Salt, Light, and Uber Mushrooms

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My son Nathan (far left) and I training up a generation of future mushroom hunters.

By Larry Short

In worship last weekend, we heard Pastor Martin share from John 2 of Christ’s consuming passion for both the symbolic and manifest presence of God in our midst.

For the Jews of His day, that symbolic presence was the Temple. Christ’s passion for this powerful symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people was so consuming that this most meek, humble, and lowly of men stunned religious leaders, bystanders, and even His own disciples by making a whip of cords and forcefully driving exploiters out of His Father’s House of Prayer! (That would have been something to see!)

Passion for the Presence

One of the most fascinating things about this passage, to me, is the few verses that follow it. They reveal that while the Temple was the symbolic presence of God, the real presence of God there in Jerusalem, the real “Temple,” was the Body of Jesus Himself:

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

Martin then went on to connect this passage with 1 Corinthians 3:16:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

The implications are profound. We are to be consumed with zeal for the presence of God in His Church, the Body of Christ—both corporately and locally, and, more specifically, as He dwells in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ! Loving each other well is how the world will know we are His disciples. We are to burn with passion for His Church, His presence in the midst of a dark and decaying world.

Being Salt and Light

We are also to honor God’s presence in our own hearts by seeking His holiness and by being salt and light as He calls us to be.

Recently, on my personal blog, I shared how God used Cindy, one of our sisters in Christ here at Elim, to help me understand how He wanted me to recognize that part of the purpose for this particular season in my life, having been laid off from my career job with World Vision, was to “clear out the rubble” so I could move forward to see and embrace what He next had for me.

I had an epiphany of sorts about this while Martin was sharing on Sunday. He spoke about how he had struggled to understand how he could be salt and light while working completely within the “Christian bubble” that is Elim and how, as a result in 2017, he was planning to move “out of the bubble” and become a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) in order to start sprinkling salt into some of the places in our world that really needed it!

This made me think about what God was doing in my own heart and life. At World Vision, I too frequently felt frustrated that I never really had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the unsaved. (World Vision is another “Christian bubble.”)

Then, guess what? My “bubble” got burst! I was laid off. Since then, God has been building four new things into my life, and it wasn’t until Sunday that I realized each of them is an opportunity for me to become better salt and light. Here are the four things:

  • Writing a science fiction novel
  • Tutoring for the Puyallup School District
  • Developing a mushroom business, training young ‘shroom hunters, and writing about what fungus teaches us about the presence and heart of God
  • Driving for Uber, which has created many opportunities to share Jesus’s love with more than a few (because they asked)

For more about how each of these four activities creates opportunities for me to be salt and light (and how fungus declares the glory of God), see this blog post.


Salt and Light Is Humble and Simple, Right?

Working for nearly minimum wage as a tutor or a wannabe taxi driver is not something I anticipated as God’s best for me when I was laid off from World Vision. (Although I could see myself gushing about mushrooms or writing sci-fi! I’m weird, I know.) Compared to what I achieved and experienced at that wonderful organization, what I am doing now is humbling in the truest sense of that word. But as I realized as Pastor Martin was teaching, it’s not something I chose; it’s something God chose for me, even as I prayed for His best for my life and for how He might use me in His Kingdom.

So, that’s my challenge to each of us as we consider how God wants to use US to be salt and light. You may not be the next American Idol, or the Great American Novelist. But, maybe, does God want you to serve others in the humblest ways possible? Perhaps He wants you to help a bedridden invalid, or care for a foster child, or ride the bus and talk to a hurting stranger, or build and hand out homeless survival kits. Or maybe He wants you to spend your time and energy praying (in obscurity, like countless prayer warriors before you) for anyone and everyone. Who knows?

Being salt and light is not just an individual responsibility for the believer; it’s a Body responsibility. So we are also to encourage and hold each other accountable as we seek to “march off the map” and influence a world that desperately needs Jesus.

