Thursday, December 21, 2006

From Kevin Clauseman. . .to God

A man named Kevin who comes to Grace gave me this poem and asked if I might read it in Church as a gift to the Lord. I told him I would post it here at "life together" . . . .

As the moon shines down upon the glistening blue still lake
I feel your love upon my soul

As the eagle flies above the mountain peaks into the clouds
I feel the hope you give me with encouragement

As the stormy waves crash against the rock shores
I feel the strength you give me in my daily life

As the snow flakes float gently to the ground covering everything in a white blanket
I feel your gentle arms around me

As the breeze rustles the autumn leaves in the trees
I hear your words of encouragement

As the pick black sky lights up with bolts of lighting and thunder
I feel your strong but loving hands for when I have done wrong

As the galling winds carve put the canyons in the mountain sides beautiful and smooth but yet sometimes treacherous
I feel this is the path you have chosen for me to take

As cold as the pure water drops off the melting glacier I feel my nerves run as cold
When I approach your throne to ask you for your help and blessing in this special request

As a small child stands in front of his ather white eyed, pure of heart
I ask the Holy Trinity to grant me

The Return of the Cross

Did you see this in the Trib this morning?

Isn't that neat to see? Isn't it great that the local paper still covers stuff like this?

I've heard that a relative of someone who attends Grace owns or did own the building.

Some people have been asking for us to put another cross on our tower. What do you think?

The Return of the Cross

The Tribune
Photo courtesy of David W. Miller

A cross once again sits high atop a church building near the entrance to the Arroyo Grande Village.

Members of Harvest Church at 124 W. Branch St. erected the cross Wednesday.

"It just kind of communicates to the community that the building is a church again," the Rev. Steve Henry said. "The cross is symbolic of the Christian faith; we’re excited to put a cross back up."

The building was constructed in 1887, said Henry’s wife, Jolene Henry.

Several churches occupied the building until about 40 years ago, when it was converted to retail. The cross that used to be on top of the building was removed in 1979.

Harvest Church formed in 2003, Jolene Henry said.

Its members, who now number about 200, met at Lopez Continuation High School on the Nipomo Mesa until they decided a permanent home was needed.

The congregation spent time renovating the building and moved in last March.

— Larissa

Van Beurden-Doust

Come and Stand Amazed

The Birth of Jesus
Gustave Doré, 1866.

Christmas carols are so doctrinally rich and right on . . . here's a medieval Dutch carol I bet you've never heard/seen/sang before. . .

Come and stand amazed, you people,
See how God is reconciled!
See his plans of love accomplished,
See his gift, this newborn child.
See the Mighty, weak and tender,
See the Word who now is mute.
See the Sovereign without splendor,
See the Fullness destitute;
The Beloved, whom we covet,
In a state of low repute.

See how humankind received him;
See him wrapped in swaddling bands,
Who as Lord of all creation
Rules the wind by his commands.
See him lying in a manger
Without sign of reasoning;
Word of God to flesh surrendered,
He is wisdom’s crown, our King.
See how tender our Defender
At whose birth the angels sing.

O Lord Jesus, God incarnate,
Who assumed this humble form,
Counsel me and let my wishes
To your perfect will conform.
Light of life, dispel my darkness,
Let your frailty strengthen me;
Let your meekness give me boldness,
Let your burden set me free;
Let your sadness give me gladness,
Let your death be life for me.
—Medieval Dutch carol, translated by Klaas Hart (1906-1973), as collected in PROCLAIMING THE CHRISTMAS GOSPEL: ANCIENT SERMONS AND HYMNS FOR CONTEMPORARY INSPIRATION. Edited by John D. Witvliet and David Vroege. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004, page 99. ISBN 0-8010-6405-8

I love the final stanza. The book referenced has been sweet devotional reading for me.

new slide shows at

We take so many great photos of our "life together" at Grace. We jam as many as we can into the Life @ Grace publication each week. I've been told by many that they really enjoy seeing the pictures every week. We've been trying to figure out a way to share more.

So we're experimenting with a new slide show module at our website. Check it out and tell us what you think. There's a limited number of event slide shows posted now, but we hope to add more on a continuous basis and even a few more today. . .

Here's a direct link for clicking now and saving for later. . .

Also, because some have requested it, a pdf version of Life @ Grace is now available each week on the website as well.

If you're going out of town for Christmas, you can download this week's L@G right now . . . just

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is this guy offensive?

Ok, so I may be perseverating on this topic of offensiveness.

Check out Mark Driscoll at the recent John Piper Conference, Above All Powers:

Listen Here!

Piper says he got in more trouble for having Mark Driscoll speak at the conference than any other speaker he's ever invited to speak. Listen and you'll see why . . .

Mark says some powerful things about contending for and contextualizing the Gospel. He calls out the emergent church movement but also stuck in the mud Calvinists.

Is this guy offensive? If so, why?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Spurgeon on the celebration of Jesus' birth

Over the last few years, I've had a couple of people ask me questions about the celebration of Christ's birth on December 25th. . . . Is it appropriate? Should we decorate? What about the Christmas tree . . . isn't it a pagan symbol?

Here are some of Spurgeon's thoughts . . . AWESOME . . . as usual!

The first paragraph is from a sermon intro. . . the last paragraph is great application from his conclusion . . .


There is no reason upon earth beyond that of ecclesiastical custom why the 25th of December should be regarded as the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ any more than any other day from the first of January to the last day of the year; and yet some persons regard Christmas with far deeper reverence that the Lord's-day. You will often hear it asserted that "The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants," but it is not so. There are Protestants who have absorbed a great deal besides the Bible into their religion, and among other things they have accepted the authority of what they call "the Church," and by that door all sorts of superstitions have entered. There is no authority whatever in the word of God for the keeping of Christmas at all, and no reason for keeping it just now except that the most superstitious section of Christendom [he means Catholics] has made a rule that December 25th shall be observed as the birthday of the Lord, and the church by law established in this land (the Church of England] has agreed to follow in the same track. You are under no bondage whatever to regard the regulation. We owe no allegiance to the ecclesiastical powers which have made a decree on this matter, for we belong to an old-fashioned church which does not dare to make laws, but is content to obey them. At the same time the day is no worse than another, and if you choose to observe it, and observe it unto the Lord, I doubt not he will accept your devotion: while if you do not observe it, but unto the Lord observe it not, for fear of encouraging superstition and will-worship, I doubt not but what you shall be as accepted in the non-observance as you could have been in the observance of it. Still, as the thoughts of a great many Christian people will run at this time towards the birth of Christ, and as this cannot be wrong, I judged it meet to avail ourselves of the prevailing current, and float down the stream of thought. Our minds will run that way, because so many around us are following customs suggestive of it, therefore let us get what good we can out of the occasion. There can be no reason why we should not, and it may be helpful that we should, now consider the birth of our Lord Jesus. We will do that voluntarily which we would refuse to do as a matter of obligation: we will do that simply for convenience sake which we should not think of doing because enjoined by authority or demanded by superstition.

