"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Monday, April 30, 2012

Todd and Tish: Praise for God's mercy

Thank you, Louise, for letting me know the pictures are showing now!  :o)

     At 2:30 on the morning of April 19, Todd Raynesford of Downey, California was driving home from his job as RadTech (radiologic technician) at a nearby hospital. He was at the peak of the transition curve from the 105 east to the 605 north, high above the ground, when he was hit head-on by a woman with twice the legal amount of alcohol in her system, driving an SUV the wrong way.
     Todd's Camry flew into the air, spun around, landed on top of the concrete guardrail and burst into flames. All Todd remembers is light and pain.

Todd's Camry, after head-on collision on Los Angeles freeway early April 19. SUV which hit him is in the background.

     There "happened" to be one other vehicle on that freeway that night--a tow truck. The driver saw the accident and pulled over. He called 911, aimed his industrial fire extinguisher on the flames, and secured Todd's car with cables, keeping it from going over the K-rail.
    It took paramedics 45 minutes to extract Todd from the Camry using the Jaws of Life.
    Since then, Todd has been in ICU, with periodic extended trips to surgery for repairs on the broken bones in his right foot, ankle, knee, leg, right arm, and face (seven hours for his face alone, including both eye sockets, cheekbone, nose). His crushed elbow will have to be dealt with later and his broken clavicle and ribs (both sides) will have to heal on their own.
     Brought out of an induced coma two days after the accident, Todd was able to answer questions like, "Can you hear us?" "Do you know who I am?" with a raised thumb or words spelled out in the air with one finger. Within 72 hours of the accident, doctors removed Todd's breathing tube and he was having conversations with his wife, Tish. But excruciating pain was setting in. The doctor told him he must try to stand up anyway, to prevent blood clots. His head is swollen to twice its normal size. There is danger of infection. At some point doctors will have to wire his mouth shut because he must not move his jaw for 5-8 weeks.
     But in all of this, Todd and Tish are praising God. Todd lived. He is conscious. His brain appears to be undamaged. They are trusting God for healing of his body. This is their message:
     "Please send these photos out to as many people as possible, so that others can see what God has done and what God is doing with us. Our prayer is that all who see these photos and hear our story will fall on their knees and know that there is a God or will help others to have a deeper walk with the most HOLY GOD. God has been there with us in such a real way in our lives like never before. The names of God have become our living strength. We both know that God will take this tragedy and turn it around for His Glory.  We want God's Kingdom to live in this and through this. We are continuously experiencing God in a deep way."
It took paramedics 45 minutes to remove Todd from the car, using the Jaws of Life.

Driver's side: Todd has at least 16 broken bones, 5 of them in his face.

Car was spun around and left hanging over concrete rail of elevated freeway.

Tish wants to thank all who are praying for her, Todd and their family.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Our public flogging

(I have changed the title because it gave the wrong impression. See Comments. Also linked "the announcement" to This Sunday, which explains the offenses we were posting on this blog and why we were singled out.)

