Monday, December 29, 2008

encourage another . . . share a 2008 highlght

Heads up. . . . we are heading out for our family's annual January vacation where we'll see some family in Escondido for a few days on our way to camping in Cardiff by the Sea. Posting will be spotty, if at all, through January 11. Appreciate your prayers for our family as we connect and renew and have some fun.

One of the things we'll do is look back on the year past and look ahead to the year upon us. It's always a valuable exercise to reflect and give thanks for God's blessings and look ahead toward goals and dreams.

I'd love to have some of you share 2008 highlights right here at Life Together. What are some of your highlights of our year together as the body of Christ at Grace? What are some of the highlights of your personal and family life?


I'll share 3 quick highlights that come to my mind on this afternoon:

  1. Square Dancing at Grace Summer Nights: I enjoyed square dancing with my wife and daughters. I remember so many folks remarking, "I've been waiting for Grace to allow something like this." It was a good ole' evening of fun and fellowship together.

  2. Early Childhood Center & Founder's Hall Dedication in September: While financial giving toward the project is still ongoing, it was very gratifying to see that building remodel go from concept to completion. As a pastor, it was my first project of this kind and my first building dedication service. I'll remember for a long time throwing open those doors and singing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" as we entered the space for the first time.

  3. Christmas Caroling 2008: This was perhap, for me, the most fun and meaningful event of the entire year. It was delightful to watch my children and others give away the Gospel to shut-ins and at homes of the elderly. It was a unique joy to see 200+ of us converge on the downtown steps by Peets and unashamedly sing the grace of God to our community. Even the casual and relaxed pizza and fellowship afterward was a highlight. It was such a neat chance to turn Christmas outward.
So what are your highlights, or perhaps even a favorite message?

Friday, December 26, 2008

thank you

Our treasurer, Todd Talley, sent this sobering and sad Wall Street Journal article to our Financial Trustees about the uptick in church property foreclosures across the country. . . .

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122999261138328613.html


As we come to the last Sunday of the calendar year and your last chance to give for a 2008 tax deduction, this article made me, once again, thankful for your faithful giving to the work of the Lord here at Grace.

In these tough financial times, while still behind our 2008/2009 budget, we are neck and neck with our giving last year at this time. It's really quite astounding to me.

Since, unlike last year, we are fully staffed this year, we still are expecting to make budget adjustments and cuts, perhaps as soon as January (stay tuned, we'll keep you posted!), but these will be minimal compared to what would be required if we had seen a huge giving decline.

The Lord has been good. You have been faithful. Thank you.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Straight No Chaser

I was sent this more than once this week. . . .

Merry Christmas!

Hopefully you received this in your inbox, but if not, here's my email to the congregation . . .



Beloved Family of Grace,

On behalf of the staff and leadership here at Grace, it is my pleasure to wish you and yours a very merry Christmas! Once more, we together set our hope on Jesus Christ, the gift of the Father to our broken world . . . our Bread, our Shepherd, our Light, our Life.

Looking back on this interesting and challenging year, we have so much for which to be thankful. In our life together as a church, I recognize these blessings and many more from the hand of God . . .

  • Our amazing, faithful, hard working Ministry and Administrative Staff Teams who make Grace go.
  • The countless hours of volunteer service by our incredible lay leadership teams and you.
  • God's gift of a new Student Ministries Pastor in Todd Roughton and his family.
  • The opportunity to give Family Ministries Pastor, Ken Peet, a much deserved sabbatical rest and renewal.
  • The dedication and now ongoing enjoyment of our newly remodeled Founder's Hall and Early Childhood Center.
  • God's amazing provision through your faithful giving in the most challenging economic year in decades.
  • Experiencing real life transformation through the study and application of God's Word.
  • A full year of fellowship, fun and life together.
On the personal front, among God's abundant blessings, I'm grateful this year, for these:
  • My beautiful and hardworking wife, Susie, who contributes more to my life and ministry than anyone knows.
  • Our four growing and delightful children . . . Sage (12), Eden (10), Ezekiel (6), Haaken (3) It is an inexpressible joy to watch them become who God created them to be.
  • The opportunity to serve you, the family of Grace, through the teaching and preaching of God's Word. To love what you do and do what you love is a rare gift.
  • The blessing of excellent and active health at age 40, and the opportunity to enjoy good friends and our beautiful Central Coast through cycling, hiking and running.
  • Your expressed and experienced care and love for our family. It is an ongoing pleasure to entrust ourselves to you.
Let us praise God from whom all blessings flow!

As we look ahead, I suspect that 2009 may well bring more uncertainty, more instability and more trials. No matter what happens, God's Word assures us He ordains our circumstances so that we might trust Him more. These days force us to fix our hope on Christ and the eternal blessings that are ours in Him. That's a good thing! Let's strive to do this together, united and encouraging one another along the way. Let's be committed to these 3 things in 2009:

  1. Worshiping Together: We need to be intentional to be together and we need to focus on eternal realities when temporal realities are crumbling and fading.
  2. Serving Together: We need to joyfully "give away" our Gospel hope to those whose false hopes are being exposed as empty.
  3. Encouraging One Another: We need one another more than ever. Let's fight isolation and self-dependency by open, vulnerable sharing, caring and praying for one another.

Here at Grace, like you, we will be carefully and prayerfully taking practical steps to weather this economic downturn. Beginning in January, we will be looking for creative ways "to do more with less." As we trim our expenses and balance our budget, our first priority will be the care and provision of our staff, who we believe are essential for the thriving of our ministry. Whatever changes and cuts we make, we're steadfast in our conviction that God will provide what we need to do what He's called us to do. Keep praying, keep trusting, keep giving and stay tuned.

It is my joy to serve as your pastor. Thank you for that opportunity.

With much love and affection, because of and for the Gospel,

Pastor Tim

Read the blog: http://pastortimgraceslo.blogspot.com/
See the year in pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/graceslo/

Friday, December 19, 2008

caroling for the community

Yesterday Christmas hit me. I found myself not wanting to do much of anything, but gather my family close, make some puzzles, listen to Christmas music, watch movies and eat.

It's hard for me to imagine not having a family with which to gather, but that is reality for many in our community.

This Sunday, December 21st, at 4:30 our aim is, in a small way, to take Christmas,through the wonder of music, to rest homes, shut-ins and even to the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo. Our time together is not about merely Christmas caroling, but about bringing the birth of Christ to our community and especially to those in need.

Hope you'll consider joining us. Bring the kids and let's give it away together.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree

This year our family decided to do something different and buy a live Christmas tree that we could plant after the holiday. We ended up with this cute little redwood.



Yep, a redwood. They say it won't stay little for long and eventually will get quite huge. How huge?

Right around the same time I was picking up the the redwood, I came across this amazing TED video . . .



So beautiful. So awe-inspiring. So not accidental.

