Truth

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Dan Amos

About the time we started the series on James at Elim, Fran and I visited Washington, DC. One evening we visited the Jefferson Memorial and I was struck by the inscription chosen for the southeast portico wall. I could not help comparing those words to those Pastor Martin led us through from the first chapter of James.

The memorial’s quote was from a letter Jefferson wrote extolling man’s growing wisdom, but instead, I see it as an illustration of our arrogance.

It is this thinking that leads to calling good things evil and evil things good. It leads to questioning who God is and what role He plays in our lives. It leads to changing the teachings of Scripture and replacing the words of life with pretty but empty words that suit our modern sensibilities. Ultimately, it leads away from salvation and instead to death.

While Jefferson advocated that the things our ancestors believed become outdated and practices need to change with the times, James tells us the very opposite about God in 1:16-18.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.

James is using words that inflame contemporary wisdom, such as “Father” and “does not change” and “truth.” In his own life, Jefferson did not want to accept the deity of Christ and the teachings of the Apostles. We reject the wisdom of man and proclaim the following in our statement of faith:

We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.

That the Word of God is under attack is nothing new. It has been happening since the serpent spoke to Eve (and Adam passively listened). Great councils used to be called together to debate heretical teachings. Now the attacks are less dramatic, but they are everywhere, coming from every media, impossible to avoid. But the truth remains, and our access to it is as unprecedented as the lie is prevalent. All we have to do is open it.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Are You Healthily Sick?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Nate Champneys

FullSizeRender

Are you healthily sick?

“What do you mean?,” you might ask. “How can you be sick in a healthy way?” As human beings who live in a world that is soaking in the depravity of sin, the effect of the Fall is all around us and within us. I used to think that eventually I would “arrive” and I would be completely healthy at some point. I would look at certain people in my life, where everything looked good in their lives and I would think, “Maybe someday I will be able to be like them.”

However, the longer I live, the more I realize that even the people who came from “good” childhoods and seem like they have it all together are broken. Every single one of us has fractures in our heart as a result of own sin and being sinned against by others. So every one of us is “sick.”

The good news is that we have a God who can and does bring healing to our broken hearts, but, until we get to Heaven, we will always have fractures in our hearts that need God’s healing. Is there a healthy way to deal with our brokenness? What does it look like to be healthy in the midst of our sickness? I would like to share four principles of being healthily sick.

Let me be clear. These four characteristics are not “Nathan Champneys’s four steps to spiritual success.” They really aren’t steps, but they are all simultaneously part of the healing process. In my own life, I feel like I am constantly going deeper into all of these. None of us ever “arrives.” So life becomes a process of working through these items. Don’t read these steps and try to place yourself into one or another. You will focus on these in different measures as you go deeper and deeper into allowing God to heal your heart. As we embrace these four principles, even though we are still “sick” because of our sin nature, we are living in a healthy way as Jesus continually brings healing to our hearts.

  1. Embrace the truth that you are accepted and loved exactly the way you are. God is not surprised by the fractures in your heart. He loves you right now, even with all your problems. There is nothing you can do to change that fact. This is such a hard truth to internalize, and it’s one that we have to keep relearning. I find it helpful to verbalize the truth to myself in prayer. I pray, “God, I thank You for being a good Father and completely accepting me. I thank You for loving me in my brokenness.”
  2. Own your brokenness. It has been said that the first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem. This really isn’t the first step; it’s the second. Until we understand how loved we are by God, we tend to feel insecure about our weaknesses and thus feel a need to live in denial about them. You are broken. You are a piece of work. But you are okay! You are loved!
  3. Intentionally discover your brokenness. The next part of being healthy in your brokenness is intentionally seeking out the areas that need healing. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You.” David asks God to point out the offensive areas of his heart. David is not afraid to acknowledge his faults. Instead, he is actively working with God to discover the broken areas.
  4. Ask God to heal you. David ends Psalm 139 with this line, “Lead me along the path of everlasting life.” David was asking God to help him thrive in his relationship. The reality about our God is that He is a really, really good Father. The only way that real relationship can truly happen is for there to be freedom for both people in the relationship to have free will to participate. Therefore, God will never violate our free will. To do so would make us robots and make any relationship with us fake. If we don’t invite God into the process of healing our hearts, He doesn’t force it on us. But he has promised that as we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” As we choose to bring our sickness to Him, He is more than willing to bring healing to us.
If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

From Trash to Truth

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

-Jeff Foerster

I was minding my own business when BAM! God did it again. He has an uncanny way of taking truth revealed in Scripture and putting flesh to it. From the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision and Jesus Christ’s incarnation, to a recent garbage collection day, God teaches us in many ways.

