Monday, April 30, 2007


Here are a few of my reflections the Monday after our Building on the Legacy Pledge Banquet:

• Seeing our 65 table hosts and others come forward to present our offerings to the Lord is an image that I'll remember for a long while. I'm so glad we offered our pledges together instead of by mail.

• There is a power in being together. Just seeing the full banquet hall was itself a great encouragement to my soul. We need to keep doing it and "not forsake our gathering together as is the habit of some." I was encouraged to see so many relatively new folks to Grace there last night.

• I thought the evening was marked, as we had prayed, by a spirit of celebration. While I'm sure some were tense, most seemed relaxed and excited to be there.

• It is one of my continuing joys to see that body of Christ going for it in service to reach for goals that are bigger than any one of us. Our Building on the Legacy Capital Campaign and banquet was the result of the hard work and careful planning of hundreds. Many thanks.

• There were many who weren't there. . . some were serving the body by caring for our children. . . . some were at home with sick children. . . . .others had conflicting commitments . . . . and some just didn't like our approach or didn't agree with the vision. . . . I wish that all could have been there, to experience the power of God's presence when His people gather. I'm sure it's a fantasy, but I wish there was a way to really get the WHOLE church together.

• As I stated last evening, it is easier not to lead. Daily, I realize my desire to shirk my responsibility to lead. I give thanks for our elders, staff and many others who are also committed to leading by faith. Asking people to give of their hard earned resources is a delicate matter. It only gets easier from here!

• Erik Ernstrom is a nut! I great nut. It was fun to pull off the live video conference between the Expo and the Ministry Center. Many thanks to Shane Williams and Josh Ernstrom over at the Mac Superstore, as well as Josh Erdman, for helping us figure that out! Looked like our kids were having a great time. A wild time, but a great time! Erik is a stud to take that on. Many thanks to him and the whole team of people, including many of our young people, who served the church in that significant way. How many sugar cubes did those guys hand out? (Had to be there!)

• I give thanks to God for our unity these last 6 months. Capital campaigns can be very divisive in churches. From the get-go we prayed that God would keep us together and preserve our unity. I believe He has. As far as I know, those who disagree with our vision have not divided the fellowship, nor left the church. Some expressed concerns and then hopped on board. Some expressed concerns and agreed to disagree. The Lord has done this thing!

• I'm pretty sure that none of us fully appreciates what it means to be a part of a loving church family. We partially appreciate it at moments. The family is full of failures and foibles and broken people, but God is pleased to glorify Himself through our weaknesses. The more "all in" we can be, the more we experience the blessings of life together. Yet most of us hold back, out of fear or insecurity or a bad past experience, or for other reasons. For some of us, it's just scary to connect and we're not very good at it. The evidence of this is the fact that folks wander from church to church to church. Let's dig in and figure out life together with all its pains and challenges, joys and triumphs.

• As we saw in 1 Chronicles 29, the Lord has tried and directed our hearts. Therefore, we will thank Him and praise Him for whatever He has seen fit to provide through His people.

• Like the Lord's people of David's day. . . . because our God is faithful, great, powerful, glorious and victorious. . . . we gave to the Lord and toward the future. . . willfully, wholeheartedly, generously, and joyfully. Sunday's messages will be posted online soon.

• If you were not at our Building on the Legacy Celebration Pledge Banquet for any reason, we want to give you an opportunity to still join us in pledging. This week you'll receive, by mail a copy of Sunday's messages, morning and evening, a brief invitation to join us and a pledge card. Finally, in case you don't read your mail or we don't have your correct mailing address, we'll give you quick invitation to pledge during next Sunday's worship services. And then that's it! We plan to announce our pledge total on Sunday, May 13, which also happens to be Mother's Day.

What are your thoughts and reflections the morning after?

Friday, April 27, 2007

People of Grace in the News

This great pic of Bobby Cleath, who attends Grace, was a part of a great article in today's Tribune about the SLO High Boys Swim program under the leadership of Rick Ernstrom, one of our elders at Grace.
“We’ve had a dynasty here since Ernstrom has been the coach,” Thom said. “Since Moby Dick was a minnow, as he says. Having Ernstrom as a coach, he’s excellent at putting kids in the right races.”
Fulfilling his callings with excellence as unto the Lord!

Rick came walking into our elder meeting around 6:00, an hour late and, of course, didn't say a thing about winning the title that afternoon. Typical understated Rick!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

ask anything speed round

For six months we've been informing and inviting feedback about our Building on the Legacy Vision. Based on the overwhelmingly supportive feedback and the unity of our elders, staff and broader leadership we have moved forward by faith.

