#Grace #Church

graceorlando

Leslie and I were in church yesterday morning for the first time in 3 weeks.  The last two Sundays we played hooky.  The first week we celebrated a birthday.  Last week, Leslie’s mom kept the kids for the whole weekend and, well, we savored every moment of our much-needed time off by doing very little.

But, because our church is such an amazing place we simply cannot stand to stay away for long.  We love it.  Every part.  We love our pastor and his wife.  We love the other pastors, staff, and their families.  We love our Life Group. We love the people—the ones we know well and the ones we don’t.  We love the music. We love the teaching. We love Grace Church. It’s home. It’s family.

One Drawer At A Time Sweet Jesus

Leslie croppedOne day, only a few short weeks ago, I had the strangest thing happen. I found myself with nothing pressing to do. The kids were at school and wouldn’t be home for hours. The house was clean enough. There was left over lasagna for dinner. The dog was bathed. My family was healthy. I was planning on a bike ride with the kids later so I didn’t need to exercise. I’d been to the grocery store and Target the day before. I’d finished my laundry before the sun rose. I had even given my hair a color tweak so the bothersome greys were history! What to do, what to do….

With the question of how to spend the day before me, it only took a few seconds to feel the weight of what I should do. The schoolroom and office closet was a mess. I should clean it out. The front door needed a coat of paint. I should paint it. The garage had several stacks of things to be sorted. I should sort them. I should work in the yard, pull weeds, and re-pot plants. I should call a friend I haven’t talked to in ages. On and on and on… I started “shoulding” on myself. I couldn’t handle the burden so I decided instead to clean out a drawer. This I could handle. One small drawer. In about an hour a drawer that began the day so full it could neither be opened nor closed became orderly and functional. The best part however, was finding long forgotten trinkets and treasures I gave to my kids when they got home. It was like Christmas! Those other things I should have done, the truly important ones, were still there the next day.

From the Grace Church email announcement:

Our friends Grace and Legalism are at it again this time asking the question if believers in Christ are still under the law. If Christ has fulfilled the law than what purpose does the law still serve? The truth sets us free to have the kind of relationship God intends for every believer.

“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” Galatians 3:24-25

These topics and so much more await you. Don’t wait – sign up today!

I hope you will join me, Emcee of the Pure Grace: Unveiled Conference, February 27 – March 1, 2014 in warm, sunny, gracious Orlando!

For more info: www.puregraceconference.com or www.facebook.com/puregraceconference

Can Another ‘Gay-Friendly’ Faith Group Help Steer the Conversation for Christians on Homosexuality?

Christian Post
January 27th, 2014

Alan is quoted in this article which is centered around a new project called Imago Dei. From the article:

The Imago Dei campaign is the latest among a handful of emerging faith-friendly initiatives attempting to defuse heated conversations among Christians on certain polarizing issues, specifically homosexuality. Although this latest evangelical-led movement holds the view that homosexuality is a sin, its supporters affirm that both “straight and gay” people bear the “image of God” — not exactly a newsflash for some Christians, but definitely a necessary acknowledgment as far as those who lead similar organizations are concerned.

NALT and The Reformation Project obviously differ in their messages from the Imago Dei campaign, but the fact that the latter affirms the humanity of all people is enough for celebration, according to Alan Chambers, founder of the now-defunct Exodus International.

The ex-gay organization was known for trumpeting reparative therapy as a “cure” for Christians with unwanted same-sex attractions. Last year, Chambers disavowed his organization’s methods, apologized to the gay community for causing any members “trauma” and dismantled the nonprofit he had been leading for 12 years — to the delight of critics, and to the dismay of some longtime supporters. He now leads an organization called Speak. Love., whose mission is to “serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about faith, gender, and sexuality; and partnering with others to establish trust, reduce fear, and inspire hope.”

Chambers, still getting familiar with the evangelical-led Imago Dei campaign, said on Friday that he finds its inclusive statement “great” and thinks it is “hitting the nail on the head.”

“That’s a wonderful thing to point out, and it’s something I’ve been trying to highlight in the last few months as well, that everyone does reflect the image of God,” Chambers told CP. “You can find the image of God everywhere you look if you just look hard enough.” Even in “monogamous, long-term faithful marriages” among people of the same sex, he added, commenting on some of his gay and lesbian friends.

“What I find in many of those relationships is that they’re bearing the image of God in the area of faithfulness, commitment and love, trust and fidelity and all of those things,” Chambers explained. “Nowhere in that do I even have to make a judgment on the morality of homosexuality or anything like that.”

