Thank God for Your Crummy Car

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By Jason Comerford

Recently my wife and I finally waved goodbye to our 2000 Pontiac Grand Am.

As it drove off securely fastened to the back of a tow truck, the Lord reminded me of what an immense blessing the car had been.

Which is an interesting thought for such a crummy car.

I purchased the car about four and a half years ago from a past college roommate’s wife’s parents. Kind of an interesting connection, but I needed a car and they were selling. Almost immediately, the car started needing constant repairs. You plugged one leak, and a new one formed. Cheap parts kept breaking. I won’t go into all the details, but it was a constant drain on my already very limited resources. One of my clients, a mechanic, laughingly informed me of how legendarily bad my car’s particular engine was among mechanics.

His advice was to sell it as fast as Craigslist would take it.

Despite that, we hung onto it. Between trying to build a business and being a relatively new married couple, we never seemed to quite find time to really get rid of it.

One day, I found myself checking the oil and coolant levels (as had become by twice weekly habit), and, in all the exasperation of caring for this dying hunk-of-junk car, gospel reality hit me like a much-needed ton of joyful bricks.

Jesus doesn’t break down. He doesn’t need parts changed. Oil doesn’t leak. Coolant doesn’t overheat. Fuel doesn’t run low. There are no cheap, plastic parts.

Instead, Jesus is eternal (Hebrews 13:8), mighty (Isaiah 9:6), and reliable (Psalm 18:2). He does not ever wear out (Isaiah 40:28) or cease working right when you need Him (John 5:17). Jesus will never fail or forsake me. He will not grow tired or weary. He won’t leave. And, faced with a car that was on its last legs and hardly having the funds to replace it, this was a deeply joyful reminder. I kid you not, I laughed like a giddy child with the reminder that Jesus Christ is nothing like my junker of a car.

But here’s something else we shouldn’t miss.

Did you notice what that reminder came through? What had a hand in helping me see such a joyful, delightful revelation?

That very same car.

The car that had caused so much frustration and so much heartache and so much worry was now the very conduit through which joy and God’s praise had come. And it hadn’t come through a brand new car or any kind of financial solution — it had come through my car being a frustrating pain.

May we all, with God’s help, remember this the next time we’re tempted to turn to anger or self-pity because of many of life’s inconveniences, frustrations, and expenses. It doesn’t matter one bit if we don’t have the time, the patience, or the money to deal with it. Trust in God, for He is working both your good and His glory!

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What if Jesus Really Meant This?

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By Nate Champneys

IMG_5735As someone who has lived in the Northwest my whole life, I have grown very accustomed to the sight of Mt. Rainier. Don’t get me wrong, some days when “the mountain is out,” I am overwhelmed by the majestic sight of the mountain as the sun rises, but I have to admit that there are some days when I see it and take it for granted. It becomes ordinary. When my wife’s family come into town, who were all born and raised in the Midwest, it’s fun to watch them as they are blown away by the mountain any time it’s in view, because they’re not used to it.

I have been spending a lot of time in the Gospel of John lately. If I had to put a theme on the whole book of John, it would be this: JESUS IS AMAZING! From start to finish, John paints this beautiful picture of the glory of Jesus. But as I have continued to read it, I’ve been struck by some of the things that Jesus says. They are things I have heard my whole life, things I’ve gotten so used to hearing that I don’t think about. They have become ordinary. But I’ve been asking the question, “What if Jesus really meant what He said … literally?

I have been drawn to the words of Jesus during and just after the Last Supper. This is the last time that Jesus is with His disciples before going to the cross. It stands to reason that these chapters warrant careful attention as His parting words. If you read chapters 13 through 15, you’ll notice something. Over and over He says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He also says, “Those who do not love me, will not keep my commandments.” That seems pretty simple. If you really love Jesus, you do what He says. Period. So just what are Jesus’ commandments? Well, He says clearly to the disciples what His commandment is. In John 13:34 He says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” In 15:12-13 he says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And finally, in verse 17, again He says, “This is my command: Love each other.”

