Apr 21 2011

HOLY LAND TOUR, October 7-16, 2011

clay

Dr Richard Fredericks (my dear friend and mentor from Damascus Road Community church) and myself are leading a Holy Land Tour this fall.  Prices will be finalized in the next few days.  This itinerary has been worked on extensively, based on learning from multiple trips we have both been on.  This is the best I have ever seen.  This will be the spiritual experience of a life time.  There is limited space.  The Grace Place spots are already half-filled.  Let me know soon if you are interested:

DAY 1 – Friday, October 7th:

WASHINGTON OR DENVER -LONDON

Tour members are welcomed for our departing flight from Washington (Dulles) or Denver to London via wide-body aircraft arriving the next day.

DAY 2 – Saturday, October 8th,
LONDON / TEL AVIV
This morning we arrive in London at 9:15 AM and wait for our friends from Denver to arrive at 12:30PM. We will go to our motor coach for a half day tour of London. We will then stop for a fish and chips dinner before going back to the airport for our 10:30PM flight to Tel Aviv.

Day 3 – Sunday – October 09, 2011
TEL AVIV / CAESAREA MARITIME/ MEGIDDO/ TIBERIAS
This morning we will have an early arrival in Israel. We will transfer for our hotel a brief rest and breakfast with a mid morning departure. We are met by our co-guide, Gilbert, who will be with us for our entire time in the Holy Land. Our first stop is Jaffa (Joppa in Acts 10), the city of Jonah, location of the house of Simon the Tanner where Peter had his roof-top vision of God’s inclusion of the Gentiles into His salvation in Christ. Drive to Herod’s architectural wonder Caesarea Maritime (on the Mediterranean) with its Roman aqueducts and amphitheatre. Then we go on to Mount Carmel (the site of Elijah’s face-off with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18) and overlooking Haifa (port city) and the gorgeous Bahai Gardens.  Next to Megiddo (a royal city of Solomon), then Nazareth (Luke 4) where Jesus grew up (Church of the Annunciation).  We end the day with a baptism service in the Jordon River and hotel in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.

Day 4: Monday, October 10th:
TIBERIUS/UPPER GALILEE
A long day!  Drive north to Caesarea Philippi for early arrival (around 8:00 am) and a quiet time reading Matthew 16: Jesus’ great question: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ asked near the Roman Temple dedicated to Pan cut from the Rock containing the Gate of Hell cavern.  Stop at Dan (the site of the high altar to the Golden Calf), then back to Korazin (Seat of Moses). After Korazin, go to Capernaum (Matthew 4:13-17: Jesus’ home base during His Galilean ministry) and share a Bible study in the “Jesus-synagogue”, see the millstones (Matthew 18:5-6) and see Peter the fisherman’s house on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:21-34; 2:1-12).  Lunch, then Tabgha (feeding of 5000 recorded in all four Gospels) and the Mount of Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7) for a time of worship and prayer.  From here we go to the Sea of Galilee boat trip (more time for reflection) ending back at Tiberius at dusk, for time in town.

Day 5 – Tuesday, October 11th:
TIBERIUS/ BET SHEAN/ DEAD SEA
Leave Tiberius late morning and head south around Sea of Galilee to Bet Shean, the largest Roman city ruins in Israel, site of OT final battle for King Saul.  Continue south to Jericho (Mark 10:46-52; Luke 19:1-10), the oldest city on earth and site of many Biblical stories, then on to our resort on the Dead Sea.

Day 6: Wednesday, October 12th:
DEAD SEA/ MASADA/ ENGEDI/ UP TO JERUSALEM
Morning swim in Dead Sea, then early to Masada to avoid heat (those that want to hike down from top can).  On to David’s wilderness home at En Gedi (1 Samuel 23:29) for several hours: swim in David’s waterfall pond, then study time in Psalms.  Late lunch near Qum Ran, then drive up to Jerusalem, as we read together the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134), arrive at Jerusalem Hotel at dusk, and into city for shopping and sunset at Western (wailing) Wall.

Day 7: Thursday, October 13th:
OLD CITY/ NEW CITY/ RABBI TUNNEL / ORIENTATION TO JERUSALEM
Begin first day in Jerusalem entering through Jaffa Gate to Christ’s Church Mission for worship and history of Christian missions in Jerusalem. Then go to the Citadel for history of Jerusalem.  Dome of the Rock (previous site of Herod’s Temple) and Wailing Wall by day including the Rabbi Tunnel tour, the Archeological park and South Steps of temple.  Share lunch in the Old City.  Upper Room for communion (Luke 22:7-37), David’s Tomb, and drive to Model City and Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls).  Back to our Hotel in Jerusalem.