But even this last week, a few have come forward with questions. If at all possible, I want you with us, so let's get those questions answered.

I tried to answer some of the most commonly asked questions in last Sunday's message, but with three days before the Celebration Pledge Banquet, I thought I could use the forum here at "Life Together" to tackle a few more.

So here, once more, is a formal invitation to get your questions asked and answered. At the end of the day, we may still disagree, but hopefully we will have heard and understood one another. You can email me your questions, ask them in an anonymous comment or whatever and I will attempt to answer them as quickly, straightforwardly and succinctly as I can. Because of time constraints, my answers will be "quick and dirty" and "from the hip", rather than theological dissertations . . . .

To get things started, here are the questions I tried to directly or indirectly address in last Sunday's message:

  1. Why continue to build a Place?

    We believe planning by faith for the next 25 years and beyond is good stewardship, especially given 1.) our hope for continued growth in the church, 2.) our landlocked footprint, and 3.) anticipated changes and growth in our community. We sure don't need a place to worship, but we believe it's a helpful gift. The church is not a building, but meets in a building. Furthermore, as I tried to show last Sunday, I believe that God validates and blesses the whole idea of place and matter throughout the Scriptures. Our spirituality is an embodied spirituality rooted in place. Not, any more, one specific ordained place, but place nonetheless.

    (Incidentally, when I compared the temple to Grace Church in my message, the comparison was intended to be a loose, general comparison, not a tight, one-to-one correspondence. I was careful in what I did not say. Clearly, Grace Church is not equivalent to the Temple, where the Glory of God rested. My point was that even then the people gave by faith for a place of worship. We do the same. I think God blessed their faith then, and I think that God has blessed the faith those before us at Grace. I believe we stand squarely in the stream of Biblical practice in our continuing prayers, planning for our place of worship.)

  2. The vision seems undefined in some ways. What about the uncertainties of the future?

    The people of David's day gave 1.) toward an eternal future, 2.) toward the future of their community, 3.) toward the future of the next generation and 4.) toward a future that was uncertain and unknown. I believe that our vision, too, also has all these future components. But our vision, like the future, is full of contingencies. We know much more about Annex Renewal than we do about Property Acquisition. By faith, we are trying to do our best to prepare and lay a financial foundation for an uncertain, unknown future, even as the people of David's day did. While we could come to the congregation when an opportunity arrived, we do not think that strategic prayer and planning is opposed to faith, but an opportunity for faith. We trust a Sovereign God who holds the future in His hand. As we'll discover in this week's message, our vision of God will determine our vision of the future.

    The faithful Lord may have other plans for us. We'll only discover those plans as we continue to pray, live and give by faith. As leadership, we feel compelled to ask, "What next, Lord?"

  3. What's up with this Parking Priority?

    If there's been a spot of misunderstanding it's been in this area. By highlighting parking as a vision priority, we are simply identifying it as an area for continued planning for the future. When we lose the Osos lot and if our church continues to grow, we'll need to have a plan. We're trying to develop that plan now.

    No one wants to purchase a parking lot! That is not our aim. The acquisition of a nearby property may help us meet some of our city mandated staff parking requirements, but that would not be our primary reason for purchasing a property.

    The parking issue is a complex issue involving city requirements and congregational needs, present and future concerns. We are not looking at this issue so that we can all be more comfortable and not have to walk very far when they come to church. We are looking at this issue, because we believe it is of crucial concern for our seniors, handicapped folks, visitors, neighbor and city relations, and long term growth.

  4. Why a Celebration Pledge Banquet? Isn't that a waste of money?

    1. Celebration: A Biblical desire to eat and drink before the Lord with gladness. God is worthy of our celebration. This is the Biblical pattern in 1 Chronicles 29. The people pledged and partied. We celebrated God's faithfulness over 75 years a year ago. It seemed fitting to the planners to return to that very spot to celebrate as we look forward to the next 25 years.

    2. Space Constraints: We simply can't fit 525 people for dinner on our facility. We think there is great value for us to be together as we pledge, rather than spread across three worship services.

    3. Desire to Involve All: Our All Church Events Team does so much throughout the year. We refused to burden them with an event of this magnitude. We want them to celebrate with us. Outsourcing as much as we can enables us all to enjoy the evening together.

    Let me toss in one more question that came up after the third hour on Sunday . . .