Are you seeing what I am seeing? Jesus says we should love people the same way He loved us. How did He love us? He literally laid down His life for us. What if Jesus meant what He said? What if He is actually calling His Church to REALLY love the way He loved? We tend to want to reduce love to a feeling. We tend to want to only love when it makes us feel good and is convenient for us. What would the world look like if we as the Bride of Christ actually took Christ at His word and laid down our lives for each other? Imagine what would happen if the Church stepped up and took in the orphans of the world. Imagine what would happen if we began to help others in need, not just when it was convenient for us. Imagine what would happen if the people of God gave of their time and money, not just when it was comfortable and easy?

What does it look like to really love like Jesus? This is His commandment to us: “Love one another the way I love you. Give yourself up the way I gave Myself up for you.” Are these just nice words that sound good to read but don’t really mean anything, or are we missing something huge?

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

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Political Leaders: Is This the Best We Can Do?

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By Martin Schlomer

I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching and repenting over the past few months. I find this political season very disturbing. We have one candidate who wants to give everything away and call no one to take responsibility for their own destiny, which will only push our national debt well beyond the current 19 trillion dollars, further bankrupting our nation. Another candidate may be indicted by the FBI, while another appears to be a reckless megalomaniac lacking any sense of decency. As Max Lucado writes,

He ridiculed a war hero. He made a mockery of a reporter’s menstrual cycle. He made fun of a disabled reporter …. He routinely calls people “stupid” and “dummy.” One writer catalogued 64 occasions that he called someone “loser.” These were not off-line, backstage, overheard, not-to-be-repeated comments. They were publicly and intentionally tweeted, recorded, and presented.

Where are those who aspire to be the leader of the free world who have a sound, moral core, practice wise judgment, respect the value of all people (including the unborn, the elderly, and the invalid), are passionate about moral and economic justice, refuse to be bought by special interest groups, and tremble at the account to which they will be called when they meet their maker?

So, when I look at the slate of viable candidates, I ask, “Is this the best we can do?” How should those who feel as I do respond? Most certainly, we should pray! In addition, I’ve also considered not voting for the first time in 38 years. I read the following article from Christianity Today entitled “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?” This article has influenced my perspective. Russell Moore asks the central question many of us are asking:

What happens in a race where Christians are faced with two morally problematic choices? Should voters cast a ballot for the lesser of two evils? This unpredictable election cycle could go in any number of directions, and I keep getting asked this question.

I offer it here for your consideration as well. Please read this article and reflect upon it.

May God give us His wisdom as we engage this important issue and embrace this privilege.

Martin

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Who’s Your Paul?

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By Brian Sharpe

As I look at my life, I can remember names of people who invested in me. I had friends who pointed me to Jesus. When I started at Elim, I was in a new place and didn’t know many people. After being here for awhile, I felt the need to invite someone to mentor me as a man, since I have always valued people speaking into my life. So, I started to think and pray about who could mentor me.

I decided that I was going to ask a certain man to meet with me and mentor me. I remember that being really hard, and it made me feel insecure. I even felt emotion well up inside of me while I was asking. For those who know me, you know that is not normal. But I did it; I asked this man to mentor me. It was great — we met twice and everything was going well. But then we never met again. To this day, I don’t know why. It could have been because I didn’t pursue it, but I just don’t know. This experience could have turned me off to inviting people to speak into my life. It did make asking someone again a little harder.

Fast-forward a couple years. While I met with some guys, I still didn’t have an intentional mentor whom I met with consistently. It was September, and I was at meetings at the EFCA National Office for ReachStudents team meetings. At these meetings, I was sitting waiting for a dinner to start. A guy on the same team as me came and sat next to me. His name was Jim. Jim was a guy that had been in youth ministry twice as long as I had. He was about 10 years older than me. He sat down next to me and asked me if I would be interested in staying in contact with him on a monthly basis. I said yes. It was at that meeting that God gave the gift of a Paul in my life. Jim and I have been meeting together monthly for the past eight or so years now. He has taught me a lot about life, ministry, and God. He has helped me grow as a leader and as a man.

I believe that is God’s heart for us, that we live in community, invite people into our lives, and let these people help us navigate this thing called life and faith. When you hear us say, “Who is your Paul?” this is what we are talking about. It is inviting someone into your life to whom you are giving the freedom to help grow you into whom God is calling you to be.