Pray for His best (both for you, for Elim, and for the Kingdom), and then let Him lead you where He wishes to!

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Sharing Who We Have Become, Because of God’s Love for Us

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By Jim DeAngelo

I had the opportunity a few days ago to share Jesus, but it was a bit different. An acquaintance talked to me about how they had difficulty with their neighbor and wished a large wooden screen could be erected to block their view of the neighbor whose front yard joined theirs. As I knew that both proclaimed their relationship with Jesus, I asked the person, “How this could be?” They both professed Jesus, and they were joined in that relationship. Jesus states in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (ESV). This person shared how they didn’t know why it was so, and they gave a few examples that demonstrated the other person’s anger with them. They appreciated the discussion and recognized it wasn’t how they were to live, that they needed to address the unforgiveness.

The conversation continued for more than an hour on additional subjects that focused on Scripture and our personal walk and beliefs. The most pronounced of these was on the authenticity of Scripture. They felt that the Bible was written by men and subject to interpretation through culture, the culture during the time the Scriptures were written and the different culture of now. They felt that this filtering was the best approach to understanding God and defining how we are to live our lives.

I admit this was challenging. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (NKJV). If a person believed the Bible was stories written by man instead of God breathed, then the culture defined our walk instead of God. A decision to filter Scripture based on a cultural view results in the ability to justify any position a person wants to take and to indulge in any sin or practice we feel is culturally okay instead of what is presented in God’s Word. This decision removes the safeguards that God has lovingly given us for our own good and protection.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what partnership does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are the temple of the living God, as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore come out from among them and be separated, says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean thing. And I will receive you and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (NKJV)

Martin preached on this subject July 20, 2014, in his sermon titled, “The Bible: Is the Bible Historically Reliable?” You can hear that onlne here.

This is where I was given the opportunity to lovingly share my position and to encourage the other person to see our relationship with God through the love of Christ and each other. I shared with this person that God gave us His word to direct our lives and that it is authentic, and that I was discussing this to share my love for Jesus and how He had changed my heart and my life to be different from whom I had been and whom the culture would define me as. This is the testimony, that love does define who we are. To share means we share out of our love instead of our rightness.

I know that we will have opportunities to share and discuss the living God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I look forward to sharing whom I have become because of God’s love for me.

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The Nations in America

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By Stan Peterson

Recently I’ve been working in the UW district of Seattle on Brooklyn Avenue at an old apartment complex named Campus Apartments. I’m a fire sprinkler fitter installing a new system in the basement. As I work from unit to unit I get a thorough vista of all around the site. From that view last Wednesday I saw a young man walking down the alley with a friend smoking a cigarette, when all of a sudden I got an impression or unction to go to this young man and share the Gospel. I hesitated and uttered a quick prayer, something like, “Do You really want me to go to him?” I dropped my tool bags, ran up the stairs and out into the alleyway, and looked hard into the direction he was traveling, but it was way too late. I asked forgiveness for my slothfulness and asked God if this young man really needs to hear the message that He would bring him back to me.

Friday came and right around my usual break I was working in a different unit, in the front not the back. I happened to be working right at the window, and I caught a movement and looked — it was the same young man! In shock, I hesitated for a second (literally), then dropped my tool bags and ran out the front after this young man. What do I say? I thought. What do I do? I was in my grungy work clothes, and I just ran, blurting out “Excuse me, I am working in this building and I saw you pass the other day in the alley, you were smoking a cigarette and talking to your friend, was that you?” I confirmed that it indeed was the young man I saw the other day. I started in with saying that God has a message and it is urgent for him to hear this. His eyes got real big and his countenance changed and he leaned closer to understand what I was saying.

