Chaos in America: Have We Prayed for Justice Like our Lives Depend on It?

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By Larry Short, Community Ministry Director

I was watching the news this morning as Melissa Falkowski, an English and journalism teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, was being interviewed about her experience protecting her students in the midst of the horrific school shooting yesterday morning. At one point in the interview, as I recall, she said something that reached down deep inside of me:

“I’ve seen this on TV, we all have, shooting after shooting, and there’s always the same thing that is said, you know: ‘It’s not the time to talk about gun control . . . it’s time to pray for the families.’ And I just think that that hasn’t gotten us anywhere. And now here we are. We’re the latest statistic on school violence. And as a society, as Americans, we’re failing our children. We’re not keeping them safe. Congress is failing us. The government is failing us. And something has to be done.”

Obviously, it’s been a depressing 24 hours, and we can (and probably will) debate the role that guns, or the media, or school policies, or whatever have played in these national tragedies. But what struck me, of course, is the comment that “We’ve prayed, and it obviously hasn’t gotten us anywhere.” And she’s right about the fact that school violence is getting worse and worse.

I ask myself, Is she right when she asserts that we’ve prayed? I’m not so sure.

And I’m speaking for myself here. Have I prayed when I’ve heard about school shootings? Did I pray for myself and my students when I was a tutor last year at Emerald Ridge High School and Glacier View Junior High? Do I pray each morning when I send my wife off to her job as a school nurse at elementary schools in downtown Puyallup? Do I pray for my precious granddaughter as she spends her days in her first-grade class in Pennsylvania?

The answer is yes, I’ve prayed. Some. But have I really gotten down on my knees, consistently, persistently, and begged the One I call Lord and King to do something to stop the downward slide of our country into moral oblivion and suicidal hopelessness that I think each of us truly believes (guns or no) is really at the root of all this chaos and violence?

Have I wrestled with Him on this issue, and listened for His voice? If He were to say, “What if I wanted YOU to be a part of the solution?” have I responded like the prophet of old: “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”

I confess that I haven’t done THAT. Have you?

In Luke 18, Jesus shares a profound parable about a widow who seeks justice with an all-powerful but “unjust” judge who could grant it, but isn’t inclined to. After much persistence, he finally relents. And Jesus concludes, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Some parables are a little difficult to figure out. But the meaning of this one is crystal clear, and it is a huge indictment on my heart and may be on yours as well. He assures us that His Father is wholly unlike that unjust judge. Instead, He is EAGER to grant justice, and quickly! But the question is, Are we serious about asking Him for it? Have we persisted “day and night”? Have we prayed like our lives depend on it?

I’m starting to believe that my life depends on it. How about you?

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Community Groups at Elim: A “Church Within a Church Within a Church”

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By Larry Short, Community Ministry Director

This is the final installment in a seven-part series on principles guiding community life at Elim. To read all seven principles in one document, click here.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Inception, this concept may sound familiar. In the movie, there are sleuths (Leonardo DiCaprio plays the lead sleuth here) who are experts at entering people’s dream states to try to extract important information from them. It gets more than a little twisted when they have to take it down two or more levels, creating a dream state within a dream state, within a dream state. Which gives rise to all kinds of adventuresome challenges for returning to the “real world” . . . if there is such a thing!

(How’s that for a one-paragraph movie review? I dare you to try sleeping through this movie.)

At any rate, to some extent community groups and the way they function within the Body of Christ remind me of the premise of this movie. First, we all know that a Body of Believers such as the one you find here at Elim is merely a “church within a Church.” Ultimately, everyone who calls Christ Lord is a member of the same Body, the Body of Christ. Elim is only one local manifestation, a church within a Church.

I’ve found that the most effective community groups function as little “churches” within a church (such as Elim), within the Church (the Body of Christ). That is, many of the things that we are blessed by and bless others with, as a result of being members of the Body of Christ, happen well within the context of community groups.

I was reflecting on this last night while sitting around the fire pit in Bob Walsh’s backyard with a group of Elim men at one of our Men’s Conversations. We ate great food together. We worshipped together. We prayed together. Then Isaac McKenzie led us in a discussion that quickly got down to the nitty-gritty of how we live lives as men devoted to Christ together, in the context of relationships with other men (Pauls, Timothies, Barnabases—more on that here). There was honest discussion, and we encouraged one another onward in our journeys as fathers, husbands, men, and followers of Jesus.

