Thursday, December 22, 2005

Yee Ha!

So last weekend, my son Zeke and I had such a great weekend together. Thanks for the many suggestions of fun stuff to do. We went rock throwing at Montana De Oro (more than once). We watched the skateboarders at the Los Osos Skate Park. We picked fruit at the Cal Poly U Pick. We went to the Cal Poly Men's Basketball Game. And we went and got a great tour at the Cal Poly Dairy.

Jay and Vivian Wheeler, are fairly new here at Grace and in the community. Jay is the new Cal Poly Dairy Manager. Great people. Huge job.

My Dutch heritage means that some of our extended family have been involved in dairy farming. But it's been awhile. It all came back to me last Saturday. The smell, but especially the work. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year something is happening on the dairy. Here are some fun facts:

• The Cal Poly Dairy is the only remaining milking dairy in the entire county.

• The Cal Poly Dairy is one of the premier university dairies on the West Coast and probably nationwide.

• The Cal Poly Dairy employs 30 part time employee students every quarter.

• On the Cal Poly Dairy, there are 250 cows that have to be milked twice daily. It takes 3 hours to milk all 250 cows. While the cows are not milked by hand, applying the milking machine and the other steps in the complicated process require a personal touch. It's not an automated process.

• Besides the milking cows, there's approximately another 200 to 250 cattle on the dairy, including calves born almost daily. The day before we were there, 3 calves were born.

Zeke loved walking around and touching the baby cows. It's beautiful out there. It's always valuable for me to get out and see the wide variety of callings that the people of Grace are involved in. It's pretty awesome living in a university town.

Meet the Wheelers and tell them you want to bring your family out to see the dairy. I'm sure you'll be welcome!

Monday, December 19, 2005 updates

Have you checked out the church website lately at We've recently added some new functionality to the menus which reduces the amount of clicking necessary to get where you need to go and greatly simplifies navigation. We've also added a sitemap link in the footer that lets you see an overview of the site. Finally, we've been creating a series of ministry-specific pages for college, youth and children's ministries.

Check it out and give us some feedback. What else would make the site more usable for you? What else would you like to see? What's missing?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Man Time"

Susie pulled off the major surprise this morning. Sage and Eden both have birthdays right around Christmas and it's always crazy trying to do parties in addition to all the other activities surrounding Christmas. So months ago she talked them into doing something besides parties this year, but she didn't tell them what it was going to be. She said she'd surprise them. So for months, working with her mom ("Bestemor" to the girls) and her sister Joni in Cincinnati, she planned a trip to the American Girl Store in Chicago, using frequent flyer miles.

She kept a good secret. She got the girls all the way to the SLO airport before they learned that they, (and not my assistant, Debbie Johnston) were the ones getting on the plane. But still she hasn't told them their ulimate destination. . . one piece at time. So I guess the girls are prety excited about their little adventure, as you can see from the pic above. Haaken, apparently, is ambivalent about spending a weekend with the ladies. Can't say that I blame him.

So . . . . I've rearranged my work hours a bit so that Zeke and I can have some serious "Man Time" between now and Sunday. I've been coming up with some things we can do. I'm thinking about the Farmer's Market on Thursday and his first Cal Poly basketball game on Friday. But I'm looking for some more ideas. Got any?

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Gospel Brings Reversal

Yesterday, we looked at Mary's Magnificat where we saw that the Christmas Gospel is Covenental. It brings Reversal. And it's Personal. (Message is now posted in all the usual places.)

Speaking of the reversal that the Gospel brings. . . have you heard about the recent coming to faith of Anne Rice, the auhor of Interview with a Vampire and other dark stuff for over 30 years? The Gospel is grabbing this lady and bringing a great reversal to her values, ambitions and life.

In contrast to Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code (which we mentioned a few posts ago) who mocks the historicity and reliability of the Gospel accounts, Anne Rice painstakingly examined the New Testament historical data and became convinced that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

Here's an excerpt from a World Magazine article detailing Mrs. Rice's conversion entitled, Into the Light. . .

Mrs. Rice's research took her through the literature written by those she calls "the skeptical critics," beginning with the New Testament scholars of the Enlightenment. "I expected to discover that their arguments would be frighteningly strong, and that Christianity was, at heart, a kind of fraud," she writes in an author's note in her new book.

But she plowed on, "ready to risk everything," particularly her newly recovered faith: "The skeptical New Testament scholarship tries to prove to you that the Gospels don't hold up. It takes great fortitude to subject yourself to that kind of literature, to seriously take notes, to follow the arguments, to draw conclusions. You could come out destroyed." But she came out concluding that the skeptics were wrong, perpetrators and victims of some of the worst scholarship she'd ever seen, built with poor research and reasoning on a foundation that presumed the Gospels weren't true. . . .

She continued scouring the Gospels herself, not only to absorb the unfolding life of Christ, but to delve into the how of Christianity itself: "I could see that this was a great mystery. How could Christianity bust into the Roman Empire and take over the world in only 200 years? I was looking to see how this thing worked itself out, day by day, month by month, year by year." She came to understand that Christianity achieved what it did because Jesus rose from the dead: That was what made sense of Christianity's spread.

Understanding this, for Mrs. Rice, was a turning point, and there were others, such as the dawning in her mind of the Gospels' "unique coherence, their personalities—the inevitable stamp of individual authorship."

So where are you seeing Gospel reversal happen in your own life, in the lives of others or in the community?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Aslan is on the Move!

The long awaited first installment of Narnia opens today! Who's going? I'm not going to make it today, so leave some comments about what you thought. Can they really sustain this thing over seven years? It would a shame to see them make a couple and then quit.

Can I take my 8 year old Sage to see it? It would be a great one on one date. I know my brother is taking his 6 year old son, Kyle, but boys are different.

I read in World Magazine that the filmakers inserted a line at a crucial moment in the movie that wasn't in Lewis' original. The line was "It is finished!" Guy claims he didn't know the Biblical significance of that phrase. A happy providence!

Here's World's review!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Da Vinci Deception

I had a chance to finally read the Da Vinci Code a couple weeks ago over my vacation. The reason I made time to read this silly book is because this Spring The Da Vinci Code movie will be released and could cause quite a stir.

Every year the Central Coast Evangelical Pastor's Network tries to do something together to demonstrate our unity and to reach our community. A couple years back we all preached a series related to the Passion movie. Last year, we all did a series on Heaven rooted in Randy Alcorn's book. In 2006, we decided to do something related to answering questions that have arisen from the Da Vinci Code.

So, we've arranged to bring to the Central Coast Dr. Erwin Lutzer, who is the Senior Pastor at Moody Bible Church, outside of Chicago and the author of The Da Vinci Deception. Dr. Lutzer will be addressing misconceptions that arise from the Da Vinci Code regarding the reliability and historicity of the New Testament documents. He'll be speaking on three nights, once in the North County, once in the South County and once right here at Grace in downtown SLO. We hope and pray these evenings will be helpful in equipping believers to answer and address questions/issues raised by the Da Vinci Code book and movie.

By the way, I thought the book was a real page turner. Fun conspiracy theory stuff like the movie National Treasure. The scandalous chapter that directly challenges the historicity and reliability of the New Testament documents is chapter 55, but I guess there is an implicit challenge throughout. I thought Mr. Brown was just parrotting the standard higher criticism liberal intellectualism of most secular univesities. This is standard Jesus Seminar stuff that we see on the newstand periodicals every Christmas and Easter. Anyone who actually examines the historical data shouldn't fall for these lies. Dr. Lutzer should help us do just that.

I also have taught a series on the reliability of the New Testament documents. We'll post the written notes in PDF format soon on the website.

Anybody else read the book? What did you think?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

12.4.05 Message Now Posted

Sunday we looked at Gabriel's Good News in Luke 1:26-38 where we saw Mary's Surprise and Mary's Submission. We saw that Mary shows us how to respond to the Christmas Gospel. . . by Receiving, by Risking, by Resigning, by Reflecting and by Rejoicing. I've been trying to practice these responses this week, how about you?

Sunday's Message is now posted in all the usual places.