Monday, December 15, 2008

our Eden turns 10

I can't believe it, but our little Eden turned 10 last Thursday, December 11. In our family, this significant entry into "double digits" means she now can get her ears pierced. That painful rite of passage happened last Thursday afternoon.

Kevin Main did the honors for FREE and installed FREE studs. How cool is that?


Afterward we celebrated 10, with the Cheney's (a longstanding birthday tradition) at Eden's restaurant of choice, the Golden Gong!

Eden, at 10, is very much fulfilling her name. She is such a creative, fun, sensitive, DELIGHTful young lady with so much to offer the world and those around her. Did you know that Eden loves to cook? I mean she LOVES to cook! Always has. I pray daily that the hand of the Lord might be upon her to grow her and use her as a woman of God among her generation.

Next up is Sage who turns 12 in January. I am so freaking out . . . .

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the 8:00


We let the cat out of the bag a couple Sundays back and announced that the 8:00 service will be moving to the Founder's Hall beginning on January 4. We didn't give really any explanation and, not surprisingly, a few questions have bubbled up.

So, first a bit about the decision-making process. . .

We began talking as a staff about a change-up in our early-October annual planning meeting. The staff was united in its affirmation that the 8:00 needs to exist. The 9:30 is packed. The 11:00 is growing this Fall. There are not enough seats in the 11:00 to accommodate all the 8:00 folks. We'd like to see the 8:00 grow, but if anything it's shrunk just a bit this year. It's not that the 8:00 dynamic is bad. We just think it might be improved. To be honest, it's just a a little subdued. People are spread out, often sitting by themselves. It feels like a pretty big room for a small crowd of 125 to 150. What to do?

We began to talk options and the idea of moving the 8:00 to the Founder's Hall was thrown on the table. We discussed the positives and negatives in making such a move, but affirmed our shared willingness to try new things. We recognized we could always change back next Fall. We liked the idea of a more intimate setting and how that might change the dynamics. We agreed it would be fun and might actually attract some who desire a more intimate setting. At this point, given our emphasis on united, inter-generational worship, we are together in our desire to not create an "alternative" service, but a service that is as "like" our other services as possible, taking into account the natural setting differences.

With a staff consensus, the next step was to take our recommendation to the elders for their input. They, too, liked the idea and the direction and gave us their blessing to "go for it!"

So what is this service going to look like? How will it be "like" and "unlike" the other two services?

It's a great question and, to be honest, we're not exactly sure. The smaller, more intimate setting will be the biggest difference. The order of service will be the same as the other services. The instrumentation will be stripped down and more "unplugged," though we will sing the same songs. The choir will likely not sing in the 8:00 service, but we'll see.

I will still preach the same Gospel-centered, biblical messages, but will be a bit more "up close and personal" with no raised, set-back platform.

I think it's going to be great and a refreshing change. I expect that some 8:00 folks will not like these changes and will choose to move to one of the other services, but I also suspect that others may find the new 8:00 to be just what they are looking for.

Not everyone likes change, but change is good and change is inevitable and necessary. At the same time, I don't thing this change is irreversible. We're going to give it a try and see what happens.

Whatever your personal preferences, I hope you'll consider checking out the new 8:00 sometime in January or February. You just might love it.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Feeding on Christ, Our Bread

Sorry about my absence of late. It seems to always happen when I take time off. I not only lose my blogging rhythm, but I also have to dig out from the time away. I'm still not caught up, but its time to jump back into the blogging game.

Last Sunday, we began our "Christ has Come" Christmas series on the I AMs in John's Gospel. We kicked things off with I AM the Bread of Life from John 6. We talked about the need for first time feeding and the need for continual feeding. My charge was to be intentional and take time to feed on Christ our Bread this week. I was just wondering. . . .

How's that going?

I myself, this morning, stumbled upon some choice morsels in Micah 7. . . .


(7:7) But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.
(7:8) Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me.
(7:9) I will bear the indignation of the LORD Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, And I will see His righteousness.

(7:18) Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love.
(7:19) He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea.


One of the questions I continually ask as I read and study the scriptures is, "How does this passage point us to Christ, the fulfillment of all the Scriptures?"

I saw here an apparent tension . . .

  1. An acknowledgement of personal sin before the Lord (7:9) . . . sin that is deserving of and calls for justice.

  2. The assurance that God is one who delights in unchanging love (7:18) who will one day demonstrate that love by by pleading our case and executing justice (7:8). He is a God who will demonstrate his compassion by treading our iniquities under his foot and casting our iniquities in the depth of the sea.

Why should this be? How would God do this? Where and through whom would God do this?

Surely Christ is the fulfillment of this passage. Christ is our bread provision for the solving of this Micah 7 tension. In Christ, we see God pleading our case by taking our judgement. He treads our iniquities, not by overlooking them, but by paying for them at the cross. He casts our sins into the depth of the sea by letting himelf be cast into the depths of death.

This was my Christ bread this morning that made my heart leap. What was yours?

Feel free to share a promise or insight or morsel. . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Foundations of the Moral Mind?

In light of the cultural divide we are seeing deepen right before our eyes, I found this TED video fascinating and thought-provoking. . .



A few personal reactions:

  • I thought it interesting that Haidt is arguing that morality is in-born and that we are not moral "blank slates". This aligns with the Scriptures. Haidt would say these moral foundations are in-born through evolution. A Biblical Christian would say these are in-born because God has placed eternity and a conscience in us.
  • I couldn't help but think of our Galatians categories and how the Gospel is neither moralism/legalism/religion or relativism/hedonism/irreligion. In fact, the Gospel challenges both. Though based on the TED site comments, not everyone saw it this way, I saw Haidt critiquing both conservatives and liberals. It made me laugh (I hope you're able to laugh, too, no matter where you place yourself.) In fact, he argues we all tend toward self-rightesouness. All of this was refreshing. This, too, is Biblical.
  • I loved his insight that both conservatives and liberals are concerned about purity, but in different ways. Conservatives value sexual purity, but liberals esteem food purity. Brilliant and bold to say these things in that context!

  • Lastly, I thought his last appeal to "pursue truth" was intriguing, since he clearly presents himself as a evolutionary naturalist and, at one point states his view that God is a social construct for control and organization. How can he even speak of and appeal to truth if he believes these other things? There is no basis for truth apart from God. Apart from God, truth is defined by the majority, or by the powerful, or by the individual. And yet, Haidt can't help it.

Whether he knows it or not, I believe that Haidt has stumbled on to many True things.

What do you think?


(HT: Steve Rein)

Monday, November 17, 2008

protesting on the steps

I received a text on Saturday from one of our facility guys letting me know that a Proposition 8 protest was happening on the Pismo/Osos corner steps.

