Thursday, October 29, 2009

Unreached People Map Initiative

Maybe you missed our worship service on 10.18.09 where we introduced our Adopt-A-People Map initiative designed to help us identify an unreached people to adopt. Here's a clip of my interview with Tim Arlen, who is leading our Adopt-A-People Team. . . .

Here are those 3 questions we're asking you to answer. Think about them before hand and come ready to press those pins, so we can give as many people as possible a chance to participate. . .

  1. Where in the world is the most interesting place you have traveled?

  2. Other than in the US, in which countries do you have a personal friend?

  3. Thinking beyond SLO, which one or two places in the world would you support GraceSLO in reaching those who have no opportunity to hear the Gospel?
So far, in the first week, we've seen 86 people push pins. I'm encouraged by that. I'd like to see us at least triple that. So grab your pins!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

awed, grateful love

Our elders had such a great time together at our annual overnighter a couple weeks back. We always do something a bit different. This year one of the things we did was together read through a good portion of Tim Keller's "The Prodigal God." It was so encouraging to my heart to watch the elders grapple with the Gospel and its implications/applications for their lives and our church.

The Prodigal God is a short, but excellent read, that opens up the heart of the Gospel in fresh and new ways. Grab it and read it with us.

Here's a great section about the transforming power of Gospel motivation in contrast to most religious/guilt/law/fear motivation . . .

All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out of the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting.

The gospel is therefore not just the ABCs of the Christian life, but the A to Z of the Christian life. Our problems arise largely because we don't continually return to the gospel to work it in and live it out. That is why Martin Luther wrote, "The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine...Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually."

"Wait, " I have heard people object. "You mean that in order to grow in Christ, you keep telling yourself how graciously loved and accepted you are? That doesn't seem to be the best way to make progress. Maybe the motivation of religion was negative, but at least it was effective! You knew you had to obey God because if you didn't he wouldn't answer your prayers or take you to heaven. But if you remove this fear and talk so much about free grace and unmerited acceptance-what incentive will you have to live a good life? It seems like this gospel way of living won't produce people who are as faithful and diligent to obey God's will without question."

But if, when you have lost all fear of punishment you also have lost incentive to live an obedient life, then what was your motivation in the first place? It could only have been fear. What other incentive is there? Awed, grateful love.

So what is the motivational wiring of your own heart? Is it motivated by rule keeping? Is it motivated by fear? Is it motivated at at all? Does it need to be rewired with the Gospel?

How do we rewire our hearts with the Gospel?

It takes time. We must hear the Gospel regularly. . . .the love of God manifested in the person and work of Jesus Christ. . . . we must contemplate our indentity and inheritance in Jesus. . . . . . we have to let the grace of God grip and grab our hearts and imaginations.. . . .we must taste and savor that the Lord is good and His promises are sweet. . . . we must put Christ at the center of our thoughts and affections. . . .

We need others, who are desiring the same, to do this with us. To speak the Gospel into our lives and to pray for us.

We need to pray ourselves.

All of this speaks of reordering our lives around the truth and grace of the Gospel. Rewiring our hearts requires reordering our lives. . . .our time, our energy, our priorities. Eliminating distractions. Laying aside the many things that trip us up. Abandoning trivial pursuits. Fixing our eyes on Jesus. Not in a legalistic fashion or out of guilt or fear, but out of a desire to see, know and experience the Gospel of God's grace and its transforming power.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Journey of Faith #1: Hopeful Grief

It was great to have my friend and fellow elder, Donny Valliere, share what's been going on in his journey of faith in Sunday's worship service. Here's the video if you missed it.. . . .

And a few of my scattered thoughts . . .

  • Loved the first time of including a testimony in our service. We want to do more. What did you think?

  • Loved Donny's vulnerability and honesty. Here's an elder who doesn't have it all together. Feels sad and is grieving, but is also hopeful. All our elders are at different similar places in their unique journeys of faith. . . . most of the congregation doesn't realize it.

  • Love the ability to snag and post this video from our weekly DVD. Quality was surprisingly good. Did you know we have DVD's of every service available for shut-ins and others who desire to watch instead of just listen? So cool. We gotta do more video. Stay tuned.

  • Am I going bald or what? Too much gel or too short a haircut or something?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Haak's Pump

Susie just sent me this . . . is he going to be a dead lifter? Is that a smile or a strain?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Baptism x 2

Did your jr high or high school student come home from the student ministries stuff last night talking about baptism? If not, ask them about it.

I had the joy of seeing a few Jr. Highers come popping out of the basement at around 8:45 last night. One told me the focus of the evening was baptism.

I said, "Well girls, what do you think?"
One of the girls said, "I want to the baptized."

I looked over at my Sage and she said, "I'm ready to be baptized, too, but I want to talk to Eden."

The story here is that my girls, Sage and Eden, put their faith in Christ together not long after we moved here 7 years ago. Sage knew that Eden would probably want to be baptized together if possible. They apparently have discussed it and are going to go for it.

Thrilled for my girls and their desire to obey the Lord and make public their faith.

Our next scheduled baptism is Sunday, November 22. A mandatory Instruction & Preparation Class will happen on Sundays, November 8 and 15.

Take the next step in your faith. Join my daughters and myself in the pool.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

God @ Work in you?

In last week's message, we looked at how "faith repents" and "faith wages peace." Abraham is the model, but more importantly, the Gospel of God's grace is the motivation for these faith practices.

While there is always some way we might respond and apply to God's Word, some messages are more immediately applicable than others. I thought this message fell into this "more applicable" category.

So I'm wondering if you can help me out?

Can you email me or post a comment and share what you learned from this passage/message and/or how you are applying this passage/message?

