Religious Liberty

If you are like me you have not thought near enough about religious liberty.   Well, you and I better start! Because we are living in days when these freedoms which we've largely taken for granted are being increasingly challenged and undermined.  

I confess I've not always been a huge Rick Warren fan, but I was pretty challenged by his recent comments regarding religious liberty which I heard on last week's edition of "The World and Everything in It".  His comments were excerpted from a 90 minute interview at Georgetown University. 

Please take a few minutes and at least listen to the shorter version.    

Here's a link to the shorter audio, which I couldn't figure out how to embed. . . 

March 2 World and Everything in It:  Rick Warren on Religious Liberty 


And here's the longer video . . . 




60 years of faithful service

If you missed Sunday's 2013 Missions Dinner, you missed out.  Among other things, we honored Ruth Salvador for 60 years of faithful service as a GraceSLO missionary.  Ruth shared some reflections that moved all who were present.  I was touched by Ruth's obvious commitment to the Scriptures and her clear clinging to the promises of God throughout her life and now in her present season.  She was candid about her struggles and the challenge of aging. 

To put this in perspective, Ruth Salvador has been serving as a GraceSLO missionary 16 years longer than I've been alive!  That's totally humbling and inspiring. 

Eric Flores, Lorraine Maksoudian, Jill Talley and others did an OUTSTANDING job creating this amazing vid celebrating Ruth's long service.  She was totally surprised. . . and so was I!  It captures some of the rich history and legacy of GraceSLO. . .



We also honored Ruth with a gift with which she can purchase a new computer to continue her ministry.  A dear, Godly woman who demonstrates faithfulness to the end.  She's not retiring, but finding new creative ways to serve the Lord and His people.  I'm so grateful for Ruth's example in this flighty, non-committal world.

a mother's note to her son about his new iphone

We talk A LOT in our family about managing/limiting/checking the encroach of technology in our lives.  I'm passionate about this for my family and for the other families in our church.  We know not what is happening to us as personal technologies take on bigger, more dominate, and more influential roles in our lives.  I love technology, but I want to use it, not be used by it.  The line is very fuzzy some time.   We work hard to stick to our "5:00PM - 8:00PM tech free zone" in our home.  It's not easy. 

Are you thinking through these issues in your family?  
What limits have you set for yourself and your kids? 

My friend Josef sent me this letter from a mom to her son as she gave him his new iPhone for Christmas. (Originally posted HERE) Most of these same guidelines apply to our children as they begin to use their own mobile phones, but I love the idea of a written contract.  If Apple itself has a "Terms of Use" agreement that we all users must agree to, why can't parents have one, too?  

Josef suggested maybe guidelines should come in the iPhone box itself. . . 

Dear Gregory,

Merry Christmas!  You are now the proud owner of an iPhone.  

You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift.  But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations.  Please read through the following contract.  I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and co-exist with technology, not be ruled by it. 

Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

1. It is my phone.  I bought it.  I pay for it.  I am loaning it to you.  Aren’t I the greatest?

2.  I will always know the password.

3.   If it rings, answer it.  It is a phone.  Say hello, use your manners.  Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”.  Not ever.

4.  Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm.  It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am.  If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text.  Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.

5.  It does not go to school with you.  Have a conversation with the people you text in person.  It’s a life skill.  *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

6.  If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs.  Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money.  It will happen, you should be prepared.

7.  Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being.  Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others.  Be a good friend first or stay out of the crossfire.

8.  Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

9.  Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room.  Censor yourself.

10.  No porn.  Search the web for information you would openly share with me.  If you have a question about anything, ask a person – preferably me or your father.

11.  Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public.  Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being.  You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

12.  Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts.  Don’t laugh.  Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence.  It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life.  It is always a bad idea.  Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you.  And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.

13.  Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos.  There is no need to document everything.  Live your experiences.  They will be stored in your memory for eternity.

14.  Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision.  It is not alive or an extension of you.  Learn to live without it.  Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.

15.  Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff.  Your generation has access to music like never before in history.  Take advantage of that gift.  Expand your horizons.

16.  Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

17.  Keep your eyes up.  See the world happening around you.  Stare out a window.  Listen to the birds.  Take a walk.  Talk to a stranger.  Wonder without Googling.

18.  You will mess up.  I will take away your phone.  We will sit down and talk about it.  We will start over again.  You & I, we are always learning.  I am on your team.  We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms.  Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life.  You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world.  It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get.  Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine.  I love you.  I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone.  Merry Christmas!



I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions and personal questions.  If you're not sitting down with your kids and talking about this stuff, why aren't you?  It's not too late to "reel it in" and reclaim some of the ground you may have given away to early or too easily.  Be a parent.  Your kids will thank you for it later.  

And as you practice engaged Biblical parenting, make connecting with your kids your #1 priority.  Connection before correction.  Relationship before rules.  Bonding before boundaries.  Love before limits.   Rules, boundaries and limits are absolutely necessary, but relationship, bonding and love must come first.  