Here's the KSBY story . . .video clip is on the left. . .

http://www.ksby.com/Global/story.asp?s=9358678


I half expected we might have our worship services interrupted on Sunday, as I have heard that is happening throughout California.

It raises lots of sticky questions:

  • How shall we now live in this super-charged environment?
  • Should we call the police and have these folks thrown off our steps, since they are trespassing? (We didn't!)
  • Do these folks feel our love, or do they just know our Biblical stand?
  • What does the Gospel have to do with all this?

I have thoughts that may end up shaping my message for Sunday, but I'd like to hear yours.

Update: I removed the embedded video because its a "auto play" was driving me nuts and I couldn't figure out how to change that setting. I am guessing it might have been driving some you nuts as well. . . . T.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

parking survey results, listening survey invitation

So its been awhile, but here are the results of the parking survey. .

Where do you park on Sundays?

as close as I can -- 5 respondents (7%)
on the street, but not close, to allow parking for seniors and visitors -- 27 respondents (38%)
in one of the designated lots -- 20 respondents (28%)
in the parking structure -- 19 respondents (26%)

I was mildly encouraged by these numbers and, in particular, that 26% of Life Together readers are parking in the parking structure. Some of you log in with a comment and tell others how close and convenient it is. I wonder if these numbers hold for those who don't read life together. I'd love to see 50% of Sunday morning attendees park in the structure.

Just a reminder: We are currently not permitted to park in the Osos lot directly across the street from the church. I've heard recent reports of our folks parking in that lot. Let's be good neighbors by respecting those limits and refraining from parking in that lot. Even if we don't get caught or towed, its not right for us to park there.


The new survey is about how and if you listen to messages, if you miss attending on Sunday morning. Thanks for playing along and providing feedback.

two Grace gals blogging from afar


Discovered two more. . . .

Julianna Cementina, a Grace gal now down at Biola University at . . .

http://juliannacementina.blogspot.com/






AND




Sheila Case, a Grace gal now currently studying in India at . . .

snapshotsbysheila.blogspot.com


Click over and leave these gals a comment. Tell you love them and miss them. . .

I've added them both to the blog roll.

the prodigal God


In last Sunday's message, we looked at "The Gospel & Your Kids" using Luke 15 to consider 4 reminders for Gospel parenting.

I quoted from Tim Keller's new book, The Prodigal God:

The work "prodigal" does not mean "wayward" but, according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, "recklessly spendthrift." It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son.
The father's welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to "reckon" or count his sin against him or demand repayment. This
response offended the elder son and most likely the local
community.

In this story the father represents the Heavenly Father Jesus knew
so well. St. Paul writes: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to
himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses" (2 Corinthians 5:19 -
ASV). Jesus is showing us the God of Great Expenditure, who is nothing
if not prodigal toward us, his children. God's reckless grace is our
greatest hope, a life-changing experience, and the subject of this book.


Here also is a practical article entitled 12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child written by Abraham Piper, one of John Piper's sons, who I understand was wayward for a time himself, but has clearly come "home." Stuff for us to apply today, as we seek to be Prodigal Parents . . .

12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child

By Abraham Piper May 9, 2007


My son Abraham, who speaks from the wisdom of experience and Scripture, has written the article that follows. I read it with tears and laughter. It is so compelling that I asked him immediately if I could share it with the church and the wider Christian community. There is no greater joy than to see your children walking in the truth—and expressing it so well. The rest is Abraham’s untouched. -John Piper

Many parents are brokenhearted and completely baffled by their unbelieving son or daughter. They have no clue why the child they raised well is making such awful, destructive decisions. I’ve never been one of these parents, but I have been one of these sons. Reflecting back on that experience, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child.

1. Point them to Christ.
Your rebellious child’s real problem is not drugs or sex or cigarettes or pornography or laziness or crime or cussing or slovenliness or homosexuality or being in a punk rock band. The real problem is that they don’t see Jesus clearly. The best thing you can do for them—and the only reason to do any of the following suggestions—is to show them Christ. It is not a simple or immediate process, but the sins in their life that distress you and destroy them will only begin to fade away when they see Jesus more like he actually is.

2. Pray.
Only God can save your son or daughter, so keep on asking that he will display himself to them in a way they can’t resist worshiping him for.

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.
If your daughter rejects Jesus, don’t pretend everything is fine.
For every unbelieving child, the details will be different. Each one will require parents to reach out in unique ways. Never acceptable, however, is not reaching out at all. If your child is an unbeliever, don’t ignore it. Holidays might be easier, but eternity won’t be.

4. Don’t expect them to be Christ-like.
If your son is not a Christian, he’s not going to act like one.
You know that he has forsaken the faith, so don’t expect him to live by the standards you raised him with. For example, you might be tempted to say, “I know you’re struggling with believing in Jesus, but can’t you at least admit that getting wasted every day is sin?”

If he’s struggling to believe in Jesus, then there is very little significance in admitting that drunkenness is wrong. You want to protect him, yes. But his unbelief is the most dangerous problem—not partying. No matter how your child’s unbelief exemplifies itself in his behavior, always be sure to focus more on the heart’s sickness than its symptoms.

5. Welcome them home.
Because the deepest concern is not your child’s actions, but his heart, don’t create too many requirements for coming home. If he has any inkling to be with you, it is God giving you a chance to love him back to Jesus. Obviously there are some instances in which parents must give ultimatums: “Don’t come to this house if you are...” But these will be rare. Don’t lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by too many rules.

If your daughter smells like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home. If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her twenty-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money, and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s—or boyfriend’s—apartment, plead with him not to go back, and let him come home.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.
Be gentle in your disappointment. What really concerns you is that your child is destroying herself, not that she’s breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she’s doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is. So she doesn’t need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.
Her conscience can condemn her by itself. Parents ought to stand kindly and firmly, always living in the hope that they want their child to return to.

7. Connect them to believers who have better access to them.
There are two kinds of access that you may not have to your child: geographical and relational. If your wayward son lives far away, try to find a solid believer in his area and ask him to contact your son. This may seem nosy or stupid or embarrassing to him, but it’s worth it—especially if the believer you find can also relate to your son emotionally in a way you can’t.

Relational distance will also be a side effect of your child leaving the faith, so your relationship will be tenuous and should be protected if at all possible. But hard rebuke is still necessary.

This is where another believer who has emotional access to your son may be very helpful. If there is a believer who your son trusts and perhaps even enjoys being around, then that believer has a platform to tell your son—in a way he may actually pay attention to—that he’s being an idiot. This may sound harsh, but it’s a news flash we all need from time to time, and people we trust are usually the only ones who can package a painful rebuke so that it is a gift to us.

A lot of rebellious kids would do well to hear that they’re being fools—and it is rare that this can helpfully be pointed out by their parents—so try to keep other Christians in your kids lives.