     "I stand beside you, lovingly preparing you for what is ahead. . . [F]ocus on My loving Presence with you. I will equip you as you go, so that you can handle whatever comes your way. Trust Me to supply what you need when you need it." (Lamentations 3:22-26; Psalm 34:8) From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.
     Those words from the day's devotional reading steadied me yesterday. Later in the day God told a couple we know that today would be a "very difficult" day for us, that there would be "wagging tongues and mocking spirits, false traps" and that I would feel slugged in the stomach. They prayed for us, that God would give us love and appropriate responses.
      So we knew this would be the day. And with that revelation came the certain knowledge that God wanted us to be there when the announcement was made. I am SO glad He didn't let me know any sooner! If you have to get a shot at the doctor's, it's better to find out at the last minute.
     We did have time to notify all our intercessors and some of them had time to write back, encouraging us and sharing Scripture passages, which I printed out and took with us to peek at periodically for courage:
     One of my favorites: "Don't panic. I'm with you. There is no need to fear for I am your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you." Isaiah 41:10 The Message 
     In an email from friends this morning:  "Fear thou not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God.  I will strengthen thee, yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."  Isa 41:10  "The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and rescues them."  Ps 34:7  "Have I not commanded thee?  Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid; neither be thou dismayed; for the LORD thy God is with you whithersoever thou goest."  Joshua 1:9 King James
       As the service started, I was mentally rehearsing Psalm 100:6, "The LORD is good, His love is eternal and His faithfulness endures through all generations" when that very verse was read from the pulpit! Thank you, Jesus!
     When the service ended, when I thought we had been mistaken and nothing would be said--and was wishing it would be so we could get it over with--Pastor Lou announced that there would be a break so all non-members could leave. There would be a "short announcement" afterwards. We knew what that meant. My hand, in Jerry's, was clammy.
     God brought back to my mind Rita Wignall's timely phone call the day before yesterday. She reminded me, "Just like the apostles and disciples before us, we will be targeted. Because He has given people free will, the enemy will use them to attack us until His kingdom comes.
     "But we're going to be proven right--for all eternity. For a few years, people will think we're crazy. But He will give us crowns!"
      I sensed Jesus reminding me that He is sovereign, that this is His world, His church, and His battle. He had allowed religious leaders to crucify Him, had let their plan play out, let them think they had won. He told me not to be afraid, that Jerry and I could both go sit right down in front for the announcement, that He would welcome us there with crowns.
     So, as some people walked up the aisle, we walked down and sat in the front pew, right below the pulpit.
     Steely, Chairman of the elder board Carl LaBarbera made the announcement: "Jessica Renshaw with the support of her husband Jerry Renshaw have sinned and need to repent." He kept referring to me first--a deliberate slap in my face, Jerry said afterward. LaBarbera called on church members to be involved in the "reconciliation process" by persuading us and praying for us to repent. The other eight elders, some of whom we count as personal friends, were not involved. I am so grateful.
     When it was all over a friend slipped into my hand a hand-written copy of Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 
     God is good.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Finding the humor

     Wondering: Will the elders denounce us tomorrow, as they said they might? Should we be present? Does God want us to be present? Can we wait until tomorrow to decide? And even, What should I wear? 
     I ask Jerry, "What does one wear to one's own execution?"
     I love his imperturbability. "Something with an open neck." Pause. "Suitable for the rope or the guillotine."
     At least we don't have to worry about preparing a defense. They won't allow one. They--the Nine, the Fist--will just gather stony-faced up on the platform like they did with John Anderson, avoiding our eyes, and read off our crimes: Posted things about us we didn't want people to know. Made us look unjust and tyrannical. Interfered with our agenda to seize power and derail the teaching of the church. Won't - shut - up! 
     I doubt if they will do anything tomorrow. For one thing, it will prove our claims. Unjust and tyrannical, check.
     For another, I think they like to keep us hanging.

Friday, April 27, 2012

This Sunday

     This Sunday, the executive elders of our church--having already forbidden Jerry and me to count the offering, pray with people, sing in the choir, usher, teach, help in the nursery, serve communion, or even pour grape juice into the communion cups--will be publicly denouncing us as sinners for exposing them on this blog. 
     As you know, we have been reporting their failure to preach the gospel, their mistreatment of long-time members and their continuing deception regarding their motives. Six months ago when we realized what had been going on for the entire 22 years of Pastor Lou's administration, God told us to "stay, stand, and bring the deeds of darkness into the light for My judgment."
     At that point the only deeds of darkness we knew anything about were the false accusations against and continued verbal abuse of Rita Wignall, our women's Bible study leader of 20 years. But as Jerry and I obeyed and brought these offenses into the light, former members came out of the woodwork saying, "That's what happened to me! That's what that elder, that pastor did to me! They called me divisive and threatened me with church discipline if I told. That's why I left the church!" Several staff members said, "The pastor made me sign a letter of resignation. He made me leave and lied about why I left!"
     Some of their stories are on this blog.
      . . . Of course it may not be this Sunday. The elder board has reserved the right to make this announcement "on or after April 29," presumably so they can maintain control and an element of surprise. The fact that the Bylaws require that "the date, time, and place" of a special meeting "shall be announced from the pulpit, and this information, as well as the agenda, shall be published in the Sunday bulletin on at least two consecutive Sundays immediately preceding the date of the meeting" doesn't faze them.  
     Since Easter Jerry and I have not been attending the services, just the classes about the proposed Statement of Faith. We "stayed and stood" in obedience to the Lord up to and through the Easter service, when the congregation moved back into the remodeled auditorium. But I can't bear to sit under false or deceptive teaching if God is no longer requiring me to. 
     I hope that the fact we may not be present to be publicly humiliated won't be a disappointment to them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