C.S. Lewis on using your brain

This winter, I've had the immense joy of leading some men through C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.  It's been a while since I've feasted on this rich classic.   I was surprised at how many men hadn't ever read it.  Have you read it?  If not, get to it!  

Last week, we discussed the chapter on  Cardinal Virtues (part 3, chapter 3) and, as usual, it was packed with gems.  I really loved this one on "prudence" which happens to explain my commitment to gathering men for prayer and good reads on Thursdays at 6:00 AM.  (The study is open to all men.  You are welcome.) 


Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. Nowadays most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the "virtues." In fact,  because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the  idea that, provided you are "good," it does not matter being a fool. But that is a misunderstanding. In  the first place, most children show plenty of "prudence" about doing the things they are really  interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. 
In the second place, as St. Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary, He told us to be not only "as harmless as doves," but also "as wise as serpents." He wants a child's heart, but a grown-up's head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim. The fact that you are giving money to a charity does not mean that you need not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not. The fact that what you are thinking about is God Himself (for example, when you are praying) does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you had when you were a five-year-old. 
It is, of course, quite true that God will not love you any the less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a very second-rate brain. He has room for people with very little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have. The proper motto is not "Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever," but "Be good, sweet maid, and don't forget that this involves being as clever as you can." God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself. That is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book that has astonished the whole world.

"Christianity is an education itself!"  I wholeheartedly agree.  I long for our church to be at a place where tough questions are asked, discussed and answered.  I want the young people and newcomers of our church to know that Christianity can handle their questions and provides the best, though sometime incomplete, answers to the questions we all ask.  
Let's not be content with "babyish ideas we had when we were five year olds."   He wants "a child's heart, but a grown up's head." 

getting our heads around Genesis

In last week's message (LISTEN HERE) and the week before (LISTEN HERE), we referenced this chart that summarizes our long study of Genesis. . . . 

The life of Joseph is a story within the larger Jacob story within the larger Genesis story within the larger Biblical story within thre larger story of history.  

The Bible is not a book of rules and not a book of virtures.  The Bible is one story:  God's story of Gospel Promise.  Genesis is the beginning of that story.  The story climaxes in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the story looks forward to the coming again of Jesus to renew and reconcilie all creation.  Our stories are a part of God's larger story.  

This is how we must learn to read the Bible.   It takes time and work.   


reflections on Lance


I haven't made the time to watch Oprah's interview with Lance Armstrong.  I've heard a few snippets, but not enough to draw too many conclusions.  Is this true repentance and brokenness or just another public relations ploy?  Hard to say. Time will tell.   I just know the guy was in deep and his sins have found him out . . . as they almost always do. Consequences will be ongoing, far reaching, and long lasting.  

Ed Stetzer reflects on 4 things Christians can learn from the Lance Armstrong Debacle.  I thought these were a couple thought-provoking quotes . . . 

"Sin will take you further than you want to go, 
keep you longer than you want to stay
and cost you more than you want to pay."

Even a cursory reading of the news reveals it's true.  We overinflate the benefits and underestimate the costs of sin . . . every time.  

What we cover, God will uncover.
What we uncover, God will cover.  


The first refers to God's judgment where all our lives will be exposed, but the reality is, most of the time, what we cover is uncovered by God before judgment.  Just ask Lance.  Thank God for for His glorious Gospel in Christ that makes the covering of our sin possible. 

Repentance and brokenness is the only true prescription for forgiveness, grace and freedom.   If you've got some deep, dark secret, come to the light and come to Christ.   

FAQs about the Sanctity of Human Life

Awesome Sanctity of Life Sunday yesterday together! LISTEN HERE  In my introduction to the morning, I walked through this material, which was also included in the outline.  In case you missed the service, I wanted you to see and think about this issue, too.   


What is the "Sanctity of Human Life?"  

The "Sanctity of Human Life" is the Biblical teaching that all human life is sacred, precious, valuable and worthy of our protection and care. 

Why is the Sanctity of Human Life affirmed and taught here at GraceSLO? 

  1. First, because the Bible teaches the Sanctity of Human Life.  
  2. Second, because we believe the Sanctity of Human Life is a foundational and profoundly practical issue that informs how we view, treat and care for our own lives and the lives of everyone around us.  
  3. Third, we believe this is an "issue of our time" as the dignity of human life is being undermined and attacked in more and more ways.   
  4. Fourth, we're committed to equipping God's people to think and live Biblically.  In the church, Biblical principles cannot be assumed, they must be passionately and clearly taught.  

What is the Biblical basis for the Sanctity of Human Life?  

The Sanctity of Human Life is rooted in these twin Biblical truths . . . 