8. Respect their friends.
Honor your wayward child in the same way you’d honor any other unbeliever. They may run with crowds you’d never consider talking to or even looking at, but they are your child’s friends. Respect that—even if the relationship is founded on sin. They’re bad for your son, yes. But he’s bad for them, too. Nothing will be solved by making it perfectly evident that you don’t like who he’s hanging around with.
When your son shows up for a family birthday celebration with another girlfriend—one you’ve never seen before and probably won’t see again—be hospitable. She’s also someone’s wayward child, and she needs Jesus, too.

9. Email them.
Praise God for technology that lets you stay in your kids’ lives so easily!
When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation for them is positive examples of Christ’s joy in your own life.
Don’t stress out when you’re composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out one after another, and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child’s inbox. God’s word is never proclaimed in vain.

10. Take them to lunch.
If possible, don’t let your only interaction with your child be electronic. Get together with him face to face if you can. You may think this is stressful and uncomfortable, but trust me that it’s far worse to be in the child’s shoes—he is experiencing all the same discomfort, but compounded by guilt. So if he is willing to get together with you for lunch, praise God, and use the opportunity.

It will feel almost hypocritical to talk about his daily life, since what you really care about is his eternal life, but try to anyway. He needs to know you care about all of him. Then, before lunch is over, pray that the Lord will give you the gumption to ask about his soul. You don’t know how he’ll respond. Will he roll his eyes like you’re an idiot? Will he get mad and leave? Or has God been working in him since you talked last? You don’t know until you risk asking.

(Here’s a note to parents of younger children: Set up regular times to go out to eat with your kids. Not only will this be valuable for its own sake, but also, if they ever enter a season of rebellion, the tradition of meeting with them will already be in place and it won’t feel weird to ask them out to lunch. If a son has been eating out on Saturdays with his dad since he was a tot, it will be much harder for him later in life to say no to his father’s invitation—even as a surly nineteen-year-old.)

11. Take an interest in their pursuits.
Odds are that if your daughter is purposefully rejecting Christ, then the way she spends her time will probably disappoint you. Nevertheless, find the value in her interests, if possible, and encourage her. You went to her school plays and soccer games when she was ten; what can you do now that she’s twenty to show that you still really care about her interests?

Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and he wasn’t even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to that dank little nightclub where your daughter’s CD release show is. Encourage her and never stop praying that she will begin to use her gifts for Jesus’ glory instead her own.

12. Point them to Christ.
This can’t be over-stressed. It is the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.

Jesus.

It’s not so that they will be good kids again; it’s not so that they’ll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it’s not so that they’ll like classical music instead of deathcore; it’s not so that you can stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study; it’s not so that they’ll vote conservative again by the next election; it’s not even so that you can sleep at night, knowing they’re not going to hell.

The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, email them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Christ.

And not only is he the only point—he’s the only hope. When they see the wonder of Jesus, satisfaction will be redefined. He will replace the pathetic vanity of the money, or the praise of man, or the high, or the orgasm that they are staking their eternities on right now. Only his grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to himself—captive, but satisfied.

He will do this for many. Be faithful and don’t give up.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

haaken has a fracture


Zeke was trying to get Haak on to the bed yesterday. Something snapped. Haaken has a little fracture just above his elbow. . . . poor little guy. Our hearts are bound up with our children!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2008 Super DWAP

In these uncertain times, we all need encouragement. Sometimes we don't know it. Sometimes we don't know where to find it.

This morning some of our staff shared how encouraging it was to be at the Super Dessert with a Purpose. They described not wanting to come, but wanting to stay home and enjoy a quiet Sunday evening, but then shared how encouraged they were after picking themselves up and getting there.

I had the same experience. My 3 older kids, surprisingly, wanted to be there (might have been the mention of "super desserts", but I'm not sure!). I'm so glad they were there.

This year's Super DWAP featured reports from 20 short term missionaries that Grace has had the privilege to send all over the world this last year. God is at work through our going and sending. What we are doing and money we are investing is bring water, care, education and, most important of all, the life changing Gospel of Jesus to folks in every continent.

I am humbled that God would see fit to involve our little church on the corner of Pismo and Osos to accomplish His global purposes.

Here's a list of all those missionaries. Click to enlarge and see clearly.

Here's a fun coloring map that was provided for the kids, showing all the places these folks have gone. Again, click to enlarge. . .


Here's a great article from John Piper, entitled "Holding the Rope." on developing a global vision for missions within the local church. I think we are making progress. . . .

http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk/2008/11/1108_Holding_the_Rope

Finally, check out the newly updated Sending area of our website, where you can meet our long term missionaries, click to the missions blog, meet our missions team and learn about upcoming DWAPs. . . .

http://www.graceslo.org/Default.aspx?tabid=155


Many thanks to Ron Hamley for jumping in and helping with the website.

There is a lot happening in the area of missions here at Grace. Many thanks to our faithful and diligent Missions Team for their hard work and leadership in this vital area.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

busy, but fun

Our staff concluded in our Tuesday staff meeting that this last weekend was just a bit too busy, with the Harvest Festival on Friday evening, the kid's singing in services and the Baptism on Sunday evening. All great stuff, but just too much in one weekend.

We spend lots and lots of time strategically trying to avoid craziness, but every once in a while a combo or conflict gets by us.

Here's a great pic of some of the college students who helped make the Harvest Festival a reality. Children's Ministry Director, Dori, truly couldn't have done it without them.




There are 120+ more Harvest Festival pics over at the flickr site.

The baptism, too, was an amazing time of worship, reflection and rejoicing at the work of God among us. I was a bit disappointed by the turnout. I feel like the house should be packed for baptisms, because they are such encouraging times.

Our staff came away committed to figuring out a way to integrate baptisms back into the worship services. It's not easy with 3 services, but we're working on it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

family fun


Carvin' Pumpkins


kickin' it on the porch


two of six banditos or "the dread family Roberts"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Cereal

If you were here on Sunday, you will get the title of this post. If not, I strongly suggest you make time to listen and process "The Gospel & Your Sex Life."

Sunday morning was fun together coming under God's Word together in this most intimate area. Needless to say the comments and emails have kept the joy going all week since. I trust and pray there has been much application of God's Word happening, in which ever state you find yourself in . . . .single or married.

In the message I mentioned the racy and sensual book of Song of Solomon. So here, for your listening pleasure, are two messages keying off of Song of Solomon delivered at the 2004 Desiring God National Conference which focused on the theme, "Sex & the Supremacy of God." One message is from C.J. Mahaney and target's men, but the other delivered by Mahaney's wife, Carolyn, was addressed specifically to women.

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of Christ: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know. . . .with C.J. Mahaney

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of Christ: What Every Christian Wife Needs to Know. . . .with Carolyn Mahaney

Listen and let me know what you think and how you're processing . . . .

