Mirage or Oasis

by Jonathan Whitaker

I can confidently say that Bugs Bunny cartoons did not adequately prepare me for my deployment to the Middle East.  According to Looney Toons, the most reliable feature of any desert is the presence of a mirage followed closely by an abundance of magic lamps.  The cartoon bit was always the same.  Dying of thirst, dressed as Lawrence of Arabia, Bugs Bunny or Yosemite Sam would spot a palm-lined oasis in the distance, only to find their hopes dashed by a pesky mirage.  I have been here since May in the heat of the summer and I have yet to see a single mirage (or lamp for that matter).  It is worth noting that the defining characteristic of a mirage is that it promises something that it can’t deliver.

The expectations I set for ministry prior to my deployment and the things I would accomplish for God’s Kingdom were in many ways like a mirage.  When I arrived at what I thought was a palm-lined oasis, I quickly realized it was something completely different.  Maybe you have had this experience.  You resolve to do something for God, perhaps after hearing one of Aaron’s inspiring sermons.  Before you can realize this great vision, reality smacks you in the face.

I prepared and prayed for this deployment and I had an idea of what God would do through me in this place, an expectation of what that ministry might be.  Not gonna lie, I imagined I would be preaching and leading Bible studies, and if I could get my hands on a guitar… well you get it.  So far, that vision of ‘Middle East Billy Graham’ has been more mirage than reality.  Often we imagine how God may answer our prayers before we pray them.  Usually while we wait on God’s answer to prayer, our hope is that God will give us exactly what we asked for.  Our sin nature causes us to want to lead God to the outcomes we most desire, even in prayer, but is that how it ought to be?

Psalm 25 teaches that God leads and we are to follow: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5) The problem I have experienced is, instead of marching toward a goal, I end up wandering in a desert (quite literally) toward a mirage of my own creation.  Meanwhile, I miss the gentle leading of the Lord, which is the very answer to prayer that I am seeking.  The solution to this problem starts when we stop looking for an oasis that meets all the desires of our prayer and start looking at Jesus.  Jesus was very clear about one thing in His ministry, we only harvest where He has sown the seed. 

John chapter 4 tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Because of the first century prejudice that existed between Jews and Samaritans, this interaction nearly scandalized Jesus’ disciples.  Jesus promised this woman (and us) living water.  This unexpected encounter (to the disciples), was actually a divine appointment that resulted in a multitude coming to salvation.  Jesus taught his disciples a very important lesson, “For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:37-38).  Meaning, when we have success for God’s Kingdom, it is only because God prepared the way before we arrived.  

The Apostle Paul put this another way, “Paul planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase.” (1 Cor 3:6).  God always reaps a harvest where he has sown.  Should we pray for God to lead us? Absolutely.  Should you have an idea or expectation of how God might answer that prayer?  You would not be a human if you did not.  The wisdom comes from discerning God’s answers to your prayer.  

So what am I to do?  The mirage has faded and there is only sand as far as I can see.  Satan has whispered in my ear more than once that I have failed.  I think it is time to look around and see the ministry that God has led me to.  It does not include a podium, a microphone, or a guitar.  I have already annoyed everyone at the Base Chaplain’s Bible study with my long theological rants.  So where does that leave me?  The answer is with the fruitful harvest that God has led me to.  I can’t wait to report to you what that is, once I have figured it out.  I remain willing as ever to obey God’s leading, but more than ever, I am also ready to get out of His way.

One last thought.  Between 1947 and 2005, Billy Graham let 417 Crusades, in 185 countries, on every continent except Antarctica. You and I may never evangelize to the untold millions to whom Billy Graham gave the Gospel, but as great an evangelist as Billy Graham was, somebody first shared the gospel with him.  Whether you are Billy Graham, preaching to millions, or the person who witnessed to Billy Graham, in both cases God sowed the seed, and God reaped the harvest. 

God probably won’t send you or me into the mission field we expect, but the mission field he sends us to is always the right one.  Learn from me; don’t keep wandering toward the mirage.  Look around you at the oasis God as already led you to, and share the living water with anyone who will drink.

Don't Hate. Participate!

by Jonathan Whitaker
in Blog

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

I have been cooped up in the house like the rest of you for the last two weeks.  I know it has been two weeks because of the itchy beard I started growing on Friday April 3rd, the last day I was at work.  Over the course of the last two weeks, like your family, the five of us have enjoyed concentrated togetherness.  Unlike the two weeks we get off at Christmastime, the quarantine togetherness is government-enforced by our local police squad! Which makes this time both special and weird.

Much like my beard, our uninterrupted family huddle is starting to get itchy.  I’m sure you can relate.  We all hate to admit it, but the old adage rings true that “absence makes the heart grow fond, while familiarity breeds contempt.”  Needless to say, we are starting to annoy one another.  Worse yet, each day makes it more and more difficult to hide our annoyance. 

In a moment of clarity, I’ll accept the blame: it’s not my fellow prisoners’ fault that their loud breathing has begun to shred my nerves like a cheese grater.  I choose how I react to people.  So how can I “count others as more significant than myself” during the quarantine -- or any other day for that matter?  Philippians 2:2 gives the answer.  The Apostle Paul calls this “participation in the Spirit.”

The Spirit mentioned here is God the Holy Spirit.  Without going down a lengthy hermeneutic rabbit trail, the Holy Spirit is the person of the triune God Who indwells a believer at the moment of salvation.  Not only that, but the Holy Spirit is the agent of renewal and regeneration Who accomplished the resurrection of Christ and will someday resurrect you.  Paul tells us in Philippians 2:2 that we are not simply God’s puppets, but we can participate with the Holy Spirit.

In Mark 12, Jesus taught us that loving God with your whole being and loving your neighbor are the greatest commandments.  God is great and worthy of love, but my neighbor lets his dog pee on my yard every single day.  How do you love people who are so unlovable?  Have you looked in a mirror lately?  We are all unlovable at times.  Let’s be honest, this quarantine hasn’t raised our stock very much either. 