  • God alone is the author, creator and Lord of life.
    (Genesis 1, Ex. 4:11, Ps. 100:3,  Acts 17:24-25)
  • Humankind alone, among all creation, is made in the image of God.  
    (Genesis 1:26, Gen. 9:6, Ps. 139:13-16) 

Who does the issue of the Sanctity of Human Life impact?   

The Sanctity of Human Life affects all of us at every stage of our lives, but more specifically the truth that life is sacred impacts how we view and treat those who often cannot speak for themselves or care for themselves . . .

  • the unborn
  • orphans
  • the exploited and impoverished
  • those with special needs
  • the elderly

What practical issues does the Sanctity of Human Life inform? 

The Sanctity of Human Life informs how we think about and respond to a growing list of complex issues including, but not limited to . . .

  • abortion
  • abortificient birth control
  • genetic screening
  • pre-natal gene therapy
  • embryonic stem cell research
  • human trafficking and slavery,
  • genocide
  • suicide
  • euthanasia

I also shared the following statistics which all illustrate the undermining of the Sanctity of Human Life in our culture and world. . .

  • 50,000,000 legal abortions have been performed in the U.S.  since the Roe vs. Wade decision 40 years ago.
  • 9 out 10 babies diagnosed with Down's Syndrome in the U.S. are aborted.  
  • 2,500,000 people are victims of forced labor, including sexual exploitation, around the world today.
  • 80% of elderly folks who live in assisted care facilities never receive any visitors . . no family, no friends, nobody.  

At GraceSLO we want to be a voice for life.  We believe the Sanctity of Human Life is not a political issue, but a moral and Biblical issue.   It's why we encourage, support and celebrate adoption and foster care among our church family.  It's why we visit and care for the elderly in our congregation.  It's why we celebrate the mixing of ages in our worship.   It's why we feed, shelter and give to meet the needs of the poor in our community.  

sanctity of human life in 4 minutes

the sanctity of life & the will to live

As Sanctity of Life Sunday quickly approaches, two stories grabbed my attention today as I was trolling my news . . . 

The first is this NBC story of 45 year old deaf twins in Belgium who were eauthanized at their own request this December. . . 

Their doctor, David Dofour, told Belgium’s RTL Television over the weekend that the two men had been losing their eyesight for several years and soon would have been completely blind. The prospect of being blind as well as deaf was unbearable to them, he said.


Contrast that hopelessness with the faith-filled hope of this interview with Joni Earickson Tada (Part 1, Part 2) who has been living as a quadrapelic for 45 years since a diving accident she suffered as a teenager.  Or you can just watch the interview below. . . 



Here are some questions that moved me. . . .

As you’re lying in that hospital bed, did you have suicidal thoughts?

When first injured I was overwhelmed with the prospect of being paralyzed for the rest of my life. I used to lie in bed and wrench my head back and forth violently on the pillow hoping to break my neck up at some higher level and pass out. I was hoping that when I was strong enough to sit up in a wheelchair, they’d give me a power wheelchair so I could careen off a high curb and kill myself that way. But a person can only live with that kind of despair for so long. And thankfully, Christian friends of mine were praying. Eventually God used those prayers to turn my despair Godward. It’s in the Psalms: “Why are you downcast, oh my soul. Put your trust in God.” God began to bring back to my mind and memory those verses of Scripture that I had memorized. 

If at that time there had been an assisted suicide law, would you have asked someone to kill you? 

Oh my goodness, yes. When I was depressed in the early part of my hospitalization, I begged my girlfriends to bring in their mothers’ sleeping pills, their fathers’ razors, anything. I’m grateful there was no physician-assisted suicide law around back then. I would have tried very hard to mount some court challenge to change the definition of terminal illness so that it might include spinal cord injury. I would have done anything to put me out of my misery. I was so miserable. That was 45 years ago, though. What a different world we live in now, because there really are people with disabilities trying to change the court definitions of “terminal illness” in states like Oregon and Washington. At our ministry we’re working hard to prevent that from happening and to give hope in Christ, so these people, like me, will find a way out of depression. 

Does depression still ensnare you at times? Are you happy? 

I make myself be happy. I make myself sing because I have to. The alternative is too frightening. My girlfriends will tell you, in the morning when I wake up, I know they’ll be coming into my bedroom to give me a bed bath, do my toileting routines, pull up my pants, put me in the wheelchair, feed me breakfast, and push me out the front door. I lie there thinking (gagging noise), “Oh God, I cannot face this. I’m so tired of this routine. My hip is killing me. I’m so weary. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to lunchtime. I have no energy for this day. God, I can’t do quadriplegia. But I can do all things through You as You strengthen me. So God, I have no smile for these girlfriends of mine who are going to come in here with a happy face. Can I please borrow Your smile? I need it, desperately. I need You.”