. . . You may keep his birthday all the year round, for it were better to say he was born every day of the year than on any one, for truly in a spiritual sense he is born every day of every year in some men's hearts, and that to us is a far weightier point than the observation of holy days. Express your faith first, as the angels did, by public ministry. Some of us are called to speak to the many. Let us in the clearest and most earnest tones proclaim the Savior and his power to rescue man. Others of you cannot PREACH, but you can SING. Sing then your anthems, and praise God with all your hearts. Do not be slack in the devout use of your tongues, which are the glory of your frames, but again and again and again lift up your joyful hymns unto the new-born King. Others of you can neither preach nor sing. Well, then, you must do what the shepherds did, and what did they? You are told twice that they SPREAD THE NEWS. As soon as they had seen the babe they made known abroad the saying that was told them, and as they went home they glorified God. This is one of the most practical ways of showing your joy. Holy conversation is as acceptable as sermons and anthems. There was also one who said little, but thought the more: "Mary PONDERED all these things in her heart." Quiet, Happy spirit, weigh in thy heart the grand truth that Jesus was born at Bethlehem. Immanuel, God with us;-weigh it if you can; look at it again and again, examine the varied facets of this priceless brilliant, and bless, and adore, and love, and wonder, and yet adore again this matchless miracle of love.

. . . Come and worship God manifest in the flesh, and be filled with his light and sweetness by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

--Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892). "The Great Birthday" from TWELVE CHRISTMAS SERMONS DELIVERED AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976, p. 91, 101. ISBN 0-8010-8081-9.
HT: Pastor Al

Grudem on Women in Ministry

Since we're talking about what's offensive to some. . .

No doubt some might be offended by Wayne Grudem's thoughts on women in ministry. I think Grudem expresses well my own convictions and the convictions of our leadership here at Grace.

Grudem on Women in Ministry

My favorite paragraph is at the very end. . .

The Bible only restricts leadership to men in the home and in the church. It does not make similar restrictions in regard to government or business or other areas of life. The principle here is the sufficiency of Scripture: We need to remain true to everything that the Bible teaches, but not require more than the Bible teaches and not try to become "more conservative" than Scripture itself. We have the principles of male headship in the home and the church, but the Bible also has the principle of equality in the image of God. As men and women we both bear God's image equally (Genesis 1:27), and that means we have equal value and importance and dignity before God and with each other. That principle gives us great freedom to have both men and women lead according to gifts and abilities and callings in areas such as government and business and nonprofit organizations.
It's just as easy to become "more conservative" than Scripture itself. I think we have more places here at Grace where women can and should serve, but because of history and tradition have not. I think we're making slow, but healthy and Biblical progress.

I have had some great conversations about what the Bible says about this issue with those who have come to me asking questions. Most of the time these folks leave my office understanding and encouraged, if not always agreeing completely.

So . . .. (here we go again)

What do you think of Grudem's observations and thoughts?
What do you think about how these principles are or are not being applied at Grace?

Monday, December 18, 2006

my thoughts on monday

Note: The following are my thoughts in response to the questions and issues raised in the 24+ comments on the post two below entitled "I don't mean to bug you . . . " If you're trying to make sense out of this post, better start with that one. I've posted it as comment 26 in the comments section of that post as well as here, for easy future reference.

Happy Monday, brothers and sisters in Christ! Two posts back, I asked for your perspectives and you sure shared them. Thank you all very much for sharing your minds and hearts on this relevant issue. While vulnerable, scary and potentially divisive, I do believe in the concept of passionate dialogue and principled debate. For the most part, I think that is what we’ve experienced around this issue. Nothing got too out of control or too personal. I trust our relationships and fellowship are intact.

I am resigned to the fact that my calling in life as a pastor involves lots and lots of communication. I honestly get very tired of hearing my self talk. (If you do, too . . . just keep that fact to yourself please.) I have made matters worse by starting and maintaining a blog. (What was I thinking?!) As I preach and post regularly, I have resigned myself to the fact that it is inevitable that I will, at times, offend, upset, and/or disappoint some (many?) people. Its not my goal and I sure try to avoid it, but its reality. Pastors need to have tough skin, but a tender heart. I try to maintain both.

Sometimes I know when I’m about to step in a hole, and I pridefully choose to step into it anyway. Not in this case. When I posted the original post, I honestly did not recognize it as a hole, but now that I’ve fallen in neck-deep, let me humbly share some final thoughts. I hesitate to do so, because I have little confidence that I can sway, convince or comfort some of you, but I promised some additional thoughts, so here goes . . .

Let me begin with some apologies:

First, to Original Anon: I’m sorry for posting your email to me without asking you first. I regret doing that. I missed a step in asking if I might post your comments. I wish I would have done that. I understand now there was a reason you emailed me privately instead of leaving a comment. I’m publicly asking for your forgiveness. Will you forgive me?

Second, to any others out there for whom the original or cropped ad might have been a cause of stumbling or a cause for sexual temptation: Please forgive me. I had no clue that the photo held that kind of potential for you or anyone. I have come to believe that men and women are wired and aroused very differently. . . men are aroused by the visual while women are not aroused visually, but in other ways (words, touch, romantic niceties). While perhaps this is true generally, your sharing has convinced me that perhaps this not true across the board. Will you please forgive me?

Please hold on to my apology as you read all that’s written below. It in no way negates the apology above . . .

Why does "life together" exist?

The stated purpose of “Life Together” is up top on the masthead. . . “to explore, contemplate and pursue life together at Grace Church, SLO.” In other words, my aim with the blog is, in some small way, to facilitate our Christian community. I believe this involves, among other things, exploring the ties that bind us in Christ; our place IN the world but not OF the world; and how the Gospel applies to every area and sphere of our lives and the whole universe. I believe these ends require us to think long, hard, critically and Biblically about the cultural context we live in and challenge that culture where appropriate.

I believe that humor and even satire can be a means by which that critical thinking happens. (Anybody familiar with the Christian publication The Wittenburg Door?) In addition, I believe its true that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and that images sometimes have the power to expose lies and convey truth. Furthermore, I believe that laughing is a part of “life together.” Frankly, I need to do a lot more laughing in my life.

I think all that has happened over this post fits well into the stated purpose of "life together."

What was the point of the post?

A few commenters asked, “What was the point of the original image and post?” Stated above. The series of advertising posts was intended to be an exercise in critical and Gospel thinking.