Someone emailed me and let me know they had a hard time locating the "Athanian Creed" on the internet. Sorry I wasn't more clear. I meant the Athanasian Creed. The Athanasian Creed is one of the "Big Three" universal creeds embraced by most traditions of Christianity along with the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. The Athanasian Creed was not actually written by Athanasius (293-373), but was named after him because he was so zealous for the doctrine of the Trinity. The creed uses the word "catholic" which simply means "universal." This is not a word referring the Roman Catholic Church but the "church universal" which includes true believers in Jesus Christ in all places and times. Here, then, is the Athanasian Creed in its entirety for your SLOW meditation and devotion. The part I read on Sunday is bolded.

Why are creeds important? What doctrines is the Athanasian Creed trying to explain and protect? There is one line in particular that tends to raise questions for modern evangelical Christians. Can you figure out which one?

Athanasian Creed

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.

Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith:

That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
The Father is uncreated,
the Son is uncreated,
the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

The Father is immeasurable,
the Son is immeasurable,
the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

The Father is eternal,
the Son is eternal,
the Holy Spirit is eternal.

And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.
So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.

Thus the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three gods;
there is but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord.
Yet there are not three lords;
there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us
to confess each person individually
as both God and Lord,
so catholic religion forbids us
to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
The Son was neither made nor created;
he was begotten from the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
there is one Son, not three sons;
there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
nothing is greater or smaller;
in their entirety the three persons
are coeternal and coequal with each other.

So in everything, as was said earlier,
we must worship their trinity in their unity
and their unity in their trinity.

Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.

Now this is the true faith:

That we believe and confess
that our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son,
is both God and human, equally.

He is God from the essence of the Father,
begotten before time;
and he is human from the essence of his mother,
born in time;
completely God, completely human,
with a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father as regards divinity,
less than the Father as regards humanity.

Although he is God and human,
yet Christ is not two, but one.

He is one, however,
not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
but by God's taking humanity to himself.
He is one,
certainly not by the blending of his essence,
but by the unity of his person.
For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
so too the one Christ is both God and human.

He suffered for our salvation;
he descended to hell;
he arose from the dead;
he ascended to heaven;
he is seated at the Father's right hand;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
At his coming all people will arise bodily
and give an accounting of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


We got back into SLO late Tuesday night. Here are some random thoughts at the tail end of this ReEntry work day:

• Joe, in your earlier comment, you were right about the train. We had an hour delay coming home. Drag. But still overall very worth it! Andy and Jeanette, can you believe it, there's a potty on the train! I agree with Tom, Andy, kids are going to rock your world.

• There are "vacations" and there are "visits." I was expecting a visit, but it was kind of a mix. I felt like I really got to relax. The cousins all loved being together. Priceless.

• Somehow, I got to watch a whole day of football. I don't think I've ever done that before. I listened to the Cal Poly game over internet, while I watched Texas State and New Hampshire games. Cal Poly rolls on. Nationally televised game this Saturday on ESPN2 at 1:00 PM. Are Larry Iunker and I the only people who care?

• The Lion exhibit at the Wild Animal Park in Escondido is pretty cool. We hung out Sunday afternoon about 4:00 while huge lions walked back and forth just on the other side of the thick glass, not more than an 6 inches away. Of course, I'm thinking of Aslan. Anybody else been?

• I heard Pastor Steve did a great job filling in on Sunday. I had a chance to attend services at Emmanuel Faith Church in Escondido. It's always valuable to get out of my own little box and see what others are doing. There is more than one way to do church. . . .though I really like the way we do it!

• I have a harder time re-entering than I do exiting. I guess that means maybe I'm not really as driven as everyone thinks I am.

• This is a big job. Who's sufficient for these things? Lord, lead Grace where she needs to go! Build your church! Use weak, inept, over-my-head me. I always feel this way after a week away.

• This week we're sliding over to the Gospel of Luke and putting ourselves in the story of Christmas together. Hope you're going to be there!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Another Great Sunday Together

Sunday was great.

In the morning, we looked at Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says, "I will build my church!" Message is posted in all the usual places. Use the links at right to listen.

The 1st Annual High School / College Turkey Bowl happened in the afternoon. Great turnout and great games I heard. I also heard something about Pastor Steve (or P. Steve as he's called) getting dragged through the mud. Anyone got any pictures?

That evening was our Thanksgathering Dinner. A good time of food and fellowship, singing and sharing, where we opened things up with the roving mics and gave folks the opportunity to give God the glory and encourage one another for the many ways that God is at work in our midst. Many thanks to all who made the evening possible. If you missed you missed out. Be sure to sign up early next year!

So, following up on the evening and for those who missed it or were afraid to share, where is God at work at Grace? Take some time to reflect and leave a comment to encourage others.

Monday, November 21, 2005

All Aboard

So we decided to do something different this Thanksgiving holiday. . . .we decided to take the train down south to see family in Southern California. So we got on in SLO bright and early at 6:45 AM this morning and got off in Oceanside at 2:15 PM. I'm not sure they've ever seen so much checked baggage!

It was great! I got a short nap. Susie got to feed the baby without us having to pull over. The kids were able to walk around and watch movies on the laptop. The scenery was amazing. . . well most of the way. I got off feeling refreshed and ready to go. Why didn't someone tell us about this 3 years ago? I can't wait to do it again. We figure it took about the same amount of time as driving for our family of 6 at this stage of our lives and it cost about the same, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jingle all the way!

There's always so much more going on here at Grace than even I realize. Did you know. .. have you heard . . . .that folks from Grace are constructing a float for participation in the San Luis Obispo Christmas Parade on Friday, December 2nd? Our kid's choirs and others are going to be riding the float. It's all part of being "a church in the community, serving the community." So here's a picture of the construction process. That guy there is Dennis Cementina, whom you normally see the front of as he plays the drums in our Sunday Worship Team. Looks to me like that's a model of the church building. . . .

Our family has so enjoyed the Christmas Parade in our few years here. It's a great community event.... a great chance to sit on the street in blankets and sip hot chocolate. I'm thinking we need to designate an area this year where we folks from Grace can rendevous and sit together. So, who's going to take that on?

Anyway, I know the float crew is having at least one more workday and they are looking for help. If you're willing and available, fill out your worship tab this Sunday and turn it in at the Welcome & Resource Center in the Courtyard between services. Sounds like a chance to use some power tools!

Remembering the Reformers, Part 5: John Knox

We'll cut off our Reformer series for now with John Knox, a controversial but important Scottish Reformer. . . Here's an introduction from 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. . .

"The sword of justice is God's, and if princes and rulers fail to use it, others may."

He was a minister of the Christian gospel who advocated violent revolution. He was considered one of the most powerful preachers of his day, but only two of the hundreds of sermons he preached were ever published. He is a key figure in the formation of modern Scotland, yet there is only one monument erected to him in Scotland, and his grave lies beneath a parking lot.

John Knox was indeed a man of many paradoxes, a Hebrew Jeremiah set down on Scottish soil. In a relentless campaign of fiery oratory, he sought to destroy what he felt was idolatry and to purify Scotland's religion.

Taking up the cause
John Knox was born around 1514, at Haddington, a small town south of Edinburgh. Around 1529 he entered the University of St. Andrews and went on to study theology. He was ordained in 1536, but became a notary, then a tutor to the sons of local lairds (lower ranking Scottish nobility).

Dramatic events were unfolding in Scotland during Knox's youth. Many were angry with the Catholic church, which owned more than half the real estate and gathered an annual income of nearly 18 times that of the crown. Bishops and priests were often mere political appointments, and many never hid their immoral lives: the archbishop of St. Andrews, Cardinal Beaton, openly consorted with concubines and sired 10 children.

The constant sea traffic between Scotland and Europe allowed Lutheran literature to be smuggled into the country. Church authorities were alarmed by this "heresy" and tried to suppress it. Patrick Hamilton, an outspoken Protestant convert, was burned at the stake in 1528.

In the early 1540s, Knox came under the influence of converted reformers, and under the preaching of Thomas Guilliame, he joined them. Knox then became a bodyguard for the fiery Protestant preacher George Wishart, who was speaking throughout Scotland.

In 1546, however, Beaton had Wishart arrested, tried, strangled, and burned. In response, a party of 16 Protestant nobles stormed the castle, assassinated Beaton, and mutilated his body. The castle was immediately put to siege by a fleet of French ships (Catholic France was an ally to Scotland). Though Knox was not privy to the murder, he did approve of it, and during a break in the siege, he joined the besieged party in the castle.

During a Protestant service one Sunday, preacher John Rough spoke on the election of ministers, and publicly asked Knox to undertake the office of preacher. When the congregation confirmed the call, Knox was shaken and reduced to tears. He declined at first, but eventually submitted to what he felt was a divine call.

