It was a privilege to be asked by our Community of Elders to share with our entire Los Altos Grace family about my trip to Chad. I hope that you were challenged, informed and encouraged by my sharing on Sunday.
Synthesizing two weeks into a few sentences isn’t easy, but here are a few of the things I brought home:
Our Brethren in Chad spur us on!
In spite of poverty, our Brethren brothers and sisters have figured out how to survive, how to spread the Gospel, how to use medicine for the Gospel, how to start churches and more. They have as many churches as we do in the USA!
Mission isn’t about civilization
The economic contrast glared out on my flights between Paris and Chad. Yet we need workers in Paris to make disciples, train leaders and start churches in the same way we need them in the capital city of Chad (N’Djamena). If we can use tools of medicine and education for the Gospel, that is awesome. Living and sharing the Gospel is vital no matter what the “civilization” level of the culture is.
You are Needed!
No matter who you are, as a follower of Jesus, you are needed to continue to sow the Gospel and make disciples. YOU are needed across the street and across cultures as Jesus builds His Church!
This Sunday @LosAltosGrace, our beloved Ray & Char Hauser joined us. Ray has battled brain cancer while serving with his wife Char in a hospitality & discipleship ministry with military men and women stationed in Hawaii.
Ray shared an emotional and powerful message about the spiritual wisdom they have gained through this trial. His text for the day was Psalm 73 which tracks the “whining” and “reality” of the writer all the way to the “right” conclusion:
But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalm 73:28 NIV)
Ray candidly challenged us not to run to the typical “Why Me?” question that is the normal response. From his experience, he encouraged us to ask a different question “What Now?”
In a poignant moment, Ray confessed that they pray with both hands lifted high to the Lord. The one hand is lifted up to God full of their prayer requests. And the other hand is lifted to receive whatever the Lord decides to give them.
May I be a man that seeks our Lord like my brother Ray.
Ray’s message is worth hearing again, not because it’s so polished, but because it’s from the lips of a man who has walked the hard road with our Lord and is sharing his advice: Listen to this message online or on iTunes
I had the privilege of teaching on Sunday @LosAltosGrace about Resolving Conflict. That very phrase, “resolving conflict,” often makes us squirm. The challenge from Sunday was to see it as “normal” and part of life which we as believer’s in Jesus are perfectly equipped to resolve. Below is a brief outline of what we covered together:
The two key points for when we have been offended:
1) Overlook It.
“A person’s wisdom yields patience;it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
Sometimes when we are hurt, we can just care for it in our own heart and mind. This isn’t advocating denial, but rather emphasizing FORGIVENESS and grace.
We reminded ourselves that forgiveness means:
I will Not to Dwell on it
I will Not to Bring it Up
I will Not to Use it Against Someone
I will Not allow it to Hinder the Relationship
Bitterness is a choice, just like forgiveness. And bitterness results from the opposite choices!
When the relationship has been significantly damaged, then reconciliation is needed. So what do I do to reconcile? We gave 4 Biblical principles:
Glorify God – Seek first to bring Him glory, not defend yourself or prove that you are right.
I like to describe our church @LosAltosGrace as having a “conventional church skin” and an “organic church soul.” Yes we have a Sunday Morning Worship Service, Sunday School, Youth Groups, and even a Christian School. To the casual observer, we have a very conventional church. But the Biblical principles which are foundational for how our church truly functions are much more organic than conventional. This kind of “animal” can be difficult for some to understand.
One of the things that we have been moving into for the past ten years is seeing the “groupings” of our church family as “mini-churches” or actual “organic expressions of the church.” Those groupings are adult Sunday School classes, young adult ministry, and even our choir! A couple of my friends, Phil Helfer (one of our pastors) along with organic church leader Neil Cole co-authored an excellent book called Church Transfusion which deals with this very topic.
Well, last weekend our church had a family meeting…just like all families do. We talked about what has gone on in the life and ministry of our church in the recent past. We also talked about money and about how God has provided and what it seems He is leading us to do. One of the things that members of our family have started doing is saving towards buying new carpet for the auditorium. We actually took this as an indication that we could invite others to save for that too, and when it’s fully funded, we can do the work. (There are a few other things that we itemized to help upgrade our facility, primarily in the auditorium)
In honest questioning, a very faithful and active member of our spiritual family asked, “If the new normal for our church is “organic” and with churches in homes, why are we renovating the auditorium? You can’t have it both ways!”