paean, n., a joyously exultant song or hymn of praise, tribute, thanksgiving, or triumph.

     God enabled us--and many of you--to endure to the end, through the 40 days of prayer culminating in the Easter service at Grace. I have been convinced for months that Jerry and I were to stay in the church and stand for Him, sometimes literally, until after the congregation was back in the remodeled sanctuary. Intercessors sensed there was a spiritual battle for control of our church and somehow our presence there would prevent the hostile takeover by Satan that would come to a head that day.
     It wasn't easy or comfortable but with your prayers we did it. Since we started exposing the leadership on His Scribbler on November 22, 2011, they had destroyed our email and tried to block this blog, attacked our reputations, forbade church members to talk with us or read anything we had written, shunned, shamed, and threatened us. 
     They forced out some of the church's best people, including the leader of Agape, our Bible class. Almost all the class members left with him. At the February 5 business meeting every single elder was reaffirmed--without one of them receiving the minimum number of votes which had been required for an elder before Pastor Lou came. Disgusted, 100 people or more, those who called themselves Watchmen of Grace, sought other places to worship.
     On the spiritual level, the battle was even fiercer. If you haven't experienced high level spiritual warfare, you wouldn't believe it if we described it to you.
     The facts we and other Watchmen of Grace have exposed are hard for our church people to believe. Most of us have been members, deacons, teachers, elders of this church for more than 30 years. (I taught women's Bible studies years ago--the entire book of Hebrews, for example.) Everyone at Grace knows that all of us--both those who left in droves and the few of us who refused to leave--are sane, honorable, honest.
     But for many the alternative was unthinkable. That their leaders could be deliberately deceiving them, suppressing, distorting, denying and leading our church away from truth, for some kind of personal gain seemed so preposterous they preferred--it was easier--to think us the ones malicious or deceived. Pastor Lou has engaged psychologists in the church to help resolve their conflicts by convincing them he was the one being maligned and now all his persecutors have left and everything is fine. We were the ones causing the problem.
     But we weren't. God led us to take the stand we have taken. He and His angels were in it at every step, guiding and protecting us. When I think of how gracious and good He has been through all of this, I remember how He led His people from Egypt to the Promised Land. Over 40 years of wandering in the desert and their sandals didn't even wear out! His provision for us was as powerful and personal as that over those 40 days.
    Satan and his fallen angels were in it at every step, too. I could tell in my spirit what the enemy was attempting--attacks on our computer, our faith, our courage, our marriage. But God's grace was greater. We could have stumbled and fallen, but we didn't. We could have been in accidents, but we weren't. God did not permit the devil to do all that he tried to do to us. God kept us safe, in ways both huge and small.
     On Palm Sunday, as a junior pastor began the last sermon which would be preached in the social hall, I had a vision. I was seeing the front of the church. To one side was the church foundation, which I had seen before as one slab askew on another, connected only at one corner. Now it was restored, whole. Beside it was something that looked like a hammock, something temporary, as if hung up by transients. It seemed composed of hemp in front and something like cobwebs in back. I knew that represented those attempting the coup.
     As I watched, the hammock became a manger and the ropes of the hammock became the rough homespun of the swaddling clothes of the baby Jesus, His humanity. The back half of the material, the white cobwebs, became feathers as of wings. I somehow knew that represented His deity. 
     Behind the manger had been a tall shape like a narrow, rounded doorway. Now, as I focused on it, the shape materialized into a priest wearing--a mitre? But we aren't Catholic! I thought. Then, MELCHIZEDEK! I was speechless with awe! I was not expecting that at all! 
     I don't have space to fully explain the significance of Melchizedek in a vision. Melchizedek is Jesus Christ in His office as eternal intercessor for us and when Melchizedek appears, it means the battle has been won! 
     I began silently praising God. As I did, I was back in the social hall and Jesus Christ, in a white robe, with a red robe over one shoulder, was standing, arms outstretched to us, behind the pastor. As I watched He grew--taller than the building, taller than the church--until He stood over the city, His arms still spread. I became aware of what the preacher was saying: "The question is, will the religious leaders, scribes, will we receive and welcome Him? Yahweh--in Jesus--is about to enter His temple--"
     His words were right on and my spirit responded "OUR CHURCH, OUR CITY IS RECEIVING HIM! WE WELCOME HIM!" 
     One week later, on Easter morning, before Jerry and I left home for the first church service back in the remodeled sanctuary, where we believed the powers of darkness would stage their final showdown, the battle was its most intense. Like the final moments of a fireworks show, the hordes of hell had a final display of all their powers. But God blocked it all and I knew He had won. In the heavenlies, He had already won back His church. 
     Now we have only to see it in the natural world. It is beginning. What the devil intended as evil, God intends for good. Amazingly, He is transforming the church from the inside, transitioning from the enemy's agenda to His own. People are starting to wake out of stupor and realize we are not their enemies. There are cracks in the deceitful facade. The hypocrisy, the impertinence, the rebellion will give way--IS giving way--to Him.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Personal Interview with Chuck Colson, 1987 (on Oliver North)