I found out that this young man is from Saudi Arabia and is here studying at UW. He is a Muslim who had never heard of Jesus Christ before that day! I explained to Him God is Creator, Man is fallen and in great need, and the gospel of Jesus Christ and the sacrificial atonement in layman’s terms, making sure that he understood what I was saying. He asked me if he could get my phone number, and, shocked, I gave it to him. As he pulled out his iPhone it was all in Arabic, and I watched him type my info into his phone. He said that he wanted to hear more and would call me. His name is Anas; please pray for God to continue to move in his life and for salvation for him and his family. (I have not heard from him yet.)

The next morning as I was walking into work I contemplated a frightening thought. Matthew 25.32 says that God will one day separate the people who are saved from the people who are not saved. Will I see the numbers of people I knew but did not share the Gospel with as we are being separated?

Do I mourn for my sin? Do I mourn for the sin of my brothers and sisters in Christ? Do I mourn for the sin of the lost, for the sin of those who if not confronted with grace and truth will be led to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment? These thoughts sobered me and awakened me to all I have seen in the week prior, whom I had passed by without a thought toward their eternal destiny. The students hurrying off to class; the parking police busy writing tickets; the alcoholic who sleeps just outside the alley; a lady who has lost her bird and frantically comes up to me while I am waiting one morning to be let inside of the locked complex; the apartment manager who asks me nicely to be sure to clean up after I am done; not to mention the very people working beside me, such as the two plumbers who are from England, two electricians from Ukraine and Bulgaria, the general contractor, and two carpenters. God has laid the nations before us right here in the United States of America.

May we be a people who intercede for ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and the nations.

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Do We Really Care?

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By Brian Sharpe

Does eternity matter? Do we really care? I would think that we would say yes to both of these questions. However, the problem is that most of us care about image or offensiveness more than we care about others and their eternity.

Now I’m confessing to being a part of the problem. A couple weeks ago I preached on being peacemakers in our world. I also talked about how we need to just invite people to things like the men’s dinner. Well, last Saturday I was working in my backyard in my shed. My neighbor was in his backyard with his new wife. I’ve talked to my neighbor on several occasions. I knew men’s dinner was that night and I was trying to figure out how to bring it up. I asked my neighbor if he needed help, since he and his wife were taking down a tree. He said they had it. I continued to work in my backyard. When I was done my neighbor was still cutting up the tree. I didn’t end up inviting him to the men’s dinner. I felt bad. I didn’t have the opportunity. At least, that’s what I told myself.

Now I’m not saying we should be abrupt and forceful in most cases. But I’m also not saying we should wait until “the right time.” I need to be bolder. I need to care more about the people around me. I keep hearing that my actions show my belief. Can you tell I care about the people around me based on how I’m living? This makes me think of a song that came out several years ago by Brandon Heath. I need to see people as God sees them. I need to have the love for others that God has for them. I need to be a peacemaker. This is what God is laying on my heart. I pray that God will challenge you with it as well.

“Give Me Your Eyes”
By Brandon Heath

Looked down from a broken sky
Traced out by the city lights
My world from a mile high
Best seat in the house tonight
Touched down on the cold black top
Hold on for the sudden stop
Breath in the familiar shock
Of confusion and chaos
All those people going somewhere
Why have I never cared?

Chorus:
Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the brokenhearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see

Step out on a busy street
See a girl and our eyes meet
Does her best to smile at me
To hide what’s underneath
There’s a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie
Too ashamed to tell his wife
He’s out of work
He’s buying time
All those people going somewhere
Why have I never cared?

Chorus

I’ve been there a million times
A couple of million eyes
Just moving past me by
I swear I never thought that I was wrong
Well I want a second glance
So give me a second chance
To see the way You see the people all along

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Do They Know?

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By Tom Chase

This past month a man whom I have done engineering work for over the years passed away. After the initial shock of his passing (he was a man about my age, a young man right?), the first questions that came to my mind were, “Did he know Christ?” and, “What is his eternal destination?” I asked around our office to others who worked with him, others who had opportunity to know the answer to these questions, perhaps who had been bolder than me. No one seemed to know for sure. Yes, he had been a “nice” guy … very friendly … but what about Christ in his life? I went to his memorial service hoping to find out that yes he knew Christ, but sadly, no … no indication of that. There was simply the speaking of a life well lived and hopeful wishing about the future. I went home rather sad.

