Thursday, November 29, 2007

Saturday Work Day

In case you don't get the emails or they go to junk, here's the email sent about Saturday's Moving/Work Day. . .

Beloved Family of Grace,

Just a super quick reminder about our Moving/Work Day happening this Saturday, December 1st from 9:00 to noon. I hope you can swing by and pitch in as we lean forward into the renewal of what has historically been called The Annex and will, going forward be called the Early Childhood Center and Founder's Hall. It's finally happening and we want you to see it and feel it! It's going to be great fun to work together and sweat together! Dave McCoy is suggesting a list of things you might like to bring along on Saturday. Flat nose shovel, hammer, flat bar, wrecking bar, wheel barrow, gloves, goggles, push broom, and the legendary…. thingamajigger!

Saturday will prepare us for Sunday, when all of our downstairs classrooms in the Annex will shift over to the Christian Education Building. You should have received a list of room changes in a letter from Dori. The next couple of Sunday mornings there will be a Children's Ministry Welcome Team that will help you find your classrooms.

This is going to be a season that requires flexibility and team work from all of us. But remember, it's a small sacrifice in the present for the blessing of renewed facilities and better circulation for the future.

Thanks for your part here at Grace and we'll see you Saturday morning!

Because of and for the Gospel. . . . Pastor Tim

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Amazing Grace

I finally had a chance to see Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce's 20 year battle against the English slave trade. It was recently released on DVD.

I really enjoyed it and think it's a "must see" for all believers as we seek to be in the world, but not of it. We so need this reminder that God wants to use us just where He's sent us. I particularly enjoyed the touching scenes with John Newton.

I came away asking myself, "What am I investing my life in and am I willing to persevere for 20+ years in the face of opposition and few results?"

Have you seen the movie? What were your impressions and take-aways?

BTW, I want to also recommend The Nativity Story this Christmas season. Saw it last year and will watch it again with my kids this year. Makes the Christ story come to life in a way that is, for the most part, true to the Scriptures.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

motivation from George Whitefield

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday, so many from Grace scatter elsewhere around California and beyond. Many go to unbelieving extended families. May we be Gospel salt and light to whom the Lord sends us. Remember, we are A People Sent. So here are some great quotes from George Whitefield that remind us of these opportune times. Pray hard and be bold.

Whatever opportunity you have, do it vigorously, do it speedily, do not defer it. If you see one hurrying on to destruction, use the utmost of your endeavor to stop him in his course. Show him the need he has of repentance, and that without it he is lost forever. Do not regard his despising of you; still go on to show him his danger; and if your friends mock and despise, do not let that discourage you. Hold on, hold out to the end, so you shall have a crown which is immutable, and that fades not away.
Whitefield’s Sermons – "A Penitent Heart, the Best New Years Gift."

Consider, my dear brethren, that it was love for souls, that brought the blessed Jesus down from the bosom of His Father; that made Him, who was equal in power and glory, to come and take upon Him our nature; that caused the Lord of life to die the painful, ignominious, and accursed death of the cross. It was love to immortal souls that brought this blessed Jesus among us. And O that we might hence consider how great the value of souls was and is: it was that which made Jesus to bleed, pant, and die. And surely souls must be of infinite worth, which made the Lamb of God to die so shameful a death. And shall not this make you have a true value for souls? It is of the greatest worth: and this, this is the greatest charity, when it comes from love to God, and from love to souls. This will be a charity, the satisfaction of which will last to all eternity. O that this may make you have so much regard for the value of souls, as not to neglect all opportunities for the doing of them good: here is something worth having charity for, because they remain to all eternity. Therefore, let me earnestly beseech you both to consider the worth of immortal souls, and let your charity extend to them, that by your advice and admonition, you may be an instrument, in the hands of God, in bringing souls to the Lord Jesus.
Whitefield’s Sermons – "The Great Duty of Charity Recommended."
HT: Allen Peek

Monday, November 19, 2007

Render to God. . . a few more thoughts (UPDATED)

The past post "Render to God" is now a week old, but there is still some valuable dialogue happening in the comments section. Andy and Eric have recently shared their passionate perspectives and, at the same time, raised some important questions/issues that I promised I would respond to. Because my response represents my continuing and still-evolving thinking on these matters, I thought I would post my latest comment here as a unique post, but also there in the comments section. As you read them, please remember that I am proud to be an American.

Eric and Andy,

It's Monday and I'm still recovering from yesterday, but let me see if I can string together a few coherent thoughts in response to some of your earlier comments . . .

• To put the bottom line up front, my personal and pastoral discomfort with patriotic songs and a flag in church has nothing to do with political correctness, but everything to do with Gospel passion, purity and priority. I believe patriotic songs and a flag in church cloud and confuse the Gospel. I understand that neither of you agree with me on this point, but that's still my conviction.

• The NT affirmation, "Jesus is Lord" was, among other things, a bold challenge to the Roman Empire, where their battle cry was the contrasting "Caesar is Lord." The early church set itself apart and, arguably, in opposition to the world's kingdoms of the day. My own view is that the church of the 21st Century should be doing the same.

• When writing to the church in the city of Philippi, a Roman Colony whose populace was quite proud of their status as Roman Citizens, the Apostle Paul has the audacity to say, "Our citizenship is in heaven." (Phil. 3:20) Again, it was an implicit challenge to Roman nationalism. (And yes, I am well aware that Paul at times used his Roman citizenship when it served his Gospel mission. He didn't deny his Roman citizenship, but he viewed his and our heavenly citizenship as of a "higher" status that trumped and took priority over our national citizenships.) I think our higher, trumping, taking-priority, heavenly citizenship should be "front and center" and unmistakable when we gather for worship. Patriotic songs and a flag, in my opinion, make that less clear.

