Monday, February 26, 2007

Pastor Peter Xu Audio now posted

We had more than 1200 in Sunday's Worship Services to welcome Pastor Peter Xu, the grandfather of the house church movement in China and kick off our 2007 Missions Conference. It was awesome to hear of God's work in China, when all seemed dark and the light of the Gospel dim in closed, communist China, in reality God was doing a mighty work.

Because each service was different and Pastor Xu shared different experiences we've posted all three service audios HERE.

We're also trying to locate and post the audio from the Sunday evening question and answer session where Pastor Xu shared the Back to Jerusalem vision. Stay tuned!

I just thought the whole day was a once in a lifetime experience.

What were your thoughts, feelings and reaction to hearing Pastor Xu's experience of suffering and persecution?

One reminder for me, was that God meets us in our suffering. His grace is sufficient for us. I think Pastor Xu clearly communicated that this was his experience.

Friday, February 23, 2007

podcast caught up

The podcast is finally up to date again. We'll try and keep up with it moving forward. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

satelite feed in pozo?

Here's the latest Building on the Legacy Vision Video from Josh and the gang. It's a light-hearted look at why we are trying to pray and plan ahead. What will these guys do next?

It's so hard to imagine what Grace might look like in 25 years. The Lord knows. . . . We want to live by faith in our day and generation, like the founding folks did in their generation . . . Pray and dream with us.

Monday, February 19, 2007

now comes rest

Let me sneak this in on this President's Day. . .

Ted Malley was touched by a President's Day spot about James Garfield that he heard on K-Life. Apparently his mom said, "If he doesn’t want to be a preacher I guess I’ll let him be president.” When he resigned from his elder position at his local church to run for presidency he was quoted “I am resigning from the highest office in the land to run for president."

Ignorant me, I didn't know anything about him. So I went looking. Here's a short bio about a President I bet you don't know much about either . . . from Faith of our Fathers . . .

James A. Garfield was the 20th President of the United States. After serving only four months he was shot and became the fourth President to die in office, and the second to be assassinated. While he was in college, Garfield along with some other students climbed one of the high peaks nearby on "Mountain Day." The surrounding scenery was enough to inspire religious awe and the students stood there in silence. Then young Garfield broke the quiet, "Boys it is a habit of mine to read a chapter in the Bible every evening with my absent mother. Shall I read aloud?" The group assented, and drawing from his pocket a well-worn testament, he read in soft rich tones the chapter that his mother in Ohio was reading at the same time. When he concluded, he called on a classmate to pray.

Garfield began his career as a teacher at Hiram College in Ohio and at the age of twenty-six was chosen as the College's president. There he studied law and preached an occasional sermon at the Disciples of Christ church where he was a member. (Imagine the uproar if President Bush were to actually preach a sermon in a church…)

Garfield was strongly anti-slavery, and at the outbreak of the Civil War was made a Lt. Colonel in the Union Army. At one point he needed a man so loyal that he would rather die than fail or betray the Union. A volunteer named John Jordan stepped forward. Garfield questioned him closely and among other things asked him, "Why did you come forward?"

"To do my part for the country, Colonel," answered Jordan. "I make no terms with the Lord. I gave Him my life without conditions, and if He sees fit to take in this tramp, why, it is His. I have nothing to say against it."

Needless to say, Garfield sent Jordan on the mission. Later, after defeating a superior Confederate force, he was promoted to Brigadier General, then to Major General. While still serving in the Military, Garfield was elected to Congress, taking the position at the wishes of President Lincoln. On April 14, 1863 Lincoln was assassinated, and the next day Garfield happened to be in New York City giving a speech. A crowd gathered in the city, and soon turned into a mob when news reached the city of not only Lincoln's death, but also the attempt of the life of Secretary of State Seward. Armed and ready to avenge Lincoln's death, the mob turned ugly. One man was killed and another injured because they said, "Lincoln ought to have been shot long ago!" The police were powerless. At this critical moment a strong, clear voice spoke to the crowd.

"Fellow citizens," Garfield cried. "Clouds and darkness are round about Him. His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. Justice and judgment are the establishment His throne. Mercy and truth shall go before His face! Fellow citizens, God reigns and the government at Washington still lives." The tumult sank and became still. James A. Garfield had saved the day..