Wow, what a great question! A very important question! A question I wrestled with and prayed about for much of the week. I finally was able to string together my thoughts and sent the following response:
I’ve thought and prayed about how to respond to your email. I didn’t want to do so with haste, and I hope that my delay hasn’t offended you.
In short, I do think you can have it both ways. Our facility is merely a facility, but it gets A LOT of use. It houses a preschool and an elementary school whose ministry is important and needs these upgrades as well. Our auditorium is used by our church family at least 52 times each year on Sunday mornings. That is a value for us as a family. It’s a touchpoint for our family — a time touch base each week and do some important things together: worship together with other saints, expose ourselves to the Scripture, connect with others in our family relationally and provide an entry point for others who are looking to find God or a spiritual family. Some people can make it each week, some can’t. It is a gathering time that is an important value. It isn’t the sum total of who we are as a spiritual family though. Our Los Altos Grace family is scattered throughout Southern California. Each of them would know that right now the time when they can connect with the largest percentage of our family would be a Sunday morning.
Families have this same phenomenon. Mealtime for example. Supper maybe served at 5:30 or 6pm each night. Everyone in our family knows that, but sometimes Mindi can’t make it because she has class, or one of the kids have a ball game. We have a rhythm and a habit as a family. We set the table, pray, eat, talk about our days, laugh and we clean up after. When someone isn’t at the table we miss them. We don’t doubt their part in our family nor do we think they are being rebellious. We trust that as they can, they will be at the table with us. We like the gathering of our family. It’s a habit, a rhythm, but it doesn’t define our family. Our kids are part of our family when gathered, or when scattered!
I’d suggest that the church is the same…scattered and gathered. Not one or the other. There are thousands and thousands, make that millions of people in Southern California who will never come to our Sunday gathering. Our charge is to go and make disciples…so we are seeking to do that. To “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” and not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together (Hebrews 10). We want to be all things to all men so that by all possible means God might save some. We don’t do this perfectly, or maybe even that well. But it is our calling as disciples, and as a church. Some of our gatherings will be in homes, or parks or schools. We will probably always have a Sunday morning gathering at our humble facility at 6565 Stearns Street.
Also we hope that our spiritual family will become scattered and decentralized, much in the same way as our kids grow up and move away. They start families of their own. This is true of you as your children are scattered from your dinner table now. It is a maturity thing, and we want to see God continue to scatter our spiritual family as well.
I value your investment and leadership in our church family. I’ve learned much from you as you faithfully love our Lord and do His work… Thanks for your desire to call our spiritual family to a heart-felt and obedient worship of our amazing Jesus. I hope that is helpful for you and I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee and talk about this more if you want to.
On this day when we have a memorial for our beloved Erin Vidovich, I remember back to the end of August when she and Pete Anderson did an interview with me for our Los Altos Grace Church family on Sunday morning. It was a powerful time of reality and truth.
Below is the write up from that time….and what a beautiful way Erin worships our Jesus now: So that it how I worship Him, by submitting my life to Him in a real way.
WORSHIP IN THE CRUCIBLE OF LIFE
Our theme of worship took on a new facet this week. We did an interview with two of our own beloved saints: Pete Anderson and Erin Vidovich.
In this interview format, our own Pete Anderson who lost a spouse to divorce and another to death (and is now happily married to Cheryl) and speaks about the difficulty of worship even through great loss.
Erin Vidovich is currently battling through cancer for the second time. She articulated succinctly about what it means for her to worship in this “crucible of life.”
For me worshiping has been as it is written in Romans 12:1, where we “offer up our body as a living and holy sacrifice to God.” It has meant surrendering, submitting, trusting God completely with my life–in a very real way.
Other problems that I’ve been through in my life, with jobs, or kids or other things, God would always say to me, “Let it go. Love me more than these. And trust Me to handle that.”
And then when it came to my cancer, He said to me, “You have to love me more than your own life.” And I truly understood what that meant.
Everything I thought my life was to be about: getting old, sitting on the porch swing with my spouse or traveling the world or playing with my grand kids. Whatever it was, those were my plans, and I had to let go of those. Maybe that’s not what God’s plan was for me.
