Some of my greatest regrets are those times when I failed as a friend. Just this week, one of those regrets came pouring into my mind.

One of my best friends is Ukrainian. When I started to investigate working in Ukraine, the communist economy created shortages and deficits of almost everything like toilet paper, food, clothes, or almost every kind of consumer goods. Before we actually moved there, I would stay at my friend’s small apartment as I was preparing for our relocation. 

When I used the bathroom at his apartment, I discovered that the toilet seat had cracked. When I used the seat, it pinched me on a tender part of my body. So one day, while out with some other American visitors touring a factory and in the company store, I found a treasure: there was a toilet seat for sale. These were hard to find. So, I bought it, put it over my neck, and paraded around in public making all kinds of jokes about it. In my mind, I was a hero for finding a toilet seat for my friend. 

But, he was completely mortified and totally embarrassed by this gesture. In his mind, I was showing all his esteemed American guests how “bad off” he was. I never, for a second, considered how my fun was ripping him up inside. I was such an insensitive and unkind friend that day. 

Recently, I was challenged with this question: Am I the friend to myself in the same way that I want to be a friend toward others? I really try to be a good friend. I’m loyal. I want to encourage my friends. I’ll challenge them when I need to speak the truth, but I’ll do my best to make sure it is motivated by love. I’ll give a friend the benefit of the doubt. I’ll offer lots of grace to my friends. I’ll sacrifice for my friends willingly.

Do I do that to myself? Am I a good friend to myself? Not very often, unfortunately. I’m a terrible friend to me. I’m probably harder on me than Jesus is. I don’t give myself the benefit of the doubt. I rarely offer myself grace. I’m not kind to myself very often. Is that you as well?

I’ve been meditating on John 15:15 lately. It’s a profound statement that Jesus made. I would love to see the reaction of the disciples to what he said. Jesus said; I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. Jesus calls us his friends, with all that means. He is wide open to us and holds nothing back. Like a super friend, he speaks the truth in love. He encourages us to love and have good actions. He’s loyal. And he offers never-ending grace. What a friend we have in Jesus (someone should write a song about that… oh, they did).

If Jesus treats me as his friend, maybe it’s time I start treating myself as my friend. How about you?

Glen Elliott

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Every person, every organization and every church has values. Sometimes we are not aware of them and often they are not clearly articulated, but they drive how we live and shape who we are. Values are the foundational motivations for what we do. They provide our inspiration as non-negotiable guiding principles. They shape what we say “yes” or “no” to. They influence and characterize everything that happens in and through us. They give our church community its unique “flavor.” And for many of us, these values are what we love about being a part of Pantano. So, values matter!

Over the last six months, our leadership team has prayerfully and carefully looked at what we truly value in our church. After lots of healthy discussions and rewrites, below are the newly clarified values of Pantano Christian Church. I doubt that there will be many surprises at what you’ll see. And remember that these values do not replace what we believe (see our Statement of Faith) but are built on those beliefs. We’ll do a deeper dive into these values and their biblical basis in a series that we’ll launch in May. The six main values are in bold type below, followed by short descriptions in italics. What do you think?

We are unapologetic grace givers.
We are all broken, incomplete people in need of God’s grace. We meet people where they are and generously give away the grace we’ve freely received.

What matters most is loving people to Jesus.
Loving God = Loving People. Everyone has value and matters to God. We pursue those who don’t know Jesus to help them write a new life story with him.

Kingdom first.
Being “kingdom first” drives us beyond our own church community. We strive to join God wherever He is at work. Church is who we are, wherever we are.

Radical generosity reshapes our world.
As a kingdom first church, we share our resources and people selflessly.

The Bible transforms how we live and who we become.
The Bible is our primary source for transformation. We move beyond information to practical and relevant application.

Connected people are changed people.
Community is essential to connect with God and others in order to be transformed.

We pray you would consider how each of these values could be shown in your own life.

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We started a new teaching series Sunday called Interrupting Grace. We looked at how our sin and brokenness and the resulting guilt and shame can interrupt God’s grace. If you missed the teaching, you can watch it online.

Broken

In the message, I referred to a condition I call “brokenness”. We are all broken, which means we are not whole and will never be perfect in this life. We all have weaknesses. None of us are the complete package. All of us are sinners (Romans 3:23) and fall short of God’s ideal. And, our brokenness won’t be healed until we enter heaven for eternity.