Paul tells us that loving people as our Messiah commanded is a choice.  He says we need to look at ourselves and then choose to consider others more important than us.  This is a high standard, because Ephesians 5:29 makes it very clear that there is no one we esteem more highly than ourselves.  In fact, Jesus uses our self-love as the standard by which we are to love others. 

Each day is like an individual Mad-Lib, in which we alone fill in the blanks.  What verb will you choose when faced with a person who annoys you?  Will you “yell” or will you “forgive”?  I am glad that God is not keeping a tally of how many times I have yelled when I find my kids’ dishes and laundry occupying the floors and furniture of my house.  Just like you, when met with the conditions I have set for myself to be annoyed, I have a choice in how I react to others. 

I am not suggesting as parents that we should not correct or discipline our children, but Christ’s command is not limited to those whom we deem our equals or superiors.  Christ says that we are to consider the least in God’s Kingdom as more important than us.  Dads and Moms, that means your kids, and even your neighbor’s annoying kids.  From personal experience, the times I choose gentleness and affirmation over annoyance feel like such a victory that I almost feel pride for making the more noble choice.  It is ok to feel good about obeying God!

When we make the choice to treat others better than we would even treat ourselves (or at least as good), we get to enjoy the blessing of participation with God’s plan of redemption.  Not only that, but Christ teaches us, “as you do for the least of His brothers and sisters, you have done to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Tomorrow is going to be a new slate of choices.  Take each one as they come at you and chose to participate with the Holy Spirit.  You’ll be really glad that you did.

The Christian's Guide to Coronavirus

by Jonathan Whitaker
in Blog

Emblazoned on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are the words, “Don’t Panic.” Today, the iconic words from author Douglas Adams seem more relevant than ever.  We live in an age that is familiar with the ever-present threat of terrorism and extremism, but for most of us, the closest we will ever get to those horrors is an article on a news website.  In the modern era, we aren’t acquainted with the type of global fear that the Coronavirus has caused.  Compared to the 20th century, the 21st century has been benign. 

Rewind the tape 100 years and the Spanish Flu followed the bloodiest war in human history (to that point).  The Spanish Flu claimed between 50-100 million lives following World War I, which had claimed 13 million lives.  Those numbers are incomprehensible from our modern perspective.  So what is the difference?  Why, when faced with a potential pandemic, do we feel personally vulnerable?  May I suggest our unprecedented access to information, no matter how reliable the source, has brought once seemingly distant troubles right to our doorstep.  The reality is that the Coronavirus, like pandemics before it, can infect you whether you are informed or not.  What the Coronavirus cannot do, however, is determine whether you are going to panic or make a plan. 

I believe all Christ followers have a responsibility during this crisis.  Like the best of our forebears who ministered to the sick during the bubonic plague (among other plagues), we too can serve our communities and lift up the name of Jesus to the least in His kingdom.  I’m not going to offer specific ministries, but a few guiding principles you should consider as you trust God to guide you during this time. 

  1. “Don’t Panic.” Honestly, what good does panic do you?  Consider your calling as a born again follower of Jesus.  I remind you, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7).  Why did he do that?  First, because we serve the God of creation.  Nothing happens within His creation that is beyond God’s control.  That is the master you serve.  Don’t misunderstand -- I am not blaming God (as some have) for Coronavirus. However, I am confident that He can use even this time of trouble for His glory. (1 Peter 4:12-19, Romans 8:28).
  2. Be wise. Proverbs 13:20 tells us, “He who walks with the wise will become wise, but he who walks with fools suffers harm.” Who are you taking your medical advice from, your doctor, or your crazy uncle on Facebook? Take the necessary precautions recommended by your health care provider and the health care officials of the government.  Of course you should pray for God’s protection, but it does not show a lack of faith to follow sound medical advice to prevent the spread of the virus.  The prophet Daniel (Dan 2:21) tells us that it is God who appoints and removes our leaders for his purposes and the Apostle Peter tells us that we are to be subject to our leaders in government.  Practically speaking, our government has issued sound advice on this virus, so take your medicine, people.  Just look at the Apostle Paul and his disciple Timothy.  Timothy had a stomach issue, so did Paul prescribe prayer? No, he told him to take wine with his food, because the water was suspect.  That’s just good advice.
  3. Be missional. If you have been on the lookout for an opportunity to be on mission for Jesus, my friend, your ship has come in.  I have heard from multiple people at work and through many media outlets that Coronavirus is God’s judgement.  It is strange how religiously minded non-religious people can get.  Lately everyone is a prophet of the apocalypse.  Too bad they don’t know what apocalypse means (it means revelation).  It’s true, when God eventually reveals himself through the return of Jesus Christ, the world will be judged.  My friend, let’s not suppose that day is today.  May I suggest to you that the trials that precede Christ’s revealing are not judgement at all, but opportunities for individuals to actually know the God of the universe?  Isn’t it more likely that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”? (John 3:17) Now is our opportunity to tell a world that is facing up to their mortality that Jesus is a God who saves.

So what do I suggest you do?  Well for starters, stop hoarding toilet paper.  If it’s too late and your bunker is already stacked to the brim with TP, maybe knock on your neighbor’s door and see if they could use some.  Once you have met that most delicate of needs in your community, be bold; tell them that TP is from Jesus and tell they He can give them much more than two-ply.  Pray for your neighbors, your co-workers, your Gospel Community members.  Be a warrior of prayer, be a warrior of worship (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Rejoice in the God who has a plan for your life and trust that He can see it to completion (Philippians 1:6).   Above all, don’t panic! We are not a people of fear. We are a people who, when crisis comes, bless our neighbors, not hide from them.  Be a person who brings peace to a broken and fearful world. 