So that it how I worship Him, by submitting my life to Him in a real way.
One of the questions was to share some of the Scriptures which were most meaningful as they walked through their crucible experiences. To spur you on to love and good deeds, we thought we would list the ones they shared: Erin: A lot of the Psalms, but particularly Psalm 57:1 and her favorite Psalm 34.
“It has been a crazy, crazy week in Jerusalem,” the man explained to his other two companions. “Just a week ago there was an impromptu parade. It was an amazing moment. Many of us were gathered along the road and were buzzing with excitement. Riding up into the city on a donkey was a man who certainly was a prophet.”
“Over the last several years, his reputation had grown and grown. The stuff he taught was truly inspiring and not like our boring rabbi’s teaching. He hung out with anyone…even those who drank too much and who slept around. Cleo and I always enjoyed being with him at the table as he would smile, laugh and ask such thoughtful questions. He was always genuine whether he was talking just to you or to the large crowds that had begun to follow him around from place to place. He could bring to light the truth of the Scriptures in ways that even baffled the temple leaders.”
“On top of all that, Jesus of Nazareth did so many extraordinary things. He helped some of our fisherman friends get their largest catch ever. He took a young boy’s sack lunch and multiplied it to feed thousands of people. He helped a paralyzed man walk again, and a blind man to see and even relieved several people from evil spirits. Through his amazing healing power, a 12 year-old girl was saved from dying. Just a few weeks ago, we heard from Mary and Martha that their brother and one of Jesus’ own friends was brought back to life after having died from sickness. Wow…what a guy!”
“Even though Jesus did so many amazing things and was such an amazing man of God, he and his influence threatened our religious leaders. Our leaders handed him over to the Roman government for treason, as one who claimed to be a king. Jesus was sentenced to death and executed immediately after being sentenced. It all happened so quickly. It all started on Thursday late in the evening and Jesus was dead on Friday. It was a brutal death, by crucifixion, unfair and uncivil in so many ways.”
“Both Cleo and I had hoped that Jesus was the One—the Messiah—that has been promised for years and years to our Jewish ancestors. So much of what he did matches what the Messiah would be like. We were hoping that Jesus would be the One, but that hope was dashed by his death on Friday.”
“Our hope has continued to evaporate over these three days. There is something strange going on though. A few of our friends went to the grave early this morning but didn’t find his body. These women then came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the grave as well and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
“Sir, I’m sorry to overwhelm you with all of this, but Cleo and I have been really depressed as we have been processing all of this as we are walking back to our village. You did ask us, ‘What things were going on?’ as you joined our conversation on the road.”
The man who had just recently joined them on their walk toward the village, challenged them boldly:
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
“Remember back to what the prophet Micah said ‘But you, city of Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.’ Wasn’t this Jesus of Nazareth actually born in the modest town of Bethlehem?”
“Didn’t Yahweh, our God actually tell our forefather Moses these words, ‘I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’ Moses received God’s forecast of the Messiah being like Moses and being a common man—a countryman if you will, but with all of the word of God.”
“And the prophet Isaiah spoke many things about the Messiah parallel the life of Jesus.
Isaiah wrote that the Messiah: ‘He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.’ Does this sound like what happened to Jesus?
Isaiah went on:
‘Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God,
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.’
“This sounds like the Messiah would suffer! Isaiah goes on by saying, ‘We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’
“Don’t you see that the Messiah would deliver you and he had to suffer to actually fulfill what the prophets said?!”
Cleo and his friend were listening intently to all that this very learned man was saying. It was like he had inside information on how all of this stuff for the Messiah fit together. He had to be some sort of a rabbi or teacher they assumed.
This conversation carried on as they walked together. Soon they were approaching their village and it was getting to be late in the afternoon. Cleo and his friend invited the man to have dinner with them. It seemed like the teacher was heading further passed the village, but Cleo convinced him to join us finally by joking with him that “You gotta eat somewhere before you can keep going farther.”
The three strolled into the village of Emmaus and then up to Cleo’s house. Relieved from walking in the heat, they washed up from their journey and sat down to recoup their energy at dinner.
At the table, Cleo said to the teacher, “Would you bless this meal in prayer for us?” and the teacher graciously did. After they prayed the teacher picked up the basket of bread and started to pass it around the table. Cleo and his friend were looking intently at the teacher and all of a sudden they recognized the teacher actually looked JUST LIKE Jesus. They turned and looked at each other with excitement and said, “That’s Jesus!” Looking back toward where the teacher was seated, they saw him no longer there.