• Though some are better than others, I believe that all political systems/ideologies and world kingdoms are fallen and broken because they are filled with sinful people. They all provide ample opportunities for some to exploit others. I think the Gospel challenges all systems/ideologies/kingdoms at their weak points. Though the church, too, is a mystery and mess, I believe Christians should exercise a healthy Gospel suspicion towards the world's kingdoms. We should be realistic, but hopeful and engaged. Yet, the church should be careful to not be too aligned, equated with, dependent on the kingdoms of this world. Again, I think the church should stand apart. I believe patriotic hymns and a flag in church muddy these waters.

• The Gospel, it appears to me, called Jews to subsume their nationalistic Jewishness to a new and higher allegiance to Jesus. Likewise, the Gospel called Romans to subsume their nationalistic Romanness to a new and higher allegiance to Jesus. I believe the Gospel calls us, not to deny our patriotism, but to subsume our nationalistic Americanness to a new and higher allegiance to Jesus. My passion is to make that as clear as possible. Once more, patriotic songs and a flag, make this less clear.

• I see this as a completely different issue than the historical issue of the Separation of Church and State. My limited understanding of that concept is that it was designed to protect the church from state control and interference, not the other way around. I think we've distorted the original intent of that concept. When I argue for a distinction of the kingdoms, I am not arguing for the separation of church and state, but for something else.

• When I speak of the distinction between God's Kingdom and the world's kingdoms, I actually am not arguing for a complete, non-interactive separation. I believe that what happens in God's Kingdom should affect and impact what happens in the world's kingdoms, but not the other way around. In other words, the flow should go one direction only, not both directions. Why? Because they are not on equal ground. Because God's kingdom and the Gospel trump, supersede and take priority over the world's kingdom. Because our Gospel allegiance affects every area of our lives and how we live in the world. (I don't know if that makes any sense, but try to picture two circles, with an arrow going from the God's kingdom circle toward the world's kingdoms circle, but not an arrow going other direction.) This explains why I can support our elders taking a stand on an occasional proposition once in a while, but not support the singing of patriotic songs or a flag in church.

• I believe we are living in a day and time, when, for many outside the U.S., being a Christian is equated with being an American. Similarly, for many inside our U.S. Borders, being a Christian is equated with being a conservative Republican. But being a Christian means neither of these things. The Gospel has become dreadfully confused and even lost. How did this happen and, for the sake of the purity, priority and spread of the Gospel, how can we fix it? Surely, patriotic songs and a flag in church, will not help this sad state of affairs. I am passionate that we do everything we can to recover the Gospel.

• Regarding Prop 73: As I've tried to make clear, I am not the sole decision maker on what happens in the worship service. The elders after long and prayerful discussion, felt that Prop 73 fell into a unique category and, by majority decision, decided to go for it and say something.

• Regarding the Battle Hymn of the Republic on Mother's Day: Not only do I not make all these decisions by myself, I am, at times, not even aware of some of these decisions. Pastor Al has delegated authority to choose songs for the worship service. I usually don't see them. He does a great job. I cringed and felt a bit uncomfortable when on that Sunday I discovered we were singing The Battle Hymn, mostly because of the title and the nationalistic associations. (In fact, besides the occasion for which it was written and its title, it's an awesome expression of Biblical truth. I've got no problem with the lyrics.)

Once more, my thoughts are my own and don't represent the official position of Grace Church, SLO at the present time. Thanks for making me think longer, harder, and deeper about these important issues.

I appreciate your thoughtful engagement and our ability to humbly disagree.

Because of and for the Gospel. . . Pastor Tim

UPDATE: Because I've now spread my thoughts over two posts, there seems to be a bit of confusion. All future comments should be attached not to this post, but to the original post. I have now deactivated the comments feature on this post to streamline the ongoing discussion. If you're showing up late to this discussion, you really need the context of the original post and comment thread, to avoid confusion and to track the arguments. CLICK HERE to go there now. Read the original post then click the comments link at the bottom.

back on the bike

Here's a shot of Saturday's sunrise over SLO from the trail on Madonna Mountain (Cerro San Luis, if you insist). Some of the crazies are getting me out on the bike before dark with lights. Hardcore. But it is so nice to be back to the house by 7:15 AM!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Salt Recipe

In last week's message we talked about being IN, but NOT OF the world. In a recent World Mag article, entitled Salt Recipe, Gene Edward Veith offered these helpful thoughts about the family and its power to impact the world. So fits with our ministry philosophy at Grace . . .

Christians worried about the state of our culture often look for political and legal solutions. Others hope to turn things around by getting involved with the media and the entertainment industry. But culture begins at home.

Studies have long shown that the chances of a child growing up to become a criminal plummet to almost zero if he is raised by two loving parents. Two-parent families are also the most effective anti-poverty program.

One factor in the development of male homosexuality, according to Christian psychologists, is the absence of a father figure. The boy so yearns for a father's love that he becomes attracted to men. The effect of absent or emotionally distant fathers on daughters is that they so yearn for a father's love that they often become promiscuous.

I hasten to reassure single moms that none of these dire consequences necessarily come to pass. Christians, especially, have God's promise to the fatherless that "I will be a father to you" (2 Corinthians 6:18).

But Christians who want to strike a mighty blow in the culture wars would do well to build up their own families. Spouses must spend quantity time with each other. When they are both busy in their own separate spheres, they tend to become isolated. Married couples work to counter these effects by building time in their lives to spend with each other.

Parents must spend quantity time with their children. Many children spend more time with their peers than with their parents, which means they are essentially raised by their friends. If the statistic is true that the average father spends seven minutes a day with his children, he is not doing his job.

Often churches are part of the problem, with so many activities that add to the busyness of the week rather than encouraging members to devote time to their families.

Christians also need to recover the joy of family life, not a spirit of harshness, with the father trying to rule with an iron fist and the mother controlling her children with rigid rules and severe punishments. Ironically, this approach can spark the opposite of what is intended, breeding marital discord and turning children into rebels.

A revival of the Christian family would have far-reaching cultural ramifications. A network of strong and happy families would help stabilize American culture. They would also provide a powerful Christian witness to the cultural casualties who, on the deepest level, yearn for a family like that.

"They can smell fear!" #3

Welcome Home, Lance!

In case you missed it yesterday . . .