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Gospel & Your Marriage. . . . more

Two weeks ago, we talked about God's purposes for marriage. Last week, we looked at God's plan for marriage. This coming week, we're going to explore the intimate and vulnerable area of sex under the heading, "The Gospel & Your Sex Life."

I've been encouraged by the emails I've received and the discussions I've had with folks who are thinking about and working on their marriages. People outside our church are being referred to and are listening to the messages.

Since we're in the marriage game, I wanted to point you to more great resources on marriage from our Grace library archives. We need to hear great teaching on Biblical marriage again and again and again. Your marriage is worth the investment.

1. Paul and Virginia Friesen on Marriage, February 11, 2007

Session 1
Session 2

2. David Hegg on Marriage, July 2004

Session 1: The Meaning of Marriage
Session 2: Marriage with a Heavenly Mindset
Session 3: Marriage with a Heavenly Ethic

3. Other messages I've preached on marriage

Colossians 3:18-21: Bringing Christ Home: July 6, 2003
Matthew 5:27-32: Kingdom Community & Marriage: August 8, 2004-Part 1
Matthew 5:27-32: Kingdom Community & Marriage: August 8, 2004-Part 2
Matthew 19:1-12: What God Has Joined Together: February 26, 2006

I'll be fired up if you listen to just even one more message, but why not take the time to listen to them all?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Haaken



Posted with LifeCast

sign of my life



My kids call my "beater" a "magic car" because we can fit so much stuff in it. Here's what it looked like when I dropped the kids off at school this morning . . . . 4 backpacks, a soccer duffle and more. How's that for "real life."

(How does the Gospel relate to that? I'm sure I can come up with a way! Let's see . . ."because I am wealthy beyond my wildest dreams in Christ, I can drive a magic "beater." What I drive is not my life, Christ is my life!)

Well, even though I am not what I drive, I finally am starting to think about retiring "the beater" and getting something else. The beater has 212k miles and it was built in 1990. I got it from my bro-in-law when it had 90k miles at least 10 years ago. It was hit by a guy driving a Porsche as it sat out in front of our house last January, so it now has salvage title. She's served us well, but soon it will be time . . . .

So we've been going back in forth in our thinking about what to get next. We probably won't get a new car unless we can find some killer 0% financing. I'm thinking either a Toyota truck with an extended or double cab or perhaps a turbo diesel Jetta wagon, which I've heard get something like 45 mpg and will go for 200k miles plus.

The truck would be fun and practical and I've always wanted a truck.

The Jetta would be practical and economical.

What's your vote? Other suggestions? Maybe I'll make it the next survey?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Piper on Voting

As I, like you, receive the emails tinged with panic and as I smell the fear among Christians, Piper, once more, offers a great challenge as we approach November 4 together . . .


Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting

Voting is like marrying and crying and laughing and buying. We should do it, but only as if we were not doing it. That’s because “the present form of this world is passing away” and, in God’s eyes, “the time has grown very short.” Here’s the way Paul puts it:

The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Let’s take these one at a time and compare them to voting.

1. “Let those who have wives live as though they had none.”

This doesn’t mean move out of the house, don’t have sex, and don’t call her Honey. Earlier in this chapter Paul says, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights” (1 Corinthians 7:3). He also says to love her the way Christ loved the church, leading and providing and protecting (Ephesians 5:25-30). It means this: Marriage is momentary. It’s over at death, and there is no marriage in the resurrection. Wives and husbands are second priorities, not first. Christ is first. Marriage is for making much of him.

It means: If she is exquisitely desirable, beware of desiring her more than Christ. And if she is deeply disappointing, beware of being hurt too much. This is temporary—only a brief lifetime. Then comes the never-disappointing life which is life indeed.

So it is with voting. We should do it. But only as if we were not doing it. Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t. Political life is for making much of Christ whether the world falls apart or holds together.

2. “Let those who mourn [do so] as though they were not mourning.”

Christians mourn with real, deep, painful mourning, especially over losses—loss of those we love, loss of health, loss of a dream. These losses hurt. We cry when we are hurt. But we cry as though not crying. We mourn knowing we have not lost something so valuable we cannot rejoice in our mourning. Our losses do not incapacitate us. They do not blind us to the possibility of a fruitful future serving Christ. The Lord gives and takes away. But he remains blessed. And we remain hopeful in our mourning.

So it is with voting. There are losses. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back. In the short run, Christians lose (Revelation 13:7). In the long run, we win (Revelation 21:4).

3. “Let those who rejoice [do so] as though they were not rejoicing.”

Christians rejoice in health (James 5:13) and in sickness (James 1:2). There are a thousand good and perfect things that come down from God that call forth the feeling of happiness. Beautiful weather. Good friends who want to spend time with us. Delicious food and someone to share it with. A successful plan. A person helped by our efforts.

But none of these good and beautiful things can satisfy our soul. Even the best cannot replace what we were made for, namely, the full experience of the risen Christ (John 17:24). Even fellowship with him here is not the final and best gift. There is more of him to have after we die (Philippians 1:21-23)—and even more after the resurrection. The best experiences here are foretastes. The best sights of glory are through a mirror dimly. The joy that rises from these previews does not and should not rise to the level of the hope of glory. These pleasures will one day be as though they were not. So we rejoice remembering this joy is a foretaste, and will be replaced by a vastly better joy.

So it is with voting. There are joys. The very act of voting is a joyful statement that we are not under a tyrant. And there may be happy victories. But the best government we get is a foreshadowing. Peace and justice are approximated now. They will be perfect when Christ comes. So our joy is modest. Our triumphs are short-lived—and shot through with imperfection. So we vote as though not voting.

4. “Let those who buy [do so] as though they had no goods.”

Let Christians keep on buying while this age lasts. Christianity is not withdrawal from business. We are involved, but as though not involved. Business simply does not have the weight in our hearts that it has for many. All our getting and all our having in this world is getting and having things that are not ultimately important. Our car, our house, our books, our computers, our heirlooms—we possess them with a loose grip. If they are taken away, we say that in a sense we did not have them. We are not here to possess. We are here to lay up treasures in heaven.

This world matters. But it is not ultimate. It is the stage for living in such a way to show that this world is not our God, but that Christ is our God. It is the stage for using the world to show that Christ is more precious than the world.

So it is with voting. We do not withdraw. We are involved—but as if not involved. Politics does not have ultimate weight for us. It is one more stage for acting out the truth that Christ, and not politics, is supreme.

5. “Let those who deal with the world [do so] as though they had no dealings with it.”

Christians should deal with the world. This world is here to be used. Dealt with. There is no avoiding it. Not to deal with it is to deal with it that way. Not to weed your garden is to cultivate a weedy garden. Not to wear a coat in Minnesota is to freeze—to deal with the cold that way. Not to stop when the light is red is to spend your money on fines or hospital bills and deal with the world that way. We must deal with the world.

