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. . . .

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:
See the year in pictures:

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. . . .