Day 8: Friday, October 14th:
BETHLEHEM/ KIDRON VALLEY
Early to Bethlehem, begin at Shepherd’s Field for worship, then onto Church of the Nativity (Luke 2) and to Grottos of St Catherine’s Church.  Lunch then shopping at Joseph’s Gift Shop in Bethlehem.  Back into Jerusalem to Pool of Bethesda, St Anne’s Crusader Church, then to St Peter at Gallicantu (Peter’s denial) for Bible study and coffee break.  Return to Hotel in Jerusalem. Evening free for visiting the city.  But tomorrow is crucial, so get some sleep!

Day 9: Saturday, October 15th:
Another long day! Begin early 7:30 am: walk down Via Dolorosa (way of suffering) to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Golgotha Chapel, Tomb, Syrian Chapel, St Helena Chapel) for first worship.  Then to Lutheran Church Tower (view), and the Alexander Russian Orthodox Church (Passion paintings) for quiet time.  Lunch.  Then on to vista of the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24-25), walk down to Dominus Flavit (Our Lord Weeps, Luke 19:37-44) and on to the Garden of Gethsemane for worship (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18) and the All Nations’ Church.   Arrive at Garden Tomb for tour/reflection time, till 6:00 pm.  We then go to a special final dinner/evening in Jerusalem and time to share best memories.

Day 10: Sunday, October 16th:
JERUSALEM/TEL AVIV/ LONDON / WASHINGTON OR DENVER
This morning we will transfer to the airport for our morning flight to London continuing on to Washington or Denver.  Forever there will be new depth and insight to our Bible study, especially when we read the life of Jesus in the Gospels.


Apr 10 2011

A Radical Change

clay

 

At Grace Place church our mission statement indicates our desire to be: Changed People Changing the World. The change God wants to bring in your life is not a slight adjustment, but a radical one!  God intends for you to experience a three-fold transformation in your life:

1. HEART Change

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

2. CHARACTER Change

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

3. PURPOSE Change

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)

The heart change happens when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior.  The character change is ongoing for the rest of our life as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit who is making us more like Jesus.  The purpose change is about us choosing to live our lives for God’s purpose instead of our own—the only way true and lasting fulfillment is found.

If you want to be challenged to rethink the prevailing view of “American Christianity” versus the biblical call of true discipleship, I recommend a book by David Platt that I’ve been reading called “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.” But I warn you, don’t pick it up if you want be a casual and comfortable Christian. This young 32-year old Christ-follower will rock your world.

Platt boldly challenges believers in Christ to consider how different the call of Christ is from the “American Dream.”   For example Christ claims that:

  • Real success is found in radical sacrifice.
  • Ultimate satisfaction is found not in making much of ourselves but in making much of God.
  • The purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live.
  • Meaning is found in community, not individualism.
  • Joy is found in generosity, not materialism.
  • Truth is found in Christ, not universalism.
  • Ultimately, Jesus is a reward worth risking everything to know, experience, and enjoy.

If you read the Red Letters (the words of Jesus) in the Gospels and try to remove western 21st century American eyeglasses, they are sobering, disturbing, even shocking.  The call and claims of Christ are indeed radical.


Mar 4 2011

What Really Matters to God

clay

Just finished Tim Keller’s excellent book, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Excerpts from the closing pages:

“Proverbs 19:17 and 14:31 are texts that sum up a great deal of Scriptural material.  The first text says that if you are kind to the poor, God takes it as if you are being kind to him.  The second gives us the flip side; namely, that if you show contempt for the poor it means you are showing contempt for him . . . .

“If you insult the poor, you insult God.  The principle is that God personally identifies very closely with the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant, the most powerless and vulnerable members of society.  When the Old Testament says God identifies with the poor, that is a strong statement.  But it still is basically a figure of speech.  Not until you come to the New Testament can you fully grasp the degree to which God has done this.

“In Proverbs we see God identifying with the poor symbolically.  But in the incarnation and death of Jesus we see God identifying with the poor and marginally literally.  Jesus was born in a feed trough . . . . He lived among the poor and marginalized, who were drawn to him even as the respectable were repulsed by him . . . . He died naked and penniless . . . .