  5. Why are we talking so much about "our legacy?" Why is the legacy "plastered on the walls" and such? Why is there so much talk Building on the Legacy?

    First, the legacy is not ours, but the Lords. God has been faithful. Whatever we have accomplished, He has done. He commands us over and over to remember the wondrous work that He has done. All of our information is intended to be a part of our celebration of God's work among us and in spite of us. In the Scriptures, looking back on God's faithfulness is meant to be a stimulus to live by faith in the future. This has been our intent throughout. If this has not been clear, please understand that now.

    Second, our purpose in spending so much time (6 mos) talking about the Building on the Legacy Vision is the same of my purpose in this post: To properly and effectively inform the congregation and invite feedback and questions. Despite all the vision forums, service spots, newsletters, brochures and emails, some poeple still have misunderstood parts and pieces of the vision. Part of that is the nature of our church. We figure there is at least 1/3 of our church family missing from the worship services on any given Sunday. Part of that is the complexity and multidimensional character of the vision. Given the sheer amount of information that people are processing today, they need to hear important information multiple times and in different ways.
There's "from the hip" answers to 5 frequently asked questions. You're hearing it, not from the horse's mouth, but from the pastor's mouth (or more accurately, his keyboard!). I hope that's helpful.

What questions do you have?

If no one submits questions, I'll submit a few more of my own over the next three days.

Let the "ask anything speed round" begin . . . .

and another one

Matt Gould (Lewis), who is attending Biola University down south, has entered the blogosphere. . .

You can read his blog at . . . .

Show us what you got, Matt!

praising HIM, not pleasing me

Loved this quote from Janie B. Cheaney. . . (from World Mag, of course) . . .

This is my Father's world. The weather, my health, and all earthly circumstances are arranged to praise Him rather than please me. But to throw myself in His everlasting arms and willingly (if not always cheerfully) give myself to whatever He does, is the ultimate pleasure. . . . In the end there is only one way to play this game, and that is with abandon.
Easier said than done, but it's how I want to live.

What circumstances do you find yourself in today that are arranged "to praise Him rather than please me?"

Is it happening?

Are you playing this game "with abandon" and ruthless trust?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

another one

Missy Grant has re-entered the blogosphere.

You can read her blog at . . .

Add it to your google reader subscription list. I did.

Welcome back to the party, Missy!

Building on the Legacy Update

We are just a few short days away from our Building on the Legacy Celebration Pledge Banquet.

It's been both a challenging and encouraging week. We've had over 150 more sign-up for the banquet following last Sunday's worship service and message from 1 Chronicles 29. (Listen Here!)

Yesterday we were nearly maxed out at 525 dinner reservations, but we desperately needed some folks to help care for our 100 plus kids in childcare. So apparently someone went to some of our teenage young people and appealed to them to help. . . . .15 or so volunteered forego their banquet attendance to serve the church body in this way. That's living the Gospel! One of the many encouraging reports this week.

All that to say, our current reservations sit at 508, which means there are still 17 banquet seats available. Call the church office at 543.2358 if you still want to jump in. I expect we will fill up on or before Sunday.

One couple I talked to said, "To be honest, I'm looking forward to the free babysitting more than anything else..." It's all part of the celebration!

One of our elders thought about our $2M goal in these terms. . . .

I’m standing and kneeling with you and the gang on the BOTL this week.

I keep thinking about what we always discussed, the pressure is OFF of US and ON the Lord to accomplish His purpose in the hearts of His flock. I am giddy with excitement to see what God will do this weekend.

Just think IF, 500 people pledged 4,000 or approx $120/mo we would raise $2M.
I think that's an interesting way to think about it! Some will give more than $120/mo. Some will give less. All will give to the Lord.

Here's that funny Annex Renewal video for your Wednesday enjoyment. . . .

Friday, April 20, 2007

i am a dying man

I understand that Deane Keller used to say at memorial services something like. . . .

I stand as a dying man to talk to dying men about a man who has died.

At the tail end of this week where I've been doubly reminded, both nationally and personally, of the frailty and shortness of life, I'm conscious that that's what I will do at 2:30 this afternoon. My role is on the front end and small. . . welcoming, praying, reading a tribute, facilitating some sharing . . . . . but I desire to discharge my pastoral duties with reverence and thoughtfulness.

We took all the cousins for doughnuts this morning. As I was walking through the parking lot, I spotted this sign in a store window. Seemed relevant and timely. (I think you can see me in the reflection, taking the pic with my mobile phone.)

That is the eternal question, is it not? The question we run from and deny.

