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By Jim DeAngelo

This last Sunday was Father’s Day, and I found myself reflecting on my relationship with my father and also with my children. My father passed away from cancer when I was eleven, and I have fond memories of my time with him. My mother remarried, and my step-father proved to be abusive and controlling. My memories of those times are not pleasant, and the pain and suffering that came out of that for the entire family was broad and deep.

I thought about my relationship with Abba Father, about how profoundly He has changed my life over the last fifteen years after accepting Christ as Lord and Savior and, consequently, how He has changed the lives of my children. When my children were growing up, I worked hard to do a good job at being a parent, but found I fell very short. I provided, but didn’t spend the time nurturing them and growing my relationship as I should. My job often took me away for extended periods of time, and my relationships suffered. Yet the impact that Jesus had on my life and the relationship I now have with my Father in heaven through Christ has changed me. My heart was changed, and I became a relational father instead of a provider father. My children grew up and left home many years ago, but my relationship with them has continued to grow. This isn’t because my efforts made the difference, but it’s because my heart was changed and the effort was part of who I had become.

I couldn’t help spending time meditating on the profound impact my relationship with Jesus has changed my life and how my thoughts and understanding about Abba Father has changed, grown, and deepened. I was thankful, awed, and lifted. I praised Him for that change because of who I had become and the resulting impact on my family. Our Father in Heaven deserves our reverence, praise, and thanks.

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Purpose in Paper Boats

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By Nate Champneys

My five-year-old and I went down to the creek with some paper to make paper boats. In my mind I could just picture how awesome it would be to let those things go sailing down the creek. So we get down there and I fold the first one and I let it go down the creek. Kaelen was thrilled. But his excitement quickly faded into distress as the boat moved away. He waded after the boat and grabbed it.

“Kaelen, you have to let it go down the creek.” I said.

“No, I want it,” he said.

“Trust me, Kaelen. Let’s just see what happens.”

Frustrated, he slowly let it go. It went about 20 feet and got caught on a log. I waded over to it and Kaelen asked me for it. But I said, “No, dude, you have to let it go.” And I let it go and it sailed down the creek. By this point Kaelen is almost in tears and says, “But Daddy, I really want to keep the boats.”

I head back up the creek to where the stack of paper is sitting, frustrated because my beautiful plan of sailing boats down the creek with my son is not playing out the way I intended it to. But I suddenly think to myself, “Why am I so bothered by this? Who really cares if the boats go all the way down the creek or not? Isn’t the point of being here to have some quality time with my son? Instead I am driving him to tears.” Here I am, focused so hard on the end result of the boats, that I’ve forgotten that the goal of this outing was to have a date with my son. So I told Kaelen, “Okay buddy, I’m sorry. You can keep the boats.” The rest of the afternoon, I would make a boat and he would let it go ten feet or so, pick it up, and add it to his collection on the beach. (With the exception of a couple he let me send down the creek for my own enjoyment. 🙂 ) We came home with an armful of soggy paper boats, and my son was never more thrilled.

As I think about that day, I understand my mistake. I was focusing on what I viewed to be the end result: floating boats. I forgot about the process. I got focused on the “doing” and lost track of the “being,” the “doing” of sailing boats instead of the “being” of being a father to my son. This way of thinking is visible throughout my life and is something I fight daily. In another blog post I wrote about how God’s purposes are wrapped up inside the process of life. We tend to view things as “the end justifies the means” and focus on doing whatever we have to in order to accomplish a specific project. But from God’s perspective, I think that often the means ARE the end.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Sometimes we hear this verse and we think, “See, God is going to make everything I do prosper.” But that is not what this verse says, nor is it what the surrounding verses are trying to communicate. God is about His purposes. Not ours. In verse 35 Paul asks the question, “Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” This question implies that we will face these things. We may face trouble. We may face hunger or destitution. We may face persecution. How is that things working together for good? Well, according to my purposes, it isn’t. But it is good because all those bad things work together to accomplish the good thing: His purpose.

God is at work in us, with purposes all throughout the process of life, with the ultimate destination being greater than our immediate happiness, but more so, our holiness. Our job is not focus on the fact that we haven’t arrived at this destination but to be with him in the process, and trust him with it, knowing that we are deeply loved and leave the results up to Him.