     News of Chuck Colson's Homegoing stirred 25-year old memories in me. I dug into my files and found the yellowed clipping of my interview with him in 1987, back in the days when I free-lanced for metropolitan newspapers. This newspaper happened to be my hometown Long Beach Press-Telegram. Mr. Colson graciously made time for the interview at the Christian Booksellers Convention in Anaheim, soon after the Oliver North hearings.
       I admired the man Chuck Colson became, the man God could mould him into because he let himself be humbled and then was open to being taught. He learned from the sin his pride and sense of power led him into--during the months he served in prison for it.
     I'm grateful for the years he served prisoners and their families, the role model he was to us. I look forward to getting to know him better.
     I'll post the interview below, in two parts.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

IT IS FINISHED (and God won!)

To read the saga from the beginning, start with November 22, 2011.

"Church money" chronology completed; other corrections made

     We have completed the chronology of events on the first of the series of four posts on church finances: Grace grieving 30: Interesting facts about church money, posted March 17. (Others are on March 18, March 24, and April 1: Chapel of Change.)

Corrected and reposted: Grace grieving 15: Our turn

Added "Ted" to Grace in Transition, April 6.

Grace Triumphant: RESURRECTION!

"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" Revelation 5:13

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wall of Remembrance: "He is a naughty boy."

     Mary Mulloy has been a member of this church for 87 years and she has no intention of leaving--although she thinks she is next in line to be kicked out for writing truth.     
     She expresses her indignation in letters to Pastor Lou on a manual typewriter and sends out copies to friends.
     In one letter to Lou she wrote, "I am. . . concerned over the ongoing and unlilateral persecution and harassment of fellow Christian members, both past and present, apparently at your urgings, by the EBOE (Executive Board of Elders). Legitimate concerns have been expressed by these members over your doctrinal persuasions. . ."
     In another she wrote, "A prominent person at our church confronted you early on with your Covenant Theology that is contrary to the whole Bible in many places.
     "This person suggested you go where Covenant Theology is taught or that you start your own church. . .
     "INSTEAD YOU CHOOSE TO STAY and in my opinion, slightly deceived and usurped the Grace Brethren Church. Haven't you done so, Dr. Lou? Deception and dishonesty it seems to me. . .
     "It reminds me of a tea party with a little bit of arsenic in the tea. The host reminded them that it's just a little and that won't hurt you--just a little bit. . . a little bit!"
     She praised the church as it used to be: "I've been a member since 1925 when Dr. Louis Bauman baptized me and it wasn't infant baptism either. I knew perfectly well why I was being baptized.
     "I learned many Scriptures from Sunday school and vacation Bible school. It was these Scriptures that kept me from the traps of Mormonism and other cults that I encountered. So praise God for the Brethren church, which stressed Bible teaching."
     She ended with, "Shape up or ship out."  