In my message on December 10, I talked about how the prevalence and sheer volume of modern advertising plays upon and fuels our natural discontentment. I thought it would be valuable to pursue that rabbit trail a bit here at “life together.” I believe, with all due respect to some, that the exercise had everything to do with the Gospel, contentment in Christ, and the original sermon.

The post in question referenced a website aimed at challenging modern advertising which was also my original intent in the series of posts. I clicked over and looked at a few things on the site, but not a lot. Nothing struck me as offensive, inappropriate or impure. In fact, much of it struck me as very insightful and quite funny, including the pictures I posted.

The first spoof was chosen because it built upon my grocery store example in the sermon and humorously showed where things might go next. Potty humor, to me, has no point. That spoof made a poignant and funny point. . . . to me and a few others. Apparently a few did not find it funny, but offensive.

The second spoof was chosen, as I have stated, because I thought it insightfully exposed the modern infatuation with the physical and our valuing of some body types over others. While that spoof may have unintentionally caused the stumbling of a few, I think we can agree that was not the original intent of the spoof (or my posting it!) Nor, in my opinion, was the original intent of the spoof to insult men who have shapes or hair like that. The original intent of the spoof (and my posting it!) was to lightheartedly challenge the lies of modern advertising and our cultural values of body image. The image and my posting was meant to be funny. Its obvious that it wasn’t to some, but it was meant to be and it was to me and others.

(Incidentally, my use of the word “silly” was not in reference to Original Anon’s point of view, as Husband asserted, but in reference to the picture itself. The picture, I believe, was intended to be silly, as in humorous . . . . not provocative or offensive.)

What about the weaker brother or sister?

So we've recognized (I, the hard way!) that some of us think that picture is offensive, while others don’t.

That’s the rub, is it not? We all have different sensibilities in these matters. Depending on our backgrounds, experience, personalities and make-up, what’s appropriate to some is inappropriate to others. What offends me, doesn't necessarily offend you. What makes one struggle, isn’t a problem at all for someone else. What’s sin for one is not sin for another. We see this in the area of language, social drinking, movies, music, financial stewardship, etc, etc, etc. I would call these many areas, “matters of conscience.”

In both Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8, 10:23-32 where these “matters of conscience” are addressed, Paul seems to argue for three guiding principles:

  1. Our Freedom in Christ. It is broad and sweet.
  2. Our Acceptance of One Another. We are not to judge, but leave the judging to God. We are to respect one another's differing convictions.
  3. Our Concern for the Weaker Brother/Sister. We are to curb our freedom for their good.

The weaker brother, as I understand the text, is the less mature Christian who has not fully come to know and understand our freedom in Christ. Their conscience is bound, not because of some direct command of Scripture, but because of some background experience or other reason. Having said that I think its possible for mature believers to differ on matters of conscience.

When we are in the presence of a weaker brother and we know it, we are to limit our freedom in Christ in order to keep them from stumbling. When we are in the presence of mature believers, we are free.

Its hard to hold the three principles together. I think we must stridently argue for and teach our freedom in Christ because legalism is a threat to and contrary to the Gospel of grace. This is the point of Galatians and Colossians 3:16-23. Mature believers are to give one another great latitude in matters of conscience for this is mark of Christian maturity. Mature believers are to willingly and eagerly give up their freedoms while in the presence of less mature believers who we know struggle with particular areas. At the same time, without flaunting or abusing their freedoms, the more mature are to gently instruct the less mature in the principles of Christian liberty.

Its easy to fall into license. Its safe to run to legalism. Paul challenges legalists, but cares for weaker brothers. It’s a constant battle to hold the three principles together: freedom, acceptance, concern for the weaker brother.

Not only that, sometimes its difficult to tell the difference between a legalist and a weaker brother. Sometimes its difficult to know when a weaker brother is present or where a weaker brother might struggle. This is the case in the present situation. I honestly was not aware that the original photo was something that might cause offense or stumbling to some. (see Second Apology above) I don’t think that was poor judgment, but ignorance on my part. Call it poor judgment if you prefer.

However, when Original Anon, brought that to my attention, I cropped the photo, but I was curious and wanted to explore this some, which is why I posted her email to me and invited more dialogue.

In the course of events, I think I’ve sensed among us some legalism, some mature believers with differing convictions; and also the presence of weaker brothers and sisters. Its been a terrific learning process. Hopefully valuable for us all. I remain steadfastly committed to all three: 1. challenging legalism, 2. accepting those with differing convictions and 3. caring for the weaker brothers and sisters by limiting my own freedoms for their good. I believe that the Gospel demands all three.

In retrospect, had I recognized the potential for weaker sisters to stumble, I would have refrained the original spoof. I would have limited my freedom in this area.

My thoughts on a few other issues that were raised. . .

What about the kid readers?

Not only do we have different sensibilities in these matters of conscience, but we also have different parenting styles. I want “life together” to be something that all the generations at Grace feel safe to read. As I have stated, I did not find the spoofs posted offensive, but funny and instructive. . . for folks of all ages. (I have come to see otherwise!)

I’ve had great and open conversations with my computer savy-children about these spoofs and the storm raging at “life together.” We tend to be very open with our children because we’re committed to inoculating them against and preparing them for life in the real world. I want my children, too, to think long, hard, critically and Biblically about cultural matters of all sorts, so they might live the Gospel and impact the world. We, at the same time, endeavor to train our children about the importance of modesty in dress and behavior.

What about the double standard?

If men and women are aroused differently, then there’s not a double standard, but a different standard for good and obvious reasons. If, however, as I’m hearing, bare-chested men are a real struggle for some women, then I better put a shirt on at the lake. Of course, a picture of a woman similarly clad and posed (and hairy?) woman would be inappropriate and offensive to all.

I have posted pictures of my partially naked sons in the tub here at "life together." I didn't think twice about that. You better let me know if that causes you to stumble.

What about offensive Biblical material?

I agree that there is much in the Bible that is offensive to at least someone. Christmas is the story of how God impregnated a young, poor, unwed peasant girl. That’s pretty offensive and scandalous! When Paul calls all his life before Christ “excrement” in Philippians 3:8, is he using potty humor or is he making a point? Jesus contemporaries were appalled by the people He hung out with, the places He went, the things He said, and what He did and didn’t do on the Sabbath. The concept of a dying Messiah was offensive to the Jews and foolishness to Greeks. Paul ate meat sacrificed to idols, scrapped circumcision, and encouraged Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach. David danced before the Lord. Proverbs openly references female body parts. All these examples were/are offensive to someone or some culture at some time. (At least I’m in good company!)

I don’t think our goal is merely to not be offensive. Its much more ambitious than that. Our goal is to believe and embody and glory in the Gospel of God’s grace, which obviously involves a lifestyle of growing holiness and Christ-likeness.

What’s the difference between what’s appropriate in worship and what’s appropriate on a blog?