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Attributes of God, Part 3: The Supremacy of God

Men imagine that the Most High is moved by sentiment, rather that actuated by principle. They suppose that His omnipotency is such an idle fiction that Satan is thwarting His designs on every side. They think that if He has formed any plan or purpose at all, then it must be like theirs, constantly subject to change. They openly declare that whatever power He possesses must be restricted, lest He invade the citadel of man’s “free will” and reduce him to a “machine.” They lower the all-efficacious atonement, which has actually redeemed everyone for whom it was made, to a mere “remedy,” which sin-sick souls may use if they feel disposed to; and they enervate the invincible work of the Holy Spirit to an “offer” of the Gospel which sinners may accept or reject as they please.

The “god” of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The “god” who is now talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday School, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible Conferences is the figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside of the pale of Christendom for “gods” out of wood and stone, while the millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a “god” out of their own carnal mind. In reality, they are but atheists, for there is no other possible alternative between an absolutely supreme God, and no God at all. A “god” whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits nought but contempt.

The supremacy of the true and living God might well be argued from the infinite distance which separates the mightiest creatures from the almighty Creator. He is the Potter, they are but the clay in His hands, to be molded into vessels of honour, or to be dashed into pieces (Psa. 2:9) as He pleases. Were all the denizens of heaven and all the inhabitants of the earth to combine in revolt against Him, it would occasion Him no uneasiness, and would have less effect upon His eternal and unassailable Throne than has the spray of Mediterranean’s waves upon the towering rocks of Gibraltar. So puerile and powerless is the creature to affect the Most High. Scripture itself tells us that when the Gentile heads unite with apostate Israel to defy Jehovah and His Christ, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh” Psa 2:4). . .

Here then is a sure resting-place for the heart. Our lives are neither the product of blind fate nor the result of capricious chance, but every detail of them was ordained from all eternity, and is now ordered by the living and reigning God. Not a hair of our heads can be touched without His permission. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps” (Pro. 16:9). What assurance, what strength, what comfort this should give the real Christian! “My times are in Thy hand” (Psa 31:15. Then let me “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psa 37:7) -- A.W. Pink

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vital Information for the Grace Family

Beloved Family of Grace,

Two quick things on this Wednesday night. . .

1. Thanksgathering Dinner this Sunday Evening at 6:00 PM. Always an awesome evening unlike any other evening throughout the year. A great way to step from the porch into the living room. Right now we are sitting at right around 250 people. It's not too late to sign up, but we need to hear from you so we can plan accordingly. If you're planning on joining us, respond RIGHT NOW and let us know the number in your party and if you can bring soup. Karen Weaver, our amazing ACE Lead offers the following suggestion if you are bringing soup: wrap your pot in bath towels, and place the pot in a card board box in your car. The towels will help absorb spills as well as keep the soup warm. The cardboard box helps contain things while driving to the dinner.

2. Lance Iunker is coming home tomorrow at 12:00 PM tomorrow. Not real convenient, but if you can get there, we'll see you there. See Dori's email below for all the details . . .

Finally we have a flight time!!!
Thank you for being patient with Lance's arrival time but I might just say "Welcome to the Army!" Lance is scheduled to arrive at the airport at 12:00 noon tomorrow the 15th. The police and fire department will surprise him and escort him home to Columbine Ct. where any and all of you are welcome to join in! You can bring banners and American Flags and line Columbine Ct. and Poinsettia street! I am sure Lance will be overwhelmed and honored!
I know that this daytime flight does not work for many of you because of work and school but the Army originally had him booked for just before midnight so this was the only other option! Also, the back up plan is that if the 12:00 noon flight is canceled or delayed he will be on a 9:50 pm flight. I hope for his sake he makes all the connections!

Kathy Smith wanted me to pass on the following information (it applies mostly to an evening homecoming but does have great flag information):
We're hoping people can round up as many of the larger flags (the kind you put out in front of your home on patriotic holidays), as possible, and hold them while shining their flashlight on them, so that when Lance rides by they will be easily seen at night. Also, if you remember, an American flag is not suppose to be flown at night without a light on it. We are working on getting additional lighting along the street, but we still want to really stress the need for everyone to bring flashlights. Also for those making banners or signs it would be best if they had a flashlight to shine on it as well. Even with the additional lighting in the cul-de-sac area and on Columbine, I believe, with the numbers coming, that the parade route will stretch much farther down Columbine and onto Poinsettia toward Tank Farm, so individual flashlights will be needed. After the procession passes, please follow slowly behind them, so we can all meet in front of the Iunker's/in the cul-de-sac.
For those who asked about buying flags.... I checked around and you can buy large American flags at Home Depot (in the Garden dept.), Pacific Home and Garden, and at American Flag and Gift, located in Grover Beach at 1101-B Highland Way, 473-0395. The American flag store has all sizes of flags for those who might want to spend less and get something smaller. You can see their selection of flags at their website, and then take the link for American flag and gift. They stock everything in their store that you see on their website. Their location is not far from Ron's Nursery, but you might want to call for directions.

Okay, that should be it for now. If you have any other homecoming questions you can contact Kathy Smith at 543-4771 or
God Bless!

Because of and for the Gospel. . . . Pastor Tim

"They can smell fear!" #2

a bit more under control, but not much . . .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"They can smell fear!" #1

Susie took off for a conference in Arizona for a few days. I'm on Dad Duty for this time. As we talked about her leaving she said, "They can smell fear!" Pray for me . . .

The Epistle to Diognetus

In Sunday's message, we looked at John 17:13-23 where Jesus outlines the church's relationship with the world. We talked about three common dangers. . .

  1. Flight = separatism = monastic movement

  2. Fight = militarism = the crusades

  3. Conformity = syncretism = the compromised church in all ages.

Jesus balanced words keep us from all three. . .

We are not of this world, not loved by this world, not taken from the world. Rather we are sent into the world so that the world might know and believe the Gospel.

What does all this look like? I referenced the Epistle to Diognetus (AD 130) which gives us a compelling picture of the early church.