I remember it like it was only two weeks ago. A warm summer Thursday had turned to evening, and with it plans for the next day were being hatched. Friday is pickup day for garbage, recycling, and yard debris; however, this was no ordinary Friday—it was July 4th. As you will recall, this day marks the Declaration of Independence from the monarchist regime known as Great (though not to us at the time) Britain and its head, King George III. Well, I don’t need to tell you what happened after our forefathers issued this most famous proclamation (hint: we won).

This holiday in remembrance of such an historic, world-changing event could arguably be the most important uniquely American holiday on all of our calendars. Though some may beg to differ, I will assume you’re agreeable and move on.

You see, I was abiding in Oregon for a few days at my mother’s place, and when I am in town I take care of a few household chores, such as setting out the curbside pickup items. This particular evening my mom and I had a conversation that went something like this: “Remember, trash gets picked up tomorrow.” “Does recycling go out tomorrow?” At that time I looked at the schedule on the door that indicated this was in fact a recycling waste pickup week. “Wait, tomorrow is the Fourth of July. They’re not coming ‘til Saturday.” “Today is Thursday; this is the day I put my garbage cans out.” “There is no way they’re going to be working tomorrow, on a holiday, one of the most important American holidays. If they work tomorrow, when would they ever get a day off? It just doesn’t make any sense. No, they’re not coming tomorrow.”

Now, I had already placed the garbage can out and had no desire to undo work only to do it again the next day, so I left it curbside. The recycling can was full and by the house, and the yard debris can I left empty as I planned to fill it on Friday for the day-late Saturday pickup.

“I need you to trust me,” I said. “This will be a good exercise for you to relax and know that it will all work out.” I went to sleep, confident that my plan was well thought through. And then it happened. I awoke with a start. There have been less than half a dozen such awakenings in my life, the last which I remember having occurred on September 11th, 2001.

What did I hear, but the sound of moving parts and engines revving. “What!?! This can’t be! They’re not supposed to be here!” My mind raced from thought to thought. My body leapt from sleep and propelled me toward the door to confirm my fear. My eyes darted from can to can around the cul-de-sac desperately trying to determine what had already taken place and what I could still salvage. Was there time? Did they only pick up the trash which was curbside already? Could I still get the other two cans out? I don’t need to tell you that I was wearing less than the standard uniform for such public activity, and I imagine my rapid and confused motions may have been enough to elicit comparison to a Charlie Chaplin film.

I dashed to the yard debris can, jerking it into motion and around the corner to a small pile of arborvitae trimmings. In they went, and out it went to the curb as the sound of trucks broadcast their presence throughout the neighborhood. Through foggy eyes and an even foggier mind I quickly decided to grab the trimmers and head out back to the plum tree. A few hasty slices later I could see through the chain-link fence and across the street the truck against which I raced. My armload of branches jostling, I hustled to the can. No truck in sight. I made my way back toward the plum tree, but it was not to be. Like a hawk upon a field mouse, that truck and its driver swept in and took away what little I had assembled. The recycling waste, it turned out, would have to wait for another two weeks.

I realized somewhat later that morning what really happened. You might see these events as nothing but a little arrogance followed by an opportunity to eat a little crow over breakfast, but you’d be missing something, and so had I. On the pickup schedule, posted carefully on the door, was all I had needed. It was the same schedule I had used to determine this was the week for recycling. At the bottom of that printed page were the words: “Drivers work all weekdays except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.”

Right there: everything I needed. I had used careful reasoning with all the information I had, as logically as I could. I had no misgivings. I was certain I was right. I counted any other idea as not worth the time to consider it. But in the end my sincerely held belief was simply wrong. The truth was knowable and it had been made available to me in writing and through another person. I had even read the very document containing the information I needed, but paying attention only to the parts I wanted.