After serving 18 years in Congress, Garfield was elected Senator from Ohio. But then a unique set of circumstances occurred when he was asked to give the nomination speech for John Sherman at the opening of the Republican Convention in 1880. His speech received such a standing ovation that the convention decided to nominate him instead of Sherman. "The people are responsible for the character of their Congress," he said. " If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be
intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent the m…"

Garfield was not shy about proclaiming his faith and beliefs. In his inaugural he said, "…and, above all, upon our efforts to promote the welfare of this great people and their Government I reverently invoke the support and blessings of Almighty God."

Later, as president, Garfield chose to go to church neither with the rich nor in a cathedral, but chose instead a little frame church called the Vermont Avenue Christian Church. He was asked to give a statement of beliefs held by his church, and he drew up a list. Here are a few:

  • We call ourselves Christians or Disciples.
  • We believe in God, the father.
  • We believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and our only Savior. We regard the divinity of Christ as the fundamental truth in the Christian system.
  • We accept both the Old and New Testament scriptures as the inspired Word of God.

When he was killed, his pastor conducted the funeral service, and the casket, which bore a wreath from Queen Victoria, was carried by men who worshiped with him there. On the wreath were the words, "Life's race well run, Life's work well done, Life's crown well won, Now comes rest."

22 week old Amilla

Nate Moss sent me this article about little Amillia, a premature baby only 22 weeks old and only 10 oz who survived.

Born at Less that 22 weeks!

I liked the way the short article ended . . .

Amillia's incredible story will reignite the debate over Britain's abortion laws, which campaigners say must be updated in the light of recent medical advances.

Babies can still be aborted for non-medical reasons at up to 24 weeks. Recent evidence shows that, of those born at 25 weeks, half of them manage to live.

Lets not just update those laws, but eliminate them!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mustangs buck the Gauchos

Andy Gibson sent an email after last nights 86 to 79 point Mustang win over the UCSB Gauchos . . . sort of rubbing it in.

It does present a bit of a conflict for me since I'm a UCSB alumnus (B.A. Business Economics, 1990), but I wanted Cal Poly to win this one.

I had a chance to attend a couple of games last week (thanks Chad, Sean and Scott) with my boys. So fun to hear 4 year old Zeke yell next to me, "Yea! Three points!" The Mustangs are shooting the lights out these days.

Do you know these people?

Every year the Jr. High Ministry does their "Downtown People Puzzle" where the staff dresses up in disguise and hides around downtown and the kids have to try and find them all.

I just discovered that a Downtown People Puzzle photo album has been uploaded to the church website. Some of the disguises this year were great. Click over and check it out. Do you recognized these people?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Creation From Above

Revelation comes in two volumes—the Bible and nature. That insight has been attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas, and, indeed, the central texts of many of the world’s great religions—the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Upanishads—all urge adherents to reflect on the Creator’s presence in the natural world and the messages concealed therein.
So began a recent article in Life Magazine (included in Friday's Tribune). The article focused on the photography of Bernhard Emaier. Check out the slideshow in Life and then Ermair's website. The pics are awe-inspiring and gorgeous.

I have no idea if Emaier is a Christian, but I thought it was an interesting way to frame the article. Was the author drawn by the design and beauty of the creation to think about the Creator?
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. --Romans 1:20
The article also includes this paragraph. . .
The deep beauty of these scenes cries out for stewardship. That can be agreed upon in red states and blue, in coffee shops and ivory towers, in mosques, temples, and churches—and in universities. We can all agree on the need for stewardship; it’s an obligation as old as human culture.
I agree that we have a responsibility for creation care based on the creation mandate. Ought we not to be as Christians pro-life and pro-environment?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Friesen Audio Now Posted!

Last night's marriage seminar, with Paul and Virginia Friesen, about how to maintain the romance of your marriage was oustanding. . . . funny, Biblical, challenging, encouraging and very practical.

The audio is now posted on-line at...

If you missed it, would you please take the time to listen to it?

We had a good turn-out, but I wish every married couple and those who someday hope to be married would listen to this material.

We are living in a day when the institution of marriage is being consistently undermined and compromised. Here at Grace, we want to do more marriage enrichment stuff since marriage is the foundation of the family which is the building block of a community. Marriage and family are God's things. When we commit ourselves and submit ourselves to his design, we experience the delight and blessings that He intends.

If you were there, post a comment with one take-away from the lecture to encourage others to listen to this good stuff.

