Monday, July 26, 2010

I signed . . .

The Manhattan Declaration . . . .a statement affirming life, traditional marriage, religious freedom.

I was moved, challenged, encouraged and informed as I read it. Its well written, compelling and deals thoughtfully and Biblically with issues that we've recently considered together.

(If you've been reading along for any length of time or know me at all, your aware that I have strange, but deep, convictions about the church and politics and the necessity of keeping our nationalism and our Gospel calling separate. . . . so aren't you curious to know why I'm so passionate about the Manhattan Declaration?)

So earmark 1/2 hour in your busy life and take the time to read it slowly and carefully. Read it with your spouse and your children. Join me in signing it, if you feel led.

I've included the Preamble below to prime your pump . . . it alone fired me up and reminded me of our rich Christian history and Biblical calling . . .

Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God's word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire's sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce's leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes – from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I missed Krispy Kremes today. The fam headed to San Diego to see the cousins. They stopped on the way.

I'm going to miss them all terribly. The house is sure quiet.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


It's not my age. I'm way beyond that. I'm 42.

No, 40 is the number of Growth Groups we are hoping for, praying for and working toward this Fall.

I had lunch with a friend today at Nois, out in Baywood. Can you believe I've never had Thai food? WOW! So, so good. I'm definitely going back, but I digress . . . .

This friend, without my prompting,out of the blue says, "That Growth Group thing is the best thing you you guys have done. Its not about the message (I didn't take it personally!), but about connecting with others midweek who share your values and are trying to live by faith in Jesus like you are."

Bingo. I really don't think I could have said it any better myself. That fired me up! So he's involved in this rockin' diverse Growth Group in Los Osos and their living life together. He's building relationships. He's processing the Gospel beyond Sunday morning. He's feeling connected and dialed in.

Are you? Don't you want to be? This is what Growth Groups are all about. Not a cold, dead, plastic rehash of the sermon, but people doing life together, trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus in the real world.

So we don't know what God is going to do, but we're praying for, trusting Him for 40. We think the Lord would be pleased with 40, even 50 Growth Groups at GraceSLO this Fall.

We need at least 40. We had some Growth Groups that were almost 20 people. Too big. We need to break that size down to the 6-12 range.

Childcare is a challenge for many. It was a challenge for us. Last Spring several Family-Style Growth Groups began to emerge. For these Groups, kids were not a hassle to be shipped off, but a joy to be embraced. Definitely makes the group a little crazier, but it makes it so much more fun (funner!) as well. The kids in our Growth Groups loved gathering together and they were catching the idea of families doing life together.

In others words, some Growth Groups look like this. . .

16 Adults, 18 kids, 1 babysitter (not pictured, 1 adult, 1 child)

But other Growth Groups look like this . . . .

(not sure if the sermon did this to them or what?)

So, seriously, sit down with yourself or your spouse or your family and start planning now to make involvement in a Growth Group a "big rock priority" in your life this Fall.

We need more Growth Group shepherds. If you're interested in shepherding a Growth Group, get in touch with Tim Arlen at Are you striving to walk with the Lord? Do you want to connect with others and help others connect with Jesus? Then you're qualified to be a Growth Group Shepherd. We'll give you what you need and provide support and training along the way.

For more information about Growth Groups and why their such a HUGE priority at GraceSLO, listen to these couple of messages I preached awhile back. . .

Pray for our Chech Team

5 from GraceSLO will be traveling to the Czech Republic on July 26. . . . from the left. . . Donna, Sarah, Annie, Eli and Jim. They will be partnering with a church in Litvinov and the missions organization Josiah Venture to put on an English Camp for 8 days. Here's how they describe their trip . . .

The needs are great in Czech. Still feeling the aftermath of the fall of communism, there is a tremendous need to build up churches and reach the Czech youth. Our team from Grace has a great opportunity to come alongside the local ministry of Josiah Venture ( to help build local youth ministries and develop youth leaders to reach their country. One of the effective strategies has been to have the churches and Josiah Venture Missionaries invite students from the community and schools to English camps. At the camp they experience a youth camp environment along with 3 hours of English class. Through building relationships with the Czech students, discussion groups, evening talks, sports times, hiking, and a lot of fun, many of the students are exposed to genuine, Biblical Christianity for the first time. But the outreach doesn’t stop when camp is over. After the students return to their hometown, they are invited to the church youth group events and continue the relationships built at camp with students from the church youth group. It makes for great follow-up.

The Chech Team has set up a blog so you can follow their trip at

Let's purpose to pray for them together from July 26 until their return on August 12.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Reading Recommendation: Quo Vadis

What are you reading this summer? I've got a great suggestion. Read Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz.

Written more than 100 years ago and now considered a classic, Sienkiewicz won the Nobel Prize for Literature for the work.

Quo Vadis is set in Nero's Rome and tells the story of Vinicius and his conversion to Christ through the Christ-like love of Lygia. Its a great story.

First century Christianity came alive for me in reading Quo Vadis. I was so challenged by the contrast between the indulgent, sin-soaked Roman culture and the emerging, selfless, radically sacrificial, willing-to-suffer Christian community. The Christian worldview is utterly other-worldly and compelling in comparison to the empty, pleasure-focused Roman culture.