But as we deal with it, we don’t give it our fullest attention. We don’t ascribe to the world the greatest status. There are unseen things that are vastly more precious than the world. We use the world without offering it our whole soul. We may work with all our might when dealing with the world, but the full passions of our heart will be attached to something higher—Godward purposes. We use the world, but not as an end in itself. It is a means. We deal with the world in order to make much of Christ.

So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.

By all means vote. But remember: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

Voting with you, as though not voting,

Pastor John

The Gospel & Your Marriage at SLO High

Today at noon I've been asked to come and share my 10.19.08 message on God's Purposes for Marriage at the SLO High Christian Club. A great opportunity indeed!

Not sure who is going to be there, but I am hoping many non-believers. I'm encouraged that the Christian Club is grappling with real life issues.

Once more, my goal will be to clearly present what the Bible says about the place and value of marriage.

Pray that I might be clear, but winsome . . . gentle, but not pull any punches . . . compassionate toward sinners, but straightforward about sin and its ravages.


Speaking of high school students, I've been much encouraged by Pastor Toddd's recent decision to shift the Student Ministries' small group model toward the all-church Growth Group model as a way of encouraging integration of students in our worship services. I know it has not been a decision that has been popular among all, but already I'm hearing great feedback from high school students who are attending worship and/or listening over the web and working through "the Gospel for Real Life." We are growing together in the same direction.

Monday, October 27, 2008

TED talks

I've recently subscribed to the TED Talks podcast in iTunes. I've been watching and listening on my iphone when I have a quick 18 minutes to spare. It's been a mind-expanding and thought-provoking experience. I love the variety of presenters and it's forcing me to engage in some areas that I've never thought about before. . . .

Here's a challenging idea from Bjorn Lomberg. . . .



What's your reaction to that?

Anybody else discovered TED?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Marriage FAQs

One pastor I'm familiar with does a brief Q & A session after every message he preaches. I love that idea and would be willing to give it a go, if we had the time on a Sunday morning. In fact, I'm thinking about trying it just after the 11:00 AM hour. I would love the opportunity to interact with folks immediately after they've heard the message.

I think it's awesome when questions arise. It means folks are interactively listening. It means folks are thinking enough to have questions arise in their hearts. I want nothing more than this!

Until we try it, I'll continue to use email, growth groups and here at life together to address questions. . . . .

Here's a crack at some questions that have bubbled up in response to last week's message, "The Gospel & Your Marriage, Part 1":


1. What about polygamy? If marriage is between one man and one woman is so important, then why isn't there a clear prohibition of polygamy in the Scriptures?

Answer: I have wondered this myself and I don't know the answer. What I do know is this: every time we see polygamy in the Bible it's a disaster. 4 examples come immediately to mind: Abraham with Sarah and Hagar, Jacob with Rachel and Leah, Elkanah with Penninah and Hannah, and Solomon with his abundance of wives who lead his heart away from the Lord.

I wish that God would have said more explicitly, "only one wife," but for some reason he did not. However both Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 make clear that God's intentional design is one man and one woman. It's not 3 or 4 or 5 that become one flesh, but 2. The mysterious "one flesh union" conceptually limits marriage between one man and one woman, effectively excluding polygamy.

It's the best I can do on that one. . .

2. What about unsafe or abusive marriage situations? When you talk about "glorifying God by staying in a miserable marriage" are you suggesting that wives stay in abusive or unsafe marriages?

Answer: No, I'm not. Clearly, abusive or unsafe marriages constitute unique circumstances. The best thing a wife can do in such situations is physically remove herself and her children from that abusive or unsafe setting. But that doesn't mean immediately file for divorce. I believe a Gospel-centered approach allows for separation in some circumstances but also leaves room and time for God to work. Stay committed to the marriage, wait, trust the Lord, but don't put yourself in harm's way.

When I speak of a "miserable marriage," I am speaking of the great many marriages that one spouse or both spouses would describe as miserable, but not abusive or unsafe. When we stay in an unhappy marriage, we affirm the truth that marriage is bigger than us. Our perseverance demonstrates a trust in God and it reflects the Gospel where God perseveres for the sake of unfaithful sinners.

3. What about single parent families? You said that both moms and dads are needed to give kids what they need, but what about single parent families?

Answer: As I stated, I believe the Bible teaches that God gives marriage to give kids what they need. This is his design and intention through marriage. Obviously, we are living in a broken world where such is not always the case. In single parent families, I believe that God comes along in a special way and fills in some of those gaps created by an absent parent. That's what all those orphan and widow passages, like Psalm 68, are telling us. I believe the church has a BIG role to play in helping to fill those gaps.

I want to say both: Marriage is God's normal, intended way of meeting the needs of children AND when a parent is missing, God will meet the needs created by the missing parent in other ways and often through the church.

I don't want to back away from the bible's teaching on marriage just because there are single parent families in our church. We want to be straightforward about what the Bible teaches about marriage and, at the same time, over the top in our care and concern for single parents and their kids. In some cases, we are doing a good job of this and in some ways you may not be aware of. In many cases, we can do a much better job of meeting the needs of single parent families.

4. What about singles? If marriage is a "crucible for life transformation", how does God transform the life of singles?

Answer: My pastoral experience tells me that singleness is a gift. It's a gift given to glorify God. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that a single person is unencumbered by the responsibilities of marriage and family and, therefore, more free to serve the Lord. Most, but not all, singles that I have the opportunity to interact with often speak of an ongoing desire to get married. If God removes the desire to get married, that's a gift. My experience tells me that God is able to give persevering grace even when that desire to get married is never removed.

I tried to state my conviction in the message: For those whom God calls to marriage, marriage becomes a crucible for life transformation (sanctification). For those he does not call to marriage, God is going to get it done another way. . . even through the struggle of that singleness and the abiding desire to get married.

It doesn't matter: both being married and being single afford us many and ongoing opportunities to trust the Lord and to change. As John Piper might say, "Don't waste your singleness. Don't waste your marriage." God wants to use both.



How about your questions? If you listened, post a comment and fire off a question. If you haven't listened, but have some questions about this topic, listen first, then ask your questions. I'm committed to tackling questions on this important topic!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Gospel & Your Marriage

In Sunday's message entitled "The Gospel & Your Marriage," we thought about 5 of God's purposes for marriage . . . (if you missed, you're going to need to hear it so you're ready for part 2 this Sunday!)

1. Marriage is given by God for procreation and the survival of human society.
2. Marriage is given by God for the protection of and provision for women and children.
3. Marriage is given by God for our mutual and complementary help.
4. Marriage is given by God as a crucible for life-transformation.
5. Marriage is given by God as a Gospel mirror.

Because of these things, biblical marriage matters. Marriage as an institution matters. Your marriage matters. Marriage is worth fighting for and defending.