     In a comment to a small group of us at a prayer meeting, Mary said, "I haven't taught school and taught naughty kids without learning something. And Lou is a naughty boy!" 

Wall of Remembrance: David and Elaine Karber

The following dozen or so posts (in addition to those posted earlier) represent only a handful of those who have left or been driven out of Grace Brethren Church because they would not toe the leadership's party line. (Some of them did not want to be featured because God healed their wounds, used their pain or humiliation, and redeemed the wrongs done to them. They want to put these things behind them.) 
Left Grace 2012

Family attended GBC for 38 years. Both children baptized in GBC.

Elder for 15-20 years. Chair, Executive Elder Board for several years. Participated in church growth seminars with pastoral staff and Elder Board leadership. Led campaign to retire $1 million GBC debt, converted the GBC accounting system to computers. Sang in choir. Hosted home Bible studies. Involved in Adult Bible Fellowship leadership.

Elaine Karber
Deaconness for a number of years. Taught children's Sunday School. Sang in choir and played in orchestra. Hosted home Bible studies. Involved with women's ministries for several years.

Wall of Remembrance: Wade and Ramona Andrews


Family attended GBC for 30+ years. Wade was an elder for many of those years. Member of Business and Finance Committee for many of those years, as well. Led Adult Bible Fellowship class. Scout Master of GBC-sponsored Boy Scout Troop 21.

Wall of Remembrance: Ray and Ann Rittenhouse

Ray Rittenhouse
Attended GBC for 20 years. Adult choir. Confetti Kids choir.

Ann Rittenhouse
Attended Grace for 20 years. Adult choir. Confetti Kids director.

Wall of Remembrance: Ron and Donna Sato

Left Grace 2011
Ron Sato
Ten years at Grace, TLC ministry, 3rd grade Sunday School helper

Donna Sato
Ten years at Grace, choir member, TLC ministry, 3rd grade Sunday School helper

Wall of Remembrance: Jeff and Maureen Hasbrouck

Left Grace 2012

Wall of Remembrance: Bert and Carol Carson

Left Grace 2012

Wall of Remembrance: Wendy Austin, Doris Schilling

Left Grace 2012
Family attended Grace since 1913 (98 years): Jim and Helen Schilling, Gene and Doris Schilling, Wendy (Helen Marie) Schilling Austin, Steven and Crystal Austin, Elijah Austin.

Wendy was a deacon, member of Business and Finance Committee, short-term missionary to Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
Left Grace 2012

Wall of Remembrance: Sid and Pat Bowen



Pat was a member of the Board of Elders, Grace Christian School Board member, member of the Children's Commission, teacher in Grace Elementary school.

Wall of Remembrance: Nancy (Meiss) Lanpher


Wall of Remembrance: Demetra Monios


Attended GBC for 32 years. Worked in Sunday morning child care. Member of Gospel Choir. Volunteer (briefly) in church office. Welcomed church attendees on Sunday mornings. Hosted 2011 Mauny Thursday dinner/communion in my home.

Wall of Remembrance: Georgia Harris


Member for 35 years. Served as short-term summer missionary to Kyrgyzstan (twice), Prague, and Japan, weekly outreach volunteer for evangelism program, catered church dinners. Children's Sunday School helper, Ugandan Lamb supporter.