The slides were lost, so I thought I would post the long quote so you could read and digest it slowly.

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.

They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life.

Lord, make us this kind of church!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Render to God

Today is Veteran's Day. Leading up to and following this weekend, three similar requests/inquiries have come my way. I have been interacting with several folks via email and have promised that I would commit my thoughts and share my views here at Life Together, so that others might understand my convictions in this area.

Here are the 3 requests/inquiries:

  1. Why don't we sing patriotic "hymns" on Veteran's Day and other similar national holidays? Why don't we do more to honor our vets on these days?

  2. Why don't we have an American Flag in our place of worship?

  3. Why won't we mount in our foyer next to our missionary display, a companion display to honor our men and women currently serving in the military?

These are legitimate and important questions, and I think they all fall into a similar category. For those who ask them, these are passionate and deeply personal issues.

Let me share my views on this subject and in so doing attempt to answer these questions, from my own perspective . . .

  • First off, I will come right out and share that I am a registered Republican and supportive of the current war in Iraq and the fight for freedom around the world. I give thanks to God for those who have given their lives and are giving their lives now for the freedoms we enjoy. As a citizen of our great country, I believe we should be doing everything we can to honor our vets at community celebrations and the like. I need you to hear that!
  • However, as a Christian, I don't believe that patriotic celebrations and the singing of patriotic music belong in the church. My own view is that this leads to a common confusion between the world's kingdoms and God's kingdom, which is not of this world. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but God's kingdom will never fall or fail. I believe that nationalism and Gospel ministry each have an important place in our lives, but belong in separate spheres. When we gather for worship, we are about other business, the business of the Gospel. It's important to me that the Gospel not be confused with republican values or, for that matter, any values of a particular political stripe. I believe in a clear distinction of the kingdoms. We have a foot in each, but they are separate spheres and we should work hard not to confuse them.
  • I believe that Jesus taught us to distinguish the kingdoms when asked about the paying of taxes. He said "Render to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God's." As citizens in the community, we are called to render to Caesar (and to vets) their due. This is appropriate and this is good. When we gather for worship, I believe we enter into a different sphere where we are called to render to God what is God's.
  • The early church was marked by a diversity of people united in Christ. There were Gentiles of every nationality and Jews, men and women, slaves and masters, who presumably differed widely in their views of politics and a variety of other subjects. Yet they came together to worship. They checked their baggage at the door and affirmed that there was One Lord, One Faith, One God and Father of all. I believe facilitating this kind of Gospel-centered, diverse, open community in the church is as important now as it was then. My own conviction is that singing patriotic songs and having an American flag in church jeopardizes this kind of Gospel-centered environment and blurs some important distinctions. As an American citizen, I believe in the flag and in the honoring of the flag as a patriotic symbol, but as a Christian, I believe our first allegiance is to God and the Gospel.
  • In the 5th Century, when the barbarians were sacking the gates of Rome, Christians despaired and wondered what would happen to them if Rome fell. The church had become too attached to and equated with the Roman Empire after the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 325. In that dark and scary hour, God raised up Augustine, who took up his pen and wrote the classic "The City of God," where he illustrated that the God's work of salvation through the Gospel transcends all earthly kingdoms. I believe that Augustine was right . . . we should be very careful to not equate Gospel ministry with any earthly kingdom.
  • Personally, I believe that patriotism and love of country are very important values that must be taught and instilled in our children. We are working double time to teach and instill these values in our own children by giving them a rich biblical and classical, history-based education. I just do not think the church is the appropriate place to teach and instill these values. Our role, in the church, is to instill Gospel values. I believe the Biblical distinction between the kingdoms that I am arguing for is also a value/belief that needs to be instilled in our children.
  • Here's a great comparison issue: Our family is deeply involved in a school that my wife helped found. We are passionate about this school and its merits. We value it and believe in it, and yet, I have never once mentioned the school by name from the pulpit. Why? Because I believe the schooling of my children belongs in a different and separate sphere of my life. When I have my "parent hat" on, you will hear me quite passionate about our great school. Likewise, when I have my "citizen hat" on, you will hear my quite passionate about our great country. When I have my "pastor hat" on, you will hear me quite passionate about our great Gospel. I am determined, when we worship, to know nothing among the people of God, except Christ and Him crucified. I refuse to talk about schools or politics.
  • This issue is a curious one, because I think if we did sing patriotic songs and had an American flag in church, I would be fielding just as many questions from folks on the other side of this issue. Its a "lightening rod" issue.
  • Specifically regarding the issue of a display to honor our currently serving military men and women: Our ministry staff reached a unanimous decision after an extensive discussion of the idea. Our shared conviction coming out that discussion was that it would be more appropriate and valuable to remember our soldiers by asking someone to collect and coordinate prayer requests for inclusion in our weekly prayer email bulletin. In this way, the needs of our soldiers in harm's way would be kept in front of us in a weekly and ongoing manner. We also agreed that our Missionaries fall into a unique category as those financially supported by Grace in their Gospel ministries around the world. Our financial support and their Gospel callings together set them apart. We asked together, "What about our Christian teachers, those involved in the vital education of our own and the community's children? And what about our police and fire men and women, who protect and serve? And what about our Christian business owners and managers, who provide jobs for people in our church? Should these other groups not also have Honor Boards? Where should we draw the line and how?" God calls and sends us to all these professions, just as he calls and sends some to the battlefield.
  • I suspect that my views may be a bit different and out of alignment with some of the historical happenings here at Grace. I don't know what has happened in the past, because I was not here. I am doing, as the lead pastor of Grace today, the best I can before God to make our worship services as Biblical as I possibly can.
  • I know that my views are not necessarily popular or even understood, by vets or by others here at Grace. I truly mean no offense. But I do think these are important theological and Biblical distinctions for our world today. I will look for an opportunity to address these issues from the pulpit down the road, if that would be helpful.
  • I want to be clear that these views are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of all our staff or elders. Nor do these views, in any way, represent an official position of Grace Church at this time. Our elders have discussed these issues, usually around the time of each election, when some have asked why we do not provide voting guides for our people. I will raise this issue again for discussion. I am open to correction and am committed to submitting to the other God-appointed leaders around me.
  • At the risk of sounding redundant, I don't want my views to be construed as being unsupportive or ungrateful to our veterans for their sacrifice and service to our country. Nor do I desire for you or anyone to think that I am not patriotic or proud of the great country we live in. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a citizen, I am deeply grateful for the sacrificial service of our vets and for the freedoms we enjoy. I am proud to be an American.

