems to always know the difference between the two approaches. The difference starts with me being on right terms with God first and surrendered to His will. My speaking in love and with truth is not dependent on the other person. This is God’s way.

This is profoundly different and in contrast with the world. The worldly point of view would have us start with our judgment of another by seeing their faults through our eyes and perspective, then find fault with them and provide suggestions, etc. This approach produces resentment and broken relationships. It puts us first and surely destroys the godly joy of life.

We decide at these times which approach we are going to use by our attitude and perspective, God’s or the world’s. Which one of these approaches is our default? What will our choice be the next time the opportunity arises?

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I Want Results!

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By Jeff Foerster

Pursuing relational peace isn’t primarily about the results … or is it?

As Martin spoke on Sunday of peace-makers and their less desirable cousins, the “-breakers” and “-fakers,” I began to contemplate the idea of pursuing “results.” This concept is one I have been familiar with over recent years. I have attempted to hang constructed, idealistic expectations on the walls of my life like pictures and even built a few frames for the ones I was sure would stay.

The problem with working for results, is that results are uncertain. Goals are necessary. Goals are great. They make happy planners and provide a target to aim toward. They are much like puppies, however, providing initial happiness until the realization of their not yet being house-broken seeps in. They might not ruin the Oriental rug in the hallway on the first day, but it’s unrealistic to think every furnishing will remain intact.

The same thing takes place if we pursue “peace-making” with a required, predetermined outcome. The idealistic expectation is constructed and effort is put forth, yet with a selfish attitude that will almost surely dismantle any realistic chance of success. This attitude demands one result be achieved, leaving little room for God to work in the midst of flawed people.

It’s common to want difficult circumstances to evaporate and pleasantness to saturate our lives. This is not God’s greatest desire for you; it is that you and your spouse, children, family, friends, and even enemies, be transformed in greater and greater depth into the image of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and through this that God receive glory.

Should you pursue results? Well, yes, pursue peace because our God is a God of peace. In this pursuit, understand the results are nothing less than your own (and others’) transformation. And the power of this transformation does not rest in your effort alone, but is subject to the timing and the will of Almighty God.

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Big Targets

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By Dan Amos

Many years ago, Pastor Brian asked me to listen to a Seattle preacher. He was reportedly raw at times, but was getting press coverage for his teaching. I listened to him critically, looking for disagreement at first. What I heard was a good speaker who was challenging people, especially men, to be countercultural, to make Jesus their Lord, and, in the case of men, to be godly men. The message resonated with me, and I knew he had a gigantic target on him.

As time went on, I listened to hundreds of hours of preaching. I didn’t always agree with him, but on the major points there was agreement. The minor points weren’t worth making an issue over. For instance, he prioritized his family’s safety above all in the choice of vehicle. I choose a smaller vehicle more suited for urban use and more efficient in use of resources. It’s not a big deal.

Many times I heard him say he is not the person you would choose to have dinner with. Despite his fiery preaching, he’s an introvert and not the best company. He talked about how many feel they have a right to be the pastor’s friend and are upset when they are not.

He talked about his résumé, about how he started a church (too soon) right out of college with very little experience in leadership. Nothing in his education prepared him for management. He is a voracious reader and a gifted preacher with amazing recall. He preaches for an hour at a shot with no notes. But none of that makes him good with people.

This pastor is under attack. I don’t know what the charges against him are. He has not said, nor has his church. What he has said is he has made mistakes that he dealt poorly with some people and situations and has repented. That is, he apologized, attempted to restore what was broken and has changed. He has also stepped down from his role for a time as the elders of his church investigate the charges and evaluate what needs to be done.

What I have seen in the media (while I don’t know the hearts behind this), is angry, nonspecific complaints, many of which are against what is taught and an attempt to take down the teacher. They would have the gospel in their image and not evaluate the message against God’s Word.

I care because I love the Bible taught fiercely and the clear call to make a choice for or against God, and for men to accept the responsibility to lead in a Christlike manner. I care because thousands have heard the message and responded on their knees. I care because the gospel is the power to save our generation and the next.

So here’s the application for us. Our pastors are good men, but men. They have families to lead and provide for. They get tired and cranky, too. They have been trained in God’s Word, but they are learning management by trial and error. They struggle in their relationships just like us. Pastor Martin lives a pretty transparent life so we can see not only the mistakes, but also the power of a transformed life lived in humble obedience. It’s not perfection, but constant struggle.

Our pastors will say and do things we don’t like. I chastised Pastor Martin just this week for his praise of Apple (for which he remains unapologetic, too). But we’ve been given much grace and need to give that to each other, too—even our pastors. Our pastors are physically incapable of giving everyone a high level of individual attention. They have worked hard to raise up and train others to lead and care. We call them ministry leaders, community group leaders, mentors, Bible study leaders, accountability partners, and friends.

