Thursday, January 29, 2015

Generous through you

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.   2 Corinthians 9:7-8

If you want to measure how much you understand grace and how much you’re living by grace, look at your giving.

I wear 2 Corinthians 9:8 on a wrist band 24/7 because I need to be reminded constantly of where my source of life and strength comes from.  Notice the “alls” — “all grace,” “all things,” “at all times,” “having all that you need” — those are the promises related to the person who becomes like Jesus. What was Jesus like? He reflected God the Father; He was a giver.

The most famous verse in all the Bible, John 3:16, reflects this:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Until we train ourselves to be generous with our time, money, resources, and opportunities, we’re not going to be like Christ. Nothing is greater proof that you understand grace than being lovingly gracious and generous to other people and to God. If we can trust God enough for salvation, why can’t we trust Him in our finances?

The whole purpose of our Generous Living series is to equip the PCC community with teaching and tools to fuel other worldly generosity. Whether it is Financial Peace University, Discovery Bible Study, or some other aspect of this series, please know that our heart is for your freedom! 

Speaking of our hearts, this coming Sunday, in our Generous Living Series, we will get to the heart of generosity in a very practical way interacting around how to be generous. The truth is, we really don’t own anything. God has loaned resources to us for 70 or 80 years. It’s all His in the first place.

God gives to us generously. Then He says, “Now as I have been generous to you, allow me to be generous through you!”

I look forward to being with you on Sunday.

I love being your pastor!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Trust Much

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  Luke 16:10-11

This morning, pondering Jesus’ teaching (yet again!) on the stewardship of our “stuff,”  (Mammon, or as the NIV translates it, “worldly wealth,” encompasses so much more than income, it the accumulation of all we own.) I was struck in this passage by a question I don’t often hear asked.

What I often hear asked of me and ask of others is the question “Can you trust Jesus with this?” Throughout our lives we will face circumstances and various dynamics that seemingly betray God’s goodness. It is through these times we make a choice to walk obediently in faith, believing God is trustworthy and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  Believing that God is weaving a tapestry with our lives that most glorifies Him for all eternity.  We have to trust that His providence trumps our agenda, comfort, etc… easier said than done right?

However, today I sensed the Holy Spirit reversing the syntax of my often-asked question, asking of me, “Can Jesus trust you, Gary?” Now please don’t hear what I am not saying.  We are not discussing God’s love here--God loves the world! That is clear.  We are discussing stewardship and if I read the passage above, let alone the whole parable the passage comes from, Jesus seems to be teaching that there is a direct correlation between our stewardship of our “stuff” and God’s entrusting “true riches” to us.  (True riches would be what God deems valuable: what lasts for eternity.)

Can Jesus trust you? It is this very question which is driving us to offer Financial Peace University, and which prompts me to invite every PCC’er to the Bayview Room this Sunday at 8:55am for the free preview of the course. Childcare is provided.

Millions of people around the country have gone through Financial Peace University. They've worked a plan, rewritten their stories, and changed their futures. On average, FPU graduates pay off $5,300 in debt and save $2,700 in only the first 90 days!  This class meets for nine weeks on Sundays at 8:55am. It incorporates small-group discussions that help encourage accountability and discipleship. FPU teaches members how to handle money God's ways, and His ways work!

At the end of our lives, I am sure you want to look back, in the presence of Jesus, and hear this spoken over you, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant. You leveraged all I entrusted to you, in the strength and power that was available to you, for my glory and for the good of people.”  I know no better tool than FPU to help us achieve that end.

I want nothing from you, just something for you--I want for you, what I want for me: A life maximized for eternity. This weekend we will continue in our Generous Living series looking at Jesus’ money advice in Matthew 6:19-24

I love being your pastor!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Taking hold of life

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  1 Timothy 6:17-19

Taking hold of life that is truly life…Sounds inviting, doesn’t it?  It is attainable and simple really, it’s just not easy!

The Apostle Paul was mentoring Timothy, a young pastor of the premier church in the New Testament, the Church of Ephesus. Many people in the port cities where Timothy was a pastor were coming to Christ and embracing new life through Him.  Parenthetically, this was not solely due to Timothy’s gifting, but rather due the church’s giving. Their generosity fueled their growth.

These port cities were first century epicenters of trade and wealth. Paul, who planted many of these churches, knew that even back then, rich people faced unique challenges as they embraced Jesus as their Lord. Just like today, they were vulnerable to the dizzying effects of money -- so he gave counsel to his young protégé on how to pastor these people. 

Many people assume the Bible is all about restrictions resulting in leading a boring life. Trust me when I say that God wants you to live a joy-filled, Christ-centered, eternally significant life. The reality is that every command in Scripture has two inherent motives behind it: God’s protection and God’s provision.

Everything we have is a gift from God. He’s generous, and He wants us to be generous, too. The Bible says, “A generous person will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25 NIV). Doesn’t that verse just make you smile? There’s a reason why Jesus taught that it is more blessed to give than receive.

The bottom line is this: God tells us in His Word that life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured. In the coming weeks, we will explore this reality further in our Generous Living series.  I cannot wait to journey together.  If last week is any indicator, God has some great things in store for us!

I’ll see you this weekend!  I love being your pastor!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Luis Palau

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…  2 Corinthians 5:17-18

Happy New Year PCC!

Don’t you love the thought of “new?” I still love holding babies because everything on them is so new…their little fingernails and fingerprints, the whites of their eyes and the fresh color of their iris, the beauty of their skin.  The smell of a new car, putting on a new shirt, hearing from people who have had knees or hips replaced. Or think of the New Year’s phenomenon.  From celebrations to resolutions, there is a fresh hope, fresh energy exerted at the thought of new.