Why are you excited about our Building on the Legacy Vision?

Here's that video we showed a couple of weeks back in the service about our "Building on the Legacy" Vision.

Be praying and plan to attend The Building on the Legacy Pledge Banquet on Sunday, April 29.

Heavenly Man

I, like hundreds of others at Grace, am currently reading The Heavenly Man in anticipation of Brother Peter Xu preaching at our Missions Conference on Sunday, February 25.

I actually started reading the book a couple years back, but never finished it.

Are you reading it? What do you think? What do you make of all the signs and wonders that are described in the early house church movement in China? Do you believe this stuff happened? Why don't these things happen here in the West? Or do they?

I just finished chapters 9, 10 and 11 which describe Yun's 74 day miraculous fast from all food and water. I've had a couple folks at Grace ask me if I was aware that there were some questions about Yun's integrity and the truthfulness of some of what he writes and especially this 74 day fast. So I went googling.. .

I found this interesting link answering the objections to The Heavenly Man . . .

Answers to Questions about The Heavenly Man

What I read there was good enough for me.

It's not too late to jump and read with the rest of us. I hope you'll read and finish the book, if for no other reason to stretch your boundaries about God's work and the power of the Gospel in the world. When no one knew what was going on in closed communist China, the Gospel was exploding. It gives me great hope and confidence that the Gospel is doing its thing in Iraq and Uganda and in other dark parts of the world.

I think God might use Brother Xu to rock our world here at Grace. I pray He does.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

YouTube on the Central Coast

Did you see this article in the Tribune about Central Coast folks using YouTube?

I think Josh Ernstrom and the gang should have gotten an honorable mention. I've been fiddling around with YouTube and can't believe how easy it is to use. We're going to try and post some YouTube videos on the church website and I'll try and throw one up here. Stay tuned. . .

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lost is back!

I admit it. . . it's one of our little escapes. I don't have many, but this is one. Lost is back tonight. We're gathering with friends. Splurging for the babysitter.

Is anybody watching any more. I know two friends who are just jumping in now. It's not too late. It's only the middle of the third season.

We've had so little comment discussion in recent days, let me see if I can get you going . . .

What does Lost have to do with the Gospel?
How does Lost inadvertently point us to the Gospel?

(BTW, I think that this is the way to watch all movies and television shows! We saw a movie the other night with some friends and that's the question I asked over dinner. Led to a great discussion. You should try it sometime!)

Monday, February 05, 2007

I have no idea . . .

Studying up for next week's message on a Monday morning, I came upon this great quote from D. A. Carson which relates to yesterday's message and the relationship between the "Divine Plan" and the "Human Plot":

The divine necessity for the sacrifice of the Son of Man, grounded in the Word of God, does not excuse or mitigate the crime of betrayal. Nor is this an instance of divine "overruling" after the fact. Instead divine sovereignty and human responsibility are both involved in Judas's treason, the one effecting salvation and bringing redemption history to its fulfillment, the other answering the promptings of an evil heart. The one results in salvation from sin for Messiah's people, the other in personal and eternal ruin.
If you're struggling with this issue and wish to do some more reading on the subject, check out Carson's book entitled Divine Sovereignty & Human Responsibility.

new blogs & sites

2:42 is the new Sunday Morning Adult Bible Fellowship for 20s & 30s, marrieds and singles. They've had a couple of "Meet & Greets" and then kicked things off officially yesterday. I've heard there has been 40 plus all three weeks they've gathered. These first few weeks they are studying "The Cross of Christ" utilizing an R.C. Sproul film series. (I understand the videos are a bit dated, but Sproul was just as good in the late 70s/early 80s as he is today and truth is truth!)

If the demographic fits you, now is a great time to get in on the ground floor.

2:42 has started a blog at . . . . . I've added it to my list of graceslo blogs on the right.

I've also recently added the following to the appropriate lists.

If you have a blog or site, you'd like me to list, let me know. . . .

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Did you get it?

Hopefully, if you attend Grace, you've received and carefully read the whopping 3 page congregational letter sent earlier this week. It was a bear to get out. We had crazy copier issues.

In case you didn't get it, there will be copies available at tomorrow's services or you can just read it right here. . .