My own view is that the blog medium does allow for differences in format (dialogue, comments, referenced articles), but also in content. I agree that a different moral compass should not be used in the two mediums. I did not say that in my initial response. When we worship, our focus is far more narrow in scope. We come to God with song and prayers and offerings. God comes to us through Word and sacrament and our fellowship together. There’s a whole lot I talk and blog about in the whole sphere of life that I don’t talk about when I preach. For example, I would never show that “silly” (there’s that word again!) baptism video from the last post in church.

In Conclusion. . .

I think I’ll leave it at that. Once more, I apologize to those for whom recent posts were a cause for stumbling or sexual temptation.

I can say with confidence that "life together" will continue to be engaging, thought-provoking, occasionally offensive to some, Gospel-centered and messy. I will strive to keep it wholesome for readers of all ages.

Thanks for reading and thinking along. . . Pastor Tim

Oh yeah, Colin rocks for pegging that "I don't mean to bug you . . . " is a Bono quote from Bullet the Blue Sky off the Rattle and Hum album.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

That's a first. . .

Though my last attempt at humor blew up in my face . . . and I've lost a bit of confidence . . . I am pressing forward with fear and trepidation . . .

One of the Ernstrom boys sent this to Sharon who sent it to me. They all thought it was funny. I just hope that no one gets any big ideas. . . .

Watch and laugh . . . please laugh. . .

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I don't mean to bug you . . .

I received the following email today in response to one of yesterday's posts and the spoof ad "Reality for Men."

I've been thinking about this since yesterday, and I've decided I have to say something. I was completely offended by Wednesday's Blog. With all the junk on the internet, a person should feel safe reading their pastor's blog. Instead I found a very suggestive, inappropriate picture of a nearly naked man. I can't help wondering how a father of a teenage girl would feel if she logged on and saw that picture. I understand the joke, and it may be innocent fun for a bunch of guys, but I'm sure I'm not the only woman offended by this. My real concern is that your blog represents Grace Church and, worse, the Christian community. I'm not in general upset with you, but this act of poor judgment troubles me.

Here's my response. . .
Thanks, _______. I appreciate your perspective and your honesty and boldness in sharing it. I sure didn't intend to cause offense and didn't think I would since stuff like this has become so common place in the great majority of magazines. I had no idea that that picture of a pot belly and hairy chest would be suggestive to some. To me, honestly, it was pretty gross. I think the spoof was intended to make us evaluate how some body images are more acceptable and esteemed than others in our culture, but in reality most of us have bodies that are more akin to this picture. It sure made me think and laugh.

I have taken the initiative of cropping the picture a bit to avoid further
offense. I also will post your feelings and comments on the blog. . . with your name left off course, just to encourage some more dialogue.

I in no way want to be offensive at Life Together, but I do think that the medium affords the opportunity to deal with some issues that might not be appropriate in a Sunday morning worship setting. After all, we live in a real world and are confronted by it on a daily basis. Let's think about and confront it from a Biblical perspective. Let's be real Christians in a real world living together and different.

I hope that's helpful. Thanks for reading and thinking along.
Because of and for the Gospel. . . Pastor Tim

So, I'd like some more feedback. Did you think that silly picture was "suggestive"? Were others offended? Did you think that was "over the line"? If so, is the cropped picture (I trimmed a little on the bottom) still offensive? If its still offensive to you, how high up would I have to crop for it to become inoffensive?

(Bonus points if someone can tell me where the title of this post comes from . . . )

That Sermon You Heard on Sunday May Be From the Web

As I painstakingly, but joyfully, study to prepare for another Sunday's message, I am disheartened by this article sent to me from one of our college students, Matt Esswein. . .

That Sermon You Heard on Sunday May Be From the Web -

We all stand on the shoulders of others, but just preaching another person's sermon seems to me to change the nature of preaching and represent a neglect of calling. Preaching is something else to me.

I believe that God uniquely calls men to the task of grappling with his Word and declaring the mighty acts of God to His people and to those who are not yet his people. I believe that preaching is truth through personality. I believe there is something special and mysterious when God's Word is preached and God's people together hear.

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God . . (1 Peter 4:11)

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. (2 Timothy 1:8-11)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

lost in transition

I just upgraded to the new blogger. Bear with me while I figure this thing out. I've lost my blog roll and a few other sidebar items. Lets see if I can find them.

Omni-Present Advertising Submittal #4: Adbusters

Brian Redin sent this website which seeks to expose the silliness of modern advertising. . .

Some of the spoof print and TV adds are pretty funny.

Here's a couple. . . .

And I thought the grocery store was bad. . . Has anybody ever seen something like this?

Come on, you have to admit that's pretty hilarious! And pretty real.

What's a bit ironic is that adbusters is resorting to real T.V. advertising to get their message across. Perhaps there's no other way. . . .and I suppose they aren't selling a product but an idea.

What say you?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Omni-Present Advertising Submittal #3: watches & straw

Gordon Wong submitted two examples of obnoxious advertising, confirming that neither is a Photoshop job. Check them out. . .

The watch one is pretty clever. Try before you buy. But I'm pretty sure I don't need a woman doing yoga on my drinking straw!

BTW, I generally don't like to drink with straws. That has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

What else have you got?

Omni-Present Advertising Submittal #2: MLB bases

Erik Ernstrom wins the award for the first solicited response this morning with his MLB Bases advertising submittal. . . . but since it never made it to market, maybe it shouldn't count. Here's Erik's email. . .

This was something they wanted to do in the summer of '04 to advertise Spiderman 2. Every major league baseball field was going to switch out their bases for the summer.

But word got out and there was a huge negative reaction from the fans that wasn't expected. So to "protect the game", the idea was shelved.

What else are you seeing? Who's next?

What's Next?

In Sunday's message, I talked about the prevalence of advertising in our culture. . . how it's everywhere and all the time. I talked about the advertising coming at us at the supermarket on those slick flatscreen tvs and when you try to separate your groceries from the guy behind you and and the gal in front of you. Here's some more . . . .

And what's up with the checker trying to sell me stuff. . . ."Would you like to buy this ________ that's on special this week?"

I asked in the message "What's Next?"

So let's have a bit of fun this week at Life Together and you tell me "What's Next?" Send me examples of invasive and/or absurd forms of advertising that you notice around our world. Email your pics to me at and I'll post them.

Shane Williams sent me this example, unsolicited . . .

I don't think we even realize all that stuff that's being pitched to us, so let's practice noticing this week together.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


While we were in Carpenteria, some of the Grace men were just up the road at Jalama. I wanted to be two places at once. I hear a great time was had by the men. They're talking about next year already. Andy and others log in and share some stories. . .