“Do They Know” by Steven Curtis Chapman

I’m one of the chosen few
God chose to carry to
A hopeless and dying world
Good News
I’m a disciple of
A caring Father’s love
A light to the world
To show them the way.

Do they know
Can they see
Jesus lives in me
Do they know
Can they see
Jesus lives in me

A vacant house comes alive
When somebody moves inside
A light in the window means somebody’s home
I say Jesus lives in me
But can everybody see
The light of His love that shines in my heart

Do they know
Can they see
Jesus lives in me
Do they know
Can they see
Jesus lives in me

A cloud of witnesses surrounds us
Who long to share what we’ve received
Tell me where will they see Jesus
If not in you and me.

So we must let them know
Let them see Jesus lives in you and me
Let them know, let them see
He is all they need
Jesus is all we need.

I am challenged by all this. Peter’s call to the church, found in 1 Peter 3:15-16, resonates with me:

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

There is so much, here but one thing that stands out to me is that people will ask. They will ask about the hope we have as believers. If they are not asking, I have to ask, “Why?” Perhaps the answer lies in the context. The context of this call to be ready (and being asked) is a life lived in a different way (see below):

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.'”

(1 Peter 3:8-14)

My prayer for me is that the Gospel will continue; that in a fresh, new way it would change who I am so I can live in such a way that people will ask; and that in the days, weeks, months, and even years ahead I will invest the time necessary to better answer the questions people will have about the nature and character of the God whom I serve.

May it be so!

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Women and children

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by Stan Peterson

Whenever I think of women and children (especially girls), I tend to go towards a frilly, dainty, petite, foofy characterization of them. God has blessed me by giving me five beautiful yet powerful women in my life. First is my wife Jackie, the strongest and most courageous woman I have ever met. She is resourceful and creative (cooks on a budget), she is wise and witty, she is a great encouragement to me and our girls and others in our community. She gives me great comfort and security in her love and affections for me. I could write volumes about my beloved bride, not to mention my beautiful girls; I thank God for them every day and take not the gifts He has given me for granted.

“God has chosen the weak things of this world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1.27).

I believe that women and children will play vital roles in reaching the unreached people groups that are left in the world. I look to the Bible and see numerous accounts of God using women and children. I see Mary the mother of Jesus, probably the most famous woman in all the world. Betrothed to a carpenter, becoming pregnant before her wedding, living on the run with no real place of her own in the early years. Mary nurses, swaddles, nourishes the very Son of God in order that she may see Him lay down His life for the sake of many. Mary was an unlikely candidate, but God chose her and used her to usher in Immanuel, God with us.

Children too have a special place in the heart of Jesus. He does not refuse them in coming to Himself and uses them mightily to teach us great lessons in and throughout all of Scripture. Abel, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Samuel — the list goes on — God took these children and used them for His glory and our good.

As the Gospel penetrates deep into the unreached areas of the world, it will be done in and through crucial relationships being formed by women and children. Women and children often fall into the category of left out, overlooked, downtrodden, and poor. I believe that the next revivals will be fueled by those we never expected. Women and children, the very despised, reaching out to their enemies through love. The reason I say this is because of the position that women and children have in Muslim-majority countries: they are the epitome of weakness, frailness, and degradation. These are precisely the ones that our God came to save and whom He loves to use in spreading His good news. Please pray for the women and children that are in Muslim-majority countries. Pray God would give extraordinary boldness to proclaim His Word.

Pray for their peace in the midst of a land filled with persecution and that their actions would soften the hearts of their oppressors. Pray that God would be glorified greatly in and through the salvation of the men of this region by way of the women and children.

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