I guess the question is, has God done a work in your life that you need to be sharing? Are there people in your sphere of influence whom you believe you can help grow? Then maybe God has equipped you to be a Paul. If He has, then, who are you meeting with?

If you feel the need to have someone speak into your life, then the question is, who can you invite into your life to be a Paul? Is there someone you look up to spiritually? Is there someone you feel like you can learn from? If a name comes to mind, maybe you need to invite that person into your life to serve as your Paul.

I believe God uses these relationships to transform us into His image, into His likeness. I believe every Christian needs to have a Paul in his or her life. Who is yours?

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Important Lessons from Esther

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By Larry Short

Elim’s young adult group, Pulse, is nearing the completion of a study of Esther. In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, it takes place in postexile Persia (formerly Babylon). Freed from captivity, about 60,000 Jews have emigrated back to the Jerusalem area to rebuild the Temple and pick their lives back up as God’s people living in their Land.

Esther Denouncing Haman, by British painter Ernest Normand

“Esther Denouncing Haman,” by British painter Ernest Normand.

But what many people don’t realize is that at least 10 times that many Jews willingly chose to stay behind in Persia. Why? After 70 years, it was home. They were used to it. They were rebuilding comfortable lives and businesses. Almost everything was going well.

Almost. There was a strong anti-Jewish sentiment among many of the Persians. The Jews’ “strange” ways, coupled with their business acumen, caused many to look down upon them in envy and disapproval. (Sound familiar?)

One man in particular bore a grudge. His name was Haman, and he was descended from a group of pagans who were almost wiped out more than a century earlier (at God’s command) by Saul. The fact that Saul compromised and didn’t completely obey God resulted in Haman later rising to power as prime minister to the king of Persia, Xerxes (or Ahaseurus), and harboring a secret hatred of the Jewish people who had almost wiped out his forefathers.

In ancient Persia, much as it is today, money translated to political power, and Haman had lots of it. And he used his capital to trick the king into signing a death warrant against all Jews remaining in Persia.

Mordecai and his cousin Esther were two of those Jews. And it just so happened that King Xerxes, after banishing a queen who had disrespected him, fell in love with the beautiful Esther and chose her to be his queen. Xerxes didn’t realize, of course, when he signed Haman’s paperwork, that he was giving Haman permission to put his own wife to death!

The book of Esther never even once mentions God, but it is a book full of “coincidences” that clearly show God’s power to order circumstances (even very difficult circumstances) to bring about His will. And His will was (and is) the protection and salvation of His people.

One such “coincidence” was the elevation of Mordecai to favor with the king, even as his death was being plotted by Haman, because of his role revealing a plot against the king by his bodyguards. Mordecai also revealed the plot against the Jews to Esther, and urged her to plead their case before the king. She knew that to do so was to risk death, for anyone approaching the king without being called would be summarily executed if he didn’t intervene. Mordecai challenges Esther with these famous words: “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for just such a time as this?” And Esther’s classic, courageous response: “Tell everyone to fast for me for three days, and on the third day I will approach the king. And if I perish, I perish.”

The king spares Esther’s life, and she definitely gets his attention. Even so, she doesn’t immediately reveal her request; she waits. Why?

God’s timing is perfect! In waiting, Mordecai is elevated to power, and Haman is shown for the schemer he is. Once Esther finally reveals her request (that the king spare her life and the lives of her people), Haman’s plot is undone. He finds himself instead skewered upon the pole which he had planned for Mordecai’s demise. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

There are so many lessons in this book, it’s hard to choose one, but let me list three favorites:

  • When life’s circumstances become difficult, we can trust that God is behind the scenes, working, even if we can’t see Him. He is for us, and Paul’s words in Romans 8:28 are true: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
  • There is tremendous power in waiting upon the Lord. Esther waited until the moment was right and God said, “Go.” His power is seen in the perfection of His timing.
  • Like the Jews in Persia, in many ways we Christians have become a little too comfortable living in a land that is not our home. In the process, we have in some ways become a stench in the nostrils of the people of this land. There are Hamans here who seek our destruction, but God knows their hearts and will ultimately skewer them upon their own devices.

I am so grateful we have an all-powerful God who is for us, and who is working behind the scenes to secure our salvation from the plots of the enemy! May God help us to learn to wait on Him!

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