We returned Sunday from a week of trailer camping at Carpenteria State Park. . . just us 6. Slow, relaxed, unplugged, do nothing week together. It was good to get away. Good to be back. Ready for the Christmas crunch which begins this weekend.

Thanks to the other SLO Theules for loaning their trailer. Here's a couple of pics. . .

the 5 I love

skater girls

trailer pizza at Costco Santa Barbara

tired husband, beautiful wife

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

go see it

The Parable Group arranged a special advanced screening of The Nativity Story on Tuesday afternoon. I took all four kids while Susie packed for our Thanksgiving getaway.

I'm skeptical of visual representations of Biblical truth, but liked this one a bunch.

The Biblical details surrounding the birth of our Lord are skeleton. The film does a great job filling in the missing details in a way that makes the events come to life in a plausible and, for the most part, Biblically accurate way.

The film opens on December 1st. I think it's going to be big. It does not deal with the "Why" questions and so I think it will provide opportunities to give "a reason for the hope within." So go see it and be ready. And then come back and share your own impressions.

family feuds

As we gather with our families to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, many of us face relationships strained and even broken by sin . . . . our own and others.

Homosexuality is becoming more socially acceptable and more and more common in many of our extended families. So many have shared with me their struggle with a family member involved in the homosexual lifestyle. What is the proper Biblical/Gospel response to these loved ones?

Here is one perspective from John Piper that I think provides some helpful guidance in these challenging relationships. . .

Letter About How to Relate to a Relative Who Is Homosexual

Saturday, November 18, 2006

running through the house with scissors

My mother-in-law sent this to me. It made me think again, as I often do, about a risk management class I took back in college. It made me laugh. I hope it makes you laugh, too. Laughing is good.

This is dedicated to those Born 1930-1979! TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's !!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank koolade made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day.

And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down
the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound, CD's or Ipods, no cell! phones!, no personal computers , no Internet or chat rooms.......
WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang
the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.

They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

If YOU are one of them . . CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as
kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave (and lucky) their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

join us at Campus by the Sea

It's official. The Theule Family is returning to Campus by the Sea on Catalina Island, June 24 - 30, 2007. We'd love to have you join us. Chances are you might hear some material I will have already taught here at Grace, but it would be fun to share the week with you. If you don't want to hear me again (which I totally understand!) pick another week and go. You won't regret it.

Our kids are amped to go again.

If you're looking for a second opinion, ask the Kardels or the Lyons families who joined us last year. I think they're hoping to go back.

Here's the website . . .

Campus by the Sea

I don't think they've posted any info about next summer, but you can check out the facilities and history.

I think I've shared before. . . when we first got there, I was pretty unimpressed. . . it seemed a bit "down home", slow and low tech. (For example, no electricity in the cabins!) I couldn't at first understand why families came back year after year after year. By mid week, I realized that it was all very, very intentional and we were all hooked. Paul and Virginia Friesen, (2 of their daughters live in SLO and attend Grace) have been running the camp for over 30 years. They have put together a very family integrative camp experience. They know exactly what they're doing. And there's something very powerful about leaving the mainland and getting away to the island.

Anyway, check it out!

Oh yea, the picture is of me and the kiddos in our cabin last summer.

Friday, November 10, 2006

join us Sunday evening

Hope you're planning on making it 6:30 Sunday night for our Fall Vision Forum. We'll talk about where we're going as we look ahead to the next 25 years. . .

Thursday, November 09, 2006

get the kleenex

Both Jenny Grasseschi and Jack Gould sent me this today. Get the kleenex. I wept.

[From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly]

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay For their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.

But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in Marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a Wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and Pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back Mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. On a bike. Makes Taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much--except save his life.
This love story began in Winchester , Mass. , 43 years ago, when Rick Was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him Brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

"He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him And his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. ``Put him in an Institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes Followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the Engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was Anything to help the boy communicate. ``No way,'' Dick says he was told. ``There's nothing going on in his brain.''

"Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a Lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed Him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his Head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? ``Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the School organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, ``Dad, I want To do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described ``porker'' who never ran More than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he Tried. ``Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick says. ``I was sore For two weeks.''

That day changed Rick's life. ``Dad,'' he typed, ``when we were running, It felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!''

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly Shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

``No way,'' Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a Single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few Years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then They found a way to get into the race Officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the Qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, ``Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?''

How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he Was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick Tried.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii . It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud Getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you Think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? ``No way,'' he says. Dick does it purely for ``the awesome feeling'' he gets seeing Rick with A cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best Time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world Record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to Be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the Time.

``No question about it,'' Rick types. ``My dad is the Father of the Century.''

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a Mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries Was 95% clogged. ``If you hadn't been in such great shape,'' One doctor told him, ``you probably would've died 15 years ago.'' So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass. , always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

``The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, ``is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.''

And the video is below....

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

melting pot or tossed salad?

The election is over, but while the politics stuff is still warm I wanted to share this interesting article on immigration.

Cougars Among the Flock

Immigration is one of those issues that I'm not always sure what to do with. How does the Gospel apply to immigration? What does a Gospel-centered perspective on immigration look like?

I'd like to read Dykstra's book entitled "Yearning to be Free." (That's a good Dutch name!) I'm intrigued by this guy's ideas. . . . here are a couple of excerpts. . .

The law of God also made a clear distinction between the foreigner willing to assimilate and the one who refused to do so. Isaiah 56:3-8 is a good example of the assurances and encouragements given to the foreigner who embraced Israel's culture. Ezekiel 44:6-9 is a good example too of the restrictions placed on the foreigner who refused to assimilate. These distinctions between the one willing to assimilate and the one who refused to do so are good and wise, and we put our future in peril by refusing to apply them to the current immigration debate.

WORLD: Why did we move from a "melting pot" emphasis to our current "tossed salad" thinking?

DYKSTRA: The jettisoning of our historic melting pot concept, (E Pluribus Unum—"out of many one"), has taken place because of our uncritical acceptance of multiculturalism. George Will recently wrote of "the sacramental nature of multiculturalism." The belief that no culture is superior to another is an assertion that needs to be challenged and not merely accepted. The roots of multiculturalism are Marxist, and the degree to which it has been accepted is frightening. The current "tossed salad" alternative to the "melting pot" will only lead to more and more fragmentation of society.

WORLD: When countries don't require immigrants to assimilate, what is likely to happen?

DYKSTRA: I guess that depends on the immigrants. If they are peaceful and law-abiding, then assimilation is bound to take place over time. If they arrive determined not to assimilate and determined to overthrow their host country, then that is a grave danger. This is precisely what we are facing with Islamists, and they are open and frank in admitting it. The clear goal of Islamists is the establishment of totalitarian theocracies. Their ultimate goal is the establishment of a borderless Islamic caliphate. Our policies in the West should be toward requiring assimilation into our common culture and opposing the dangerous policies of allowing immigrants to live in host countries separate from the overarching culture. We should begin by challenging the assumptions of multiculturalism.
What are your thoughts? How might these principles apply to hispanic immigration?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Gordon MacDonald on Haggard

This is an excellent and insightful commentary on the Haggard thing. . . .worth the read.