Beloved Family of Grace,

As 2007 is now in full swing, I wanted to take some time to update you on some significant happenings this Winter and Spring at Grace Church, San Luis Obispo. This long and detailed letter contains important and valuable information that you need to know. I encourage you to read it slowly and carefully. Please keep it for future reference.

As hopefully you are aware by now, after much prayer and planning among our elders, ministry staff and broader leadership, we are now leaning forward into a new and bold vision that we’re calling Building on the Legacy. Leading up to the New Year, our elders hosted four separate Vision Forums to inform and invite feedback concerning our emerging vision. We were encouraged and emboldened by the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the great majority of those who attended. I hope that you had an opportunity to attend one of our four Vision Forums, but in case you didn’t, I wanted to present it to you now.

Priorities of the Building on the Legacy Vision
Our 75th Anniversary Celebration this last Spring took us backward in time where we together had the chance to reflect on both the faithfulness of God and the faithfulness of His people here at Grace these many years. Looking back on our rich 75 year history and the work of God through Grace here on the Central Coast has caused us to look ahead by faith to the future and ask. . .

“What now, Lord? How would You have us build on the legacy of faithfulness?”

As we continue to passionately and aggressively celebrate, proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the Central Coast and beyond, Building on the Legacy is the first step in what will be an evolving 25 year vision looking forward to our 100th Year Anniversary. Building on the Legacy specifically addresses the important and complicated area of our campus facilities and their relationship to our overall ministry.

The area of campus facilities is a unique area of our ministry in that it requires long term strategic and financial planning. We have identified three immediate and important priorities related to our campus facilities that we are seeking to address through our Building on the Legacy Vision:

  1. Parking: Our 25 year parking agreement for the lot across Osos Street expires in December 2007. Obviously, this is a major concern. We need a visionary parking plan that will address the city’s requirements for work week staff parking as well as our current and projected congregational parking needs.

  2. Property Acquisition: Throughout our long history, the leadership of Grace prayed and planned strategically about our place and presence in the community. God has bountifully blessed that process as we now occupy a strategic corner giving us an amazing, debt-free downtown presence in the middle of San Luis Obispo in the heart of the Central Coast.

    We are trying to build on that legacy as we look to the future. The quickening pace of downtown redevelopment has spurred our thinking about our current and future place in our community’s landscape. We have recognized a unique window of opportunity to acquire adjacent and nearby properties before these properties are possibly redeveloped. Our active planning for the acquisition of nearby properties, should they become available for purchase, opens up some exciting possibilities for immediate classroom meeting space and future campus expansion, including, in the very long term, the possibility of a new larger worship center, if the Lord should will it. The Lord knows the plans He has for us (Jer. 29:11), but if we don’t pray and plan, these possibilities will not become realities. By faith, we have set an initial goal to raise $1 million for the Property Acquisition Fund.

  3. Annex Renewal: The 50 year old building attached to and behind our current Sanctuary has always been called “The Annex.” Since the early 80s, the Grace Church Master Plan has called for the reconfiguration and remodel of this space. We’ve been actively talking about this project for the last four years. Now it’s time to get it done. Renewing the Annex will (1) bring some much needed improvements to our circulation flow by creating some new hallways and corridors; (2) provide improvements to our early childhood area; and (3) transform our old gym into a valuable multi-use Founders Hall for adult education, overflow homeless ministry, and an array of other current and new ministry possibilities. We have estimated our costs for the Annex Renewal project to be just under $1 million.

Your Part in the Building on the Legacy Vision
If you’ve been reading carefully up to this point (and I hope you have!) you’ve figured out that part of our Building on the Legacy Vision will involve a capital fund-raising campaign to raise $2 million dollars or more for future Property Acquisition and Annex Renewal.

I invite you right now to begin praying and planning about your financial participation in our Building on the Legacy Vision.

Beginning Sunday February 4, we will begin sharing 3-5 minute Building on the Legacy spotlight moments in our worship services where each week we’ll share a piece of the vision from a different angle. Over the Winter and Spring our goal is for you to know exactly what we’re doing, where we’re going and why. As we did at each of our four Vision Forums, we always welcome and encourage your feedback and input.

Along the way, we’ll provide opportunities to gather and pray for our emerging vision, for our community and for our whole ministry. Our first Building on the Legacy Prayer Forum will be on the evening of Wednesday, February 7 at 6:00 pm in the Sanctuary and will be led by our Building on the Legacy Prayer Coordinator, Donny Valliere. We’ll be providing other opportunities to pray along the way through Growth Groups and Sunday Morning Adult Bible Fellowships.