It was a short-lived ministry. In 1547, after St. Andrews Castle had again been put under siege, it finally capitulated. Some of the occupants were imprisoned. Others, like Knox, were sent to the galleys as slaves.

Traveling preacher
Nineteen months passed before he and others were released. Knox spent the next five years in England, and his reputation for preaching quickly blossomed. But when Catholic Mary Tudor took the throne, Knox was forced to flee to France.

He made his way to Geneva, where he met John Calvin. The French reformer described Knox as a "brother … laboring energetically for the faith." Knox for his part, was so impressed with Calvin's Geneva, he called it, "the most perfect school of Christ that was ever on earth since the days of the apostles."

Knox traveled on to Frankfurt am Main, where he joined other Protestant refugees—and quickly became embroiled in controversy. The Protestants could not agree on an order of worship. Arguments became so heated that one group stormed out of a church one Sunday, refusing to worship in the same building as Knox.

Back in Scotland, Protestants were redoubling their efforts, and congregations were forming all over the country. A group that came to be called "The Lords of the Congregation" vowed to make Protestantism the religion of the land. In 1555, they invited Knox to return to Scotland to inspire the reforming task. Knox spent nine months preaching extensively and persuasively in Scotland before he was forced to return to Geneva.

Fiery blasts of the pen
Away from his homeland again, he published some of his most controversial tracts: In his Admonition to England he virulently attacked the leaders who allowed Catholicism back in England. In The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women he argued that a female ruler (like English Queen Mary Tudor) was "most odious in the presence of God" and that she was "a traitoress and rebel against God." In his Appellations to the Nobility and Commonality of Scotland, he extended to ordinary people the right—indeed the duty—to rebel against unjust rulers. As he told Queen Mary of Scotland later, "The sword of justice is God's, and if princes and rulers fail to use it, others may."

Knox returned to Scotland in 1559, and he again deployed his formidable preaching skills to increase Protestant militancy. Within days of his arrival, he preached a violent sermon at Perth against Catholic "idolatry," causing a riot. Altars were demolished, images smashed, and religious houses destroyed.

In June, Knox was elected the minister of the Edinburgh church, where he continued to exhort and inspire. In his sermons, Knox typically spent half an hour calmly exegeting a biblical passage. Then as he applied the text to the Scottish situation, he became "active and vigorous" and would violently pound the pulpit. Said one note taker, "he made me so to grew [quake] and tremble, that I could not hold pen to write."

The Lords of the Congregation militarily occupied more and more cities, so that finally, in the 1560 Treaty of Berwick, the English and French agreed to leave Scotland. (The English, now under Protestant Elizabeth I, had come to the aid of the Protestant Scots; the French were aiding the Catholic party). The future of Protestantism in Scotland was assured.

The Parliament ordered Knox and five colleagues to write a Confession of Faith, the First Book of Discipline, and The Book of Common Order—all of which cast the Protestant faith of Scotland in a distinctly Calvinist and Presbyterian mode.

Knox finished out his years as preacher of the Edinburgh church, helping shape the developing Protestantism in Scotland. During this time, he wrote his History of the Reformation of Religion in Scotland.

Though he remains a paradox to many, Knox was clearly a man of great courage: one man standing before Knox's open grave said, "Here lies a man who neither flattered nor feared any flesh." Knox's legacy is large: his spiritual progeny includes some 750,000 Presbyterians in Scotland, 3 million in the United States, and many millions more worldwide.


1488 First complete Hebrew Old Testament
1497 Savonarola excommunicated
1512 Michelangelo completes Sistine Chapel frescoes
1514 John Knox born
1572 John Knox dies
1587 Mary Stuart executed

(NOT) Getting it done!

"When is the next blog comming? "This was the latest anonymous comment that someone left yesterday. Good question. Things are crazy. I'm trying to get out of town next week with the family. Our staff is trying to nail down next year's calendar. Haaken can't be put down between 9:00 and 12:00 PM. A season of life. It's all good. . . but pretty nuts! I know I'm not alone. Neither are you!

Its encouraging that folks are looking for more! Hang in there with me. . . .

Monday, November 07, 2005

Remembering the Reformers, part 4: John Calvin

So let's bang out at least a couple more Reformers this week. What list of Reformers would be complete without John Calvin, undoubtedly the most controversial and misunderstood of the Reformers. Like the others, Calvin was far from perfect, but mightily used of God.

Once more, here's the excerpt from 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. . .

"I labored at the task [writing The Institutes] especially for our Frenchmen, for I saw that many were hungering and thirsting after Christ and yet that only a few had any real knowledge of him."

With his brother and sister and two friends, John Calvin fled Catholic France and headed to the free city of Strasbourg. It was the summer of 1536; Calvin had recently converted to the "evangelical" faith and had just published The Institutes of the Christian Religion, which articulated his Protestant views. He was a wanted man.

The party put up at an inn in Geneva, and word quickly passed to local church leader William Farel that the author of The Institutes was in town. Farel was ecstatic. He was desperate for help as he strove to organize a newly formed Protestant church in town. He rushed to the inn and pleaded with Calvin, arguing it was God's will he remain in the city.

Calvin said he was staying only one night. Besides, he was a scholar not a pastor. Farel, baffled and frustrated, swore a great oath that God would curse all Calvin's studies unless he stayed in Geneva.

Calvin, a man of tender conscience, later reflected on this moment: "I felt as if God from heaven had laid his mighty hand upon me to stop me in my course—and I was so terror stricken that I did not continue my journey."

To this day, Calvin's name is associated, for good and for ill, with the city of Geneva. And Calvin's belief in God's election is his theological legacy to the church.

The "whole sum of godliness"

Calvin was born in 1509 in Noyon, France. His father, a lawyer, planned a career in the church for his son, and by the mid-1520s, Calvin had become a fine scholar. He spoke proficient Latin, excelled at philosophy, and qualified to take up the intensive study of theology in Paris.

Suddenly, though, his father changed his mind and decided John should achieve greatness in law. John acquiesced, and the next five or six years saw him at the University of Orleans, attaining distinction in a subject he did not love. During these years, he dipped into Renaissance humanism. He learned Greek, read widely in the classics, and added Plato to the Aristotle he already knew. He developed a taste for writing so that by age 22, he had published a commentary on Seneca's De Clementia.

Then word of Luther's teaching reached France, and his life made an abrupt turn, though his own account is reticent and vague:

"He [God] tamed to teachableness a mind too stubborn for its years—for I was strongly devoted to the superstitions of the papacy that nothing less could draw me from such depths of mire. And so this mere taste of true godliness that I received set me on fire with such a desire to progress that I pursued the rest of my studies more coolly, although I did not give them up altogether."

He became marked out as a "Lutheran," and, when persecution arose in Paris (where he had returned to teach), he sought refuge in Basel. There he penned the first edition of a book that was to affect Western history as much as any other.

The Institutes of the Christian Religion was intended as an elementary manual for those who wanted to know something about the evangelical faith—"the whole sum of godliness and whatever it is necessary to know about saving doctrine." Calvin later wrote, "I labored at the task especially for our own Frenchmen, for I saw that many were hungering and thirsting after Christ and yet that only a very few had any real knowledge of him."

In The Institutes, Calvin outlined his views on the church, the sacraments, justification, Christian liberty, and political government. His unique and overarching theme is God's sovereignty. He taught that original sin eradicated free will in people. Only by God's initiative can anyone begin to have faith and thus experience assurance of salvation.

In this and later editions, Calvin developed the doctrines of predestination, or election. More importantly, he argued for the indefectability of grace—that is, grace will never be withdrawn from the elect. This was Calvin's pastoral attempt to comfort new believers. In medieval Catholicism, believers remained anxious about their spiritual destinies and were required to perform more and more good works to guarantee their salvation. Calvin taught that once a believer understands he is chosen by Christ to eternal life, he will never have to suffer doubt again about salvation: "He will obtain an unwavering hope of final perseverance (as it is called), if he reckons himself a member of him who is beyond hazard of falling away."

God's city
After fleeing France to escape persecution, Calvin settled in Geneva at Farel's bidding. But after a mere 18 months, he and Farel were banished from the city for disagreeing with the city council. Calvin headed again for Strasbourg, where he pastored for three years and married Idellete de Bure, the widow of an Anabaptist, who brought with her two children.