Wall of Remembrance: Steve and Laurel Kutcher


Wall of Remembrance: John Tubera, staff

Wall of Remembrance: Richard Brown, Principal, Brethren Elementary School

Wall of Remembrance: Marilyn Moll, Director, Women's Ministries

Wall of Remembrance: Pastor Dave Shackleford

Wall of Remembrance: Pastor Lance Stowe

Wall of Remembrance: Gale and Betty Sturdivant

"After Lou came, we weren't getting anything. Betty and I weren't happy. On our way home from church every week she'd ask, 'Why are we still here?' I was a trustee (steward) but we finally left. We kept it quiet."

Note: Dates refer to last church directory in which their photo appears.

Wall of Remembrance: Art and Kitty Guzman and family

"A young man at Grace kept stalking our 16-year old daughter Merry, following her and getting on and off buses where she did. It made her terribly nervous. We went to Jerry Giles about it. He took the young man's side. So we went to Pastor Lou. He told us whatever Jerry said was right. We got a restraining order but Merry didn't feel safe and the leadership wouldn't help so we left the church. They man actually pursued her at our new church for awhile." (Merry's addition: "When I was talking to Pastor Lou about this he just looked out the window. He wasn't interested and didn't care about me.")

Grace Triumphant: Tomorrow!

Countdown to the resurrection:

"So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders." Deuteronomy 26:8

Friday, April 6, 2012

Grace in transition

     During childbirth there is a point when things get unsettled and confusing. Momentum stops. There are gaps between the gripping, gasping seasons of pain. There start to be tentative sensations of movement in a new, positive direction.
     It felt that way to me in church two weeks ago. Still the shunning by some. Still the cold fury of the few. But just before the service an executive elder came over to Jerry and me, where we have been sitting alone in the very last row of seats in the social hall, put an arm around each of us and asked, "Have you been told lately that you are loved?"
     We said no. Actually someone else had just come and told us she loved us. By no, we meant, No one from the leadership.
     "Well, you are," he said. And we had a normal conversation together, like we used to have with him, asking after his family.
     At the end of that service, Pastor Lou gave an extended, eloquent assurance to the congregation, as he had in his latest churchwide email, of a new transparency in the leadership, making offers "marked by personal, face-to-face interaction" in order to "become a healthy church that does not allow secret dysfunction" because "it's the secrets that keep us sick."
     That will certainly be a refreshingly new approach on the part of the leadership--one we have urged and striven for. Since November 22 Jerry and I have been exposing these secrets and this dysfunction on this blog and we will be more than happy to let the leadership take over the job of confessing the darkness they have fostered and the hurt they have caused by keeping these secrets. 
     All along, two or three intercessors for Grace have been getting in their spirits the word "disconnect." We've prayed to understand what this means. A disconnect between the leadership of Lou, Carl, Dave, Brian, Jerry, Ted, Kurt and the congregation? Yes, there has certainly been that--at least with half of the congregation. Now that they have made the "deadwood" so uncomfortable and so unwelcome (while announcing frequently "Everyone is welcome!") that most of our generation, battered and bloodied, have sought refuge in other churches, that disconnect is lessened. Almost everyone at Grace now, at the rate of a dozen new members a week, is on the same page.
     A disconnect between the minds of the core leadership and their hearts? Certainly that, too. They show the determination of brown shirts to "do their duty" by cleansing the world of "those who aren't like us." Heads loyal--but to the wrong god. Hearts of stone.
     But also a disconnect between their words and their deeds.
     As Easter approaches, the countdown of our 40 days of prayer, two things are happening--and they seem contradictory. One is that things seem to be genuinely getting better in the church itself, better unity, fellowship, worship. SO much that Grace is doing is good. So much genuinely good service to the community. So much real love, real community based on faith in the real Lord Jesus Christ. The disconnect is not apparent in the services. The hymns are solid, the choice of Bible passages, all about God winning the victory are just what we need. I cling to them. We can't fault the sermons (most of which are not preached by Lou). The sous pastors are preaching truth right out of I Peter. The doctrine is right on.
     At the same time, the deception coming from the handful of men at the very top is getting crueler and subtler. Their lies are more persuasive and reasonable, though no less lies, so that those of us who know better have a hard time not being sucked in ourselves. ". . . to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect." We have to keep bringing what they say and write back to the Lord, laying it out before Him and having Him address each sentence one at a time and show us how false they are:
     ". . . fomented by a small group of people since September 12, 2011." No Lou, fomented deliberately by you. You were more accurate later in your letter when you wrote,"what has been stirring in the background for the past 21 years"--but it is not "the dynamics, beliefs, personalities and ways of responding to leadership" that has caused the chasm. Those members you blame are people faithful to the Bible who kept being sent by God to you to hold you accountable to His truth. Ironically, God seems to be drawing people back to the Bible in spite of you.
     "I am deeply saddened by this whole experience." Crocodile tears. You orchestrated it. You wanted us out. You are not sad in the least that most of us are gone.
     "It's possible for Christians to disagree and still stay together and love each other." Not in this church. You have never permitted it. Try to approach and talk to you "face-to-face?" Members have been attempting that for 21 years. You responded--and had your hachet men respond--with a ferocious "You're causing division in the church!" and then, in many effective, not necessarily verbal ways, "SHUT UP OR GET OUT! - AND DON'T TELL!"
     "I want to stay open to the possibility of reconciliation." Please. The only reconcilation you will allow is silence, the signing of false accusations and forged resignations, and coming into lock-step conformity with your agenda.
     I sense that God is healing the church, bringing it back to its original, God-laid foundation in the midst of, in the face of, the attempted coup. What is amazing is that many of the leaders themselves seem to have gone about their ministries unaware of the dictatorship at the top. They have remained committed to truth--and believe that those at the top have, too.
     It may be some church members will never realize how close we came to losing the church to post-modernism and emergence. There are still a few powerful, mean-spirited individuals with a grip on this church, men who blame all that has happened on us--but God is weakening their power and credibility among their peers and will remove them in His time.