Hope that makes sense and is in someway helpful. I want you to know my mind and heart on these matters that so directly impact our life together. I'd love to hear your thoughts and would be quite surprised if I don't see at least a few comments.

What's happening with Lance?

He's coming home! (See below . . . and stay tuned.)

It's been awhile since I've posted a Lance update. Just busy. So here's several, starting with the very latest and going back in time.

November 10, 2007 . . . from Kathy Smith:

Dear Friends of Lance Iunker,

On Thursday, November 15th, we are planning A HERO'S WELCOME! for our beloved Lance. We don't have the times of his flight yet, and we may not know until as late as Tuesday or Wednesday, but we will keep you posted as we learn more. However, there are many details that we can pass onto you now.

First of all, we are almost sure that he will be arriving later in the evening, such as 8:00pm, 9:00pm, or 10:00pm. Immediate family will meet him at the airport, as well as police and fire depts., who will give him an escort from the airport to his home (so cool!). The rest of us will be waiting to welcome him on the Iunker's street/cul-de-sac. Their address is 872 Columbine Ct. Our vision for this is to have the street lined with family and friends (lots of them!) waving American flags, and homemade posters/banners. The tricky part of this is... now that Lance will most likely be arriving after dark, we will also need lots of lights! So please bring lots of American flags of all sizes and bright flash lights in order to light them up. Also were thinking of stringing small white lights from tree to tree and bush to bush to help outline the street and add more light. Portable flood lights and extension cords will also be needed. If you can help with supplying and/or setting up any of these items, please let me know. Yellow ribbons are being supplied by neighbors, they will be tied to the trees.

Some important things to note: Please do not park on Columbine. Park on another street, the farther away, the better! In fact, if we end up getting the numbers of people we are expecting, it might be even better for many of us to park at the Marigold center. There are two important reasons for this: one, is we want Lance to be surprised as he turns onto Columbine, so cars need to be hid. Secondly, we will need to leave plenty of space for the police and fire vehicles escorting Lance, and other media vehicles that are likely to show up as well. Fewer vehicles will also make a safer environment for the numbers of people milling around in the dark.

Also please be considerate of the neighbors, showing concern for their property (don't trample their flower beds, etc.), their ability to park and use their driveways, and especially noise level. Although we will be making a bit of noise, especially once Lance arrives, let's stay as quiet as possible for as long as possible.

We can be respectful of Lance and the Iunker family in two important ways: First, let's stay away from the airport to allow just the immediate family time for their reunion with Lance. Secondly, we will need to be sensitive to our timing at the end, so we can allow Lance to get settled into his home quickly after a very tiring day's journey. Which leads me to the plan for when Lance arrives. Obviously, we will wave and cheer once Lance turns onto the street and continue cheering as he drives by. Once the vehicles have parked, we will gather into the cul-de-sac and cheer once more as he gets out of the car, and then Pastor Ken Peet and Pastor Tim from Grace Church will lead us in a time of prayer. After that, I'm sure there will be a few words of love and appreciation exchanged, but here is where we need to be sensitive to how Lance is feeling and to remember that he will be here for two weeks, so time for talking will have to come later. Our purpose here is to just to show him our love and gratitude by our presence which we will do in a big way, I hope, as we line the street. Short and Sweet... very, very sweet!

Please spread the word to others who may not get this email. We are hoping to post Lance's final schedule, once we know it, in a couple of places, one of those possibly being Grace church's website, We will let you know once we been given permission.

Also, remember to keep this a secret from Lance, especially you facebook users, and others who may be in touch with him.
I'm very excited for all of us to be able to express our great love and admiration to/for Lance and his family in this way.

Call or email me if you have any questions,
In His Amazing Love,
Kathy Smith

November 6, 2007 . . .

Hello everyone!

I know it has been quite some time since the last update and I am sorry about that. I have been waiting to here if Lance would be able to come home for Thanksgiving and it is looking like a yes! The back doctor has given him a stamp of approval and filed the paperwork for a two week convalescent leave beginning November 15th! As soon as the Army approves it I will let you know when his plane flight will come in. Kathy Smith from Grace Church will be setting up a welcome home parade on our street with American flags and the works! Lance is so excited to see everyone. He is still in a lot of pain (back and chest) so pray that the flight would be as comfortable as possible for him.

Here is some amazing God at work news to share with you. A two star General from the Pentagon came to Georgia and came by the rehab hospital to meet some of the soldiers. He was very nice and was listening to each one of their stories. When he got to Lance he was blown away by his story and had him go on and on. Lance shared with him how he was called "Preach" or "Preacher" and how God saved them through so many battles. The General presented Lance with a beautiful 2-Star Coin in the shape of the Pentagon. Apparently, these are very hard to get. The front says "Courageous in Spirit. Compassionate in Service." Then it has the Chaplain's seal and says "Pro Deo Et Patria - For God and Country" and "Religious Leadership for the Army". On the back it says "Presented by the Chief of Chaplains for Excellence" and has a flag with two stars. Then in quotes it says, "The soldiers heart, the soldiers spirit, the soldiers soul are everything." Lance says it is beautiful and it was a once in a lifetime experience!

The next couple of days people from the hospital kept coming by his room and telling him what an impression he had made on that General. Lance didn't think much about it until he got a call from the General at Fort Gordon. That General asked to meet with him at 7:00 am Monday morning. Lance was asked to share his story and then the Command Sgt. Major of the Post gave him another coin and the General asked him to ride in the Veteran's Day Parade with him and when the parade was over he asked Lance to share his story in a speech on Veteran's Day! So please pray for Lance as he shares what God has done for him in front of many people at a Veteran's Day service next Monday, November 12th!