By 1541 Calvin's reputation had spread: he wrote three other books and revised his Institutes. (Still more revisions came in 1550 and 1559, eventually amounting to 80 chapters.) He had become close friends with leading Reformers like Martin Bucer and Philip Melanchthon. He was asked to return to Geneva by city authorities, and he spent the rest of his life trying to help establish a theocratic society.

Calvin believed the church should faithfully mirror the principles laid down in Holy Scripture. In his Ecclesiastical Ordinances he argued that the New Testament taught four orders of ministry: pastors, doctors, elders, and deacons. Around these, the city was organized.

Pastors conducted the services, preached, administered the Sacraments, and cared for the spiritual welfare of parishioners. In each of the three parish churches, two Sunday services and a catechism class were offered. Every other weekday, a service was held—later on, every day. The Lord's Supper was celebrated quarterly.

The doctors, or teachers, lectured in Latin on the Old and New Testaments usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The audience consisted mainly of the older schoolboys and ministers, but anyone could attend.

In every district, elders kept an eye on spiritual affairs. If they saw that so-and-so was frequently the worse for drink, or that Mr. X beat his wife, or that Mr. Y and Mrs. Z were seeing too much of each other, they admonished them in a brotherly manner. If the behavior didn't cease, they reported the matter to the Consistory, the church's governing body, which would summon the offender. Excommunication was a last resort and would remain in force until the offender repented.

Finally, social welfare was the charge of the deacons. They were the hospital management board, social security executives, and alms-house supervisors. The deacons were so effective, Geneva had no beggars.

The system worked so well for so many years that when John Knox visited Geneva in 1554, he wrote a friend that the city "is the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the apostles."

Unofficial authoritarian
Calvin, for his part, preached twice every Sunday and every day of alternate weeks. When not preaching, he lectured as the Old Testament professor three times a week. He took his place regularly on the Consistory, which met every Thursday. And he was either on committees or incessantly being asked for advice about matters relating to the deacons.

He was in no way the ruler or dictator of Geneva. He was appointed by the city council and paid by them. He could at any time have been dismissed by them (as he had been in 1538). He was a foreigner in Geneva, not even a naturalized citizen, until near the end of his life. His was a moral authority, stemming from his belief that, because he proclaimed the message of the Bible, he was God's ambassador, with divine authority behind him. As such, he was involved in much that went on in Geneva, from the city constitution to drains and heating appliances.

His role in the infamous execution of Michael Servetus in 1553, then, was not an official one. Servetus fled to Geneva to escape Catholic authorities: he had denied the Trinity, a blasphemy that merited death in the 1500s all over Europe. Geneva authorities didn't have any more patience with heresy than did Catholics, and with the full approval of Calvin, they put Servetus to the stake.

Calvin drove himself beyond his body's limits. When he could not walk the couple of hundred yards to church, he was carried in a chair to preach. When the doctor forbade him to go out in the winter air to the lecture room, he crowded the audience into his bedroom and gave lectures there. To those who would urge him to rest, he asked, "What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?"

His afflictions were intensified by opposition he sometimes faced. People tried to drown his voice by loud coughing while he preached; others fired guns outside the church. Men set their dogs on him. There were even anonymous threats against his life.

Calvin's patience gradually wore away. Even when he was patient, he was too unsympathetic sometimes. He showed little understanding, little kindness, and certainly little humor.

Calvin finally wore out in 1564. But his influence has not. Outside the church, his ideas have been blamed for and credited with (depending on your view) the rise of capitalism, individualism, and democracy. In the church, he has been a major influence on leading figures such as evangelist George Whitefield and theologian Karl Barth, as well as entire movements, such as Puritanism.

Day to day, church bodies with the names "Presbyterian" or "Reformed" (and even some Baptist groups) carry forward his legacy in local parishes all over the world.

1488 First complete Hebrew Old Testament
1497 Savonarola excommunicated
1506 Work begins on new St. Peter's in Rome
1509 John Calvin born
1564 John Calvin dies
1611 King James Version of Bible published

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Remembering the Reformers, part 3: Martin Luther

So are you taking the time this week to read these longer posts on the Reformers? I sure hope so. (Can't take you more than 10 minutes, can it?)

The Reformer of the Day is Martin Luther. Martin Luther is a walking picture of God's grace in the life of a man. If Wycliffe was the spark of the Reformation, Huss was the kindling and Luther the flaming torch. Here's an introduction to the salty saint, again from 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. . .

"At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open."

In the sixteenth century, the world was divided about Martin Luther. One Catholic thought Martin Luther was a "demon in the appearance of a man." Another who first questioned Luther's theology later declared, "He alone is right!"

In our day, nearly 500 years hence, the verdict is nearly unanimous to the good. Both Catholics and Protestants affirm he was not only right about a great deal, but he changed the course of Western history for the better.

Thunderstorm conversion
Martin was born at Eisleben (about 120 miles southwest of modern Berlin) to Margaret and Hans Luder (as it was locally pronounced). He was raised in Mansfeld, where his father worked at the local copper mines.

Hans sent Martin to Latin school and then, when Martin was only 13 years old, to the University of Erfurt to study law. There Martin earned both his baccalaureate and master's degrees in the shortest time allowed by university statutes. He proved so adept at public debates that he earned the nickname "The Philosopher."

Then in 1505 his life took a dramatic turn. As the 21-year-old Luther fought his way through a severe thunderstorm on the road to Erfurt, a bolt of lightning struck the ground near him.

"Help me, St. Anne!" Luther screamed. "I will become a monk!"

The scrupulous Luther fulfilled his vow: he gave away all his possessions and entered the monastic life.

Spiritual breakthrough
Luther was extraordinarily successful as a monk. He plunged into prayer, fasting, and ascetic practices—going without sleep, enduring bone-chilling cold without a blanket, and flagellating himself. As he later commented, "If anyone could have earned heaven by the life of a monk, it was I."

Although he sought by these means to love God fully, he found no consolation. He was increasingly terrified of the wrath of God: "When it is touched by this passing inundation of the eternal, the soul feels and drinks nothing but eternal punishment."

During his early years, whenever Luther read what would become the famous "Reformation text"—Romans 1:17—his eyes were drawn not to the word faith, but to the word righteous. Who, after all, could "live by faith" but those who were already righteous? The text was clear on the matter: "the righteous shall live by faith."

Luther remarked, "I hated that word, 'the righteousness of God,' by which I had been taught according to the custom and use of all teachers ... [that] God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner." The young Luther could not live by faith because he was not righteous—and he knew it.

Meanwhile, he was ordered to take his doctorate in the Bible and become a professor at Wittenberg University. During lectures on the Psalms (in 1513 and 1514) and a study of the Book of Romans, he began to see a way through his dilemma. "At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I ... began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith… Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open."

On the heels of this new understanding came others. To Luther the church was no longer the institution defined by apostolic succession; instead it was the community of those who had been given faith. Salvation came not by the sacraments as such but by faith. The idea that human beings had a spark of goodness (enough to seek out God) was not a foundation of theology but was taught only by "fools." Humility was no longer a virtue that earned grace but a necessary response to the gift of grace. Faith no longer consisted of assenting to the church's teachings but of trusting the promises of God and the merits of Christ.

It wasn't long before the revolution in Luther's heart and mind played itself out in all of Europe.

"Here I stand"

It started on All Saints' Eve, 1517, when Luther publicly objected to the way preacher Johann Tetzel was selling indulgences. These were documents prepared by the church and bought by individuals either for themselves or on behalf of the dead that would release them from punishment due to their sins. As Tetzel preached, "Once the coin into the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory heavenward springs!"

Luther questioned the church's trafficking in indulgences and called for a public debate of 95 theses he had written. Instead, his 95 Theses spread across Germany as a call to reform, and the issue quickly became not indulgences but the authority of the church: Did the pope have the right to issue indulgences?

Events quickly accelerated. At a public debate in Leipzig in 1519, when Luther declared that "a simple layman armed with the Scriptures" was superior to both pope and councils without them, he was threatened with excommunication.

Luther replied to the threat with his three most important treatises: The Address to the Christian Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian. In the first, he argued that all Christians were priests, and he urged rulers to take up the cause of church reform. In the second, he reduced the seven sacraments to two (baptism and the Lord's Supper). In the third, he told Christians they were free from the law (especially church laws) but bound in love to their neighbors.