Grace on our knees: 2 days to go

Countdown to the resurrection:

"Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes!" I Samuel 12:16

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Grace on our knees: 3 days to go

Countdown to the resurrection:

You have trusted in your wickedness
   and have said, ‘No one sees me.’
Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you
   when you say to yourself,
   ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’
Disaster will come upon you,
   and you will not know how to conjure it away.
A calamity will fall upon you
   that you cannot ward off with a ransom;
a catastrophe you cannot foresee
   will suddenly come upon you." Isaiah 47:10-12

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Grace on our knees: 4 days to go

Countdown to the resurrection:

"Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you." Leviticus 26:8

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Transforming Grace: Note on sanctuary's new look

     We have to admit the carpeting in the auditorium (formerly sanctuary) looks better to us now that it's finished than it did before. 

Grace on our knees: 5 days to go

Countdown to the resurrection:

"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, "He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness." I Corinthians 3:19

Monday, April 2, 2012

Grace on our knees: 6 days to go

Countdown to the resurrection:

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." I Corinthians 1:27-29

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Grace Grieving 36: "Chapel of Change"--and it's not small change!

Vision360 First Church Plant
Church planter
          "Chapel of Change"

Mission Statement:
Giving Fresh Hope to Families

Vision Statement: 
Chapel of Change exist to be a multi-ethnic,
missional-minded community 

  that is a well of fresh hope for the weary,
    a catalyst of restoration for the broken,
    and an instrument of God to impact the world with the Gospel .