All of this will lead up to and culminate at a very special Building on the Legacy Pledge Banquet on Sunday Evening, April 29 where all those who worship at Grace will be invited to offer their gifts to the Lord in the form of one time gifts and/or three year pledge commitments. Our desire is that this event will be an exciting evening of celebration as we give ourselves to the Lord and renew our commitment to His work here on the Central Coast.

This will be the one time when you will be asked to make a financial commitment to the Building on the Legacy Vision and we will determine the scope and direction of our plans based on the amount of gifts and pledges received on that night. Our leadership is trusting our Sovereign and Faithful God in all
these things. Faithful is He who has called us and He will bring it to pass (1 Thes. 5:24). If we do not reach our financial goal of $2 million dollars, we will scale back and take another look at our vision. If we exceed our financial goal of $2 million dollars, we will accelerate the pace of our vision.

Between now and our Pledge Banquet on April 29, we invite you to trust the Lord with us as you consider your financial part.

Money is a sensitive area for all of us. We believe that God calls us to live by faith in this area as well as in all areas of our lives. The Bible is clear that God wants us to give of ourselves and our finances to His work bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6), sacrificially (Phil. 4:18), consistently (Prov. 3:9) and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7).

While you can expect to be personally invited to attend our Building on the Legacy Pledge Banquet, our heart’s desire is that you would not feel pressured to give, but excited and eager to give as God has blessed. We want you to celebrate and participate in the work of the Lord with us. Some will give more than others. Each will give as the Lord has blessed and as He leads. Each and every gift will be gratefully received as an offering to the Lord and His work through Grace Church. Your gifts and sacrifice touch and impact eternity.

Grace Church, San Luis Obispo is Christ’s church, but it’s also your church. The place where you worship weekly. The place where your family is spiritually fed and nurtured. The place where your children are dedicated, loved, baptized and married. The place where your loved ones are grieved. The place where we live life together before the face of God. The place where God is at work. We encourage you to be a part of the future as we build on the legacy of faithfulness together.

Other Important Matters
While the Building on the Legacy Vision is a big thing that’s happening the first part of this year, it’s sure not the only thing. Here are a few other big pieces that you need to be aware of:

  • The Preaching Plan: We’ll transition from our January preaching series in Jonah back to Matthew where we’ll finally wrap up that big and long series right around Easter or so.

  • 2007 Missions Conference, February 25 – March 4: The theme of this year’s Mission’s Conference, which will happen over two Sundays, is Grace Around the World. We are privileged to have Peter Xu, a leader in the house church movement in China, with us on February 25. The Mission’s Committee has some fresh, creative and new things planned for this exciting week. It’s going to be a challenging and unique kind of Mission’s Conference. . . I guarantee it.

  • Staff Shuffle: Since last summer, our staff has been in a bit of transition. Now we face another transition. After three and a half amazing years, we will sadly say good-bye to Kathy Borland, our Business Administrator, as she moves on to other exciting opportunities which the Lord has provided. Though much of what she has accomplished has been behind the scenes and unseen by most in the congregation, Kathy’s contribution to our ministry and organization infrastructure has been enormous and cannot be overstated. We’re grateful that Kathy is staying in the area and will continue to serve as a part of our broader leadership. We are carefully considering how to cover Kathy’s many responsibilities.

    In addition, we are still actively searching for a Youth Pastor as part of a plan to transition Pastor Ken to the position of Pastor of Family Ministries. We are zeroing in on an excellent candidate. On top of all that, we’re prayerfully considering the calling of a part-time Missions Pastor, an extraordinary and uniquely gifted man that God has brought to us. We’ll see what God has for us!

Are you still reading? If so, I thank you for your time and attention. As you can see, it’s going to be another full and fruitful year here at Grace. When I stop and think about it all, I can easily get overwhelmed. I am so glad that our Great and Sovereign God is in control. He knows the plans He has for us (Jer. 29:11)!

Thanks for your faithfulness to the Lord and His work here at Grace. I am privileged to serve as your pastor. There’s no other place or people I’d rather serve.

I am His and I am yours . . . because of and for the Gospel,

Tim Theule
Lead Pastor
Grace Church, SLO

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. . . . 2 Corinthians 9:7-8