In 1521 he was called to an assembly at Worms, Germany, to appear before Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Luther arrived prepared for another debate; he quickly discovered it was a trial at which he was asked to recant his views.

Luther replied, "Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning ... then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience." Then he added, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen."

By the time an imperial edict calling Luther "a convicted heretic"was issued, he had escaped to Wartburg Castle, where he hid for ten months.

Accomplishments of a sick man

In early spring of 1522, he was able to return to Wittenberg to lead, with the help of men like Philip Melanchthon, the fledgling reform movement.

Over the next years, Luther entered into more disputes, many of which divided friends and enemies. When unrest resulted in the Peasants' War of 1524–1525, he condemned the peasants and exhorted the princes to crush the revolt.

He married a runaway nun, Katharina von Bora, which scandalized many. (For Luther, the shock was waking up in the morning with "pigtails on the pillow next to me.")

He mocked fellow reformers, especially Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli, and used vulgar language in doing so.

In fact, the older he became, the more cantankerous he was. In his later years, he said some nasty things about, among others, Jews and popes and theological enemies, with words that are not fit to print.

Nonetheless, his lasting accomplishments also mounted: the translation of the Bible into German (which remains a literary and biblical hallmark); the writing of the hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"; and publishing his Larger and Smaller Catechism, which have guided not just Lutherans but many others since.

His later years were spent often in both illness and furious activity (in 1531, though he was sick for six months and suffered from exhaustion, he preached 180 sermons, wrote 15 tracts, worked on his Old Testament translation, and took a number of trips). But in 1546, he finally wore out.

Luther's legacy is immense and cannot be adequately summarized. Every Protestant Reformer—like Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, and Cranmer—and every Protestant stream—Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and Anabaptist—were inspired by Luther in one way or another. On a larger canvas, his reform unleashed forces that ended the Middle Ages and ushered in the modern era.

It has been said that in most libraries, books by and about Martin Luther occupy more shelves than those concerned with any other figure except Jesus of Nazareth. Though difficult to verify, one can understand why it is likely to be true.

1453 End of Eastern Roman Empire
1456 Gutenberg produces first printed Bible
1479 Establishment of Spanish Inquisition
1483 Martin Luther born
1546 Martin Luther dies
1549 Book of Common Prayer released

Happy Harvest Festival

As you can see, our family got into the spirit of our Grace Harvest Festival on Monday evening. What a great family event and safe Halloween alternative for the kids. Many thanks to the Iunkers and all who did such an excellent job in planning and hosting this valuable event! It was neat to see college students and high school students involved and serving. Once more it was a great expression of our multi-generational ministry.

If you were there, we'd love your feedback. As Dori and I were reviewing the event, we realized we didn't have a feedback mechanism in place for the Harvest Feistval. So I thought I would solicit you for some.

What did you like? What didn't you like? How can we improve the Harvest Festival for next year?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Strike Up the Lyre

Continuing to think about the Remembering, Reforming and RENEWING, here's a great article about historical integration in worship. . . in others words about traditional and contemporary music styles. . . in where else. . . World Magazine. . . . Strike Up the Lyre

Remembering the Reformers, part 2: John Huss

The Reformer of the Day is John Huss. John Huss was a Sola Scriptura guy all the way! Here's an excerpt from what looks like an interesting book entitled 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. The excerpt is located in the Christian History section of the Christianity Today website.

"Lord Jesus, it is for thee that I patiently endure this cruel death. I pray thee to have mercy on my enemies."

Early in his monastic career, Martin Luther, rummaging through the stacks of a library, happened upon a volume of sermons by John Huss, the Bohemian who had been condemned as a heretic. "I was overwhelmed with astonishment," Luther later wrote. "I could not understand for what cause they had burnt so great a man, who explained the Scriptures with so much gravity and skill."

Huss would become a hero to Luther and many other Reformers, for Huss preached key Reformation themes (like hostility to indulgences) a century before Luther drew up his 95 Theses. But the Reformers also looked to Huss's life, in particular, his steadfast commitment in the face of the church's cunning brutality.

From foolishness to faith
Huss was born to peasant parents in "Goosetown," that is, Husinec, in the south of today's Czech Republic. (In his twenties, he shortened his name to Huss—"goose," and he and his friends delighted in making puns on his name; it was a tradition that continued, especially with Luther, who reminded his followers of the "goose" who had been "cooked" for defying the pope).

To escape poverty, Huss trained for the priesthood: "I had thought to become a priest quickly in order to secure a good livelihood and dress and to be held in esteem by men." He earned a bachelor's, master's, and then finally a doctorate. Along the way he was ordained (in 1401) and became the preacher at Prague's Bethlehem Chapel (which held 3,000), the most popular church in one of the largest of Europe's cities, a center of reform in Bohemia (for example, sermons were preached in Czech, not Latin).

During these years, Huss underwent a change. Though he spent some time with what he called a "foolish sect," he finally discovered the Bible: "When the Lord gave me knowledge of Scriptures, I discharged that kind of stupidity from my foolish mind."

The writings of John Wycliffe had stirred his interest in the Bible, and these same writings were causing a stir in Bohemia (technically the northeastern portion of today's Czech Republic, but a general term for the area where the Czech language and culture prevailed). The University of Prague was already split between Czechs and Germans, and Wycliffe's teachings only divided them more. Early debates hinged on fine points of philosophy (the Czechs, with Wycliffe, were realists; the Germans nominalists). But the Czechs, with Huss, also warmed up to Wycliffe's reforming ideas; though they had no intention of altering traditional doctrines, they wanted to place more emphasis on the Bible, expand the authority of church councils (and lessen that of the pope), and promote the moral reform of clergy. Thus Huss began increasingly to trust the Scriptures, "desiring to hold, believe, and assert whatever is contained in them as long as I have breath in me."

A political struggle ensued, with the Germans labeling Wycliffe and his followers heretics. With the support of the king of Bohemia, the Czechs gained the upper hand, and the Germans were forced to flee to other universities.

The situation was complicated by European politics, which watched as two popes vied to rule all of Christendom. A church council was called at Pisa in 1409 to settle the matter. It deposed both popes and elected Alexander V as the legitimate pontiff (though the other popes, repudiating this election, continued to rule their factions). Alexander was soon "persuaded"—that is, bribed—to side with Bohemian church authorities against Huss, who continued to criticize them. Huss was forbidden to preach and excommunicated, but only on paper: with local Bohemians backing him, Huss continued to preach and minister at Bethlehem Chapel.

When Alexander V's successor, the antipope John XXIII (not to be confused with the modern pope by the same name), authorized the selling of indulgences to raise funds for his crusade against one of his rivals, Huss was scandalized and further radicalized. The pope was acting in mere self-interest, and Huss could no longer justify the pope's moral authority. He leaned even more heavily on the Bible, which he proclaimed the final authority for the church. Huss further argued that the Czech people were being exploited by the pope's indulgences, which was a not-so-veiled attack on the Bohemian king, who earned a cut of the indulgence proceeds.

Scripture rebel

With that Huss lost the support of his king. His excommunication, which had been tacitly dropped, was now revived, and an interdict was put upon the city of Prague: no citizen could receive Communion or be buried on church grounds as long as Huss continued his ministry. To spare the city, Huss withdrew to the countryside toward the end of 1412. He spent the next two years in feverish literary activity, composing a number of treatises. The most important was The Church, which he sent to Prague to be read publicly. In it he argued that Christ alone is head of the church, that a pope "through ignorance and love of money" can make many mistakes, and that to rebel against an erring pope is to obey Christ.

In November 1414, the Council of Constance assembled, and Huss was urged by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund to come and give an account of his doctrine. Because he was promised safe conduct, and because of the importance of the council (which promised significant church reforms), Huss went. When he arrived, however, he was immediately arrested, and he remained imprisoned for months. Instead of a hearing, Huss was eventually hauled before authorities in chains and asked merely to recant his views.

When he saw he wasn't to be given a forum for explaining his ideas, let alone a fair hearing, he finally said, "I appeal to Jesus Christ, the only judge who is almighty and completely just. In his hands I plead my cause, not on the basis of false witnesses and erring councils, but on truth and justice." He was taken to his cell, where many pleaded with him to recant. On July 6, 1415, he was taken to the cathedral, dressed in his priestly garments, then stripped of them one by one. He refused one last chance to recant at the stake, where he prayed, "Lord Jesus, it is for thee that I patiently endure this cruel death. I pray thee to have mercy on my enemies." He was heard reciting the Psalms as the flames engulfed him.