They jumped up from the table and scurried around to find him. They checked the house and then ran out to the street yelling his name trying to call him back to the table. Jesus was no where to be found! He had vanished!
“Cleo, that was Jesus! As we were walking side-by-side down the road, I guess I never looked at him very closely. I don’t know how I didn’t recognize him, but that was Him! Who else could explain the Scriptures like that! We’ve got to get back to the rest of the disciples in Jerusalem and tell them that we’ve seen Jesus too!”
Cleo joked back, “Well, we were at the table, and we gotta eat before we can go again!”
They quickly shoved some sustenance in their mouths and headed quickly back to Jerusalem to tell the others they had seen Jesus.
[The rest of the story continues in Luke 24:33 and following]
For several months, Phil Helfer, myself and several others have been dialoguing on the possibility of using English Learning/ESL as a cross-cultural ministry opportunity for Los Altos Grace Brethren Church and more broadly for Long Beach as well. We had an exploratory meeting on March 25 with some folks from Los Altos Grace, Seal Beach Grace, Cecil O’Dell and Kathy from CSULB!
I’ve placed some resources from our time together here:
Joshua has stepped into being “strong and courageous” as he was exhorted by the Lord and his people. He is full of courage as the Lord parted the Jordan River and his people walked across a dry riverbed striking terror into the hearts of their enemies in the Promised Land.
The Lord asks Joshua to lead the people of Israel in marking themselves out separate unto God through the ancient practice of circumcision. This was a painful process for the warriors, but an important step in showing their obedience to the LORD.
After a time of healing, Joshua is on a reconnaissance walk making plans for the impending battle with Jericho.
“Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and
Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”
He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.”
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”
The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.”
— Joshua 5:13-15 NASB
Most believe that this “captain” was Jesus appearing to Joshua. Well actually the Son of God, because He didn’t become Jesus until He was born as a baby years later!
You can imagine that Joshua was VERY confident about leading the battle against Jericho. God had them shaking in fear, and its likely Joshua was puffing up with pride. In this exchange, Joshua is humbled and brought back to a proper position of servitude and reliance upon the LORD.
When Jesus shows up in our lives, He often has the same message– don’t rely on yourself, rely on me! Jesus is certainly worth our full faith and trust! The Captain of the Heavens is on our team!
After our investigation of Rahab’s faith in the one she called “the Lord of all the earth,” we see that God at work in Joshua chapters 3-4.
For years prior to this moment, the Israelites had been carrying in their midst the “Ark of the Covenant.” This “Ark” was essentially a box, which represented God’s presence and carried some special items from their spiritual history. God and the Ark was present with them in the desert as they wandered for those 40 years.
Now as Joshua and the nation of Israel are poised to go into the Promised Land, they will follow God into it. (Incidentally, whether in the Old Testament or New Testament, we are always instructed that our lives are about following God.)
See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. (Joshua 3:11 NIV)
The ark is on the shoulders of a delegation of spiritual leaders and when they step into the river the amazing happens: 20 miles up river, the water stands up, and the riverbed empties as the water rushes by to the Dead Sea. Then the people of Israel walk over this wide swath of dry ground where moments ago a river ran 10 feet deep!
God was first in, and He went into the place of the most danger. As pictured by the Ark, He’s first, He’s in the middle, and He’s the last out. He leads and has us covered…always!
As the Ark remained in the middle after all the people had crossed, Joshua was instructed to have a representative from each tribe grab a stone from the riverbed to make a memorial. These 12 stones were piled together to make sure that the people remembered what God had done. As people, we need to have reminders and often we really need to remember a “place” where God broke into our lives.
What are the stories in your life where God invaded your life?
How have you set up a memorial so you can remember His work? Tell the stories of God’s work — again and again and again!
“When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord YOUR God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:21-24 emphasis mine)
Joshua was perched on the edge of entering the promised land and he sent 2 spies ahead into Jericho. They actually end up in a brothel, at Rahab the prostitute’s house.
Somebody ratted out the spies and the King of Jericho sends his sends some troops to capture these spies. Rahab helped misdirect the troops and the spies escape back to Israel.