Just-In-Time

by Jonathan Whitaker
in Blog

Sometimes you find truth in unexpected places. In 1950, American statistician and engineer Edwards Deming went to Japan.  He was a missionary of sorts, but his mission was for business, not God.  Deming is the father of a concept called Statistical Product Quality Administration (SPQA).  The philosophy was simple: businesses would improve and compete if they designed better products that didn’t break as often, had assembly lines that produced higher levels of uniformity in products, improved product research and testing, and sought foreign markets for sales.  All of these things seem obvious to us today, but they are only obvious to us because Edwards Deming made them obvious by his life’s work.                                Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

In 1950, nobody in American business would listen to Deming or heed his SPQA method.  Post-World War II Japan was another story.  The country bought into SPQA wholeheartedly, and Deming is largely credited as the catalyst for the economic miracle that catapulted Japan from a nation in ruins in 1950 to the world’s second-largest economy by 1960.  Though SPQA is not a biblical tenet, it gave rise to a business practice that I find to be quite evangelical: Just-In-Time manufacturing. 

Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The notion of storing God’s word in your heart got me thinking about Just-In-Time manufacturing.  My graduate degree is in Procurement and Acquisitions Management, and supply chain management was a big portion of my study.  Supplies are basically anything you keep on hand before you need it.  To keep shipping costs low while minimizing real estate devoted to storing materials, a manufacturer must synchronize delivery of materials as close as possible to the moment they are needed to assemble a product.  For example, if you need five tons of ice cream per day at your ice cream sandwich factory, you lose money for every day that you have to refrigerate any excess ice cream not used to make a sandwich.  Get it?

Storing God’s word in your heart is a lot like running an ice cream sandwich factory.  Ostensibly, like the ice cream, you are storing God’s Word for a purpose.  Psalm 119:11 gives one such example: so that you won’t sin against God.  According to the Psalmist, having God’s word on hand, stored in your heart, produces the effect of not sinning.  I like that idea.  But I also realize that it is difficult to memorize and store a great deal of rote knowledge so that it can be effectively recalled when needed.  What if we used a Just-In-Time method to store our scripture?

Psalm 119:11 gives one reason to have scripture on hand, so we can avoid sin in our life.  The great commission gives us another (Matthew 28:16-20): to reach the world in salvation.  If we were to apply the concept of Just-In-Time to scripture storage, we would always have a fresh scripture on hand when we needed it in order to witness.  Just-In-Time scripture comes from daily study and renewing your mind in God’s Word.  Imagine the effect of having fresh scripture delivered to your heart every day.   Truly, you can only keep so much material in storage before you have to start using it or giving it away. 

Deming is known as the father of the quality manufacturing movement, but I assure you the quality of your walk with God can only improve the more you hone your scripture supply chain. 

 

Mad About You

by Jonathan Whitaker
in Blog

I have been procrastinating writing a blog for months.  I’ll ask you not to scroll down to my last blog to do the math on just how long it has been.  So without further ado…

Speaking of beloved 90’s sitcom “Mad About You,” (a bad transition is better than none at all)  I have been lingering in the book of Deuteronomy in my year through the Bible read and every time I crack the Book open to Deuteronomy, I can’t help but think of “Mad About You.”  “Why on earth?” you might ask.  Well, one of the recurring characters on the show was Uncle Phil, played by one of the greatest comedic actors of the last -- well, ever -- Mel Brooks.  In one episode, the main couple in the show, Paul and Jamie, (Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt) find out Uncle Phil is dying.  In an act of kindness toward dear old Uncle Phil, Paul promises to name his soon-to-be born child after his uncle.  The only problem is “Phil” is not Phil’s real name -- his real name is Deuteronomy.  Did I mention Phil is Jewish?  This always made me giggle (the name not the Jewish thing). 

The word Deuteronomy is derived from a Greek compound word deuteros nomos, which means “second law.”  The name suggests that there are two sets of law.  There aren’t two sets of law in the Bible, just the one. The name is confusing.  Deuteronomy is really a retelling by Moses of the Law found in Leviticus.  The book contains the majority of Moses’s sermons found in scripture.  Moses gave these sermons to a group of Israelites who either weren’t born yet or were very young when God dragged Israel out of slavery by the hand.  You may remember that shortly after leaving Egypt, Israel failed to enter the promised land because they did not trust that God would protect them.  Moses gave the law a second time to remind Israel of the greatness of the God they serve, so they would not fail to enter the promised land for a second time. 

We serve the Great God of the universe!  Like Israel, we need to hear that a second, third, fourth (and on, and on) time.  Deuteronomy chapter five is almost a word for word recounting of the Ten Commandments.  Great preacher’s tip from Moses -- if you got it right the first time, don’t mess with the format on your next delivery.  I was struck by how much time Moses spent on commandments one through four and how little was devoted to commandments six through nine (murder, adultery, stealing, lying).  It is really no surprise, because the first commandments are devoted to man’s response to the living God, and the last six are devoted to how we treat one another. 

In the very next chapter, Moses said these are the commandments of God, but there is a greater commandment still, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut 6:4-5) This command became a prayer known as the Shema.  It was recited daily by every Israelite, and is still recited to this day by practicing Jews.   When was the last time you loved God with all of your might?  This is good preaching.  Moses first laid out the scripture that they all knew (the Ten Commandments), then he said, “Ok the point of all of that is, GOD loved you more than you can conceive, so you love Him back with every fiber of your being.”  I think if we are being honest with ourselves, none of us really do that, and that is what has been missing from our worship, our service, our prayers, our very lives.  God gave us everything, and everything is all He wants from us in return. 

At Element Colorado Springs, we strive each week to remind you of the greatness of God, by sharing God’s truth found in His Word.  I can only imagine what it must have been like to sit under the preaching of Moses as he delivered this book to the people.  We certainly know the result: Israel was given a spirit of conquering and their hearts turned to God and His promised land.   When the most religious people asked Jesus Christ what the greatest commandment was, he simply quoted Deuteronomy chapter 6 and Leviticus 19.  He said a prayer that Hebrews from age 3 to 99 recited daily, “The greatest commandment is to love God,” and the other is like it, “love people.”   I suspect when God Himself gives it to you that straight, the effect is pretty powerful.  For a little perspective, the first time God gave them that law on Mount Sinai, Israel feared that if they were in His presence any longer, they would die.  Now God the Son stands in their midst, gives them the law, and they mock Him for it. 