His executioners scooped up his ashes and tossed them into a lake so that nothing would remain of the "heretic," but some Czechs collected bits of soil from the ground where Huss had died and took them back to Bohemia as a memorial.

1321 Dante completes Divine Comedy
1348 Black Death hits Avignon
1349 Death of William of Ockham
1369 John Huss born
1415 John Huss dies
1431 Joan of Arc burned at stake

Monday, October 31, 2005

Remembering the Reformers, part 1: John Wycliffe

Since yesterday was Reformation Sunday, a day when we remember our evangelical protestant roots and the recovery of the Gospel. . . and since yesterday I talked about the importance of REMEMBERING. . . .I thought I would take some time this week to highlight some key Reformers.

So the first Reformer you've got to know something about is John Wycliffe. Here's a quick summary of his life grabbed from the Wycliffe Bible Translators webite . . .

John Wycliffe lived almost 200 years before the Reformation, but his beliefs and teachings closely match those of Luther, Calvin and other Reformers. As a man ahead of his time, historians have called Wycliffe the "Morning star of the Reformation."

Born in the 1300s, Wycliffe criticized abuses and false teachings in the Church. In 1382 he translated an English Bible--the first European translation done in over 1,000 years. The Lollards, itinerant preachers he sent throughout England, inspired a spiritual revolution.

But the Lollardy movement was short-lived. The Church expelled Wycliffe from his teaching position at Oxford, and 44 years after he died, the Pope ordered his bones exhumed and burned. Intense persecution stamped out his followers and teachings. It would be hundreds of years before men like Martin Luther resurrected the reforms of which Wycliffe dreamed.

10/30/05 Message Now Posted

Sunday we looked at how a Gospel-Centered Community is a Remembering, Reforming, Renewing Community. . . how this is the Biblical pattern and the historical pattern. It needs to be happening personally in us and corportately among us. It needs to be happening continually and at special, designated times. . . like our upcoming 75th Anniversary Celebration.

Sunday's message is available now at Connecting - Grace Church, San Luis Obispo

To learn more about our upcoming 75th Anniversary, check out the special and emerging section of our website at Anniversary - Grace Church, San Luis Obispo

Also yesterday, we had our new children's choirs, His Image and Joyful Noise, join us in worship. They did such a fantastic job. I so appreciated the God-centered songs they sang and the fact that the words were projected on the screens for us to follow along. Many thanks to Solina Lindahl, Grace Van Doren, Missy and David Grant, Children's Ministry Director Dori Iunker and Worship Pastor, Al Streder for all their hard work and excellent coordination and team work.

It was a great Sunday. Any thoughts, comments or feedback?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Pray for Diablo Families

I was once told by a guy in our church that if you look down the pews at Grace, in every pew you'd see at least one family who's involved out at Diablo in some way. That's a lot families!

This week Diablo begins one of it's 40 day outages. The longer I'm here, the more I start to grasp what a big deal this is for all these families. Longer work hours, sometimes 7 days a week. A real strain.

We ran into a family after church on Sunday at Panda Express. I happened to ask, "What are you guys doing the rest of the day?" The wife answered, "Well, the Diablo outage starts tonight." I said, "So this is kind of like your Last Supper." She said, "Yea."

Be praying for these families over these next six weeks. One more way we can live "Life Together."

Wierd Factoid: We used to live in San Clemente near San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, the only other functional nuclear power plant in Califormia. Now we live here near Diablo. I'm wondering. . . . is there some meaning or spiritual significance to this?

Rejoicing in the Lord yet?

How's that homework from Sunday coming along?

We explored Philippians 4:4 on Sunday. . . Rejoice in the Lord, always, again, I say rejoice! . . . What it means and how we begin. A Gospel-centered community is a Rejoicing Community.

Sermon audio and outline are posted here. . . . Connecting - Grace Church, San Luis Obispo

I gave the assignment of reading through Philippians start to finish in one sitting and marking or noting every time joy or rejoicing is mentioned. So how's that going? Is it moving you like it did me? Have you been practicing rejoicing in the Lord this week? Why is this so hard?

Let's not be just hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What's the deal with the "male only leadership"?

Do you think posting the questions I receive and my responses is spawning more questions? I think that's a good thing, but I'm not always sure. It's pretty time consuming, but I think absolutely necessary to help folks who are coming to Grace figure out who we are and why we do ministry the way we do. I'm thinking about including a "Vital Posts" along the right side where I could deposit some of these questions so they would be easily accessible for future readers. What do you think?

Anyway, the question of the week is in the middle of this encouraging email. . . my response is below. Keep those comments coming. . . they are cracking me up. But let's be forebearing and give one another the benefit of the doubt and recognize humor when it's intended. . . .

Pastor Tim,

First off, I trust you prefer being called "Pastor Tim" (as is the style these days) or just "Tim" to "Pastor Theule". If I've guessed incorrectly, my apologies.

Thanks much for the Welcome lunch just over a week ago. My family enjoyed the opportunity to meet and chat with Pastors Scott and Steve. We also appreciate the chance to have you and the staff explain many aspects of the ministry and philosophy of Grace.

Now on to my question which some might view as a comment in the guise of a question.

What's the deal with the male only leadership?

I don't find such a position unusual or even necessarily unbiblical, but I haven't seen any compelling argument for this point of view either. Along those lines, I expect that Grace would only adopt such a model unless the church were convinced this position were Biblical. If you have a position statement on this matter, I would be interested in reading it. Where could I find such a statement?

In any case, my family has felt blessed by attending Grace since mid-August and I would like to say "thank you" to you and your wonderful staff as well as your membership as a whole.

All the best...

So and So

ps - I don't read the blog much, but appreciate that you have one. I also really like the fact that the sermons are available via the web ... it gives me a chance to catch up or to remind myself of one particular point or another.

Dear So and So,

Thanks for the email and great positive feedback. So glad your family has felt welcome at Grace.

Regarding your questions about our "male-only leadership". . . I appreciate the inquiry. You aren't the first to ask these questions. Here are some thoughts. . .

• I'm sorry, there is no position paper on this topic at this time, but perhaps my comments here will form the basis of one down the road.

• I don't think it's quite accurate to say we're committed to a "male-only leadership." We are committed to a strong male leadership AND a strong female leadership. Not either/or but both/and. Our desire is to see men, who's natural tendency is to abdicate, step up into their God-ordained leadership roles in the home and in the church. Likewise, our desire is to see women, fellow-heirs of the grace of life (I Peter 3:7) and essential members of the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12), actively and passionately leading and serving the Lord and His people here at Grace.

• We believe that women are biblically free to serve and lead in a wide range of positions across the church and encourage them to do so. For example, we have a female business administrator, a chairwoman of our Facility Trustee/Deacon Board and a female Children's Ministry Director. Our goal is affirm the place and role of women in the church and we are doing that in some purposeful ways. I still think we can do more. For example, I am ready to see female ushers and female servers at the Lord's Table. (Not sure if all the Elders are ready for this yet, but I am!)

• We do, however, believe that women are restricted from the office of Pastor/Elder and from roles that place them in a Biblical teaching position over men. Our conviction on this matter is rooted in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, I Corinthians 14:34-36, I Timothy 2:12-15, and I Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-9.

• As I have tried to grapple with the ENDURING principles of these passages (after all, we don't require women to wear head coverings), I have concluded that the guiding principle in these tricky passages is an appeal to the order of creation and headship. In the Godhead, the Father is the head (authority) of the Son. Though equal in essence, the Son willingly submits to the headship of the Father. Philippians 2:5-11 reminds us that this is not a position of inferiority, but one that leads to honor. In the drama of redemption, Christ is the head (authority) of His bride the church. The church is to willingly submit to the authority of Christ (Ephesians 5:21-32) In the family, God, in His infinite wisdom, has ordained that the male is the head (authority) of the woman. The woman is to willingly submit to the headship of the husband. The woman's position is not a position of inferiority, but of honor. Headship is never a "lording" leadership, but a loving servant leadership.

• In I Corinthians 11 and I Timothy 2, Paul is appealing to this creation headship as he distinguishes between the roles of men and women in the home and in the church. It seems as though God wants this headship principle to be visibly expressed in both the home and the church as a way of pointing to and mirroring the relationships in the Godhead and between Christ and the Church. I believe the teaching of men by women is prohibited because teaching by its very nature is an authoritative exercise, and therefore violates this principle of headship.