It doesn't have to be long or super detailed. Just real and honest.

(I think we need to develop the practice of sharing what God is doing in our lives with one another. Let's work on this together. We really want to start incorporating some short testimonies of this sort in our worship services for the purpose of encouraging one another.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

09 campout pics

Great weekend of fun and fellowship at the All Church Camp-Out this last weekend. It was pretty cold at night, but just about everyone preferred the cooler weather to last year's September sweat fest. Everyone, I think, but me.

Here are a few pics so far, but we don't have Amy Lynne's yet. As soon as we do, we'll drop them in and the slideshow will update automatically.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

the hidden struggle of mental illness

A couple of friends were recently kind enough to come and open their hearts and their lives and give me peek into the world of mental illness in their family and in the church.

Mental illness is real. Mental illness is not usually handled very well by the people of God or by churches. Sadly there are few resources to help those who are dealing with mental illness in their own lives or in the lives of the ones they love. There is so much struggle, hiding, hurt and shame.

Mental illness, like other challenges, is a unique journey of faith.

Here at Grace we want to support families dealing with the challenges of mental illness. We are not exactly sure how to do that. I have asked these friends to stay in dialogue to help us in this area.

In the meantime, these friends have been kind enough to donate some books that they have found helpful over the years. I have briefly reviewed each of them and feel like all offer a helpful and empathetic Biblical perspective. These titles are now available in the church library. . . .

Losing God by Matt Rogers

Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew Stanford

Darkness is My Only Companion by Greene McCreight

Helping Someone with Mental Illness by Rosalyn Carter

When Your Family is Living with Mental Illness by Marcia Lund

Thursday, October 08, 2009

join me, men

March 1st, 2010 will mark 7 years as the lead pastor of GraceSLO. What a blessing those years have been in my life and in the life of our family.

Along the way, there are so many fruitful ministry opportunities that I've resisted and refused, in order to commit myself to first things and especially my family. While it's been hard to say "no", I have no regrets.

One of the things I've longed to do, but have resisted to this point, is a focused men's study. I led a group in So Cal for 7 years that involved the reading of great books, both old and new. I've missed that interaction with and investment in the lives of men. It was a great time.

Its time again. Susie has given her blessing on my leading a men's study beginning in January. I can't wait. At this point the plan is . . .

Thursday Mornings
EARLY for an hour(6:00 AM or maybe in 5:30 if necessary)
with a focus on the knowledge of God and spiritual leadership

Our first book will be John Piper's "The Pleasures of God," one of my "Top 10."

So men, step up, commit, and join me. Let's seek the Lord together. You've got 3 mos to plan, arrange your schedules, and find your mojo.

You can RSVP right here by leaving a comment or email at

Hope to see you. . . .

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

scandoulous & sturdy Western monotheism

Peter Rynning sent me this intriguing NY Times Book Review of Karen Armstrong's "The Case for God."

I agreed and disagreed with the author, Armstrong. I pretty much agreed with reviewer, Ross Douthat, though he strings you along for awhile until finally tipping his own hand at the end. . . .

Armstrong argues against a propositional theology in favor of a more experiential, mystical, practiced faith. She blames propositional, systematic theology for the decline of the Christian faith in a modern, enlightened, scientific world.

Though Armstrong is essentially arguing for a liberalized version of Christianity that denies a literal interpretation of the text in favor of a symbolic, mystical interpretation, I think she's right that faith in God is an experience, a journey and process. We have lost the mystery and unknowability of God.

But I don't think a recovery of the mystery of God and the practice of faith depends on an abandonment of doctrinal propositions and a serious reading of the Biblical text, as Armstrong suggests. Once again, its not either/or, but both/and.

Douthat is on to Armstrong and insightfully recognizes the necessity of BOTH doctrine AND mystery:

The dogmas tend to sustain the practices, and vice versa. It’s possible to gain some sort of “knack” for a religion without believing that all its dogmas are literally true: a spiritually inclined person can no doubt draw nourishment from the Roman Catholic Mass without believing that the Eucharist literally becomes the body and blood of Christ. But without the doctrine of transubstantiation, the Mass would not exist to provide that nourishment. Not every churchgoer will share Flannery O’Connor’s opinion that if the Eucharist is “a symbol, to hell with it.” But the Catholic faith has endured for 2,000 years because of Flannery O’Connors, not Karen Armstrongs.This explains why liberal religion tends to be parasitic on more dogmatic forms of faith, which create and sustain the practices that the liberal believer picks and chooses from, reads symbolically and reinterprets for a more enlightened age. Such spiritual dilettant­ism has its charms, but it lacks the sturdy appeal of Western monotheism, which has always offered not only myth and ritual and symbolism (the pagans had those bases covered), but also scandalously literal claims — that the Jews really are God’s chosen people; that Christ really did rise from the dead; and that however much the author of the universe may surpass our understanding, we can live in hope that he loves the world enough to save it, and us, from the annihilating power of death. Such literalism can be taken too far, and “The Case for God” argues, convincingly, that it needs to coexist with more mythic, mystic and philosophical forms of faith. Most people, though, are not mystics and philosophers, and they are hungry for myths that are not only resonant but true. Apophatic religion may be the most rigorous way to go in search of an elusive God. But for most believers, it will remain a poor substitute for the idea that God has come in search of us.

I agree with that!

The life of Abraham is not less than historical narrative but a whole lot more. The scriptures tell us what took place in His encounter with God, and in so doing, they inform our own experience of God. We discover, in his story, propositional truths concerning who God is and what it means to be in a faith relationship with Him, but also just how confusing, mysterious and open a relationship with this God really is.