Whoa, that got real heavy there.  You don’t need to beat yourself up over how you continue to fail God.  Just ask yourself, “did Jesus die for that sin too?”  The answer is yes, so repent, trust that His salvation is sufficient, and that He made you a new creation that can put one foot in front of the other and start loving God.  That is my simple plan.  God is amazing! Not only did He love us enough to die in our place, but He made us able to love Him in return.  And bonus, He probably won’t ask you to name one of your kids Deuteronomy.    

Blog over.  I won’t dilly-dally so much on my next installment. 

Calling All Instagram Influencers!

by Christian Alf
in Blog

Calling all Instagram influencers!

Yesterday we returned from Arches National Park in Moab, UT. It was a great vacation and a fun time camping with all the kids. Unfortunately, I think our career as Instagram influencers is not going to happen. We are not ready for the dramatic poses and attire required for being an Insta-Famous.
 


Two weeks ago I preached through the life and blessings of Jacob. I talked about judging people based on their appearances. Most of what I covered was judging people in a negative light; judging people as inferior because of the way that they appear. While walking through the park and seeing several wannabe Instagram influencers I was struck that we also judge the other way. We see a filtered life shown to us on our social media feed and judge someone else's life as better than ours, attributing them more honor than others.

What do we show the world through our social media feed? What value do we attribute to others based only on their feeds?

Remember that we are all created in God's own image. All humans are image bearers of God and therefore are worthy of honor. We should seek to honor God through our social media feeds and honor him by loving others online. It is hard not to try to present a perfect image of our life to all our social media followers. It is hard to admit that I am a broken human being, unable to save myself, wholly reliant on God's good grace in my life. That is the image the world needs to see and so rarely sees.

Being created in God's image means that we are all worshipers. We are worshiping something. Am I worshiping the praise of my followers online? or am I worshiping the creator of the universe? This is a question we hope to tackle and discuss with practical advice during our mid-week community meetings. We are kicking it off 5 June at 6:00.  Please message for details. We hope to see you all there!

Taking Thoughts Captive

by Jennifer Whitaker
in Blog

What do you do when the world seems against you?  How can you overcome anxiety, depression, fear, anger, guilt?

Recently I went through a dark time.  I felt oppressed and attacked spiritually.  I felt my best wasn’t good enough.  I felt defeated, and low, and embarrassed of how the efforts I put forward for ministry didn’t look how I thought they should look.  Things were grim.  I was beginning to spiral further into myself and my shortcomings, feeling more and more like a failure.  Being the DIY, self-sufficient all-American girl I am, I sought the advice of the internet.  I googled, “how to overcome depression” and was greeted with webpage after webpage of secular psychologists giving various tips on how to get yourself out of a funk.  There was one common thread among them: replace your negative thoughts with positive affirmations.  Tell yourself (in the words of Stuart Smalley) “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

I had been studying 2 Corinthians 10 that week. Verses 4-5 say, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  I’d had the weapons to fight off these mental and emotional attacks all along!  Not only that, but this powerful weapon, the very Word of God himself, has divine power to destroy strongholds.  My role in this was to take my every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 

Practically, how do I take thoughts captive and make them obey Christ?  I began by listing out all the lies I had been believing and listening to.  I looked up scriptures that contradicted those lies, and I began to meditate on those truths.  I found a stack of business-sized cards I’d received as a gift (thanks, Mutar!) that had beautiful and powerful promises of God printed on them, with my own name inserted into the verses.  I began to recognize the lies for what they were, and in each moment and each instance, replace those lies with the Truth of God’s word.

The change was immediate and amazing.  God’s word really does transform our minds!  When we store up His word in our hearts, we can overcome the temptation to sin (Psalm 119:11).  We don’t need to fear (2 Timothy 1:7, Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 23:4, Romans 8:38-39, Isaiah 41:10).  We have value and are infinitely loved (Genesis 1:27, Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 5:8, 1 John 3:1, Luke 12:6-7).  We are made right with God through Christ, are adopted as beloved sons and daughters, and cannot be snatched from His hand (Romans 10:9-10, Romans 8:14-17, John 5:24, John 10:28-30). This barely scratches the surface of the depths of wisdom and promises of the Bible!  The more time you spend getting to know God in his word, the more you love Him, the more gratitude you have for the blessings in your life, the more your mind is renewed to be like Christ.

So, when seasons arise that overwhelm you, when you find yourself in a dark place wondering what on earth to do, seek wisdom in the pages of your Bible.  Take wayward thoughts captive and make them obey Christ by replacing lies with the truth.  God’s word is sufficient for all of life’s trials. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

Membership Has its Privileges

by Jonathan Whitaker

“Membership has its privileges.” This is a phrase I have often heard, but seldom experienced. When I was younger, in a job that had me travel the world on frequent business trips, I was given some good advice by the seasoned travelers in my office: “Choose a hotel rewards and airline miles program and stick with it.” This really is good advice, which I stand by for religious reasons.

Between flying to Asia, Europe, and all over the continental US, I racked up a lot of loyalty points. My goal was to take my family on an all-expenses-paid vacation to somewhere, if not fabulous, at least free.

After Holly was born (my second eldest), I was able to book my first vacation using loyalty points. We flew to Orlando from San Antonio on Delta Airlines for free. Not too shabby. I had top-tier status with Delta, and this ate up most of my points. But, the crown jewel of my frequent traveler treasure chest was my Diamond Status with Hilton! It was my plan to turn a move from San Antonio to California into a once-in-a-lifetime road trip with swanky stays along the way. Unfortunately, the Hilton resort I booked in Arizona did not have Hilton Diamond amenities, so my four years of Hilton stays netted me a Starbucks and a bagel each morning from the hotel grocery. Wah wah... After that debacle, they booked us in the stinky pet room at the Embassy Suites in Lompoc.

I didn’t travel for business for the next three years. My status with Delta now allows me to fly on the roof of the plane with the chicken crates. As I look back, my real problem was that I should have used my travel points when they would have done me some good. Instead, I hoarded them for a future vacation that never happened.

My story of being a Christian is a lot like my story of being a travel rewards member. The status I had was not the status I used. The day we are saved God gives us the Holy Spirit, full access to the God of the universe, spiritual gifts, a mission, and eternal life. It is like getting Diamond Status the day you sign up! You get this fabulous rewards package, and so did I. But, I never used my points!