Lance is recovering very well overall. He is now walking without a walker! He said it was slowing him down too much so he got rid of it one day and his student nurse has to keep asking him to walk slower so she can keep up with him. I asked him why he was always in such a hurry and he said, "I just like to walk with a purpose!"

Emotionally things go up and down all the time and he is working through his losses. He told me that second and third platoon returned home from Baghdad on Saturday along with Munoz and Sgt. Steigman (who was on R&R when the accident happened)(both from 1st platoon). All of Lance's 1st platoon buddies that were injured (with the exception of Swift and Lance) were there on the Green Ramp to meet them as they deboarded the plane. All the soldiers from 2nd and 3rd platoon started crying. This was the first time they had seen the men from 1st platoon since they had rescued them and put them on the Medi-Vac helicopters! Once they had all hugged each other they all started asking "Where's Preach, Where's the Preacher?" They were so bummed to find out he was in a hospital in Georgia. Lance was really sad to have missed that day. He so badly wants to see all of them! He has been able to talk to many of the wounded men from his platoon and they are all healing up really well and are back at Fort Bragg. Second and third platoon were never again made to go on dangerous missions after the night of the accident.

Lance was told that all of his things were sent home to California from Baghdad at the beginning of October. All of the other guys have already received their things. Unfortunately, Lance received one item and it appears all of his remaining items have been lost in shipping. He was so bummed and started to get angry and I reminded him of what he told me in the middle of September when he first landed in the United States. I had asked him, "Lance, how do we get all your things back?" He said, "It doesn't really matter mom. Nothing matters, except that I made it out of there alive. I never thought that I would make it out alive and with all of my parts working. I am so glad to be back. That is all that matters. Everything else can be replaced." I told him to go back to that place mentally every time he is bummed about his missing things. He agreed.

Lance is really excited to come home and see everyone. He says it will be the best thing for his morale! He is getting really sick of being in the hospital! He also cannot wait to see Cal Poly play football again! Until he left for the Army he had never missed a Cal Poly football game since the day he was born! He also can't wait to come home to Grace Church again. He says that is one of the things he has missed the most since being gone!

There is so much to be thankful for and you all are a huge part! I thank God for not only sparing my son's life but also for all of your prayers and support. God bless!

In His great and amazing love,

October 28, 2007 . . .

Hello family & friends,

Thank you so much for all your prayers and support. Lance and our family has truly been blessed by all you have done. Lance is making slow and steady gains in his recovery. From the neck up he has healed remarkably well. His back and chest continue to cause him a great deal of pain but the medication he is on is helping. When he is off of it for any length of time it is painful to even take a breath so he gets a bit discouraged from that! However, he continues to do his physical therapy (working out both cardio and lower body) and voluntarily increased it to twice a day so he could see more improvement! He went back to the orthopedic doctor and asked about two things: 1) When would he be able to wakeboard & snowboard again; and 2) Could he come home to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving?

The doctor said "Yes! He could come back for the Thanksgiving Holiday! We are really excited! He needs final approval from the Army which he will hopefully receive on Monday, November 5th. Then he hopes to get a flight home on Wednesday, November 14th!!!! I will be sure to keep you all posted. He will need someone to escort him home so we are thinking that my sister might be able to fly back to bring him home. He wanted to make it to the last Cal Poly football game!

Regarding the wakeboarding, etc... the doctor told him that while he will be able to return to a normal life it will take some time! He said that Lance should not do anything that jars his back for a couple of years and then he should not do anything that could cause a spinal cord injury for at least four years or so until the bone fragments have dissolved and are no longer a threat to his spinal cord. So Lance said he will have to complete his college education and then become a police officer! I will have to keep him from attempting the wakeboarding and snowboarding (wish me luck)! Here is where I think pain must be a blessing because it forces us not to do what we shouldn't do.

Lance is taking recreational field trips each week. They have been really fun for him and yet have exposed things that he has had to work on. Today he is at the NASCAR races with Mrs. Hawkins' brother! Last weekend he went to the Army vs. Georgia Tech football game in Atlanta. They were treated like royalty and got to sit up in the sky box seats! That was so much fun! He said that on the way there the bus or van that they were on broke down. There was a loud bang and then the motor died and they pulled off to the side of the road. All the wounded soldiers just sat there really quiet and still for a few moments until one of them said, "Anybody else having a flashback right now!" Everyone started laughing and felt so much better that they were not the only one thinking in their head that they had just been hit by an IED! Lance said that large groups of people that are talking really loud can bring back memories of the risk that the humanitarian aid missions used to be for the guys. He said he is trying to get used to having people talk in booths behind him since he can't turn around to see if there is a risk or threat behind him. The psychologist assured him that everything he is going through is absolutely normal but it sure makes Lance feel he is still all jacked up.

Lance did tell me yesterday that he is proud of what he has done and that he has no regrets. He feels like he served his country well and that he is glad he signed up, fought for his country and served the way he wanted to serve. He feels like he can move on with his life feeling proud and living with no regrets. He did say that he is glad that it is over!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers. I will keep you posted on when Lance will be home!

In His amazing love,

October 18, 2007 . . .

Hello family & friends,

Lance was told this week that he will be receiving the Purple Heart Award in a ceremony at Fort Gordon this Tuesday, October 23rd! He is so excited! It is a huge award and an important one for his future as well. From what our family is learning, vets with a Purple Heart have a much easier time accessing future health care. Our family would love to go out there to see it but it was such late notice that it just won't be possible. I am trying to contact various people we have met back there to see if they can take a picture or videotape the ceremony for me. Lance had wanted to be in his Class A uniform for the ceremony but none of his uniforms have been recovered and he cannot get into regular clothes for a few more months so he has decided to go for it as is!