The questions of our souls and eternity show up in the advertisements, t.v. shows, movies, and music we consume. Do we see them? Do we face them? Do we use them as bridges to talk to the lost around us?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

tools to use

I'm experimenting with two tools right now. . .

1. Google Reader: with 14 and counting Grace blogs, and others I read regularly, I'm trying to figure out a way to keep up to date. I'm trying Google Reader and I'm liking it. Google Reader allows you to "subscribe" to blogs with a button you put in your browser bar and then read all your blogs in a single window instead of clicking to each separate site. There are many other blog reader/aggregators out there, but Google is getting as good of reviews as any of them.

Here's what the window looks like. . . .

If you use another reader you like, share the love in a comment. If you're looking for a way to stay up to date, but simplify your blog reading experience, check out Google Reader.

2. Snap Shots: Have you noticed the new little captions by the links on "life together?" Roll over one and see what happens. Essentially, the linked content occurs in a little window. I think its pretty neat, but I'm not sure if it clutters up the blog and is more annoying then helpful. What do you think?

pleasant surprise

On Sunday a young couple came up and asked about getting married at Grace. They introduced themselves as Greg and Brin. There was something familiar about those names. We chatted for a few minutes and then it finally hit me and I asked "Are you the couple who got engaged at the blood bank that was on the front page of the paper?" They said, "Thats us!"

How cool that they've been attending Grace! How frustrating that I didn't know it! An ongoing challenge.

I couldn't find the original article, but here's a short piece from the editorial section. . . .

Encouraging Email of the Week

At the end of every round of Growth Groups, we give participants an opportunity to fill out an evaluation and tell us about their experience. This woman couldn't get the eval to work, so she sent an email instead. I'm so glad she did. Made my week. This what Growth Groups at Grace are all about . . . Connecting, Growing, Welcoming. Growth Groups are helping new folks enter in to life together at Grace. Hope you're involved. . . She's right, this is how I "would like to see our church."

I’ll just tell you how it was. I really enjoyed it learned a lot and was welcomed by all. Peter and Amy K. ran the group and they did a great job. Peter let those of us talk when we needed and listen when we needed. As a new person to growth groups I was a bit worried how it would be with me not knowing as much as others relating to knowledge of the bible. The folks in my group were accepting friendly and supportive. We ranged in ages from college students to young and older married couples. I did sign up for another growth group and when I spoke about it to my group they welcomed me back with open friendly arms. I now have chosen to stay with this group one more session, for I feel I need to continue my learning of the gospel and I need the support of those I have had before to help me through some trying times(I need the stability of the group). I see this group as how Pastor Tim would like to see our church. The group opened up to someone new, welcomed me easily, included me and supported me and did not place judgment on how I felt about things, They gave input, suggestions and loving support. It was a totally positive experience and I’m glad I did it.

Valerie McCrea. . . present with the Lord

Sunday evening, after a long and excruciating battle with cancer, our friend and Julie's sister Valerie McCrea passed from this life to the glorious presence of Jesus. She was 38 years old, loving wife to Chris and mother to 3 young boys, Ryan, Gavin and Taylor.

Once more we are confronted with the devastating consequences of sin in this world and a Sovereign and Good God whose ways are not our ways and whose thoughts are past finding out.

We are down in Escondido today to attend and participate in memorial services tomorrow.

Many thanks to the Grace family for your warm welcome and loving care for Chad and Julie during this difficult time. I know they've appreciated it.

Valerie's journey is chronicled at

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Enklings Studio: Balance vs. Being

Great post over at Tim Blair's blog today. Resonates with me in this busy, busy time.

Enklings Studio: Balance vs. Being

Leave Tim a thought or two.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

that's my King

We'll wrap up Matthew's Gospel this week. Gargantuan study. As I have been meditating on Matthew 28:18. . .

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

. . . I came across this awesome sermon snippet on Pastor Bryan Stupar's blog. Now this is preaching!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

two more

Two more Grace bloggers discovered. . .

Dad, Tim Blair:

Daughter, Lara Laity:

The Laity's are living in Florida now, but are still very much a part of our Grace community . . .

email subscription now available

Did you know you can now receive new posts to Life Together via email?

Just enter your email in the new field on the right and each time something new is posted to Life Together it will be sent to you via email.

I think this is pretty cool!

I also just added a subscription button if you choose to read blogs via a reader. I'm not entirely sure how that one works, but those of you who use blog readers, I'm sure are.