Leadership Blog: Out of Ur: The Haggard Truth

Monday, November 06, 2006


Tomorrow is election day and I wanted to again encourage you to get out there and vote. This is one way we can "not be overcome by evil, but work to overcome evil with good."

Nate Moss sent me the following email. I agree that it's very difficult to find accurate information. I confess that I have not yet had a chance to check out the resources that Nate recommends, but hope to do so in preparation for tomorrow. I like and trust Nate. I told him I would pass on the info to Life Together readers. Take it or leave it.

(Incidentally, I feel more comfortable offering this information via this blog than I do on Sunday mornings at church. For me, at least, when we gather for worship we are about other business . . . . business of another kingdom. I have the personal conviction that while the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God intersect with one another, we should also maintain a distinction between them. I know not everyone agrees with me on this one and you are free to share your own view here.)

Dear Tim,

I know you've been stressing elections and voting responsibilities for Christians. I think most Christians are not ignorant of this responsibility, but our system has made it very difficult to find accurate information on many people (particularly judges) and issues.

After doing much research, there is a conservative pro-life woman from Orange County who has put together one of the most comprehensive election pages I've seen. I thought I'd give this to you in case you want to put it on your blog or use it some other way.

Particularly good was her take on the judges. After doing some in-depth research many of the judges are pro-homosexual agenda or are anti-family. This lady summarized what I had already discovered about each candidate.




Sad story. Looks like legitimate brokenness. We're all capable of secret lives.

'I am Guilty of Sexual Immorality ... a Deceiver and a Liar,' Haggard Confesses

What makes a guy throw his whole ministry away to indulge himself? What makes a guy think he won't get caught? What makes a guy live such split lives?

How does his wife really stick it out? How do his 5 children process this? What will this guy do today, the Monday after? What does his life look like 5 years from now?

How easy it is in the wake of stories like this to get cynical, but think of the thousands of ministry leaders who are laboring faithfully with integrity. Let's not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Theule Family Pic of the Week: our tribe

No pumpkins carved this year. Just too crazy. But Susie did manage to throw together this Indian get up and go. I wasn't really into it, but the kids insisted.

(I'm thinking it's politically incorrect to dress up as Indians. What do you think?)

Harvest Festival was awesome. Kids went nuts. Thanks to Dori, her team and all the youth and college folks who stepped up to help. Lots of fun, but lots of work. A great outreach to our community.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Great little article here about strength through weakness, a poor husband named John Wesley and a depressed preacher named Charles Spurgeon.

This is what it's all about...

Plucked out of the Burning

Ethiopians in SLO

I've been a bit more atuned to Ethiopia in the news now that we have three adopted Ethiopian children in our church family. Here's a disturbing article about some stuff brewing over there . . .

WORLD Magazine | Weekly News, Christian Views

Incidentally, I've had the wild hare idea that the families of Grace should just keep adopting Ethiopian children. How cool would it be to have 20, 30 or 50 Ethiopian kids in our church who could all grow up together?

Who's in?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

living well, dying well

Did anybody catch this Newsweek article on Billy Graham?

Billy Graham's New Thinking on Politics, the Bible - Newsweek National News -

It's worth reading. The photo album on the right side is really worth viewing.

Do any of his statements trouble you like they trouble me? Which ones? Do we chalk these up to the Parkinsons or inaccurate quotes or what?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

new bike rack

Thanks to some passionate bikers and a grant from the city, we've got a new bike rack coming. I'm all for bikin' to church. . . here's a cool retro looking picture of the Kardel family. . . some of our bikin' friends. . .

Monday, October 23, 2006

Grace Folks in the News

After being down in Escondido last week for Susie's Dad's 70th B-day party last Monday, I never recovered enough to find time to post last week, but I'm back.

(There is never enough time to do all we'd like to do!)

I always am encouraged when folks from the family of Grace make the news. I caught a couple in the last few weeks. . .

Steve Frank, Senior Civil Engineer for the county of San Luis Obispo, who also suffers from adrenomyeloneurapathy, a rare nervous disease, was profiled in the Trib's Work Spaces. Steve is confined to a wheel chair, but refuses to let that slow him down. . . A great example to me of perseverence and hope. Christ is being exalted in his body.

San Luis Obispo Tribune | 10/17/2006 | Work Spaces

Jonathan Kelly and Tom Severson, who also both attend Grace, were profiled in the Trib's business section on October 14 for their creation of Omnispense. a web-based bill paying site for college students. Two great guys with a great idea who want to make a difference in this world. Jon and Tom are both eight o-clockers. Tom and I mountainbike once in a while.

San Luis Obispo Tribune | 10/14/2006 | Call it a computerized 'running tab'

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

on the air

We are pleased to announce that "same day" messages at Grace can now be heard all over the Central Coast on 890 AM at 11:00 Sunday mornings. These messages will be rebroadcast at 6:00 PM the following Saturday evenings.

We hope this will serve as an outreach to unbelievers in our community and also a resource to the family at Grace. Susie listened last Saturday since she was at home with sick Haaken the previous Sunday.

Just one more way for us to hold forth God's transforming Word of God.

Paul, in I Thessalonians 1:8, commends the church at Thessalonica because the Word of the Lord was "sounding forth" from them. May it do so from Grace as well.

Many thanks to the Fuglers for their sacrifice and service in making it all possible.

sweet sovereignty

Last Sunday, we looked at how gospel transformation is a sovereign work of God. I came across several quotes this week relating to the topic of God's sovereignty in Ken Sande's The Peacemaker, the I've been reading in preparation for our retreat this weekend. Great stuff.

One from J.I. Packer...

He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters. This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good.

One from Elizabeth Elliott...

God is God. If he is God, he is worthy of my worship, and my service. I will find rest nowhere but in his will, and that will is infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. God is the God of human history, and he is at work continuously, mysteriously, accomplishing his eternal purposes in us, through us, for us, and in spite of us...Cause and effect are in God's hands. Is it not the part of faith simply to let them rest there? God is God. I dethrone him in my heart if I demand that he act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice...The one who laid the earth's foundations and settled its dimensions knows where the lines are drawn. He gives all the light we need for trust and obedience.

Two from Joni Erickson Tada...

Nothing is a surprise to God; and nothing is beyond his control. His sovereignty is absolute. Everything that happens is uniquely ordained of God. Sovereignty is a weighty thing to ascribe to the nature and character of God. Yet if he were not sovereign, he would not be God. The Bible is clear that God is in control of everything that happens.