It gets worse. For two decades I never used my points. I had the Holy Spirit, but I did not find time to get to know Him. And sadly, I never experienced His power. The whole time as a saved person, I knew there was so much more that God wanted for my life. I knew this, because the Holy Spirit constantly convicted my soul…AND I WAS MISERABLE! Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

I was living Hebrews 10:24-25. I had no one to stir me toward good works, because I avoided those people like the plague. I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, because it pricked my heart and made me feel guilty. Well, that is exactly how a person who has been given the GREATEST GIFT in the universe only to squander it SHOULD FEEL!

The turning point in my life was when I submitted to mature Christians, joined a fellowship of believers in a Bible believing church, began worshiping the God of my salvation, and yielded my life to God’s plan. These things only happen when a Christian participates in Christ’s body, the Church.

I want you to have these benefits too. Don’t make the mistake I did. Jesus did not leave you on an island. He is a God of community (hence the Trinity). He wants to commune with you as you commune with other believers. This is why he went to such lengths to establish His church. I mean for crying out loud, he spent weeks church planting after being raised from the dead. I can tell you when I have been raised from the dead, I’m gonna be worshipping God, not worrying about all of you!

Listen to this week’s sermon. The Elders of Element CS want to join with you in covenant membership. We want you to live the life God has for you. We are committed to you and want to offer you a helping hand.

How do I know if I have Spiritual Gifts?

by Jennifer Whitaker
in Blog

How do I know if I have spiritual gifts?  How do I know what they are?  How do I use my gifts?

If you’re like me, you’ve asked yourself these questions a time or two in your Christian life.  Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit in John 14:26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” So, we can be confident that we have the Holy Spirit from the moment of salvation (Eph. 1:13).  We can trust God’s promise that we have the Spirit, and thus, have the gifts of the Spirit.  In fact, the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22 -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control -- are evidences of a life lived in step with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  These are things that all believers’ lives should reflect as we submit our lives to becoming more like Christ. 

But what about those spiritual gifts? 

There are many passages throughout the New Testament that list or outline the spiritual gifts.  The apostle Paul tells us things like prophecy, wisdom, teaching, service, giving, leading, acting mercifully, evangelism, distinguishing between spirits, healing, working miracles, and speaking in and interpreting tongues are all gifts of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:11-16).  But how do I know which of these I have?  How can I identify the gifts given to me so I can be most effective in my service to God?

I sometimes find myself trying to shoe-horn the talents I have and the situation I’m in into one of those listed gifts.  But I can tell you, friend, this is not the right approach!  1 Corinthians 12:4-11 tells us, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

In light of what Paul tells us about the beautiful diversity of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:12-31), and the variety of gifts the Holy Spirit gives us, I believe we are to use the abilities, talents, and skills God gave us and the situations He puts us in to serve Him.  We are to use our unique personality, our varied experiences, our own personal story to further the kingdom of God.  When God sends a person into your life to whom you can be a blessing, do it!  If you’re presented with an opportunity to use your skills to serve in some capacity, whether it’s in your church, your family, your community, or even helping a stranger, do it! 

You may be saying to yourself, “But I don’t even know what my gifts are.  How can I use my gifts to serve God unless I know what they are?” I say to you, just start moving forward.  This week, make someone a meal.  That’s an act of service.  Encourage a friend.  That’s exhortation and wisdom.  Pray for that rude driver who nearly took you out on Powers Boulevard.  That’s acting in faith.

Still at a loss? Ask a trusted Christian friend if they see spiritual gifts in your life that you may be missing.  Can you sing?  Join the worship team! That’s leadership and contributing to worship.  Are you handy?  Use your skills to help someone.  That’s an act of mercy. Has God taught you something new as you study His word? Share it with others!  That’s wisdom, prophecy, and exhortation.  You’ll find that it’s easier to steer a moving ship – and that the more you use the gifts God gave you, the more sensitive you’ll be to the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus gives the parable of the talents.  In this story, the master entrusts three servants with varying amounts of money and goes away on a trip.  Upon the master’s return, the servants with five and two talents have each invested wisely and doubled the master’s money, while the servant with one talent has simply buried the talent in the ground.  The master is, of course, pleased with the diligence of the servants who increased the master’s wealth, and angry with the servant who squandered the opportunity.  God has given each of us unique gifts and abilities.  Don’t be that foolish servant!  Don’t bury your gifts in the sand.  Get out there and use your spiritual gifts for God’s kingdom, and don’t be surprised when you see God’s overflowing blessing in your life.

What We Believe

by Jonathan Whitaker

Every Christian has a testimony, a record of what Jesus has done in their life.  Your story is uniquely yours and yet shared with everyone who has submitted their lives to Christ and received salvation.  The fundamental element of our testimonies is this statement: “this is what I believe.” The importance of being able to clearly communicate what you believe is at the heart of the gospel call, which Christ gave to all of us when He commissioned His Church to make disciples of the nations.  (Matt. 28:16-20)

I recently listened to the testimony of a young man who came to salvation out of Mormonism, while on his two-year Mormon mission.  What impressed me was not only his powerful story of conversion, but that he was able to tie every part of his story to scripture, God’s story of redemption.  There was real power in the young man’s words, because he told his own story using God’s word. 

To know what you believe is integral to your personal relationship with God.  God has spoken clearly about Himself in His word (the Bible). The Bible is unique among religious texts.  Unlike every other book that purports to be holy, the Bible is not simply a list of rules and restrictions to govern man’s existence.  In fact, its sole purpose is to reveal God Himself to man, and tell the story of how God is redeeming His creation.  More than that, it is a story that is unfinished, about a living God, who CAN be known, and goes to great lengths to be known by the people He created.  It follows then that your relationship with God is either enhanced or hindered by how much time you spend seeking Him in His living and active word.  (Heb. 4:12)

The Elders of Element CS have no greater desire than to help you get intimately acquainted with your God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Over the next two months we will undertake to share with you the Living Word of God that underpins the truth of what we believe.  Each week during our “What We Believe” series, we will teach you a different aspect of God’s grace.  It would take an eternity to fully explore these topics, so our hope is that each of you will be blessed by the reminder of how good God is, and you would each get a renewed vigor for seeking God in your personal study of scripture.  We hope to reinforce the truths you have mastered and possibly introduce you to truth you may not understand yet. 