Guilt and Condemnation

Our brokenness makes us guilty, but in my message, I quoted Romans 8:1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Note the sentence begins with “therefore.” That means this profound spiritual truth and promise is a summary for what preceded. What preceded was chapter 7 where Paul unpacks how we are all guilty and feel the condemnation for our failures.

In chapter 7 Paul talks about the principle of the “law”, which in this context is all of God’s revealed truths and commands. But, he admits that even though he knows what is right and wants to do what is right, he fails over and over. God’s ideals, intended for good, makes him “guilty” and brings condemnation because he continually falls short. Here’s how he describes himself in verses 14-19: 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature [flesh]. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  That last phrase is a great description of brokenness – I keep doing the wrong things!

Such a Mess

The frustration of Paul’s own brokenness comes out near the end of the chapter in verse 24 – “What a wretched man I am!” My paraphrase is this: “I’m such a mess!” We’ve all thought and felt the way Paul did. We know what’s right. We know how we want to live. But we fail over and over again. We are all broken. We all have a weakness that the Devil tries to exploit. We all have a particular kind or set of temptations that are more constant and harder to resist. We all have a particular sin or set of sins that we struggle with and give into. And there are moments we just cry out the words reflected in the Message version of verse 24 –  I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?  The answer is in verse 25 (NIV) – Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Grace – No Condemnation

This brings us full circle. In our brokenness, Jesus gives us grace. His grace is the full forgiveness of all our wrongs and failures. His grace offers us the full rights of being an adopted child of God. In spite of what we’ve done or not done, in grace he loves us, he is for us and will not abandon us. In grace, he has removed all condemnation for our continual ongoing failures – Romans 8:1! Grace is greater than our brokenness. Thank you, Jesus!

Every safe home has circuit breakers. They are usually found in the breaker box, usually outside the home, apartment or building. The newer style breakers act like switches. If there’s a short or an electrical overload, the breaker will trip or turn off the power to a particular circuit to protect the appliances, devices and even the house or building. The whole purpose of a breaker is to break the flow of electricity to keep something bad from happening.

The old style of breakers were the type you would screw in. They were actually called fuses, and they were one and done. If there was a short or overload, they would just burn out, stop the flow of electricity, and you would need to replace them. My family and I once lived in the Soviet Union in a 5-story Soviet-built apartment building. The breaker box was in the hall across from the elevator. One day the breaker blew. Back then, everything was a deficit; sugar, butter, socks, and shampoo were all in short supply. So, when the fuse burnt out, I spent a whole day going from store to store and every open-air market I could visit to find one. Finally, after a whole day of looking, I found one and the power was restored. I spent the whole day looking because you really can’t function well in our modern way of life without electricity.

Without electric power, appliances won’t work. The food in the refrigerator will go bad quickly. There are no lights to be able to see at night. And, in Arizona in the summer, no power means no air conditioning – yikes! No electricity also means no internet and maybe even no entertainment through a TV. We need electricity, and when it is interrupted, we have chaos.

In the spiritual world, there are also breakers that stop the flow of God’s power (which is grace). The Bible says that we face a dangerous spiritual condition when grace is interrupted from flowing into our lives, causing us to miss it. Hebrews 12:15 says that it’s toxic if we miss grace. Without grace, we can easily be spiritually poisoned (that’s what “bitter” means in Heb. 12:15). And when grace is interrupted, then it is nearly impossible for grace to flow out of us to others. It’s absolutely vital that we make sure the flow of grace is not interrupted.

Starting this Sunday, we are beginning a new teaching series called Interrupting Grace. We’ll explore three of the main things that attempt to interrupt the flow of grace – our mistakes, our hurts, and difficult circumstances. God’s grace is free and powerful. It is life-changing. We need to be alert and not allow anything to block grace from filling our lives or impede the flow of grace through our lives.

And this Sunday, we are going to give everyone an opportunity to say “yes” to grace. Saying yes to grace is saying you are ready to trust Jesus, ready to follow the way of Jesus, ready to accept the grace, love, and forgiveness of Jesus. If you are ready to start the flow of grace that’s greater than your mistakes, hurts or difficult situations, then say yes right now. And, plan to make a promise to follow Jesus to the best of your ability and commit to living in the grace of Jesus through baptism this Sunday.

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