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Muddy Water

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By Martin Schlomer

Kim and I love to hike. When we come to a lake we enjoy sitting beside it and gazing into it. We can see the fish and all of the underwater beauty. However, there are seasons when that beauty is lost because of muddy water.

Following Jesus is a beautiful pursuit. It’s filled with challenge, depth, and increasing beauty. However, there are times when its beauty and depth are lost in the muddy water of life’s questions and complexities.

Last Sunday, a person texted this question in response to the message: “What is the by-product of a passionate follower (disciple) of Christ?” I’ve thought A LOT about this. Left to my own thoughts, I can muddy the waters with many, many, many, many good thoughts. Since I wish to avoid muddy water, I will keep my thoughts brief and focused.

The first by-product is a growing awareness that Jesus loves you A LOT! Many people know this, but the growing awareness is a bit vague. This awareness is anchored in our identity in Him. If God was to write you a letter expressing how He sees and feels about you right this moment, what would He write? While we may all believe we are sons or daughters of God, on our insides, many feel like orphans. This sabotages this growing awareness. This is why Paul prays so fervently, “And I pray that you, being [having been and continuing to be] rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ … that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). As this develops, then, as the hymn states, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

Second, out of this growing awareness emerges a growing hunger to learn and follow the ways of Jesus (Matthew 28:20). His ways are beautiful and life-giving. They are not burdensome and life depleting. I’ve never heard a person say his or her life has been diminished because of following Jesus as prescribed by Jesus.

Third, out of this awareness and hunger we embrace community. I believe this is the most challenging outcome of being a passionate disciple of Jesus. The image of community we long for is seldom one we can walk into. It must be formed through the crucible of time, trial, and personal change. Peter Scazzero said it best: “Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”[1] This is why we must be “taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). However, it is an outcome of following Christ, nonetheless. Jesus refused to relent on this one (John 13:34-35).

At Elim, these by-products (or outcomes) are core to understanding God’s work in this community and family. They require our surrender, focus, and intentionality. However, more importantly, they require the work of the Holy Spirit.

“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13

[1] Scazzero, Peter (2006-07-01). Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ (p. 175). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

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Songbirds and Plastic Chairs

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By Jeff Foerster

Quickened by the rays of the morning sun. Ears dancing to interlacing melodies of songbirds. Belly being filled by breakfast. I sat enjoying the last morning at home in Oregon under ideal conditions, neither too warm, nor too cold. The sunlight upon me, but not shining in my eyes. The air was fresh and any traffic was but a minor lull, like distant breaking waves barely audible.

I had assembled some breakfast and took it to the front deck. The house was nearly empty of belongings and I was the last one to sleep over from the night before. I opened the door to sunlight and a welcomed breeze, slowly moving. The home belonged to my mother, having purchased it some 29 years ago. I had spent some of childhood there and nearly every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other extended weekends, since. Likewise, summer included several trips back home to landscape, mow, trim, etc., and simply to visit and talk about what the Lord was doing, had done, and looking forward to what He has promised.

So here I was, taking in my last morning before the keys would be passed along. Though all was serene around me, something was wrong inside me. I wanted to savor that moment, to etch in a small memory I could later bring out and look at from time to time, like a worn photograph. Something was missing. Something felt hollow. Like the white plastic chair I sat upon, the pleasantness of the moment was but superficial and temporary. She who had made the house the home was not there. Though not 10 miles away at my sister’s house, at the moment my Mother was gone from my presence. This place was made special by her, not by its construction nor any natural accompaniments.

This makes me think of our home in Heaven. It is not a place constructed by human hands. No eye has seen and no mind has conceived of the splendor and greatness of our eternal home (1 Corinthians 2:9). Even so, I venture to say that even a place as perfect as Heaven would be only a place without the One who created it. Without our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, even the majesty of Heaven would disappoint. Yet this is not our destiny; ours is one with fullness of relationship with our Maker, the One who knows us better than we ourselves and loves us with love greater than all.

Heaven is the perfect place. It is the place of perfect relationship, first with our Heavenly Father, then with others who have gone before us. It is a place made special by the One who dwells there in all His glory. And those loved ones await us, in perfect communion with the Father. So will we join them all in fellowship and joy forever!

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