There will be homework.  Notice I waited till the third paragraph to drop that bomb.  Boo, homework!  Here is my challenge to you.  Don’t make the mistake I did by waiting until I was an adult (nearly 15 years after my salvation) to truly make seeking God a priority.  The more time you spend with God now, the sooner He will reveal Himself through His word in your life.  The more I study the Bible, the more it is a joy to study the Bible. You may not believe me, but if you have never done it, your opinion on the matter doesn’t convince me.  I promise you that the life change you desire is found in the pages of scripture, but you must read God’s word to know Him.  Do the hard work, it’s worth it. (Phil. 3:12-16)

This series will be a blessing to you and me both.  And if you have had the urge to speak in church, it’s your lucky day, because Q&A will be encouraged.  One last appeal and I’ll wrap this up.  The Apostle Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Cor. 13:11) Not only is that the part of 1 Corinthians 13 that your Maid of Honor left out of her reading of the “Love is…” passage at your wedding, but it is a call to maturity.  We have an opportunity to approach God and His Word as men and women, not children.  We should take that responsibility seriously.   When we understand what we believe in the light of who God said He is, then we will be truly effective for God’s kingdom.  Remember, your friends, loved ones, co-workers, and enemies will never call upon a God whom they have never heard of.  They will never hear of God unless we send a preacher.  My friend, you are that preacher. (Rom. 10:14, Is. 52:7)

What We Believe

by Jonathan Whitaker

Every Christian has a testimony, a record of what Jesus has done in their life. Your story is uniquely yours and yet shared with everyone who has submitted their lives to Christ and received salvation. The fundamental element of our testimonies is this statement: “this is what I believe.” The importance of being able to clearly communicate what you believe is at the heart of the gospel call, which Christ gave to all of us when He commissioned His Church to make disciples of the nations. (Matt. 28:16-20)

I recently listened to the testimony of a young man who came to salvation out of Mormonism, while on his two-year Mormon mission. What impressed me was not only his powerful story of conversion, but that he was able to tie every part of his story to scripture, God’s story of redemption. There was real power in the young man’s words, because he told his own story using God’s word.

To know what you believe is integral to your personal relationship with God. God has spoken clearly about Himself in His word (the Bible). The Bible is unique among religious texts. Unlike every other book that purports to be holy, the Bible is not simply a list of rules and restrictions to govern man’s existence. In fact, its sole purpose is to reveal God Himself to man, and tell the story of how God is redeeming His creation. More than that, it is a story that is unfinished, about a living God, who CAN be known, and goes to great lengths to be known by the people He created. It follows then that your relationship with God is either enhanced or hindered by how much time you spend seeking Him in His living and active word. (Heb. 4:12)

The Elders of Element CS have no greater desire than to help you get intimately acquainted with your God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Over the next two months we will undertake to share with you the Living Word of God that underpins the truth of what we believe. Each week during our “What We Believe” series, we will teach you a different aspect of God’s grace. It would take an eternity to fully explore these topics, so our hope is that each of you will be blessed by the reminder of how good God is, and you would each get a renewed vigor for seeking God in your personal study of scripture. We hope to reinforce the truths you have mastered and possibly introduce you to truth you may not understand yet.

There will be homework. Notice I waited till the fifth paragraph to drop that bomb. Boo, homework! Here is my challenge to you. Don’t make the mistake I did by waiting until I was an adult (nearly 15 years after my salvation) to truly make seeking God a priority. The more time you spend with God now, the sooner He will reveal Himself through His word in your life. The more I study the Bible, the more it is a joy to study the Bible. You may not believe me, but if you have never done it, your opinion on the matter doesn’t convince me. I promise you that the life change you desire is found in the pages of scripture, but you must read God’s word to know Him. Do the hard work, it’s worth it. (Phil. 3:12-16)

This series will be a blessing to you and me both. And if you have had the urge to speak in church, it’s your lucky day, because Q&A will be encouraged.

One last appeal and I’ll wrap this up. The Apostle Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Cor. 13:11) Not only is that the part of 1 Corinthians 13 that your Maid of Honor left out of her reading of the “Love is…” passage at your wedding, but it is a call to maturity. We have an opportunity to approach God and His Word as men and women, not children. We should take that responsibility seriously. When we understand what we believe in the light of who God said He is, then we will be truly effective for God’s kingdom.

Remember, your friends, loved ones, co-workers, and enemies will never call upon a God whom they have never heard of. They will never hear of God unless we send a preacher. My friend, you are that preacher. (Rom. 10:14, Is. 52:7)

Stewards of God's Grace

by Christian Alf

This week I was preaching on 1 Peter 4:1-11; I said that I changed plans and redirected my focus onto the first line. We took a deep dive into Jesus, being both fully divine and fully man and then what this means for us. Go listen or watch it here.

We skipped talking about the second half of the verses in this section: 1 Peter 7-11. I wanted to spend a few minutes writing a blog about part of this section. Here are the verses:

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake
of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude
of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use
it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who
speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies -
in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory
and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Peter just finished encouraging the reader to change their focus from the passions of the flesh to the will of God. The time has passed for us to continue to desire sin, now is the time for us to seek the will of God. Peter then says “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly” This is reminiscent of Jesus’ greatest commandment. To test Jesus, one of the Pharisees asked him what the greatest commandment was. Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). You see, in both cases we cannot truly love our brothers and neighbors unless we first love God. That is the start of both these commands, that we would worship God first and only. And as a result we would love our neighbors.