• In I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 where we see qualifications for elders spelled out, the clear reference seems to be to men throughout. In 1 Timothy 3:8-13, though, there is what looks like a reference to women serving as deacons. Putting all these passages together has lead us to our position of restricting women from the office of Pastor/Elder and from positions where they would have regular and ongoing teaching authority over men.

So and So, I hope this is helpful in explaining our convictions on these matters. I don't have it all figured out and still have lots of unanswered questions. I have tried to explain my own train of thought on these matters at this point in time, but I think I can safely say that my views are representative of our pastors, elders and ministry staff. Being married to a very strong and capable woman who has more education than I do, I have been challenged in my own home on these issues. (I think we differ less on these matters then we used to!)

I believe these things because, so far as I can tell, this is what the Bible teaches. If I'm honest with myself, I'd much rather believe other things because they might be more attractive/logical to me or more socially acceptable, but my conscience is bound by the Word of God.

I should say this too. . . other Biblical Christians have differing convictions on these matters and we are committed to exercising charity toward those who differ with us. These are important, but not essential issues over which we would not break fellowship with other believers. These are the convictions of the leadership of Grace at this time as we attempt to give oversight to the flock of God before the face of God.

Thanks for the inquiry, So and So. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to raise them. I pray that God leads your family to a church home where you can be excited about the doctrine and direction of the ministry. If and when that's Grace, please let us know! If its somewhere else, then God bless you as you serve Him.

Welcome to Grace!

In Christ. . . Tim

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Heavy Hand of God

In our continuing contemplation of all these "natural disasters," here's another artitcle to throw into the mix, sent to me by Elder Ron Johnston. . . . The Heavy Hand of God

Here are 4 helpful applications at the tail end of the article. . . .

1. Let us not be quick to judge, but, rather, to show mercy. When people are suffering, let us not waste precious time and energy debating the merits of their deserts; let us rather consider how to stimulate one another to love and good works on their behalf (Heb. 10:24).

2. Let us be bold to take every opportunity that God gives us—whether everyday “open doors” or large-scale disasters—to call men to consider His ways and to seek His mercy. God is in the midst of disaster as much as in blessing. If we fail to call people to consider Him, who will do it for us?

3. Let us give thanks and praise to God for the majesty of His might, the mystery of His ways, and the mercy of His steadfast love. God is always revealing something about Himself in the works of creation, and this is always designed to elicit worship from men. Failure to respond in thanks and praise when it is time to do so leads to ingratitude, idolatry, and increasing sin (Romans 1:18-32).

4. Let us not be reluctant to raise the issue of divine judgment, unpopular as that may be. It may be that, by raising the hard questions at such times, we may be able to lead people to their senses, to a path of repentance and faith, that will be the open door to a brighter future, and to eternal hope.

The heavy hand of God still presses down on the children of men. Let us be wise enough to discern it, and to know how to respond when it does.

Any other thoughts?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Eager Shepherds of the Flock

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. --Hebrews 13:17

It's kind of turned into photo week here at Life Together. . . so here's a picture from our Elder/Pastor Retreat last weekend. We really had a good time of prayer, study and fellowship together. Wayne Peterson and Ken Peet were both missing, but are represented by the bald, round, white guy there in the middle.

Hebrews 13:17 is kind of sobering. . . keeping watch over souls and one day having to give an account to God. We talk often about how to do this and how we're doing this. Its a tough task here in the 21st Century. Pray for us!

I give thanks for these Godly men, for their living sacrifice to the Lord and His pepole here at Grace, and for the Gospel unity we share together!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Zeke the Zebra

So a couple weeks back on a Sunday after church, we are all just kicking back as a family trying to enjoy some Sabbath rest, when Eden says she wants to do some face painting. Susie and I are too exhausted to stop her, so she and Zeke disappear for a little while and then Zeke comes back with his face painted like a Zebra. We all just laughed and laughed and he and Eden were both so stoked. Classic! Not bad for a six year old face painter eh? Dori, sign her up!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

On a lighter note. . .

Yesterday was heavy. Time for some lighter fare today...

How about that Cal Poly Mustang football team? Ranked #3 in this weeks College 1AA rankings. . . their highest ranking ever. Montana on Saturday. Should be good. . .

Here is Sage holding Haak. . . . Boy, I love these kids!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Monday Humdinger #2

Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds,
The thundering of His pavilion?
Behold, He spreads His lightning about Him,
And He covers the depths of the sea.
For by these He judges peoples;
He gives food in abundance.
He covers His hands with the lightning,
And commands it to strike the mark.
Its noise declares His presence;
The cattle also, concerning what is coming up.
At this also my heart trembles, And leaps from its place.
Listen closely to the thunder of His voice,
And the rumbling that goes out from His mouth.
Under the whole heaven He lets it loose,
And His lightning to the ends of the earth.
After it, a voice roars; He thunders with His majestic voice,
And He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard.
God thunders with His voice wondrously,
Doing great things which we cannot comprehend. --Job 36:29-37:5

The Lord is stirring His people today to ask some very intersting and DIFFICULT questions! Our worship yesterday included the Chris Tomlin song "Indescribable." I received this email this morning asking about the song. . . .


In the first song on Sunday AM were words to the effect that God directs every lightning strike. I immediately was drawn to the event during the summer where a group of boy scouts was struck by lightning with at least one death resulting, and then to this year's string of natural disasters—the earthquake and tsunami in southeast Asia, the hurricanes in the Caribbean, the earthquake in Pakistan, etc. Would you care to address this issue? Did God direct that fatal lightning strike? Or the earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides, etc.? Or is the song theologically unsound? Yes, God is powerful, but are these displays of his power? Are they "acts of God?"

Was it a display of God's power when lightning struck a church steeple, and the church burned down? Was this a display of judgment against the congregation? Or the pastor? Did Benjamin Franklin's invention of the lightning rod somehow thwart God's use of lightning against church steeples?

God permits bad things to happen. We live in a fallen world. He knows bad things will happen. He knows the future. Does he cause bad things to happen?

So how would you respond to these questions? Here's my response. . .

Dear Friend,

Funny you should ask these very difficult questions today. I was just reading in Lamentations 3:25-28 on Saturday at our elder retreat. . . .

Lam. 3:25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.
Lam. 3:26 It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD.
Lam. 3:27 It is good for a man that he should bear The yoke in his youth.
Lam. 3:28 Let him sit alone and be silent Since He has laid it on him.
Lam. 3:29 Let him put his mouth in the dust, Perhaps there is hope.
Lam. 3:30 Let him give his cheek to the smiter, Let him be filled with reproach.
Lam. 3:31 For the Lord will not reject forever,
Lam. 3:32 For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness.
Lam. 3:33 For He does not afflict willingly Or grieve the sons of men.
Lam. 3:34 To crush under His feet All the prisoners of the land,
Lam. 3:35 To deprive a man of justice In the presence of the Most High,
Lam. 3:36 To defraud a man in his lawsuit — Of these things the Lord does not approve.
Lam. 3:37 Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it?
Lam. 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?

From this text it appears that God causes grief, not willingly or arbitrarily to crush us under His feed, but so that He might show compassion. Both good and ill go forth from the Most High.

These verses lead me to Isaiah 45:7-9. . . .

Is. 45:7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.
Is. 45:8 “Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it.
Is. 45:9 “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker — An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?

And then to Amos 3:6. . .

Amos 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?

Job said in the midst of all that was happening to Him which included some natural disasters (the fire of God in Job 1:16) "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord." In other words, Job attributes all that is happening to Him to God!

I believe that these Scriptures and others teach that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass, good and bad, blessing and calamity, woe and weal, mercy and judgment. He sends the rain to water the earth, does he not also send forth the lightning bolts? In many acts of God, we see a mingling of His mercy and judgement. What to some is mercy, to others is judgement. Oftentimes, Satan and other evil men are also at work in these happenings. . . . but God is still sovereignly overseeing, ordaining and even directing their actions to accomplish His and our ultimate good. (Joseph, Job and the crucifixion of Jesus all come to mind here!)

In all this, God remains free from guilt, sin and evil. How? Because according to Ephesians 2:1-3, we are all under God's just judgment and deserving of His wrath. God is not unjust in wiping out all but one family in Noah's flood or allowing thousands to die in the latest Tsunami or earthquake. God is merciful in giving us the breath we breath today and so very much more. This is not just my perspective, this is Jesus' perspective when He was asked about a "natural disaster" of His own day. . . .