Obviously I chose to tackle this topic because it's vital that we understand that marriage is God's thing, not a malleable, redefinable human construct or social convenience. There is so much propaganda and so many voices speaking at us, it's easy to get lost and confused by it all. I think the first question we must ask as believers is, "What does God think and say about this subject in the Bible?" I am concerned that the voice of God in the Scriptures be heard on this vital issue of our time.

I promised I'd post some additional resources to talk about this topic. Sorry it's taken me so long to do it.

I'm convinced that "because the Bible says so," is an inadequate answer for someone who asks "why marriage is important?" We need cogent, reasoned arguments from history, sociology and the other sciences. That's not easy.

S. Michal Craven over at the Center for Christ & Culture has articulated some of the clearest and best arguments that I've heard in defense of marriage. His six part series "In Defense of Marriage" is available in print or audio versions. Here are the links:

In Defense of Marriage, Part 1: text audio

In Defense of Marriage, Part 2: text audio

In Defense of Marriage, Part 3: text audio

In Defense of Marriage, Part 4: text audio

In Defense of Marriage, Part 5: text audio

In Defense of Marriage, Part 6: text audio

I was shocked to hear how Craven ended his series in part 6 with some reflections on 1 Peter 2, which we looked at under the heading "The Gospel & Your Politics" a few weeks back.

It's a great time to make the point: there is a method to my madness. . . . . the order of these messages is intentional . . . politics, enemies, marriage. All these messages are interwoven really. We need the Gospel to shape every area and sphere of life. It's so vital that we "honor (respect) all people" (I Peter 2:17) and "bless those who persecute you" (Romans 12:14), even as we defend marriage. The Gospel shows us WHY we defend marriage. The Gospel also shows us HOW we defend marriage.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

registered?

As I said a couple weeks back, I believe there is much at stake in the upcoming election on November 4. . . . especially here in California. I again urge you to vote your conscience, vote your biblical convictions and vote for the welfare of our community.

But here's the thing. . . .you can't vote if you're not registered. If you've recently moved (like we have) or recently married, you must re-register. The voter registration deadline is this Monday, October 20. Your voter registration must be postmarked by that date.

You can download voter registration info and forms HERE. I just did.

waging peace

Last Sunday we thought about "The Gospel & Your Enemies" from Romans 12:14-21 (Listen Here).

It's Wednesday, about midway through the week. So, how are you doing on your assignment of taking one step, by faith, to "wage peace" with someone with whom you've experienced conflict?

Don't let the week slip away! Maybe your step is to pray. Maybe your step is an email or a phone call or a face to face conversation. Trust the Lord and go for it.

The very best resource that I have encountered in this area of conflict resolution and relational reconciliation is Ken Sande's book, The PeaceMaker. This is such a great read! Put it on your list.

Also Allen Peek sent me this awesome Spurgeon quote this morning that fits well with the idea of absorbing evil and in so doing defusing it. And also Romans 12:21. . . .

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. --Romans 12:21

I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate "the pearl oyster"--

A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it.
It cannot reject the evil, but what does it do but 'cover' it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl!

Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which otherwise would have harmed us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the Gospel in action

Recent story in the Trib featuring my friend and personal surgeon, Dan Woods . . .

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/story/496327.html


love it!

patterns

Just came from our monthly Ministry Staff lunch. . . . this time down at Mo's. (We have a great staff! Have you heard me say that lately? It's all about the team!)

We had a great discussion about what Grace might look like in 10 years, what changes might need to take place and how we lead our church through those changes. No decisions, but some really good exploratory dialogue. We also talked about some other near-term change possibilities in advance of our 2009 calendar planning day next week.

(I don't think I have the courage to ask you what changes you think need to happen here at Grace over the next 5 -10 years.)

Which brings me to your parking patterns. As the current survey (see sidepanel) moves along, it's apparent that most of you are are still parking on the street, instead over at the parking structure. You say you're not parking close, but I wonder? :) How do we get you to shift your paradigm and park in that oh-so-close parking structure so that we can leave even more street parking open for visitors?

And speaking of patterns, I laughed out after the second hour as I stood by the new corridor into the Founder's Hall/Early Childhood Center . . . . as I stood . . . . ALONE. You all clogged the aisles waiting to get out the door to the courtyard, failing to realize that exiting the new corridor would give you access to both your kids and the courtyard twice as fast.

I finally started waving my arms to see if anyone would notice. A few did and walked over to make me feel good.

Seriously, I'm not sure we get it yet! This new corridor has the potential to greatly improve our Sunday morning campus circulation . . . . if we'll lean into it and use it. Change your thinking, change your direction and get to where you're going quicker. Try it, you'll like it.

Amy Kardel told me that studies have shown that at crowded places such as Disneyland, "the crowd always moves right." Isn't that interesting? I'd love to see some data, but that's sure what's happening here at Grace.

Talk about clogging. . . that courtyard is crazy between 2nd and 3rd. We keep talking about it, but I'm not sure there's anything we can do. Great problem to have!

I smell a few more survey questions emerging from all this.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

our refuge and help

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
Psalm 46

As I, along with all of us, watch the meltdown of the financial markets and see the value of my retirement portfolio continue its steady decline over these last two weeks, I have been meditating on Psalm 46.

The Lord shakes the earth and our own lives at various times and in different ways. Why? To expose the foundations of our trust and security. We inevitably and often unknowingly begin to put our trust in a rising stock market, a booming economy, a secure retirement, our good health, and lots of other things.

We don't always mean to put our trust in these things, we just do. The Lord shakes us so that we might be drawn back to Him. And yet so often we get angry and run away from Him when our foundations are shaken. And then, at times, we run back to Him in the hope that He's going to fix it all. Sometimes he doesn't . . . . sometimes are foundations are not just shaken, but removed.

When our kingdoms are tottering, God is there, a refuge and strength, if we will only run to Him . . . a very present help in trouble.

Have you experienced Him so?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

the power of focus

As a staff, we talk continually about focus and calling. What are we as a church called to do? What is our unique mission as this single local church? One of the reasons we talk consistently about this is because it's very apparent that there are lots of folks with all sorts of agendas for the church . . . causes we should be championing, ministries we should be starting, needs we should be meeting. All good things, but we can't do it all and so we must often respond with a gentle "no." It's not easy. We believe there is great power in focus.

If you've been coming around Grace just a little while and you haven't figured it out yet, our focus is the Gospel. We believe the Gospel, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, not only gives us right relationship with God, but it also changes our lives. Therefore, our focus is to be a Gospel-centered church and live Gospel-centered lives.

Our vision is to see lives, families, our community and the world transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our mission is to celebrate, proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the Central Coast and beyond.

The Gospel Coalition, a loose association of pastors and churches is focused on the same thing. It delights my heart to hear these men articulate our own convictions so well. Here's a great expression of what it means to be Gospel-centered . . .