Although Chambers believes the Bible shows that God’s creative intent and expression for human sexuality is “one man and one woman for one lifetime” (as he told Relevant magazine last year), he says he refuses to live forever entrenched in a debate about the issue.

“I think that’s a pit that we Christians have dug ourselves into, thinking that we constantly have to live in a split-screen debate mentality, like we’re on Fox News or CNN, constantly debating the cultural issues when we can simply say, ‘These people bear the image of God. They’re reflecting God’s image in this way,’” said Chambers.

“Let that stand alone. Whether someone is a Christian or not, they’re bearing the image of God, in my opinion, in some way, and I think to reflect on that positive is a wonderful thing and something that is desperately needed in the church today.”

Click the link highlighted above or here to read the full article.

From the Pure Grace Conference team:

We are excited that Dr. Steve McVey, President of Grace Walk Ministries, will be a featured speaker during the 2014 Pure Grace Conference. He is the author of the best-selling book, Grace Walk, as well as eleven other books. His daily radio broadcast, Grace Walk, can be heard in cities across the United States. McVey travels extensively sharing the good news of our Father’s love for all mankind. Register Today!

It was the revelation of grace, the it-is-finished work of Christ, that gave me the vision for this new ministry endeavor.  Grace is all about understanding we cannot add to what Jesus did for us and nothing we can do will change who we are in Him.  This conference isn’t about sex and sexuality–frankly, those narrow topics matter little in the grand scheme of things. Learning about God through the filter of “He is Good” does matter and it will change everything when you do.

I hope you will join me, Emcee of the Pure Grace: Unveiled Conference, February 27 – March 1, 2014 in warm, sunny, gracious Orlando!

For more info: www.puregraceconference.com or www.facebook.com/puregraceconference

Dear Friends,

I don’t know about you, but I find myself needing to gather together with people who are open to truth. The great gospel of Grace is spreading but under attack from those who can’t seem to see nor embrace these great and glorious truths. Please consider joining us at Grace Church in Orlando February 27-March 1 as we host our annual Pure Grace Conference. I am overjoyed that Dr. Steve McVey will be joining us and teaching several sessions this year. Steve is an exceptional author and teacher of the finished work of Christ. Would you prayerfully consider joining us for this fabulous few days of intense study and life changing fellowship? Grace and Peace to you in The Lord Jesus Christ!

Clark Whitten

Join me at the Pure Grace conference! Click here to learn more and register.

Forever. For Always and No Matter What.

Leslie croppedOn the morning of January 3rd, 1998 I repeated the prayer that had been mine for nine months for the very last time. I woke up early and began getting ready for what I knew would be a full day. I needed to be dressed and at the church by 7:30a.m. for pictures. It was my wedding day. I was 31 years old and knew that the fulfillment of this day’s plan would change my life on this earth.

Long before I started dating Alan, I made a mental list of what I wanted in a spouse. My list was short. It didn’t include the things I was attracted to but rather those qualities I thought important in the man I’d share my life with. As a believer in God I knew I would be attracted to another believer. As a person who loves to laugh, I knew I would be attracted to someone who was at least fun if not funny. As someone who is average looking, I didn’t expect to get anyone who was more than average looking. There were only two things I wanted from my husband.

  1. I wanted him to like me first.
  2. I wanted him to be someone who could tell me “no.”

In other words, I wanted him to be interested in and pursue me first. I wanted him to see me, to know me, to want me, and to love me. I didn’t want to be responsible for pursuing him or catching him. I didn’t want to change his mind. I wanted us to be his idea! As a person who has some strength of opinion, I also wanted someone I could follow. I wanted someone I could trust to not only lead me to where I wanted to go, but more importantly to places I didn’t want to go.

Alan is the only person to ever meet those two qualifications. Subsequently on our first date, when he leaned over the table and looked me straight in the eye and asked, “So when are we getting married?” without reservation or hesitation I answered, “January 3rd is a Saturday.” That was March 10th, 1997, the day I began my 9-month prayer. With as much honesty as I could muster, I acknowledged that I loved Alan and thought that marrying him was the purpose God was leading me towards. I admitted I could be wrong and asked God to please interfere if He knew better. On our wedding day, as I put on my make-up I asked God to stop the whole thing if I had missed the mark. I thought it would have to be a sizeable obstruction at that point, like some horrible car accident, but I was willing. Because the day proceeded with only minor hiccups (like our hired Roles Royce not showing up to take us from the church to the reception and a lit candle flying out of a candelabra), I married Alan and have never doubted whether it was the right thing to do. I trusted God and my relationship with God.