Luke 13:1 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
Luke 13:2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?
Luke 13:3 “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Luke 13:4 “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?
Luke 13:5 “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus is saying that we all deserve judgement and, unless we repent, we'll receive it!

So, what are we to make of lightning that kills "innocent" Boy Scouts? We are to say as Paul did in Romans 11:33, "How unsearchable are His judgments and how unfathomable are His ways!" If lightening destroys a church, we ought to refrain from saying that God was judging the pastor or the congregation. It's impossible and improper for us to assign a one-to-one correspondence to these things. "His judgments are unsearchable and His ways are unfathomable."

I don't always like the answers I find in Scripture, but then I look again at the Gospel, where there, too, I see the mingling of God's mercy and judgement. God forsakes His own Son in judgement in order to accomplish His mercy. He causes (Acts 2:42: "according to the predetermined plan of God") this calamity to bring about my eternal good. I don't know what God is doing with hurricanes and other natural disasters, but I do know that He is doing something. It's not my role question Him or to explain Him or to redefine Him, but to trust Him.

All that to say, I believe that the song "Indescribable" is biblically sound and a good reminder to us that God is God and we are His creatures. God is in the heaven, doing whatever He pleases and working all things after the counsel of His own will to accomplish His glory and our good (Ephesians. 1:11).

Finally, I want to be clear that this is my humble perspective based on my study and understanding of the Scriptures at this point in my life. Other Biblical Christians have differing views on these matters. I have read and think I understand these differing views, but just can't stomach them. There's a part of me that would like to embrace these differing views that blame natural disasters solely on a broken universe because, quite frankly, they make me feel better about God, but I believe Scripture teaches the "harder" view I've outlined here. I recognize in myself always the desire and temptation to believe things that I want to believe because they make me feel good or because they put my mind at ease. The more I study the Scriptures the more mysterious and wonderful and terrible God becomes. (I have been comforted by the fact that C.S. Lewis presents Aslan, the Christ figure in the Chronicles of Narnia in this same way: wonderful and terrible.)

I welcome your thoughts and hope that my response spurs your own study of the Scriptures. I appreciate the inquiry.

Humbly. . .. Tim

P.S. : John Piper recently addressed some these same issues in a recent issue of World Magazine. Here's the link. . . . Who Answers to Whom?

The Glory of God
the Salvation of Men & Women

In our worship services together yesterday, CCC Missionary, Dan Krull, reminded us that a Gospel-Centered Community is a Misisonal Community. Dan not only gave a great Scriptural challenge, but also shared how he and his family have been working out the gospel in their own lives.

The Big Idea of Dan's message was that God's chief end or purpose and our chief end or purpose is the same: To Glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I had someone from the congregation email me this morning and ask if I agreed that God's chief/end is to glorify Himself or if I believed that the salvation of men and women was God's chief end/purpose. They thought that they had heard me make some past statements indicating the latter. They seemed to associate this emphasis on God's glory as reflective of dispensational theology. To clear up any confusion, here's an edited excerpt from my response. . . .

I'm not sure what I've said or what you've heard in the past, but I'm right with Dan on the glory of God thing. Dan's view is hardly a dispensational perspective, but rather a historical Reformed perspective emerging from SOLA #5, Sola De Gloria, (For the glory of God alone!) Thus, Dan was quoting from question #1 of the W. Catechism, considered the standard Reformed catechism.

But here's the thing. . . . I believe that God is glorifying Himself in the salvation of men and women. The two are not mutually exclusive, though if pressed I would argue that the salvation of men and women is subsumed to the glory of God. Ephesians 1:1-14 comes to mind here. . .

1:5-6 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the beloved.

1:11-12 also we have obtained an inheritance having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

1:13-14 . . .You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession to the praise of His glory.

God is all about His own glory and therefore for our good. John Piper says it this way. . "God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him." God's glory and our good meet in God's redemptive purposes. The Gospel makes it possible for God to be glorified and us to be satisfied in Him. A study of God's Glory throughout the Scriptures bears this out as well. It is a dominant theme in both Old and New Testaments.

Speaking of John Piper, there is an excellent article at the back of his book, "Desiring God" that addresses this whole theme of God's Glory. I would be happy to copy and send it to you if that would be helpful. I also have the complete works of Jonathan Edwards which contains the essay Dan referenced, "The End for Which God Created World," or just go to to read it.

I'm sorry if I created confusion regarding my own convictions on these matters. It sure wasn't intended.

--Sola De Gloria!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

10/13/05 Thursday Thoughts

• I've been sucked into the baby zone, where everything slows down, all goals and life tasks are suspended and subsumed to the task of integrating a new infant to the family. I am trying to enter into these fleeting days and take time to just hold little Haaken while at the same time give appropriate attention to the three others. One of the many seasons of life. Can't fight it, have got to go with it. Blogging has taken a back seat to baby. . . for a time.

• Who is sufficient for these things? I take great comfort that Paul asked that question, too. I can be a pretty good Pastor OR I can be a pretty good husband/father. The challenge is being both at the same time. Both roles seem to require more than I have to give to them. Anybody else feel that way regarding your multiple callings? Please say, "Yes!" (Remember: Weak is the new strong!)

• Struggling with a pretty bad cold this week. Sleeping on the couch. Tickle on Sunday turned ugly. Appreciate your prayers!

• Elders and Pastors are getting away for a Friday evening/all day Saturday retreat to seek the Lord and His vision for Grace in the coming years. I'm trying hard not to overscript and overprogram, but leave room for the Spirit to move. Appreciate your prayers for our time.

• Dan Krull, a friend and CCC missionary to Krygistan will be filling the pulpit this week. We'll be continuing our series, "Gospel Centered Community" and remembering together that a Gospel-centered community is a "Missional Community." Having Dan preach has allowed me to focus on our retreat. Some at Grace know Dan and Dina well from past days serving on Cal Poly's Campus.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Pizza in the Park

Here's a picture that captures the vibe of our College Pizza in the Park these last two Sundays. There's one more this coming Sunday. . . .

Click over to the College Blog and check out Pastor Steve's perspective of what God is doing in the College Ministry this Fall!

Grace Seminars Start This Sunday

It's been a crazy busy season of change here at Grace this Fall. If you're like me, you've probably had a hard time getting your head around all the growth opportunities that have been popping up from Growth Groups to new kid's choirs. Well here's one more that I want to make sure you haven't missed. . . . Grace Seminars. . . which kick-off this Sunday, October 9!

Grace Seminars are Pastor Steve's brainchild to fill an important and valuable niche for topical teaching on relevant theological and practical Biblical topics. Grace Seminars are user-friendly in that they only meet for 4-8 weeks! They're convenient in that they are on Sunday mornings (this Fall during the 3rd service) when we're already here and perhaps looking for something to do while our kids are in choir. (What's another hour?)

Here are this Fall's Grace Seminar Topics. . . .

1. The Christian Family Seminar—Paul Evangelista (Rm C14)
10/09/05 A Balanced & Directed Day
10/16/05 Love Languages
10/23/05 Dating Your Spouse
10/30/05 Spending One-On-One Time with your Child
11/06/05 Family Traditions

2. Bible Basics—Dave McShea (Rm B207)
In this seminar we will look at the development of the Bible from author to us. If you’ve ever had questions about who decided these books should be in the Bible, how it’s been preserved for thousands of years, or how we ended up with so many translations, then you’ll want to jump in to this seminar October 9! History of the Bible

3. Equipping Families for Congregational Worship—Bob Eckman (Rm C213)
10/09/05 Preparing Your Family for Worship
10/16/05 Making the Most of the Worship Experience Before, During and After
10/23/05 Preparing Your Family for Baptism
10/30/05 Preparing Your Family for The Lord's Supper

4. Apologetics & the Problem of Evil—Mark Case (Rm C11)
Have you ever been challenged by the question "How can an all powerful all loving God allow evil in the world?" Or has anyone ever asked you "Can a loving God send people to hell?" And what about the atheist who says he can believe in God if His existence were more obvious? In this seminar we will take up the question Christian philosophical response to the problem of evil hell, divine hiddeness.

This all looks like great stuff and it all kicks off this Sunday. So jump in and get involved. I so wish I could, but I am a bit tied up during the 3rd hour.