Just like this anecdote illustrates, truth is knowable, and this, through the Bible, God’s Word. It is there in writing, and echoed through the lives and words of believers around us. We must seek out the very truth of God in the words of life He has given us. Our own thoughts, however carefully crafted, are not enough. Recall what God has said: “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

As I had referenced the schedule for pickup, but had missed a crucial aspect of it, so too is it possible to read the Scriptures and miss its most vital parts. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful …” (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus, while recorded as praying for the disciples in John 17, says, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth.” This is profound in itself, but when strengthened by other parts of Scripture (see John 1:1 and 14:6) it brings great depth of understanding and makes visible the truth in flesh.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Eagles’ Wings and Other Things

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Tom Chase

On Sunday, we heard about and processed things that rob us of our peace. We live in a world that is constantly telling us the opposite of what God’s truth claims. Like in the video we watched on Sunday, so many things are calling, so many things telling us we don’t measure up. These things and more create roadblocks that can prevent us from hearing and interacting with the One who will tell us the truth. If we listen too long, all these voices simply beat us down and diminish our worth, saying we have no value, there is nothing special about us, etc.

I am reminded of a truth which is made evident in the person of God. He is the Eternally Existent One, the Three in One — the Trinity. I was told long ago that all theology makes a difference in our lives, but I find that sometimes the effect is hard to see. But here is how this theological truth has impacted me.

When God chose to make the world and to make each of us individuals, He did not make us because He needed us or because it fulfilled something lacking in Him. No, that is not the case. He exists in three Persons, whole and complete, fully satisfied within his own being with perfect community and harmony. So why did God make us, then? It is because God wanted us. Can you believe it? God wanted me and God wanted you! None of us are here by accident. Isn’t that truly amazing?

When I stop and contemplate this truth, I feel a lift in my spirit. Isaiah 40:31 tells us that

“…those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

That light-stepping feeling in me increases when I see God for who He is. Much of Isaiah 40 describes just how great and awesome and majestic this God who wanted you and me really is:

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Isaiah 40:28

Someone infinitely significant wants us!

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God,” are the beginning words of Isaiah 40. That’s His desire for you. So let us run to the One who not only loves us, but wants us as well. In Him we find our significance and peace from all the other messages we hear constantly in our world. If you are looking for a treat, why not read Isaiah chapter 40 and bask in His glory!

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Hiding in Plain Sight

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Dan Amos

“I’m fine. How are you?” How often do I hide behind that response? Sometimes I give it because the truth is too complicated, it would take too long to give. Other times I just don’t feel like talking or the truth is something I don’t want to share with that person or at that time. I suppose I’m comfortable with that. The danger comes when I tell everyone “fine” and don’t let anyone know who I am.

Perpetual hiding flies in the face of our mission, vision, and purpose as a church body. Our church family is to be an oasis, a place outside of the facelessness of the world, a place where we can be safe to share who we are. It’s to be an oasis for renewal with God and one another. God has structured his Church in the context of community, interdependent on each other for growth and support. And we certainly can’t be about the one-anothers of Scripture if we hide who we are.

Our vision is to build disciples. Discipleship is a personal experience shared in community. There are teachers and leaders and there are disciples. Everyone in Elim should be learning from someone. Even our senior pastor has relationships where he lets people in to the grittiness of his life. Actually Pastor Martin is a tremendous example for me of a humble servant leader who battles well by being honest and open with trusted and appropriate people on the details and with all of us on the big picture of his life.

Lastly, our purpose is to Know God, Grow Together, and Go and Serve. We can’t grow together if we’re a bunch of superficial strangers and our service is hindered if we stay hidden to each other.

It is scary to let people in. And we have to learn to share in appropriate ways and appropriate settings. There are people I can and do let in and amazingly enough they don’t run screaming from the room or laugh at me or think less of me. I have a long ways to go, but an authentic relationship is worth so much more than a fake one. And that is one of the reasons why I love Elim so much. You are a gift from God to me.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.