After a year of wedded bliss, I had another lesson to learn. Alan and I got into a bit of a squabble. Nothing earth shattering. It was simply about money. So typical. After a short exchange of unpleasant words, Alan left to run errands and I was left vacuuming. In my heart I heard a gentle whisper that could have only been God. “Do you trust ME?” I answered, “Yes.” He asked a second time and I responded the same. He asked a third time. I turned off the vacuum and sat down and said, “Of course I trust You.” “Then trust the ME that is in Alan.”

It was a new level of trust. I trusted Alan and wouldn’t have married him if I hadn’t. The reality is though that humans make mistakes and disappoint people. I needed to trust the God in Alan and their relationship even more than I trusted Alan himself. In that moment I learned to rest. It isn’t my job to be his accountability or his teacher or his savior in any way, neither are those jobs his to perform for me. I run the same risk of being wrong as he does. Only in God’s hands are we secure enough to be trustworthy. Only in His hands can we rest securely, peacefully, and thoroughly.

In the New Testament of the Bible, we are shown a picture of Jesus as our bridegroom. Those who believe in Him are called His bride. I am so thankful that He liked me first. He saw me, knew me, wanted me, loved me, and made a way for me to be in relationship with Him and His Good Father. I did nothing to make Him love me. He pursued me. He keeps me. I am so thankful that He is my guide and counselor and friend. He leads me to where He wants me to go whether it is beside still waters or through the valley of the shadow of death. I can and do follow Him.

One last thought, as a bride of Christ, we get so much more than we think or imagine we deserve. It’s like me ending up spending my life with someone who is incredibly handsome (especially with the beard, rrr!), exhaustingly funny, and who not only believes but also lives his faith.

Forever. For Always and No Matter What.

‘Twas The Night Before, The Night Before Christmas

Crahing Christmas Tree 2013

‘Twas the night before, the night before Christmas

When all through the house, not a creature was stirring

I’m not sure what we’d do if we found a mouse,

The stockings were hung on the dresser with care

Because in Florida, there aren’t many chimneys anywhere.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of Super Mario Bros. and My Little Pony danced in their heads.

I don’t have a kerchief and Alan doesn’t wear a cap,

But we had settled down for a long winters nap.

When out in the living room there arose such a clatter,

We sprang from our bed to see what was the matter.

We ran to the room and were there in a flash,

The poor dog was petrified from the sound of a crash.

There was no moon, only rain clouds in the sky.

Hopefully with this cold front, we can kiss the 80’s good-bye. (That’s 27 for our world

wide friends.)

When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,

Our sad fallen Christmas tree, OH DEAR!!!

My Dad’s Sweet, Strong Heart

Leslie croppedI was recently asked, “Where do you get your understanding of God?” Because I desire everything in my life: my worldview, my relationships, my actions and reactions, even what I think about myself to be based on who I understand God to be, this is an important question. While both my own study of the Bible and sound teaching from others have shaped my awareness of God, my immediate answer was, “from my father.” I am by nature a picture person and things come to life when I see them. My dad was a picture of a good father. I see God as a Good Father and everything I read and hear about Him verifies that picture.

Before and especially since my dad passed away on August 2, 2013 my thoughts have lingered on this question and my answer. My earthly father gave me the gift of understanding what it’s like to be in relationship with my Heavenly Father. Because of who my dad was and how he treated me, I rest in the unconditional and gracious love of God. I know that’s not the case for everyone. There are some fathers who have abused and/or abandoned their children causing them to feel ashamed, unworthy, and insecure. For you dear ones, I am sorry and I long to help. Hopefully, sharing a bit about my dad will help paint a better picture of a good father and more importantly the Good Father.

Introducing Speak. Love.

Cross-posted from the Speak. Love. website

speaklove

The world is fraught with bad news. It has been since the beginning and will be until the end. Ironically, after however many thousands or millions of years (depending on your theology, or lack thereof) humans are still surprised wars continue to happen, that people die, and senselessly bad things happen to really good people. We don’t expect this reality. Maybe because God didn’t create the world or its inhabitants to experience the decay that has been unstoppable since Adam and Eve fell in the garden. Our expectations match what was to be our original perfect reality and not what became our actual reality post fall.

Andy Crouch, prolific author, speaker, and Executive Editor of Christianity Today, says it like this,

“We live in a bad news to bad news reality in the church. We start in Genesis 3 (the fall) and end with Revelations 20 (the lake of fire).”

Andy’s point is that even the Church, the entity Pastor Bill Hybels calls the hope of the world, has succumbed to this grim, joyless, and visionless existence. As Believers we live like the rest of humanity, in shame and defeat, with a poor image of God the Father, Redeemer, Creator, Author, and Finisher. And, we become a poor reflection of Him.