If examining the sovereignty of God teaches us anything, it teaches us that real satisfaction comes not in understanding God's motives, but in understanding his character, in trusting in his promises, and in leaning on him and resting in him as the Sovereign who knows what he is doing and does all things well.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection

In yesterday's message, we jumped into Philippians 1:1-11 where we discovered Paul's joy in the gospel transformation. (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN)

Together we noted that in his joyful prayer for gospel transformation Paul does not ask FIRST that the Philipppians would "approve the things that are excllent." No! Rather Paul prays first that their "love would abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment" SO THAT they would "approve the things that are excellent."

Why does Paul pray first for their loves/affections before their choices? Because our choices follow our loves. We choose what we love! Love the right things and you will make the right choices. The ramifications for both Gospel parenting and Gospel ministry are immense.

As I was thinking about all this, my mind went back to a famous sermon that I read a while back by the Scottish Pastor, Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847). The sermon is entitled. . .

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection

In my preparation, I did not have a chance to go back and read it, so I went back this morning. What a great encouragement! This is an amazing and deep message that says much about:

1. The operations and desires of the heart.
2. The transforming power of the gospel on the heart.
3. The contrast between love and the law.
4. The purpose and object of Biblical preaching.

So, how can I get you to sit down and read this sermon? Please read it!

Warning: It's deep and it's long and you won't get through it at the office. You're going to need about an hour to do it. Take a pencil and highlighter in hand and go slow. If you take the time, you will gain great insights into your own heart.

If you take the time, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Here's one paragraph to wet your whistle. . . .

The object of the gospel is both to pacify the sinner's conscience and to purify his heart; and it is of importance to observe, that what mars the one of these objects mars the other also. The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good to expel the love of what is evil. Thus it is, that the freer gospel, the more sanctifying is the gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is one of the secrets of the Christian life, that the more a man holds of God as a pensioner, the greater is the payment of service that He renders back again. On the venture of “Do this and live,” a spirit of fearfulness is sure to enter; and the jealousies of a legal bargain chase away all confidence from the intercourse between God and man; and the creature striving to be square and even with his creator is, in fact, pursuing all the while his own selfishness instead of God's glory; and with all the conformities which he labors to accomplish, the soul of obedience is not there, the mind is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed under such an economy ever can be. It is only when, as in the gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance, or that he can repose in Him as one friend reposes in another; or that any liberal and generous understanding can be established betwixt them, the one party rejoicing over the other to do him good, the other finding that the truest gladness of his heart lies in the impulse of a gratitude by which it is awakened to the charms of a new moral existence. Salvation by grace—salvation by free grace—salvation not of works, but according to the mercy of God, salvation on such a footing is not more indispensable to the deliverance of our persons from the hand of justice than it is to the deliverance of our hearts from the chill and the weight of ungodliness. Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the gospel, and you raise a topic of distrust between man and God. You take away from the power of the gospel to melt and to conciliate. For this purpose the freer it is the better it is. That very peculiarity which so many dread as the germ of Antinomianism, is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit and a new inclination against it. Along with the lights of a free gospel does there enter the love of the gospel, which, in proportion as you impair the freeness, you are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation as when, under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness.

Do you feel this way?

Our kids were watching the Incredibles on my laptop yesterday, but stopped midway through. Last evening, Susie and I were having a "Sunday Sit-Down" to plan for the week ahead. We were realizing what a crazy week it's going to be. I opened my laptop and this was the frame where the movie was paused. I turned to her and said, "This is how you feel." She said, "Exactly."

Do you ever feel this way? It's a Monday!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Clueless Christian

Check out this fresh testimony by Moby. . .

I've never heard Moby's music (so culturally irrelevant, huh?), but I agree with him. . .

"The world is a complicated and nuanced place."

Let's not act like it isn't.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, October 02, 2006

A great church or a great city?

Great and challenging quote I ran across this morning. . .

If the aim of your church is for a great church--you will only feather your own nest. But if the main aim of your church is to build a better city--then in the end you'll also have a vibrant church. --Ray Baake
1. Do we believe this?
2. How do we do this?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

sunday's comin'

Here's the email that went out to the GraceSLO family. There are great challenges we're facing. Your can share your comments and input here or via email.

Beloved Grace SLO Family,

I apologize in advance for what is a necessary and long email. Thanks for taking the time to read it. They say put the bottom line up front, so here goes . .

Will 250+ of you commit to sacrificing and serving others by attending the 8:00 AM service beginning this Sunday?

Will all of you consider parking in the Morro/Pacific parking structure this Fall?

Will you consider "adopting" a college student or 3 or 4 for this school year?

Let me now explain why I believe these commitments are essential for the continued growth of our ministry this Fall.

It Really was a Fall Kick-Off . . .

Last Sunday's Fall Kick-Off was AWESOME! Thanks to the many who labored to make the day a true expression of "inside out" ministry. All told, we had 1075 in worship with 250 guests for lunch, 180 of whom were new college students and 70 of whom were from 25 visiting families. What that means is that 1/4 of those in attendance were visiting for the first time. I'd call that an incredibly effective outreach event.

What if all those 250 come back this Sunday?

What if even 1/2 of the 180 college students invite a friend?

What if we kept the Fall Kick-Off spirit going and kept inviting our friends, neighbors, family, coworkers and total strangers to worship with us this Fall?

What if, all Fall, 25% of those in attendance were first time visitors?

Wouldn't we be crowded?

Wouldn't that be exciting?

This Sunday, October 1st, we dive back into 3 services at 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00 AM. As we've talked this week, our staff has recognized an exciting reality . . . if only 100 of the 180 college students come back and attend the 9:30 service before the college hour at 11:00, we've got a BIG problem/opportunity. Our staff hopes and believes we'll have many more than 100 college students attend our 9:30 service this Sunday! I don't know if you noticed, but in the Sundays leading up to the Fall Kick-Off, we were already quite full during the 9:30 service.

Let's see this as an opportunity, not as a problem.

In order to accommodate all these new Fall visitors, it's absolutely necessary that as many folks as possible (let's shoot for 250+) make a commitment to attend our 8:00 AM service this Fall. Will you please consider living the Gospel in this way for the sake of the proclamation of Christ to these college students and new families?

If you're unwilling to serve and sacrifice in this way for some reason, we'd love to know why. What are the changes that we could make in our ministry that would make it easier for you to make such a change in your worship pattern? We'd appreciate your input. Our desire is to do whatever we can to make room for all those who want to worship with us.

What a shame it would be for folks to turn away from Grace because it was a hassle to find a parking place or place to sit. Let's not let this happen!

Other Musings & Future Possibilities . . .