Our culture is definitely heading in the direction of Roman culture. And what about today's Christianity? Are we living otherworldly, counter-cultural lives, sacrificial lives in midst of a wicked, worldly culture. . . . or have we become conformed to it?

How can we, as those who believe the radical world changing Gospel challenge the lies of contemporary culture? How are we called to live in opposition to the cultural trends? How are we called to serve our neighbors and community in radical sacrificial ways today?

These are the questions I'm still asking after having finished Quo Vadis a couple weeks back.

Its 600 pages, but definitely worth the read! Let me know if you pick it up.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Grace Summer Beach Night

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Who are these guys?

Perhaps you've noticed some of these few new faces on the platform at GraceSLO this summer and perhaps you happened to be away on the Sundays when they were introduced. What's going on? Who are these guys?

Glad you asked.

When Pastor Steve announced his resignation to pursue other callings last spring, our Ministry Staff and Elders began to seek the Lord and discuss together how we might fill the many areas of ministry Steve oversaw and lead. As we explored options and ideas, we were surprised and delighted to see the Lord lead us in an unexpected direction.

We decided together to split the Adult Ministries Pastor position into three new part time positions to address what we perceived as current needs of our ministry. Given the continuing economic uncertainty, we established these positions as one year positions, renewable on an annual basis depending on funding and the current needs of the ministry. This gives us great financial and ministry flexibility as we move ahead.

What was even more unexpected was to see how the Lord quickly provided qualified and gifted men to fill these positions. Here are those new positions and the men (pictured above) who fill them:

Adult Ministries Director: Tim Arlen (left in pic)

With a great heart and passion for ministry, Tim A. has been a key and right hand volunteer with Pastor Steve throughout the areas of Adult Ministry for nearly the last 5 years. He has also been the lead on our Adopt-A-People team.

Beyond Grace, Tim works as an in home/in hospital teacher for laid up students unable to make to the classroom. He also serves as a missionary/teacher/trainer with BEE World international which is focused on Biblical and theological education for pastors around the world. Tim goes on 2-3 mission trips with BEE each year. Tim and his wife Tammy have 6 children.

Tim will be focusing his energy and time in the area of Growth Groups as we continue to develop this priority "big rock" ministry, but will also be helping in the areas of Adult Bible Fellowships/Sunday Morning Seminars and Missions as we move toward the adoption of an unreached people. We're excited about Tim's next step with us.

College Ministry Director: Tim Fox (middle in pic)

We've had our eye on Tim for the last year, hoping to bring him on as a College Ministry Assistant next to Pastor Steve, but felt constrained because of some financial uncertainties. When Pastor Steve resigned, we immediately looked to Tim.

After graduating from Cal Poly, Tim spent a year oversees serving with Campus Crusade and then a year as intern staff at Cal Poly. Tim currently attends Western Seminary and previously has worshiped, with his wife Marijke, just across town at CalvarySLO.

Steve has made a commitment to help Tim transition in and take the reins of our vital College Ministry. We're excited to see how the Lord is going to use and develop Tim here at GraceSLO as he moves toward full-time pastoral ministry.

Worship Ministries Assistant: Scott Head (right in pic)

As our culture continues to change and our congregation continues to broaden across the generational spectrum, we face the continual challenge of worshiping together. At GraceSLO, we're committed to worshiping together, rather then splitting and segmenting our services, because we're committed to living the Gospel together . . . considering and serving the interests and preferences of others before our own. Its not the easy way in our consumeristic "have it your way" culture, but we continue to think its the right way for us.

We want to do what we do well, with excellence, unto the Lord. We believe Scott is uniquely gifted to help us do what we do better on the contemporary front, making sure we continue to connect with and involve younger generations.

Scott and his wife Carly have attended Grace for the last 5 years as Cal Poly students and, last year, after getting married, experienced the joy and connection of a Growth Group. Scott has a background in classical music, but for the last 5 years has been a member of the Pat Little Band and also lead worship at the Campus Crusade weekly meeting. Scott works almost full time in SLO at a local computer services company called iFixIt. We think Scott and Pastor Al make a great team as we continue to move forward and grow our Worship Ministries.

So will you welcome and encourage these guys, as you have opportunity to interact with them? Its definitely a new look for our staff, but we're excited about the possibilities. Its been a great process for our leadership. We give thanks to the Lord for His faithful provision in this season of change.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Faith Laughs

After preaching on the laughter of Sarah a couple weeks back, I stumbled upon a couple of quotes related to humor as an essential quality of leaders in Oswald Sander's Spiritual Leadership.

(I'm reading and discussing Spiritual Leadership with a group of Grace men on Thursday mornings. We're having a great time and we'd love to have you join us . . . if you're a man, that is . . .)

From Helmut Thielecke . . .

Should we not see the lines of laughter about the eyes are just as much marks of faith as are the lines of care and seriousness? Is it only earnestness that is baptized? Is laughter pagan? . . . A church is in a bad way when it banishes laughter from the sanctuary and leaves it to the cabaret, the nightclub and the toastmasters.

From A.E. Norrish, a missionary to India . . .

I have never met leadership without a sense of humor; this ability to stand outside oneself and one's circumstances, to see things in perspective and laugh. It is a great safety valve! You will never lead others far without the joy of the Lord and its concomitant, a sense of humor.

Let's laugh some more.