I was encouraged to hear how the lives of so many men were being impacted by what was happening in small groups they were a part of at Elim, formal or informal!

During this weekend’s sermon, we will be looking at James 1:22-27, which begins with the simple and very direct admonition: “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” God is implanting His Word in us. Often, we will receive it and say “Amen,” but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of daily life, we then “forget” to implement what we have learned and proclaimed. James tells us that professed faith is not authentic faith unless it is lived out in lives of God-directed action.

And community groups are an ideal place where we can safely “stir up one another to love and good works,” as Hebrews 10:24 exhorts us.

In this seventh and final principle in this series for life in community groups, I see the following three ways community groups help fulfill this “church within a church within the Church” mandate:

  • Small groups are often the place where a believer’s spiritual giftsfirst float to the surface. In the community ministry, we will work with group leaders to hone a process for helping their group members discover and use their spiritual gifts effectively to minister to others. Use your small group to exercise the “one anothers” of Scripture with your brothers and sisters in Christ!
  • Groups play an incredibly important part of the prayer life of the Church.This ministry will exhort, support, and encourage a vital prayer life within small groups.
  • Small groups are the place where the best care and shepherding In a traditional church model, the “professional” pastors are responsible to visit the sick and bereaved. But when tragedy strikes someone who is involved in a small group, many times the best care comes directly from other group members who are in community with that person. We will work with group leaders to help them develop as wise and caring shepherds of the little flocks God has entrusted to them.

Our prayer for you as we close out this series is that if you are not yet involved in a community group here at Elim, you won’t hesitate to jump in! Many new groups traditionally get rolling in September as school begins, so watch for an announcement of groups that are meeting, and don’t hesitate to contact a group leader to ask questions and express interest. (If you need help getting started, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line at LarryShort@gmail.com!)

Also, if you are already involved in a community group at Elim as a leader, an apprentice leader, or as a member in any other leadership role, know that we are praying for you and desire to come alongside you in this challenging task. You are a “little pastor” to whom God has given responsibility to shepherd and care for a portion of His flock. We exhort you to spend daily time on your knees before Him, seeking a godly vision for your group and asking for His help in making a real difference in the lives of the people He has entrusted to you.

Thank you for reading this series, and I pray you all will have a blessed and renewing summer as you grow in your walk with Jesus!

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EFCA UPDATE: A Call to Fasting and Prayer

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By Kevin Kompelien
President, Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA)

In less than two weeks, citizens across our nation will head to the polls to cast their vote in what has become one of the most difficult and challenging election cycles I can remember. On November 8, our votes will shape the make-up of national, state and local government institutions for the next several years.

Events in the past months have uncovered deep wounds in our land. The words and actions of people have revealed anger and fear in the hearts of some, along with a sense of confusion and discouragement in the minds of others. As we approach November 8, what should be the focus of God’s people?

Let me begin by calling us back to what we know and need to rest in now more than ever. God is sovereign over the affairs of the nations of the world. His sovereign will and plan will ultimately prevail resulting in His glory displayed among the nations. No matter who wins the election on November 8, it is our God, the King of kings, who will ultimately be victorious.

As we look back on biblical and church history, we see how the Lord has worked through both godly and ungodly rulers and leaders to accomplish His will. Wednesday morning November 9 will not find the Lord wondering what happened. Rather, He will continue to be at work to accomplish His will to His ultimate glory. The Lord calls us to trust Him fully and follow Him completely.

In preparation for Election Day, may we prayerfully and wisely evaluate candidates for national, state and local elections considering biblical truth and the righteous character of our God. Then, graciously allow others to do the same.

Reflecting on the challenges of this election cycle and the rapid cultural change going on around us, I find myself going back to the account in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 where the people of God were up against what seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. In response, King Jehoshaphat called the people to fast as he led them in a powerful prayer extolling the sovereign power and might of the Lord, calling on God to help and ending with these powerful words in verse 12, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

In these days, my call to us as the EFCA is to come together to fast and pray for our nation. The EFCA national office staff will gather on Monday morning November 7 for a time of corporate prayer. Consider fasting for a portion of a day and gathering with other believers in your church to cry out to the Lord on behalf of America. We are in desperate need of the mercy and grace of God in our land. Will you join me in humbling yourself before the Lord to ask Him to accomplish His will in our nation to His glory?