“In Jesus Christ God identified not only with the poor, but also with those who are denied justice. . . . Many people say, ‘I can’t believe in God when I see all the injustice in the world.’  But here is Jesus [at the cross], the Son of God, who knows what it’s like to be the victim of injustice, to stand up to power, to face a corrupt system and be killed for it.  He knows what it is like to be lynched.  I’m not sure how you believe in a God remote from injustice and oppression, but Christianity doesn’t ask you to believe in that.  That is why the Christian writer John Stott is able to say, ‘I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross.  In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who is immune to it?’

“. . . . This was the ultimate instance of God’s identification with the poor.  He not only became one of the actually poor and marginalized, he stood in the place of all those of us in spiritual poverty and bankruptcy (Matthew 5:3) and paid our debt.

“Now that is a thing of beauty.  To take that into the center of your life and heart will make you one of the just . . . .

“Proverbs 14:31 says, ‘He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker.’   The God of the Bible says, as it were, ‘I am the poor on your step.  Your attitude toward them reveals what your true attitude is toward me.’  A life poured out in doing justice for the poor is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith.”


Feb 2 2011

Praying Girl

clay

If you check out my blog during  February/early March, click on the tab labeled “Adoption Journey.”  Selene and I will be in Ukraine on a rescue mission and we will be chronicling our experience as we are able.  We learned about a girl who is about to “age out.”  She turns 16 on May 6.  Every day she prays for a family, even though it feels more and more hopeless as she gets closer to the day (May 6) when she will no longer be eligible for adoption.  We are going to try to be an answer to her prayer!  We can’t change the whole world, but we can change the whole world for one person.


Jan 22 2011

Many Thanks

clay

After successfully defending my final doctoral thesis & project yesterday at Denver Seminary, there are many people to thank.  Below is the acknowledgments page.  Many supportive friends are not listed by name, because I only identified those who were actually involved in some way with the project or specifically encouraging me to complete it.  If you are a part of Grace Place congregation, though, you are one of those being thanked.  Appreciate you all!

Acknowledgements

Richard Fredericks, Ph.D, who is a scholar, mentor and friend who has marked my life and inspired me to be gospel-focused and a lifelong student.

Robert Peck, D.Min., my father, who set the example by completing his doctorate while continuing his employment as a busy pastor and administrator.

Current and former trustees of Grace Place who provided accountability and encouragement (and prodding) along the way: especially Gary Sumner, constant supporter; Jodi Walsh Ph.D. and prayer warrior; Wayne Dorband, Ph.D. who offered assistance and provided helpful advice; Gary Hamor, helping me see the difference between tactical and strategic thinking and cheering me on, along with volunteering hundreds of hours to help me and the Grace Place staff improve our leadership.

Joe Ryan, a trustee, friend, businessman, who loves Jesus and his church passionately. Joe volunteered as consultant and facilitator for this process, invested time and heart, and was used by God to speak straightforward and needed words.  I am forever indebted to Joe for the results of this project!

The Senior Leadership Team: Rose Pauly (during the planning process), Brenda Pearson, Steve Kurtight, Mark Johnson, Gregg Chaddic, and Micheal Butts (during the implementation phase), who did the hard but rewarding work of prayerfully seeking God’s heart for Grace Place, while drawing close together as comrades.

Steve Kurtright, for research assistance on chapter two, for theological perspectives, and for writing the core values drafts (over and over); Amber Baker for research assistance on chapter three; Gail Shumacher and Suzy Bullett for insights and analysis on the REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey; Mark Johnson, accountability partner and assistant, (“how can I help you finish?”), setting deadlines (which I rarely met), gathering information, and patiently nudging me forward..

First reader, Dr. James Fred Creason who patiently gave attention to detail and forced me, through many re-writes, to come up with a vastly better end product.

Denver Seminary professors, especially Dr. Harold Westing, who introduced me to strategic planning for the church; Dr. Scott Wenig, second reader, for encouragement; Dr. David Osborn, director of the doctor of ministry program, for teaching me research principles and patiently prodding me to the finish line.

The entire Grace Place staff who contributed to the process at every step; and the ministry leaders who were (brutally) honest and also insightful in helping the leaders recognize the needs of the congregation.

Grace Place congregation for granting me the resources and time to pursue and finally finish this project.

And of course, and especially, my wife Selene, who has been my dear friend and constant supporter for 28 years. Thanks for believing in me!


Jan 12 2011

Extending a Helping Hand

clay

It was such a joy to see the generosity of Grace Place church recently when we collected over $32,000 and distributed all of it to people with severe financial needs.