Our Pastors are working hard to make it to the Gospel Coalition National Conference coming up in April 2009.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Survey #3 Results

So we didn't quite reach 100 respondents, but of the 69 respondents to the greeting survey, here are the results. . .


There was some awesome dialogue in the original post that is definitely worth reading, but the results indicate that the majority of us are generally committed to the concept, though for many of us it's a stretch. That's valuable information.

Any final thoughts?

Get ready, this Sunday is another name tag Sunday. . . .

going green


For the first time this morning, I rode my bike to work from Shell Beach. Rolled out at 5:45 to make it in time for my standing 6:30 meeting with our elder chairman, Scott Morton. It was dark but warm. Felt great to sneak in a few miles before the day began and I can't wait to ride home this afternoon.

I've been trying to figure out a way to do this, without being stinky all day. The new showers in the Early Childhood Center have made it possible. Yahoo!

It definitely requires advance planning to bring my clothes and everything the day before, so I don't have to wear a big backpack. I'm shooting for once, maybe twice a week for now. . . .

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Gospel & Your Politics

In yesterday's message from I Peter 2 (listen here!), we looked at how the Gospel should inform and shape our involvement in the political arena.

We discovered that the Gospel points in 7 directions. . .

  1. Toward an Active Engagement
  2. Toward an Exemplary Personal Lifestyle
  3. Toward a Submission to Authority
  4. Toward a Embracing of our True Freedom
  5. Toward a Humble Respect of All
  6. Toward a Patient Suffering
  7. Toward a Continuous Trust in a Sovereign God

Each of these principles is not only taught in 1 Peter 2, but embodied at the cross in the Gospel.

I had a "spirited discussion" with one woman after the service who thought I was way "too passive" in the second two thirds of the message. She liked the first part, but then thought I encouraged an uninvolved passivity toward the end. She clearly feels I/we should be doing a whole lot more to mobilize our people toward her favored political agenda. I gently tried to point her back to the text in 1 Peter 2. Her response was, "There are lots of other texts." Then she went on to state how Jesus was killed because he spoke up and confronted the injustice of His day. Her underlying assumption was that Jesus was killed for his political activism and outspokenness.

I think this is a common argument among those who believe that churches (not just individuals) should be jumping into the political fray. But I think we need to think a bit more about this point. Is that why Jesus was killed?

It seems to me that Jesus' harshest words and criticism were directed not toward the political establishment of Rome, but toward the religious establishment of Jerusalem. In fact, I'm not aware of one instance in the Gospels, where Jesus spoke out against the Roman Empire. When the religious establishment tried to entrap Him by asking about paying taxes, Jesus affirmed the necessity of paying taxes with his famous, "Render to Caesar" statement. When He didn't have the funds to pay taxes, He sent His disciples fishing to find the money in the belly of a fish.

In other words, this argument doesn't fly. Jesus was not killed for His political activism. Jesus was not killed by Rome, though the Roman leaders consented to His death by washing their hands of the matter. Jesus was arrested and killed by the religious establishment, who sought the permission of Rome to carry out their own devices.

I think all that we see in I Peter 2 is really striking against the backdrop of Peter's earlier attempts to take matters into his own hands through the exercise of force. Do you remember how he tried to cut off that guy's ear? By the time Peter writes, he is a man changed by the Gospel.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments, but I'd ask, if you weren't here yesterday, that you listen to the message first before commenting. It's a volatile topic I want you to hear the context before jumping in. . . .

Thursday, October 02, 2008

fireproof

I keep hearing great things about the new movie, Fireproof, from the same folks who created Facing the Giants. It's still playing at the Downtown Cinemas. Not sure it will still be there come Friday, but if it is, it could be a great date night . . . Here's the trailer:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Open for Ministry

Great Grand Opening Sunday for our Founder's Hall and Early Childhood Center. If you missed the morning, listen here to hear what this building is for . . . What were your reactions?

Busy weekend for me. . . the Lighthouse Century on Saturday, the Grand Opening and then a Sunday afternoon memorial service in the L.A.. area for an uncle who unexpectedly passed away in his sleep last week. Trying to get going this morning. . . .

Growth Groups start this week. . . . in case you've signed up, but are now entertaining second thoughts because of your own busy schedule, here's that Growth Group promo video to encourage you to show up this first week. . .

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Finally, there are just 21 hours left on our "Greeting" survey. . . .let's push that thing to 80 before it ends.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Ingenious Little Old Man

Zeke popped out his fall poem with me the morning. . . .I just had to get it on video.

conflicted


Coaching Zeke's soccer team with Donny Valliere has been so much fun this year. We have a great little team. Its amazing to see the motor development and focus growth year over year.

It kills me, but tomorrow I am missing our 3rd game to ride the Lighthouse Century with Scott Morton, which should be a blast, too. I'm expecting a very beautiful day.

Here's our route . . .

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Grand Opening

Its been a full week, between these two Fall Kick Off Weekends. Last Sunday was out of the building, this Sunday we're dedicating a building.

I am told that attendance was up last Sunday over previous year's Kick Offs. 60 something college kids rode the bus from Cal Poly. We served 249 free meals to guests that were with us. In addition, we were excited to take lots and lots of leftover chicken to the Prado Day Center to feed those in need. I've received several emails from visitors who kindly took the time to write and say how much they enjoyed the day.

Here's a slideshow of pics from last week . . .


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

and here's the all-church email that was sent this afternoon. . .

Beloved Family of Grace,

Last Sunday's Fall Kick Off was amazing! Thanks for your part in inviting friends and serving. A special thanks to our Karen Weaver and Darrell Daniels who rallied our ACE and BBQ teams to provide lunch. The day was everything our Ministry Staff hoped and prayed it would be . . . and more.

So let's do it again, but differently, this Sunday. . . . We want to keep the spirit and energy of the Fall Kick Off going as we throw open the doors of the newly remodeled Founder's Hall and Early Childhood Center. Our aim on this special morning is to celebrate God's faithfulness and provision and remind ourselves what church buildings are for, remembering along the way that we will have a bunch of new college students and families with us for the first and second time. We want these visitors to feel welcome and a part of the celebration.

Remember, this Sunday begins our fall 3 Service Schedule. Services happen at 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00. Once again we want to encourage all of you to consider attending the 8:00 hour if at all possible to make room for newcomers. Also, this fall is another great time to make a commitment to park in the parking structure to enable our seasoned citizens, those with special needs and visitors to park upfront and close. These are two great ways to live the Gospel with one another this fall!

I can't wait for you to see the beautiful and functional new space that God has provided, through your faithful and joyful giving to Grace, for the exaltation of His name and extension of His kingdom. You're going to love it! I'll see you at the door!

Because of and for the Gospel . . . Pastor Tim