     Our leadership, as part of something called Vision360, recently announced the launching of the first of "50 Latino and multi-ethnic churches" they intend to plant in Long Beach over the next five years.
     So far this church seems to consist of four things: an earnest ethnic "church planter" who wants to help his community, a name worthy of Obama ("Chapel of Change"), a "Mission Statement," and a "Vision Statement"--innocuous phrases which can mean whatever one wants them to.
     As far as we can tell, this church has only a handful of potential members so far and not one core belief. "God" and "the Gospel" are mentioned and the word "Kingdom" is sprinkled liberally throughout, but none of these terms is defined. There are only statements like "We want to take the hands of families and walk them through the process of restoration. . . changing thousands and even millions of lives." They don't give any hints as to what this process entails, only assurances that it is "vibrant" and "life-transforming."  
     What isn't vague is that they want a lot of money-- $520,000 to be exact. Through a "Kingdom Fundraiser Campaign," our leadership makes that really clear in their announcement on the Grace website--multiple times:

     "[F]inances will be raised to sustain the church for three years. Will you partner with us in expanding the Kingdom of God by helping plant a new life-changing church?" 

     "Help us. . .raise funds to launch Chapel of Change. . ."   
  • Raise estimated $520,000.00 within two years to support church for three years
  • Would you consider being a monthly financial partner of $300.00, $100.00, $50.00 or $25.00
  • Any amount you can give, large or small, will help expand God's Kingdom
     "All checks will be made out to ____ and the memo designated to ______."
                                "Mail checks to ________. 

"It takes people who are willing to invest financially. You can play a vital role in expanding God's Kingdom by investing in Chapel of Change."

     They're vague about how they'll "expand God's Kingdom" with your money but they aren't at all vague about how much money they want, how to make out checks and where to mail them. (Donations to Vision 360 go to an "Office of Philanthropy.") 
     They want donations immediately to fund this as yet non-existent church--and that's only for its first three years.      
     Remember, this will be the first of 50 churches they intend to plant in Long Beach. If they plan to raise the same amount for the other 49, that's $26,000,000.
     We are sure there are already 50 ethnic churches in Long Beach, store-front churches that are struggling financially, churches that preach a clearly-defined Christian message, the whole gospel of Jesus Christ as given in the Bible. What if our church gave each one of those already existing "Hispanic and multi-ethnic" churches $520,000? Wouldn't that be more practical? For good measure we could send a family from our church to join them in helping their neighborhood flourish.
     It's a "chapel of change" all right--and it ain't small change.   

Grace received: A little thing

     Jerry and I were at Trader Joe's yesterday. I came around the corner into the frozen foods aisle ahead of him. The only other person in sight was a woman halfway down the aisle, headed away from us.
     As I came around that corner I heard a small, curious clink. I walked forward with my ears cocked, listening to discover the source of the noise. There was another small sound of something landing, this time on the floor ahead of me. Now I saw the cause, rolling toward my feet.
     It was only a penny. But I picked it up because we give all found money to the Ugandan Lambs, children orphaned by AIDS.
     Standing there holding the coin, I remembered a newspaper clipping about pennies I had received just a day or two before from a friend in Oregon. Printed in 2005, it was the story of a wealthy man who had no need for stray pennies but who always picked them up because the words "In God We Trust" printed on them reminded him to trust God and to check his heart to see whether he was trusting Him. 
     I had been feeling oppressed and uncertain that morning. I had asked God for reassurance once again that we are hearing Him right and following His leading. Now I examined the penny. Yes, the words were there: IN GOD WE TRUST. In case I didn't get it, the penny had been minted in 2005.
     Between my fingers was an amazing personal reminder--almost a whimsical one--that I need to keep trusting Him, that He knows what He is doing, has it all under control. Whatever we are going through, He can handle it. He is sufficient for all my needs.
     The penny had not dropped or it would have fallen into the frozen foods. As far as I could determine from the direction of the two sounds, the trajectory the coin followed, and the force with which it landed, the penny had been thrown across the open frozen goods bin from the shelf above them, as if from the next aisle--but a wall made that impossible. It was almost as if it had jumped.
     The first clink must have been the penny tipping the metal edge of the glass front of the bins, about waist-high. There was no other hard surface that could have caused that sound.
     The second sound must have been the coin hitting the floor--and indeed, I saw it hit at that moment and watched it roll a foot or so toward my feet.
     It was just a little thing, a very little thing. A little, awesome reminder of my great Abba's love.

Grace on our knees: 7 days to go

Countdown to the resurrection:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3 Living Bible