Lance also got a new roommate this week. He is an older career Army guy that was hit by an IED and suffered a brain injury from the concussion. He is in the rehab hospital to help him with his memory loss and his headaches. This past week Lance also went to the races for a few hours and this weekend will get to attend the Army vs. Georgia Tech football game. That will be his longest day up and about but one that will be well worth it! He is really excited! Mrs. Hawkins's brother, Keith, has also offered to take him to see the NASCAR races the following weekend! I'm not sure he is ever going to want to get out of this hospital! Lance finally made contact with Brendle and another guy from his platoon! He was really excited. He found them on the Internet (Facebook). Brendle is getting married this Saturday while he is still on convalescent leave. He got sick of having a cast on his arm and hand so he cut it off himself and then went to the local drag racing track and took his Mustang drag racing 123 mph with his 5 broken ribs!! I told Lance, "Your friend sounds a little crazy!" Lance said, "Oh, yea! Brendle's really crazy. Most of the guys in my squad were!" The most exciting conversation was with a Sgt. that Lance had had many great conversations about God and the Bible with. After the accident the Sgt. had asked for a Bible. Lance spoke to him this past week and he told Lance that when he first got out of the hospital he started drinking too much and misusing his pain meds. Then he started reading the Bible and now his wife keeps asking him what in the world he is doing because he is always holding the baby and reading the Bible!!

He also is continuing to have great conversations with the guys that are in the hospital. They seem to really open up to him and share their stories, even the hardened ones. Hopefully he will be able to share his testimony with them as well. Please continue to pray for his pain to diminish. He still has a lot of pain in the back and chest. It may just be God's way of slowing him down because he keeps trying to overdo it so if it is for a purpose so be it.

Also pray for his emotional and mental state. As you can well imagine, he still has his up days and his down days. I pray he continues to turn those over to the Lord and they become less and less overtime. He just wants them to go away but I know he needs to process all this yucky stuff first. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support!

In His grace and for His glory,

October 13, 2007 . . .

Dear family & friends,

Lance is making slow and steady progress in his recovery. He had a bit of a setback this week which was a bummer but he is doing much better now. On Monday he decided to have his roommate order a hamburger from a restaurant on "the outside" since he was sick of hospital food. Unfortunately it was undercooked and he got a very bad case of food poisoning! He was unable to get his back brace on in time and started throwing up without the brace (he isn't even allowed to cough or sneeze without the brace on)! Once the nurses got his brace on he continued to be violently ill well into the night until the doctor could put an order in for a shot to stop his body from being ill. The pain this all caused in his back and chest kept him from being able to get out of bed for three days and the doctor had to order muscle relaxants in order for him to be able to breath normally again. It was a really rough week for the poor guy!! In addition, his roommate Luke was released to outpatient status. That was a sad day because Luke was such a huge help for Lance. He helped him with his food tray and he helped him get his back brace on each morning. He was good company as well! Here is the good news - Lance is back up and doing physical therapy. He gets to go out on his first recreational therapy "field trip" tonight! They are going to the races! Lance is so excited and a little nervous because it is a lot of sitting and his pain medication will run out during the event but it will be really fun. He also has a brace he can use to take a shower now so that is awesome for him! I think the occupational therapist helps him with that a couple of times a week.

Some of the most exciting things have been the relationships he is forming at the rehab hospital. There are always guys coming into his room wanting to talk to him. There were two guys that were very angry when they were at Eisenhower Hospital. The nurses couldn't stand them because they were so mean. Actually, one of them is married and his wife was ready to leave because he was being so mean. They have both opened up and started sharing their stories with Lance and become so friendly and nice. After hearing what has happened to Lance, they felt like they weren't the only one who had been through a lot and they felt like someone else had a horrible thing happen to them too and yet wasn't all mad at the world but was thankful! Lance said they are like night and day now and it has only been a week! They also asked if Lance was famous or something because he has done so many interviews (he has done two radio interviews from KSBY and KVEC in our hometown and then he was interviewed by the local Army base newspaper and put on the front page this week!) If you want to read the latest news article of him at the rehab center you can find it at

He is on the front page to the right and then it is continued on page 4.
Lance's 4th grade teacher's brother (Keith Betts) who lives in Augusta, Georgia, loaned Lance his laptop computer and John MacArthur's church sent Lance a free replacement for all his Bible Study Guide Library that he had on his laptop in Baghdad! He just received it yesterday and is so excited! It is what he misses the most. He hopes that he receives all of his things eventually but just having a laptop and this Bible Study material is a huge blessing for him.

It sounds like he may get to come home for a couple of weeks at Christmas although he wants to push for a week at Thanksgiving too! We will see how things are going when it gets closer. I have attached a picture of him at the rehab hospital with his roommate Luke. He is looking good don't you think? Thanks so much for your continued prayers!

In His grace and for His glory,

October 7, 2007 . . .

Hello family & friends,

It's been awhile since I have updated all of you on Lance so I will try to remember everything that has gone on in the last ten days or so. I just returned with my dad from visiting Lance and he is making such wonderful progress in his recovery each and every day. When you look at him it is hard to imagine the extent of his injuries; he just looks remarkable! His face, ear and head look completely healed visually. He is also getting up and walking with the help of a walker and his back brace each day.

Friday, September 29th, Lance was moved to the Uptown VA Hospital in Augusta, Georgia where an entire wing is for Active Duty Soldiers that have been injured in the Iraq war. I cannot say enough good things about this facility. They have a complete wrap around program with wonderful physical therapy, occupational therapy, a psychologist, a social worker, a medical doctor, nurses, a dietitian and all the Army personnel that coordinate his specialist appointments. Their are about 30 soldiers that roam the halls, the day room and wheel in and out of each other's room to visit and swap battle stories. It is awesome because it is a giant support group without any of them knowing they are getting any kind of "group therapy". From the moment the soldier arrives the occupational therapist and the nurses begin working on making the soldier as "independent" as they can medically be. It is amazing to see how far they get them in just the week I was there! The motivation is pretty high for most of the guys but there are a few that just want to lay there. That is not allowed! The physical therapist pushes them to their limits as well. Most of them complain that he is trying to kill them all over again! Lance told me this morning that he could hardly walk because he was so sore from physical therapy. I asked if it was his back that was sore and he said, "no it's my legs!". So that is a good thing!