Peter gives us two examples of this love. The first is to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling”. Hospitality is more than just inviting friends over. It is much easier for me to invite my friends over who look like me: families with young children and ties to the church, engineering, or the military. It is more difficult to love those who do not look like me. And then when I have people into our house what image am I presenting? A few weeks ago I encouraged everyone to ‘Pause and Reflect’ on the message being preached to them by books, music, and media (link). If I pause and reflect on the message being preached by my house when others come over it is that we have perfect little children and that everything is always clean. Neither of which is true. True hospitality is loving others where they are and loving them from where we are, dirty house and broken relationships. I am encouraged by Rosaria Butterfield (listen to this podcast or read her book)

Peter then goes on to call us to use our spiritual gifts, and we each have spiritual gifts. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” We are all members of the same body, but we have different gifts. We need to use the gifts to serve one another, and this will help with the hospitality piece. We do not need to live in a vacuum, we work with other believers to better show hospitality and love to one another. The example of the Whitakers opening their house up for us every week, and even the week when they were gone, is amazing. They are so generous with their time, space, and house. It is encouraging to me to see others live in this way and use their gifts (Hospitality and preaching the Word).

And why do we love one another and encourage each other to use our gifts? “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Everything is done to bring God more glory, so that we make much of him and less of us!

How to read difficult texts?

by Christian Alf

Recently I preached on First Peter 3:1-7. This is a difficult passages. Not only are there several verses that run contrary to culture, there is also one line that is confusing. Peter says to the wives: “Do not let your adorning be external --- the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear.” It is almost like he is telling the women not to braid their hair or wear jewelry. Is that what he is saying?

This verse reminds me of 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul writes: “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.” (1 Cor 11:4-5) What is he saying? And why do the women at ElementCS not cover their heads or shave their heads?

Well, to answer these questions we need to spend a little time looking at how we read through the Bible, and especially through difficult passages. I am encouraging you to read passages and verses that you might not understand the first or 50th time through. But, I don't want you to just read the verses by themselves. When I pull out the single verse of First Peter 3:3 it seems to state that woman can't dress nicely. And then we go and look at those verses in 1 Corinthians and we get confused about headcoverings. What we miss by reading these verses independently is the context. It is critical for us to expand our view to the surrounding verses and read the context of the statement.

Let us first look at the context of First Peter 3:3-4.

“Do not let your adorning be external --- the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear --- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.” When we extend the view onto the next verse we start to see that this truly is a statement about the adorning. “Do not let your adorning be external… but let your adorning be the hidden person” Peter is giving us an example of what adorning externally could be. If we were to take that clause as a literal command not to braid hair, put on gold jewelry, or wear clothes, that would be crazy! Peter is not telling the women to run around naked! No, he is saying, don’t let your focus be on your external beauty, but on the quite beauty of the heart, which is internal. (For more on this listen to the sermon from December 2, 2018)

Likewise we can look at what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians. Are men a disgrace if we pray in a baseball hat? And should the women of ElementCS shave their heads since they don’t wear headcoverings? This is an extreme statement, so we need to go look at the context to see what else he is saying. Just a few verses later he says: “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” (1 Cor 11:13-14) We can start to see a picture come together here by pulling in more context. Paul says that the long hair of a woman is her glory, so clearly he is not a proponent of shaving, and he also says that it is contrary to nature for a man to wear long hair. Great! I used to have long hair. So this is where we can pull in some extra help. We read the difficult verses in context and then if there is still confusion we can turn to a trusted study bible, pastor, or commentary. I will quote two passages from the ESV study bible which will shed some more light on this.

Why should a woman not pray with her head uncovered? Well, this “may have connoted sexual availability or may simply have been a sign of being unmarried. In cultures where women’s head covering are not a sign of being married, wives do not need to cover their heads in worship, but they could obey this command by wearing some other physical symbol of being married (such as a wedding ring).”1 And then later in reference to Verse 14: “Nature probably means ‘your natural sense of what is appropriate for men and women’: it would be a disgrace for a man to look like a woman because of his hair style. Although the norms of appropriate hair style (and dress) may vary from culture to culture, Paul’s point is that men should look like men in that culture, and women should look like women in that culture, rather than seeking to deny or disparage the God-given difference between the sexes.”1 So, like the headcoverings this is not an explicit command. Wives should look as if they are married and men and women should look as culturally appropriate versions of their sex. This is why you will not see the women in ElementCS with headcoverings or shaved heads, and we will preach wearing pants and not dresses.

So, context matters when reading difficult passages and if the context does not clarify everything, then sometimes seeking external help will help provide the language and cultural context required to fully comprehend the text.


1Taken from the ESV® Study Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2008 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The God We Imagine vs. the God of the Bible

by Jonathan Whitaker

This past Sunday and then again on Monday (because of my inability to operate the camera above a 1st grade level), I preached on 1 Peter 1:13-25. Catch the sermon on our current sermon series, Identity: Who We are In Christ. All of our sermons are available on the ElementCS.org website.  The two word tag line for these Bible verses is, “Be Holy.”  Holiness is a lofty call indeed and a deep topic to plumb in 30 minutes.  Needless to say, the sermon will only whet your appetite on the topic.  That is a good thing because holiness is something that you need to explore on your own as you get to know God.  The topic of holiness is naturally controversial, because holiness is an attribute of God.  And God’s holy nature is fundamentally at odds with our sinful nature.  When sin and holiness collide, strong opinions are sure to follow.  As people who have been born again in Christ (1 Peter 1:3), we must strive to align our beliefs about God to what God has said about Himself in the scripture. 

Every waking hour of the day you are exposed to stimulus that causes you to form and then reinforce your beliefs and opinions; culture, social circles, family, media, the list of sources is endless.  What is your primary source for your belief in God?  You have probably at one point in your life discussed a controversial topic from the Bible and had a person make the following remark, “I just can’t imagine God would do that.” Perhaps you have uttered that phrase yourself. 

As a Christ follower, you should be bothered by that statement.  Chiefly because God is not a figment of our imagination. What we imagine God to be like is irrelevant.  A Bible believing Christian should not have to imagine God at all.  The very notion belies the true issue that the person who would make such a statement doesn’t know what the God of the Universe has said about Himself in His Word.