For further reflection, please use this resource on 10 truths to consider during the election year.

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What Did We Get Ourselves Into?

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By Martin Schlomer 

In this political season, cynicism, confusion, and fear reign among people from all generations. In my personal experience, the emotions and turmoil are unprecedented. How did we get here? More importantly, how do we, whose core identity is that of citizens and representatives of our Father and His Kingdom, navigate this political season? How do we live as salt and light at this time in history? We must begin with prayer!

Pray for discernment. As Christians, we need to be brutally honest regarding how we have arrived at this place. In my observation and opinion, the evangelical Church has unwittingly embraced a watered-down and corrupted understanding of discipleship. We have embraced what Kendra Creasy Dean and others call a moralistic therapeutic deism.[1] This has left this nation with far too many “believers” who are like the adulterated salt and dim lights Jesus warns against in Matthew 5:13-16. As a result, our voice has little to no credibility in the public square. Society readily points to the American Church’s corrupt leaders and hypocritical “followers.” More recently, voices from the public square are confronting evangelical leaders for an alliance with corrupt politicians in our effort to re-enter the halls of power. They’re asking, “How can you do this? How can you live with yourselves?” More and more, I’m asking the same question.

Pray for a repentant heart. The American Church must repent of its shallow, corrupted understanding of discipleship and rediscover its Jesus mission, which is to nurture passionate disciples who love Jesus, obey His teachings, and are eager to be transformed into His image. We must pursue holiness by becoming a people who love Jesus more than anything or anyone! Then we will be compelled to repent from our sins of rebellion; moral and sexual compromise; lukewarm hearts toward our God; broken relationships that are menaced by anger, unforgiveness, and slanderous hearts toward those who are made in the image of God; sick, dysfunctional marriages in which one or both individuals blame the other and resist taking responsibility for his/her actions; racism and misogyny … need I go on? Our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and peers see all this taking place. Peter admonishes believers, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household” (1 Peter 4:17). Repentance must begin with the family of God, of which I am a full participant. “Lord, start with me.” This may be the start of a revival that may reverberate throughout our land.

Pray for the courage to confront our leaders and would-be leaders. Instead of the evangelical Church forming an alliance with corrupt, self-seeking politicians (with the misguided hope that something good and beautiful might come out of such alliance), we must call our leaders to account. We must call our political leaders to be men and women of sound character who have a moral compass they’re committed to, because character matters a lot! We must be willing to be like Paul, who spoke to the Roman governor Felix about issues of righteousness, morality, ethics, and the coming judgment. As Paul spoke, the Holy Spirit brought such conviction and fear upon Felix that he told Paul, “That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it’s convenient.”[2]

Pray for the Church’s willingness to persevere if/when those in power require the Church to compromise the gospel and accommodate government mandates. As we read the news, we already see the movement among government legislators and the courts to require accommodation from the Church, especially in the areas of sexuality and gender. The Church will need great wisdom and discernment in order to navigate these moral quagmires.

Finally, on October 30, I will address the question, “How do we think biblically about the election issues that are before us in our civic life?” We must wrestle with these issues. God has given us the privilege (for the time being) of having a voice in this process. In addition, we have scheduled two opportunities to pray for our Church and our nation. On November 1 and November 8, from 6-8 a.m., Elim will be open so that you can come and pray. More information will be forthcoming.

As we move forward, pray for our Church and our nation. Secondly, rest in our Father’s sovereign grace. His purposes will be accomplished, regardless of who occupies the White House. He always has and will continue to “turn the insanity of the nations to serve his purposes.”

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/this-is-the-best-of-times-and-the-worst-of-times

 

[1] Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling Us About the American Church, Oxford University Press, 2010.

[2] Acts 24:25 in The Message

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A Prayer to You

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By Tom Chase

prayer

Have you ever wondered why some people are so open to hearing the message of the Gospel and others are not? I wish I knew the message that each person needed. I wish I could say all the right things that would make a difference!

The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 states,

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

I am reminded then, it’s God who really makes the difference . . . and what a difference He makes!

But in Matthew 28:19–20, we are told:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

So why then has God called me (us) to go and make disciples? Isn’t that His job?

Yes, it is, but He has asked me (us) to be a part . . . to be a disciple! He clearly involves us (me and you) in the process of helping others to be connected with Him!