48 families were helped:

  • 35 families with utilities, food, rent, basic needs
  • 5 families with car repairs, such as brakes, tires, etc.
  • 3 single women with new “used” vehicles
  • 5 families with medical costs

Here are snippets from just three of the many notes of thanks that came in:

  • “Thank you for reaching within the family of Grace Place to help the body.  The love that continues to flow from Grace Place has such a blessing to us.  When we opened the envelope from Grace Place we both started to cry because we have been praying for God to supply our needs.  He has used Grace Place to reach out to us and encourage us to keep praying. We cannot thank you enough for being obedient to listen to God’s leading.”
  • “I just received a Christmas Blessings check from Grace Place and was completely blown away.  My mouth was actually hanging open. I did not put my name in with any requests… Thank you to you and the church and whoever made the decisions as to where the Christmas blessing money would go.  Thank you for all your love and support.”
  • “When I checked my mailbox and there was the Christmas Blessing check from Grace Place. I was stunned! I just stood there with tears in my eyes staring at the check, wondering if it was real! Then an ear-to-ear smile crept across my face and I just started thanking God for His impeccable timing and goodness! Thank you to you, Grace Place, and the generous and loving people who make up the congregation! I am overwhelmed!”

This is real church in action!  It reminds me of the early church:

“There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” (Acts 4:34-35)

 


Jan 9 2011

Fellowship of the Unashamed

clay

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.”  I have Holy Spirit power.  The dye has been cast.  I’ve stepped over the line.  The decision has been made.  I am a disciple of His.  I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.  My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.  I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals!

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.  I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.  I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.  I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up or slow up till I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus.  I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops.

And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me… my colors will be clear.


Jan 3 2011

A Digital Fast

clay

When I decided to do a one week digital fast, it sounded easy.  But digital technology is so ingrained in everyday life these days that it can be harder than it sounds.  Here are a few reflections from a digital fast:

  • There is more opportunity to pray, think, dream, plan when you are unplugged. During the last week I received some profound impact the way I live and lead during the following year.
  • Digital technology includes way more than I first thought. Originally, I planned to quit doing email, Facebook, and Twitter during the week long fast.  But then it dawned on me that “digital” includes iPad, iPod, TV, and phone! If/when I do this again I will have to think it through more in advance.  I ended up using all of those digital mediums until I realized they were also “digital.”  Although I didn’t use my computer, I did answer a few emails on my phone because I was afraid someone would think I was blowing them off, or I thought of something really important I wanted to pass on to someone.
  • I wasn’t able to make it a full week. I decided to go on Facebook on New Year’s Day to wish all my friends Happy New Year’s and ended up making a few comments beyond that!
  • Digital communications might be crowding out important things. It is way easier to start the day checking messages than meditating on God’s Word.  But the first will not change my life like the second.
  • Digital communication is valuable. For all its drawbacks, who would ever want to go back to a world where you couldn’t learn and communicate quickly?  For that matter, who would want to go to the mall or department store with your spouse if you didn’t have a cell phone?
  • Digital communication is personal. Some people predicted originally that communication that wasn’t face-to-face would not build true relationships. That has been proven wrong. Sure, digital communication has its disadvantages (e.g, you can’t hear voice inflection and tone, or see body language), but face-to-face relationships are enhanced by the ability we have to share our lives with others today through social media, texting, email, blogs, etc.
  • Digital communication is necessary. It is the way we do communication today and it is extremely effective if you keep up.  Today I spent nearly four hours responding to last weeks messages.
  • Digital technology is not going away. It is improving at the speed of light!  It is the way of life for our generation.  It enables us to do research in seconds, communicate with thousands at once, find news and entertainment anywhere and anytime… but it can also take over our lives and become a constant distraction, it can contribute to a shallow walk with the Lord rather than a deep and abiding relationship that comes through prayer and reflection on his Word.

Like most things in life there must be evaluation, correction, discipline, and balance to stay healthy mentally and spiritually in a digital world.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2, TNIV)


Dec 16 2010

Christmas at Grace Place

clay

Dear Grace Place Family & Friends,

Selene and I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

If you are not going to be out of town this Christmas, I hope you will come to one of four identical Christmas services at Grace Place: Thursday, December, 23, 6:45 PM; Friday, December 24, 4:00, 5:30, & 7:00 PM. A simple, yet elegant time of worship and reflection is being prepared to enhance your Christmas experience as we seek to worship fully Christ our Savior.  There will be no children’s programming at the 7:00 PM service on Friday.  Also, there will be no Sunday services on December 26.  (Normal service times will resume on Thursday, December 30, 6:45 PM and Sunday, January 2, 8:45 & 10:30 AM).