Rahab knows about the reputation of Israel and the NAME of YAHWEH. She trusts in the powerful God of Israel–the God of Heaven and Earth–and in His name asks the spies to spare her life. She trusted in the God of these men and therefore trusted them (See it for yourself in Joshua 2:8+).
When the spies return and give the news that the people of Jericho are shaking in their boot, the Israelites are filled with courageous and confidence. Not how they were 40 years earlier!!
We know the story of the conquering of Jericho, but we focused on the reality that Rahab and her family are the first Gentiles brought into the nation of Israel! The Scriptures remember her faith fondly.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
Also in the book of James, amongst a discussion about real faith, it states:
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? James 2:25
Real faith is evidenced by real actions!! Rahab, an outsider, believed in our God…and she put feet to her faith!.
Beyond that, our great and welcoming God moved this woman from the fringe into a quite prestigious place in the nation of Israel. She became the great, great, great grandmother of King David and part of the line of the Messiah!
Just thinking about the actual activities of this weekend, I’m really proud to be part of this church family. Here’s 3 things that prompt this short post puffed with pride:
AngelTree: a great initiative to gift presents to children whose parent is in prison. We get to participate in the name of Jesus and in the name of their parent! This year we blessed more than a dozen children!
College / Young Adult class: Our Sunday morning meeting in the upper room was lead by Matt Vidovich. He challenged us to put feet to our faith. He brought a gift card and “put it on the altar” for us to take and deliver to someone who we could bless by it. We got up and left the classroom to hit the streets. We drove and prayed and asked God to show us someone to bless. With in minutes Jesus led us to a gas station and drew our attention to a man with significant challenges– in a wheelchair and very unkempt. We jumped out of the car and introduced ourselves and gave him the gift card and prayed for Bruce.
Choir – His Love is Reaching: the title of our choir’s performance for this Christmas season is “His Love is Reaching.” That is a perfect description of these prior 2 points!
One of the key elements for community transformation that has been missing in the Central African Republic is maintenance of the water wells. ICDI has been doing continual maintenance on many of their wells. They have several teams who are constantly on the road caring for this important work.
After ICDI drills or rehabilitates a well, ICDI works with the community to plan and manage each water project. Instead of short-term handouts, ICDI is creating a long-term maintenance program based on trust and a contract with the village.
Theologians often describe God as one essence and three persons. Can you explain that?
Is this “trinity concept” a logical contradiction and therefore is not believable?
This is from the Los Altos Grace Brethren Church in Statement of Faith: We believe: THE ONE TRUE GOD: existing eternally as three persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:22; Matthew 29:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
Do you agree? Why or why not?
Who do you pray to: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit?
Divine Truth: What are some old beliefs that I need to lay aside and new beliefs I need to adopt:
What are some old behaviors I need to lay aside and new behaviors I need to adopt: Nurturing Relationships: How does this truth affect relationships… …with my spouse (if appropriate): …with my child/parent: …with my employer/employee: …with my friends: …with my brother/sister: …with those in authority:
Apostolic Mission: How does this truth help me in overcoming the enemy’s schemes?
How does this truth help me in pursuing the mission I have in God’s kingdom?
What’s One Thing I will Do this Week because of What I’ve Learned?
• Who are the three persons of the Godhead and how do they relate to one another?
• What are the roles or tasks of the three persons of the Godhead—how are they different in what each does?
• What are key passages to talk about the unity/oneness of God? What are key passages to explain the three persons of the Godhead?
• Is there a helpful diagram or illustration to explain the triune Godhead?
• If you studied only the Old Testament, could you come to know that God is triune? What about from General Revelation alone (meaning no Scriptures)?
Divine Truth: What are some old beliefs that I need to lay aside and new beliefs I need to adopt:
What are some old behaviors I need to lay aside and new behaviors I need to adopt:
Nurturing Relationships: How does this truth affect relationships… …with my spouse (if appropriate): …with my child/parent: …with my employer/employee: …with my friends: …with my brother/sister: …with those in authority:
Apostolic Mission: How does this truth help me in overcoming the enemy’s schemes?
How does this truth help me in pursuing the mission I have in God’s kingdom?
— One Thing I Will Do This Week:
Take Home: 1) God is one 2) The Godhead has three persons 3) The differences between the three