We believe that Grace is in a unique position to provide college students a truly intergenerational Gospel encounter in a way that few other churches in our community are able. We believe this integration into the overall life of the church is crucial to their growth and maturity in the Gospel during these college years. And it's happening! It's working! They're integrating! Our investment in college ministry is bearing real fruit.

All year long, we've been prayerfully pondering the possibility of the continued growth of our ministry. What if God should continue to bring both new families and college students to our doors? What if God were to continue to expand our opportunities to invest in lives and families for Gospel transformation and impact? We've asked again and again . . .

How can we make the 8:00 service more appealing and viable?

Is there a way to rearrange our programming to better balance our services?

Could we move the college hour or other Adult Bible Fellowships around to fix the problem?

Is there some other creative way we could expand our capacity and make more room?

To this point, we have yet to discover an ideal solution. All solutions come with sacrifices, inconveniences, and compromises.

Long term, we believe that establishing a concurrent and parallel 9:30 service in the Ministry Center opens up some exciting possibilities. This option would allow us to expand our seating capacity by up to 500 more people. This service would feature a live staff and worship team, but the message would happen via a live video feed of the service happening just next door in the Worship Center. Or we might reverse things once in a while and I might preach live over in the Ministry Center while those in the Worship Center enjoyed the video feed experience.

This would be a flexible and scalable model that would keep Grace on the same campus and at the same time on Sunday mornings, while greatly expanding our current capacity. This option might enable us to eliminate the 8:00 AM service altogether. During the summer and holiday seasons when the additional capacity isn't needed, we could easily collapse the Ministry Center service and scale back to our normal Worship Center.

We have talked about intentional ways to carefully guard our unity by insuring that both services followed a similar pattern, worshipped with roughly the same music, and were served by interchangeable intergenerational worship teams. We have a shared commitment to protect and even grow our intergenerational life together.

At this point, we believe this is the best option on the table and a real future possibility. After carefully considering the technical and staffing requirements, our staff made the corporate decision to hold off on the starting of this Video Venue Service for as long as we possibly can. This week, we reconsidered that decision and again reaffirmed our commitment to hold off and strive to rebalance our existing services this Fall. Will you help us?

When I think about all the ministry opportunities that God has placed in front of us THIS SUNDAY, this Fall and beyond, I am humbled and I rejoice. I think of Paul's Words in Philippians 1:18 . . .

Only that in every way . . . Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice!

Brothers and sisters of Grace, let us rejoice in the proclamation of Christ in these exciting days.Let's smile and sacrifice for the proclamation of Christ and the salvation of men and women. Let's continue the Fall Kick-Off warmth and hospitality all Fall by being a contagious, Christ-centered people.

As we prayerfully plan for our exciting future, your input is valuable and invited. If you have any ideas, thoughts or questions, please don't hesitate to contact me or any one of our ministry staff.

I consider it an honor and privilege to be your pastor and partner with you in this great Gospel adventure.

I'll see you on Sunday at 8:00 AM!

Pastor Tim

P.S. . . A final word to college students. . . You, too, can join us in this joyful sacrifice for the sake of your fellow college classmates . . . by attending the 8:00 AM service, serving during the 9:30 service in the children's, youth, welcome, refreshment or other ministry, and then attending the 11:00 college hour. Think about it!

Young, Restless, Reformed

Great article this month from Christianity Today about the resurgence of Reformed theology among the young . . .

Young, Restless, Reformed

We have some of our own Young, Restless, Reformed here at Grace. They're sometimes like bulls in s china closet with their newly discovered enthusiasm for the doctines of Grace. Yet, I'll take some tameable bulls over lackluster, listless young men who aren't excited about anything in life.

A couple stand-out statements in the article...

Al Mohler:

This generation of young Christians is more committed, more theologically intense, more theologically curious, more self-aware and self-conscious as believers because they were not raised in an environment of cultural Christianity
Joshua Harris, referring to "humble orthodoxy":
If you really understand Reformed theology, we should all just sit around shaking our heads going, 'It's unbelievable. Why would God choose any of us?' You are so amazed by grace, you're not picking a fight with anyone, you're just crying tears of amazement that should lead to a heart for lost people, that God does indeed save, when he doesn't have to save anybody.
I agree. The more we understand the doctrines of Grace, the more humble and gracious toward others we will become. Likewise the more zealous for evangelism we will become. I have observed that people who are getting excited about God and His sovereign grace often go through a very "critical" stage, where they are right, everybody else is wrong, etc, etc. My friend David Hegg calls this the "RAM" or "Reformed Angry Man" stage. My experience has shown that most grow through this stage and move into the "winsome" stage. If we don't move beyond the RAM stage then we don't yet understand the grace of God in truth.

Incidentally, the article makes mention of one of the most influential books in my own life, J.I. Packer's Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God.

I have written and taught a study based on Packer's ideas that is posted in PDF format on our website HERE. Our elders recently worked through this study together.

Hat Tip: Pastor Al once again!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

2006 DG Conference: Above All Earthly Powers

This thing starts tomorrow. I so wish our staff were going, but the Sunday after Fall Kick-Off is not a good day for me to be gone.

Tim Keller, D. A. Carson, John Piper, and David Wells all under one roof!

I'll have to get the cds.

(I just discovered how to insert video. Are you digging it?)

Facing the Giants

Have you heard about this new movie called Facing the Giants? The whole thing was produced and acted by a church. Pretty ambitious if you ask me. The main guy is one of the Associate Pastors at the church. The film was picked up by Sony distribution.

It plays at the Downtown Cinemas starting Friday. I think we should all go see it. If we expect our theaters to show family films, we better support them when they come.

Zeke is fired up on it.

What film can we dream up to stick Pastor Ken and Pastor Steve in?

(I have a feeling you're all going to tee off on that question!)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Spurgeon on Psalm 37:4

Sunday's Fall Kick-Off message was based on this exhilarating verse, Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

Should be available soon here.

In the meantime, why not listen to Spurgeon's sermon on Psalm 37:4.

That's right you can LISTEN to Spurgeon's sermons, not Spurgeon himself but Spurgeon's sermons. Cloud Audio (and others) are taking Spurgeon's printed sermons and preaching them to live audiences around the world and recording them.

Now, admittedly, I was a bit skeptical about this whole thing, but eager to hear how Spurgeon dealt with Psalm 37:4. I found myself totally drawn in and captivated by Spurgeon's sermon but also by the delivery. So give it a listen. . . . - Sunshine in the Heart

Spurgeon was only in his late twenties when he dlievered this 59 minute sermon on June 15, 1862. There's a reason why he's called the "Prince of Preachers."

While the message will take you back to an earlier time, you'll also recognize that God's Word is timeless as are the struggles of broken humanity.

Let me know what you think. . .