So then we recognize that God does what God does and we do (or get to do) what we are to do!

He has His part and we have ours!

I was recently listening to Michael Ramsden of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). He was talking about ways of communicating the gospel to people and, as an aside, he said he had a novel approach. It’s called “talking to people.” J Why didn’t I think of that?!

But then he went on to share a story (see this link for the fuller message).

Basically, he relates an interaction between himself and the owner of a hairdresser’s shop. She starts out not even really talking to him but saying, “I wish there was more to life ….” But, as the conversation progresses, Michael begins sharing various points of the Gospel and she stops and writes them all down. She was so open to all that Michael shared. This woman then goes home and shares all that Michael had shared with her. Her husband tells her, “You’re preaching at me.”

What was the difference between the woman and her husband? She was asking questions, but her husband was not.

The phase, “You’re preaching at me!” and the associated attitude resonates with me as I think about people in my sphere of influence with whom I am hoping to share Christ. I really don’t want to just be “preaching” at people.

So, as a result, here are the kinds of things I’ve been beginning to pray:

  • “Lord, help me talk with the people who are asking questions.”
  • Even, “Lord bring people into my path that are asking questions.”
  • And, “Lord, bring questions I can answer with Your help.”
  • “Lord, I don’t want to be just preaching at people.”
  • “But Lord, I do want to share the words of life . . . Your words that You can use to draw people to You.”
  • “Make me sensitive to what you are doing and the questions people are asking. Use me today!”

So now I am waiting to see what God wants to do. I have relationships with people in which I am hoping to share and others that are just in my sphere of influence.

“Help me see what You are doing, God.”

“God, will You do what You do? And please help me do what I should do!”

As I am putting together the closing thoughts of this Last Word, the song by Keith Green, Make My Life a Prayer to You,” is just welling up within me. I stopped and listened. (Maybe you will want to, too.)

I think it expresses what my heart needs and wants to be about. As you listen, maybe you, too, will be both challenged and encouraged.

And may God receive all the honor and the glory!!! Amen.

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How to Spend Time with God

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By Brian Sharpe

The way my brain works, I need peace and quiet in a room that I am going to study in. There can be no mess. I need a solid block of uninterrupted time for me to get good study time in. The problem is that, up until this last month, I didn’t really have that at my house. I could finagle it, but my brain for some reason knows I am finagling it and just gets distracted.

Well, we are at the tail end of a remodel at our house. We have taken some walls out and put some walls in. One of the areas we created by putting some walls in was an office. I could not wait for my office. I was excited to have a place where I could go, have some peace and quiet, pray, and spend time with God. The problem was that when we finished the office, my parents were still in town and my dad took over the office as his office. He needs a space to work, so I was glad to have it for him, but I was waiting for my turn in the office so I could get my peace and quiet.

Well, once my parents left, I took some time in my office. It was so nice to get some peace and quiet time. I just listened to music and read my Bible. I prayer-journaled, and it was heavenly. As I prayer-journaled, I realized something. I realized that I had a faulty view of spending time with God. I thought spending time with God meant that I set aside 10 minutes or more time a day just to read my Bible and pray. You remember the song that says, “Read your Bible and pray every day and you will grow, grow, grow”? That is what I thought it meant to spend time with God. I needed my office where I could get away and read and pray.

However, while that may be important, it is not what is needed to spend time with God. God is always with us. He is always with us. He will never leave us. When we wake, He is there. When we sleep, He is there.

O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!   I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!   If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.

Psalm 139:1-10

Spending time with God is not something we have to work at; it is something we have to acknowledge we are always doing. See, I believed the lie that knowledge equals intimacy with God. Knowledge is good, but it doesn’t always equal intimacy. Intimacy comes from spending time together. It comes from me recognizing that God is always with me as well as entering into the journey with Him. It is me talking with God throughout my day, remembering that He is there. It is sitting and listening to Him as we process what is going on in life. It is inviting Him to teach me about Himself when I read my Bible. It is me recognizing He is always with me, no matter where I am and what I am doing. It is a change in perspective. It goes from needing to spend time with God to me always spending time with God and realizing it.

I want to encourage you today to acknowledge God’s ever-present presence in your life and to talk through all that you are doing today with Him. We need to live understanding He is with us, not hoping we will get time with Him.

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