If you're a blogger and would like to add these features to your blog, check out

Happy reading and blogging!

Theule Family Pic of the Week

Like everyone else, Easter is a family time for the Theule Family. It's a battle for me, because I am in a different zone.

We had Susie's sister Amy, her husband Steve and their four kids, as well as Susie's folks here with us this weekend. Delightful madness.

Here's a pic of the kids + the other Theules all riding their bikes . . . only a couple of spills.

From left: Spencer, Zeke, Austen, Nate, Alieya, Haaken, Kyle, Eden, Sage, Julianne, and Cassidy.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Resurrection of the Son of God

I'm Easter exhausted this morning!

It was an exciting day of worship and truth yesterday as we considered the strange and striking evidence of the historicity and truthfulness for the resurrection of Jesus. If you were out of town, we missed you and hope you take the time the listen. Several have asked about some of the quotes, the N.T. Wright book referenced and the availability of the audio.

The audio is now posted on the website and is now available via the podcast in iTunes.

Here are the quotes. . .

Napolean's assessment of Jesus:

"You speak of Caesar, of Alexander, of their conquests and of the enthusiasm which they enkindled in the hearts of their soldiers; but can you conceive of a dead man making conquests, with an army faithful and entirely devoted to his memory? My armies have forgotten me even while living, as the Carthaginian army forgot Hannibal. Such is our power.”

“I know men and I tell you, Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour, millions would die for him.”

“I search in vain history to find similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history nor humanity, nor ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.”

Anon quote on the unrivaled impact of Jesus:
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the governments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned have not changed the course of history as much as this one solitary life.

William Pannenberg on the early resurrection testimony in Jerusalem. . .
Without having a reliable testimony for the emptiness of Jesus' tomb, the early Christian community could not have survived in Jerusalem proclaiming the resurrection of Christ.

Jewish Christian scholar Pinchas Lapide on the transformation of the disciples:
When this scared, frightened band of apostles which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds and fishermen, who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him miserably, suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter, then no vision or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation.

The book I mentioned is N.T. Wright's 800 page defense of the resurrection entitled, "The Resurrection of the Son of God."

I also found this Wright lecture (CLICK HERE), recently delivered at Roanoke College, to be very helpful in my preparation.

I don't agree with everything the Wright says or writes, but I do think his defense of the resurrection is compelling and thorough.

Hope these resources are helpful to some and cause further contemplation beyond Sunday.

He's still risen!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Week Contemplation #2

The resurrection proclamation
could not have been maintained
in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour,
if the emptiness of the tomb
had not been established as a fact.

--Paul Althus--

The cross is the victory,
the resurrection is the triumph . . .

The resurrection is the public display of the victory,
the triumph of the crucified one.
--Eric Sauer--

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

more blogs discovered

Kristen Borland was kind enough to give me a heads-up on some previously undiscovered Grace bloggers in a comment on the last post. So here they are and also added to my right column list. Thanks Kristen. If you know of some more, send 'em my way.

Kristen Borland:
Lindsey Cheney:
Brenda Williams:

And another that I've discovered on my own . . .

Glenn Norris:

baby boom

Did you see today's Tribune article about 146 babies born at Sierra Vista in March. . . it's a new record.

San Luis Obispo Tribune 04/04/2007 A delivery-room boom

At least a couple of those were new gifts to our Grace family. And I understand our own baby boom is continuing. There are at least 11 women that we know of that are pregnant right now. Also, multiple families have come to me and shared their serious interest in adoption. The Early Childhood classrooms are nuts right now and only look to get fuller.

All the more reason to get this Annex Renewal done. This is about the continuing Biblical instruction of our children and outreach to our community.

One of the most encouraging things to me is the growing number of children in our worship services! And weren't those children's choirs precious last Sunday?

I thought we were bucking the trend of our community, but perhaps the baby boom is happening in our community as well.

Here at Grace, we want to be family supporting and equipping in all that we do.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Holy Week Contemplation #1

Dost thou understand me, sinful soul?
He wrestled with justice, that thou mightest have rest;
He wept and mourned, that thou mightest laugh and rejoice;
He was betrayed, that thou mightest go free;
was apprehended, that thou mightest escape;

He was condemned, that thou mightest be justified;
and was killed, that thou mightest live;

He wore a crown of thorns, that thou mightest wear a crown of glory;
and was nailed to the cross, with His arms wide open,
to show with what freeness all His merits
shall be bestowed on the coming soul;

and how heartily He will receive it into His bosom?"
--John Bunyan--