The fact is we as Christians are blessed above all men, because our God valued a relationship with us so greatly that He descended into His own creation as the Man Jesus Christ.  He then left His inspired Word for us so that we can actually know Him.  Peter, who saw Jesus in His glorified state and then later resurrected, said that the Word of God (the Bible) is a more sure word of prophecy than even seeing those things with his (Peter’s) own eyes.  (2 Peter 1:16-21)  We have a God who can be known and has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself to all who will seek Him in the scripture.

So, what is the problem with trusting in your opinion or imagination of what God is like?  Well… it’s wrong!  God is wholly other than us, His ways are above ours and His thoughts are incorruptible. (Isa 55:8-9)   Psalm 50 points out the error of people who substitute their opinions of God vs knowing who God really is, “…you thought that I was one like yourself.  But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.”  God is not like us.  We must see when we substitute the truth about God for a lie (Rom 1) then we make ourselves the judge of God. 

“I just can’t imagine that God…” my friend you don’t have to imagine God.  You can know Him. It will take hard work and daily seeking, but the journey will be worth it.  God’s Word is like a bright light shining in the darkness.  It illuminates and reveals a God, about whom we were all ignorant until He revealed Himself to us.  It has the power to move us from the corrupt thinking of sin, where we imagine God in our image and it enables us to see the God who is nearby and present and able to be known. (Jer 23:22-23)

The Queen of Sweden

by Jonathan Whitaker

“How’d you become king?  I didn’t vote for ya.” said the filthy peasant woman Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The answer of course is found in the annals English lore, which reveal that Arthur became King of the Britains when the Lady of the Lake distributed him a sword from the pond she was lying in.  If indeed strange women lying in ponds were a basis for a system of government then, Saga Vanecek an 8-year-old girl from Sweden would be Queen.

Saga, like King Arthur, pulled a sword from a lake earlier this month.  Google it. In fact, she pulled a corroded rust encased 33-inch Viking sword from the mid 500’s AD from a lake.  Not a bad find at all.  And as it happens, a great illustration for my blog!

This week Element Colorado Springs embarks on our fall series in the book of First Peter called, Identity.  We chose this title because Peter’s epistle has so much to teach believers about who God says we are as Christ followers.  What could a rusty Viking Sword possibly teach us about who we are as believers?

1 Peter 1:3-7 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Do you see the security described in these verses?  Peter describes the new-life of a believer as permanent and durable, “an inheritance…imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”  Not only that but Peter says it is God that is guarding that inheritance in heaven.  I can only speak for myself, but as I read those verses my heart sinks a little when I see the words, “you have been grieved by various trials.”  I don’t want to go through trials, nor do I want my loved ones to experience trials.  I suspect you don’t either.

Perhaps it is the weakness of our sinful flesh that we can read such amazing promises from God and still focus on something negative.   Let’s try to walk in God’s shoes for a moment.  Peter says, “if necessary you have been grieved by trials.” and, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith...”  will reveal glory and honor when Christ returns.  The cynic would read this incorrectly and say, God tests us to see if we are worthy.  That statement is as wrong as it is blasphemous.  Peter’s words acknowledge that in our sinful fallen world trials come and the trials come reveal (in an individual) their true nature.  In essence, the inferno burns away that which is impermanent and leaves behind that which cannot be consumed by the fire.  God has made you indestructible.

Saga’s sword was made by a master craftsman.  His intent was likely not that the sword would endure for 1,500 years, but durability was the result of his careful work.  You were made for a purpose as well, to love and serve God.  God, as The Master Craftsman has made for you an indestructible inheritance which will be revealed in your indestructible body, “more precious than gold.”  when Jesus returns.

This Viking sword was an instrument of war and tumult.  When it was lost in a lake over a millennium ago it was subject to one of the harshest winter environments on the planet.  This environment marred and encased its surface in rust and mud till the sword underneath was unrecognizable.  Strangely though, it was these harsh conditions that preserved the sword for 1,500 years.  Then when the weather and level of the lake were just right, one little girl with a keen eye recognized something precious when she saw it. 

Peter is not saying that, God tests us to see if we are worthy.  He is saying, that trials will come and God gives us the strength to endure them.  As trials come they also pass.  Once trials pass, God’s master work in our lives is revealed, precious and indestructible.  A lot can be learned from a weathered old sword.  Its beauty is no longer outward or obvious, but to the one who truly knows, it is perfect.  Saga’s sword my not seem beautiful or wonderful, but to the people of Sweden, its priceless.   Your Father in heaven has made as a new beautiful indestructible creation with a living hope in Jesus Christ. That is your Identity.

Planting Churches

by Christian Alf

This week was very exciting for us at Element Christian Church Colorado Springs! Our Launch weekend is coming up October 21st, but this past Sunday was a soft launch so we can work through some things. That means it was our first Sunday gathering as the church. A lot of work and prayer over the past few weeks, and it's nice to see it finally came to fruition.

Now why would we want to plant a church in Colorado Springs? Isn’t it the center of the Christian Church Universe in America? Every para-church organization has an office or their headquarters here, right?

That is certainly what I thought before we moved here. While it is not a spiritual desert, there is still a huge need for the Gospel in the city. Even with all these organizations present in the city, there are still a lot of people in need of hearing the Gospel. Think about your neighbors and coworkers; they are why we are answering God’s call to plant a church here.

Jesus calls us all to be a witness and to go and make disciples of those around us. He clearly states this call in Matthew 28:19-20. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” There are three main commands here: Make Disciples, Baptize Believers, and Teach Others.

Each of these commands can be answered in a local church. Before I dig too far into this, I should define church, and especially the local church. I will use a very simple definition here, and save the in-depth discussion for later. A local church is simply a group of people gathered to worship God. This means that the gathering is focused not on the individuals but on giving God the Glory!

Acts 2:42 shows us one way in which the early church acted on this commission. It states that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” This description shows that the early church was meeting together to worship God and preach the Gospel. God blessed this dedication and brought a revival to the town. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those where were being saved.” This is our prayer for Colorado Springs.

Our vision is to see disciples formed in Element CS who then go out and make more disciples. We aim to equip those around us to teach others the Gospel and transform their communities into Gospel Communities.

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