Last weekend Nancy Hathaway, director of Heart For Orphans ministry, flew out with her husband to thank the Grace Place congregation for the generous offering we gave in order to provide a home for teenage orphans in Ukraine who have aged out of the orphanage.  Nancy gave us a beautiful plaque that has a picture of the house we bought and of the nine girls who have already moved in.  It reads: “To our dear friends at Grace Place, because of your generosity, orphaned girls now have a home.  Thank you!  Love from the Heart For Orphans team, and the girls in Ruth’s House.”

Those girls, and others who will come, are now being cared for by Christian house parents, as they are taught about God’s love and practical skills to help them eventually transition into the world on their own.  Because of your generosity, we were not only able to purchase and furnish the house, but also help provide a van for transportation and operational costs for the coming year.  It feels so good to be a part of a church family like Grace Place!

During this Christmas season we have been talking about being a part of an Advent Conspiracy—focusing on what Christmas is really about, rather than the season of commercialism and consumption that it has morphed into for most Americans.  In this spirit, I encourage you to consider prayerfully your year-end giving.  You can go online to give to support the ministry of Grace Place at any time between now and the end of the year.  We are hoping to finish the year strong in order to catch up where the budget has fallen short this year, but at the same time we are committed to generosity and showing God’s love in tangible ways to those in need.  Therefore, we have decided to give away the entire offering that comes in during our four Christmas services.  Requests are being submitted now and needs are being assessed.  The fourth weekend offering of December will be given to people who are struggling financially within our congregation.

If God has blessed you this year with resources to share, please pray about what you can give, above your regular giving, as a special Christmas offering to help those who are in serious need.  The funds will be dispersed responsibly to assist with specific needs.

This congregation is truly learning experientially the truth of the words Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

With much love,

In Christ alone,

Clay


Nov 8 2010

I Love My Church!

clay

 

I couldn’t stop smiling when I left church this weekend.  We announced to Grace Place that we were going to raise $50,000 before the end of the year in order to buy a transition house for aged-out orphans in Ukraine.  There is already a house (“Mel’s House”) that has 14 boys in it and there are several girls sleeping out back in a “summer kitchen” which has no heat (even as winter is arriving in Ukraine).  The plan is to buy another house nearby (“Ruth’s House”) and to do it quickly since there are already seven girls ready to move in.  This ministry, in cooperation with “Hearts for Orphans” (http://heartfororphans.com/) and “Agape” (http://agapefororphans.org/), is integrity filled, with Christian house parents teaching the kids to love the Lord as well as life skills such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, sewing, farming, budgeting, etc.

The house cost $40,000 and we are estimating $5000 for furnishing (the local pastor is going to teach the boys how to build bunk beds).  We have also planned to give a gift, as a support church, to Project 1.27 (http://project127.com/), which facilitates Colorado adoptions and has an amazing ministry.  So $5,000 to Project 1.27 (or 10%) brought the goal to $50,000.

I thought that it might take some time for people to make decisions about a special offering, over and above their regular giving.  We are not in a stellar economic climate and we have been struggling some to meet the regular church budget.

Wow, it was so thrilling to see God touch the people’s hearts and to see the immediate outpouring of generosity!  I was standing in Brenda Pearson’s office when she added up all the checks and pledges after the last service.  Mark Johnson and Kris Stoesz were there waiting for a total.  She tore off the adding machine printout and handed it to me–$50, 025.  Tears of joy came to our eyes and all I could think to say was “let’s pray!”  We thanked God for showing up and answering our prayer in one weekend.

After the online giving was checked and more pledges were being called in the total had risen to over $54,000.  About half the money has already been given! I know more is coming throughout the week and on the weekend.  If you haven’t given or pledged yet, don’t hold back.  We will be soon be announcing how we will be able to do something beyond for these orphans as a result of surpassing the goal!  I was also overjoyed to hear that we had also exceeded our regular weekly budget, demonstrating that the congregation really did give above and beyond, not just redirecting regular giving.

There is a good pride and bad pride.  I’m filled with pride today (the good kind) to be a part of the congregation called Grace Place.

By the way, if you missed the message (filled with pictures and details as I interviewed Kris Stoesz who recently returned from Ukraine) you can see it here:  (http://graceplace.org). You will hear Rhya Stoesz (former orphan) tell her touching story at the beginning.