I hate the prospect of having to face the day with paralysis. I choose the Holy Spirit’s help because I don’t want to go down that grim, dark path to depression any more. That’s the biblical way to wake up in the morning, the only way to wake up in the morning. No wonder the Apostle Paul said, “Boast in your afflictions.” Don’t be ashamed of them. Don’t think you have to hide them and gussy yourself up before God in the morning so that He’ll be happy with you and see that you’re really believing in Him. No, no, no. Admit you can’t do this thing called life. Then cast yourself at the mercy of God and let Him show up through your weakness because that’s what He promises—2 Corinthians 12:9.

What you’re saying about hard mercy makes a lot of sense to Christians—but what about non-Christians who ask you to put together a good God with terrible occurrences? How do you talk with them about God’s sovereignty in your personal situation?

Always with what the Bible calls reasonable sweetness, savoring my conversation with salt. I get into an elevator with a bunch of people who see the lady in the wheelchair, smiling and humming “Amazing Grace.” They can connect the dots: lady in wheelchair singing “Amazing Grace.” It’s a compelling support for the gospel. If people want to get into discussion with me about the sovereignty of God, I will tell them front and center that God doesn’t like spinal cord injury. He takes no pleasure in multiple sclerosis or children born with spina bifida. John Piper talks about how God looks at suffering through two lenses. He looks at the isolated incident of suffering through a narrow lens and loathes it. His heart loathes it when you go through a divorce. His heart aches when you give birth to that child with multiple disabilities. He hates the isolated lens of suffering. But He delights in the wide-angle lens. He sees the mosaic. He sees how it all fits together into this incredible pattern for not only our good, but the good of all those around us, and for His glory. I’m grateful that God is sovereign. His fingers hold back a deluge of evil in this world. I’m grateful that He only allows to slip through His sovereign fingers that which He’s convinced will help our souls and fit us better for eternity. 

That lady is courageous!  I'm glad she's alive as a walking, breathing testimony to the sovereignty of God and the sanctity of lfie.  

still in shock

I think I'm still in shock  about what happened to Lou Giglio last week. . . . being invited to pray at President Obama's inauguration and then obviously being uninvited when it was discovered that he called homosexuality a sin in a message he preached some 20 years back.  

Al Mohler has suggested this represents the emergence of a "New McCarthyism" . . . 

The Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House have now declared historic, biblical Christianity to be out of bounds, casting it off the inaugural program as an embarrassment. By its newly articulated standard, any preacher who holds to the faith of the church for the last 2,000 years is persona non grata.  

(Mohler's whole post is very much worth reading!  Will you take the time?) 

What does this mean and where does it leave Christians who believe the historic Christian faith?  How shall we now live as we are increasingly excluded from the public square and marginalized?   The winds are very rapidly shifting.  We would be naive to think otherwise.   

What does it feel like to be a minority?  I suspect we are on the verge of finding out.  How easy it is to get angry, defensive, fearful,  bitter and resentful.   

But how, instead, can we be a kind, winsome witness when we're marginalized and despised and riduled?  That is the question, it seems to me.  One thing is sure. . . we need the perspective of the ages. . . . a good primer on Christian history.  And we need to re-read our Bibles with fresh eyes.  For the great majority of Christian history, God's people have been a marginalized, despised, suffering bunch.   We ought not to expect any different.  Jesus Himself told us. . . 

This I command you, that you love one another.  If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,because of this the world hates you.  --Matthew 15:17-19

We read this article as a staff this week and discussed the power of Gospel community in these dark days.  My great hope and prayer is that our Growth Groups are growing into bright lights of Gospel community in these dark days . . . 

The joy of friendship culminates in feasting. People who live in genuine community enjoy gathering to celebrate the things they hold dear together. They eat and drink and sing and tell wonderful tales with laughter. Marriage, the fount of community, begins with joyful, community feasting. The community of Christ gathers regularly around a feast, the Lord’s Supper, which looks forward to the great wedding feast in glory when God’s promised good life is fulfilled.

But there is no truly good life on earth apart from communion with God in heaven. You cannot truly love your neighbor while hating God. To hate God is to idolize self, which in turn corrodes every human relationship. Of course, Christ is both the bridge between heaven and earth and the bond between man and neighbor. Loving relationships are what make life good. People who are wealthy and powerful but have shattered families and have no friends are miserable. The quality of one’s life can be measured by the quality of one’s love for others. Narcissists cannot be happy.

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  • Life Together is the ongoing contemplation of our life together at Grace Church, San Luis Obispo, through the eyes of current Lead Pastor Tim Theule. 
  • Tim and his wife, Susie, are the delighted parents of four great kids, Sage (17), Eden (15), Zeke (10) and Haaken (8).  They have lived here on the Central Coast of California since early 2003. 

  • The title "Life Together" is borrowed from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's excellent little book concerning the joys and challenges of real Christian community, which bears the same title.

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