Well here is how his injuries are shaping up and what the doctors have told us: His ear is healing remarkably well. He went in again this week and had it cleaned out. They found some stitches deep inside the ear canal (apparently his ear wasn't just severed off but actually 'ice cream scooped out' deep down to the bone) so they removed the inside stitches and cleaned it out really well and his hearing is already coming back he said. An audiologist tested him at the VA hospital and found no hearing loss at all! Praise God!

His face looks totally healed visually but it still hurts him when he eats. We thought that he had just fractured his orbital (the bones around his eyes) but he actually had a tripod fracture of the right side of his face. The doctor said that if anyone pops him in his face that it would just cave in (lovely visually don't you think). He was actually very fortunate the doctors said that he didn't need any surgeries to hold his face in place. It is just healing the way it was and he still looks like Lance! Praise God for that too! But it does hurt to move his jaw so he wasn't eating for a long time. There was a little concern for some time over his not eating because he had lost over 20 pounds in just three weeks! Add the atrophy of his muscles from just lying in bed and he looks really thin. He said he feels like he is repeating high school all over again! He liked having a few more muscles when he was in Baghdad!

His chest is hurting less and less but is still a contributor to his pain especially when he first lays down after being up for awhile. His back is obviously his most critical injury. The doctors told us that where he broke his back is a very dangerous place to have spinal cord trauma and to break your back. It is the spot that helps your body control your breathing (which is why he kept having such low oxygen levels), it controls his blood pressure & pulse (which is probably why he gets so dizzy), and it controls his body temperature (which is why he keeps having hot flashes and chills). Because of the location of his break, they want his back completely stable for three months minimum with no added trauma so they would not have to do the surgery where they place hardware in his back which could give him problems later in life. For these reasons, the medical team decided (and we all agreed) that having him come home to California was not in his best interest. He would also be laying in a hospital bed and not getting all of the physical & occupational therapy that is so needed for him to stay healthy. In addition, the social camaraderie from his fellow soldiers and the debriefing he gains from the psychologist is so important for someone who has come back from war. The psychologist told us that Lance has seen more gore, violence and trauma than most of the soldiers that he has ever dealt with and yet he is extremely emotionally healthy! Praise God for that too!!! He actually scored a 0 on the depression test. He still wants to meet with him just to help him unwind from the constant adrenaline he has been under. For example, Lance is still really jumpy if anyone makes a loud noise or comes up behind him and he hates not having a gun! We are all really glad, however, that he does not have one, so that we can come up behind him!

Anyway, this rehab. hospital is wonderful and Lance will probably stay there for about 6-8 months (although timelines with the Army are constantly changing). There is talk of him coming home for two weeks at Christmas time if his back has healed and is stable. We will all look forward to that! Our neighbor has a ton of yellow ribbons ready to replace the ribbons that line our street now to welcome him home! Our church friends have talked about lining the street and making some sort of parade type route to welcome him home and their are several sheriff and police that have talked about using their lights on their cars to greet him at the airport when he lands! What a day that will be for him! I am counting the days but more than that I am praising God that he is safe in the states, that he is recovering from his injuries and that his story will go on to glorify God as he tells it to others! The support from our friends, our church, our workplaces, and our community has been overwhelming and humbling to say the least. What a gift from a loving and faithful God.

Lance told me that he could so relate to the book of Job in the Bible now. He said that he had such a blessed life in SLO before joining the Army. Then in basic they took away everything he loved and he could not even see or talk to his family or friends. Then came war and things were so bad when he didn't think things could get even worse and he was constantly persecuted for being a Christian and for praising God even when things were so awful. Then the only family he had in Baghdad was killed and they were all separated and his body just ached in pain. But he said, he knows how Job's life ends and he knows that Job gets blessed better than he had been before and he ends up with a wife and children and wonderful blessings!! So Lance said "bring it on Lord, I will praise God's name no matter what he brings me. And I will look forward to the blessings he will give me too!" Pretty cool don't you think? I thought that was a great way to look at things! Here is Lance's new address if you would like to send him a letter or card (he did mention that he doesn't have much room for huge packages of snacks anymore):

VAMC Augusta Uptown Division PFC Lance Iunker Unit 3E 1 Freedom Way VA Medical Center Augusta, GA 30904

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support for Lance and our family. We will never be able to thank you enough!

In His great and amazing love,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

a worthwhile freebie

I just noticed on my buddy, Bryan Stupar's blog that Christian Audio is giving away, throughout the month of November, an audio version of Jonathan Edward's classic, "A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections."

It's funny. I have read parts of this book, but not the whole thing. But its been on my list. In fact, I recently have been listening to some great stuff from Tim Keller and I've heard him mention Religious Affections repeatedly.

I've downloaded it and will soon load it on my iPod shuffle. It will be great for my Fellsman Loop runs.

Go get it here and listen along.

Thanks, Bryan, for the heads up.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sunday's BIG Announcement

In case you missed Sunday. . .

Your questions and comments are welcome. . .

UPDATE: Wouldn't play earlier. I think I've fixed it now.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Guess Who?

For more fun photos check out the latest Grace Flickr photo album.

don't warm the bench

In yesterday's message, we looked at Grace Gifts from I Peter 4:10-11. I can't wait to get my hands on all those "Get in the Game" feedback forms.

In an attempt to demystify the whole area of Grace Gifts, I recommended these three practical steps to begin the life-long process of discovering yours:

  1. Go to and take a free 100 question survey.

  2. Ask the Lord and ask others.

  3. Get in the Game and serve in a position that interests you. (Where do you feel joy and where do you see fruit?)
I'm curious if any of you went and took the online survey? If not yet, go for it and share your results right here at Life Together.

By the way, I'm willing to field a few questions about the Grace Gifts here if you want to toss them out in a comment.