Our pastors have targets on them, too. It’s in the Bible: Jesus told us that those who would stand with Him will earn the hatred of the world. So continually give each other grace and lift each other up. And, rather than fling arrows at our pastors, stand with them, between them and those who would attack. It has happened before and will happen again.

Postscript: I have since learned the pastor has voluntarily resigned.

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More Than Conquerors

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By Nate Champneys

As I write this, I am sitting in a hospital room watching and waiting for my dear friend Robert to die. You would think that, since every human being has to die at some point, we would get used to death, but for some reason it is never easy. It is not easy for me to sit here. I really didn’t even feel like writing this, but it’s my week to write the Last Word, so I write.

Last night I asked Jesus what He thought I should write about. I hear, “More Than Conquerors.” “More Than Conquerors?” I think. What does that mean? I was reading Romans 8 last night, which is where that phrase comes from, but I still had no idea what I was supposed to write. I couldn’t sleep. Last I looked at the clock, it was 1:30 a.m. I awoke wide awake at 5:30 a.m. After lying there for a half hour I decided to get up and go over to the hospital.

It’s hard seeing Robert this way. A week and a half ago He had an aneurysm, followed by a significant stroke in his frontal lobe. Cognitively, he doesn’t seem to be “home,” but he is still alive. Barely. I find myself praying that God will just end his life now and not make him struggle any longer. The doctors have given him 24 to 48 hours.

But as I sit here watching my dear friend die, I think about Robert and what amazing things God has done in his life. It almost makes it a little easier. In the hospital bed in front of me lies a man who is drastically different because he has been with Jesus. What a crazy story of redemption. I was given the gift of being able to watch Jesus take a worn-down, tattooed, at times grumpy biker in a wheelchair and turn him into something new. On the outside he still looks like a tattooed biker. But even his friends that don’t know Jesus would tell you Robert is different. Robert spent much of his early life in the biker gangs. He has told me of many of the horrible things that he saw and did and for much of our friendship he has been haunted by his past. He’s carried guilt. Shame. Doubt. He sometimes doubted if Jesus could ever really forgive him of his past. Robert also had a problem with his knees that kept him in a wheelchair. He used to feel anger and bitterness at being trapped in the chair.

Change can be so gradual that while it is happening you can’t see it. For a long time I don’t think that even Robert could see the change in himself. But at some point over the last year there was no missing the new man that God was crafting Robert into. What a joy it has been to watch as Jesus chased down Robert and freed him from the burden of his past and anchored him into the reality that “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1). The last few months especially Robert has truly understood and held fast to that truth.

As I sit here in the hospital room I decide to read Romans 8 to Robert. Paul lays it out there. We have been chosen. Adopted. We are now beloved children of our heavenly Daddy. Jesus has conquered the power of sin and death. And now nothing can separate us from His love. Nothing. Because of that we are more than conquerors because of Him in us. There’s that phrase, “More than conquerors.” I look at Robert. I think I understand what I am supposed to write now. Robert’s life is a picture of Romans 8 from beginning to end. Because of Jesus in him, Robert is more than a conqueror. Even if Robert dies now, the enemy has no victory here.

Even if you weren’t in a biker gang like Robert, you may still wrestle with guilt from your past. The enemy may use your past as a way of heaping condemnation upon yourself. But this is not from God. The truth is that Jesus does not hold you in condemnation. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one.” (Romans 8:33-34). He has made us to be conquerors over sin, over our past. But the key word is “He.” Robert did nothing to be a conqueror to the power of sin in his life. Jesus did it all.

So as I sit here in room 612, I am saddened by the fact that my friend is fighting for his life, but at the same time I find joy in God’s goodness, and His faithfulness that I have seen in His pursuit of Robert. Robert’s body is old, broken down, and dying, and yet he is a new creation.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

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Pursuing Real, Honest Community at Elim

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By Martin Schlomer

This Sunday, Elim will host its first Small Group Fair. We will profile all the small group opportunities available during this season. However, regardless of the small group you choose to belong to, the experience will (and should) challenge you. Our goal is to “walk in the light,” as John writes in 1 John 1. What does this mean for community? Bob Thune and Will Walker wrote in their article “How to Get Real, Honest Community,” “If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. We have true community. We have real relationship. We’re finished pretending, hiding, covering up. You know the real me, and I know the real you. And that’s a good recipe for true friendship.” I encourage you to click this link and read the full article, because I believe it will introduce us to the challenge and freedom of genuine community we long to see embraced at Elim.

Come to Elim this Sunday, October 5, and find a way for you to be a unique part of our community.

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