Reading through 2 Corinthians 5, you pick up a similar enthusiasm from the Apostle Paul.  Only for him, the exhilaration was surrounding the concept of new life!  Wholesale transformation from the inside out!  Paul in verse 17 above is saying that from his perspective, everyone qualifies for the transformational internal and eternal alteration that comes only through Jesus.  Having experienced complete forgiveness, a new eternal purpose, a daily sense of God’s presence, and other worldly peace that comes only from Jesus, Paul could never look at anyone the same way again. Every person he laid eyes on was a candidate who qualified to be transformed by the power of Jesus, just as he was.  He said it himself in verse 16: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

My point?  As followers of Jesus, saved by grace through faith in Jesus, we have not only been forgiven and made new, but we have been given a ministry.  It is the ministry of reconciliation!  Reconciliation means to re-establish a broken relationship.  We actually have been hand-picked and commissioned by the Lord to share with a lost broken world, and every single occupant in it this incredible message:  You Qualify!  The God of the universe has sent me to you with a personal message.  He loves you and wants you to stop running, turn to Him, be made new, and come home!

What a gift!  Men and women, do we realize how spiritually rich we are?  Do we understand that with this spiritual inheritance comes a sacred stewardship? For the next five weeks, we will explore these very truths in a series called Generous Living.

This Sunday, to kick off the series, we have a person who, next to Billy Graham, has stewarded this sacred ministry and shared the Gospel around the world to more people than anyone alive. (Having addressed more than 1 billion people in his lifetime.) Luis Palau will be with us sharing how we, too, can steward the life-transforming message of the Gospel. What a great way to kick off the New Year and this new series!

The ministry of reconciliation is not our ministry, it is God’s.  We will, one day face God for a performance review of sorts and account for how we stewarded His ministry that He entrusted to us.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

How are you doing stewarding God’s ministry of reconciliation? I encourage everyone who calls PCC home to make the next 5 weeks a priority and not miss one Sunday.  I honestly believe we will never be the same. I can think of no better Sunday than this one to bring a friend, neighbor or colleague to PCC.

I love being your pastor!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Giving to Changed Lives

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.   
2 Corinthians 9:6-9

As the Christmas lights dim and we set our sights to 2015, I want to again thank you for your part in making 2014 a banner year for the Peninsula Covenant Church community.

It's our vision, hope and prayer that PCC thrives as a community of people being changed by the love of Jesus and that because of PCC, communities around the world are changing to reflect God's values being shared by all.  I am not PCC -- we are PCC -- and we all play a part in making that vision a reality.

Please watch this video of life changes, as evidence of a small glimpse of the work of God's Spirit through PCC.

Will you prayerfully consider joining the giving to changed lives, or in your current giving, share a special year-end gift?

I look forward to gathering together this Sunday.  God bless you and Happy New Year!

I love being your pastor!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hopeful and Desperate

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  Luke 2:10-11

Merry Christmas PCC!

We are locked and loaded with Christmas Eve preparations, ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior four times on Christmas Eve.  Since it is good news for all people, let’s join God in inviting all people to the gatherings!  Be bold with your inviting spirit! Times and information on the four gatherings can be found here.

What’s so good about the good news?  The reality of the human condition is that we need Jesus like we need oxygen. Like we need water. Like the branch needs the vine. Jesus is not merely a figure for devotions. He is the missing essence of our existence. Whether we know it or not, we are desperate for Jesus -- more desperate than we realize.  I see, read of and hear the desperate cries through the headlines on my homepage, through the ethnic unrest in our communities, through the justice disparity that exists on the Peninsula and around the world, and through all the “…isms” that have become commonplace. Sin is insidious and has permeated vast aspects of our whole existence. Oh friends, I am an upbeat person by nature, but don’t mistake temperament for contentment. I am hopeful but desperate.
To have Jesus’ life, joy, love, and presence cannot be compared. To know Him as He is, is to come home. A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness. The very purpose of our being here on this planet, at this moment in time, taking up space and filtering air through our lungs, even reading this missive comes down to three things:

  • To love Jesus with all that we are: This is the first and greatest command. Everything else in life flows from here.
  • To share our daily lives with Jesus: To let him be himself with us. At the office, at supper, as we recreate, along the way—just as the disciples did.
  • To allow his life to fill ours: To heal and express itself through ours. There is no other way we can hope to live as He did and show Him to others.

As I close out 2014, my prayer and exhortation for us who call PCC home is this:  Love Jesus. Let Him be Himself with you. Allow His life to permeate yours. The fruit of this will be . . . well… breathtaking.

Finally, may I also ask you to be bold in joining the PCC community asking God for His favor financially as we end this year?  We need a God-sized increase this month!  You can watch a short video and glean more information that will help us all pray here

Thanks for an amazing 2014, PCC, and trust me when I say God has some amazing, faith-stretching, disruptive ventures ahead of us as a community in 2015.  I look forward to worshipping together tomorrow night.

I love being your (hopeful and desperate) pastor!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).”  Matthew 1:23

Merry Christmas PCC!


Immanuel! God came to be with us! Re-read that line again and let it settle. 

To Joseph and everyone else listening or reading Matthew’s account of the angel’s visit, they heard the Immanuel announcement in the context of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament God is so holy, you can't even look upon Him in His purest essence and live. They would have known that Moses had to hide his face when God passed by because Moses couldn't handle the full-blown presence of God. They would have known that the angels closest to God in heaven are called burning ones because they are literally aflame due to God’s holiness. They would have known that when God dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the temple that nobody was allowed in, except for the high priest only once a year. 

And suddenly the angel tells Joseph, your fiancé is pregnant, it’s God’s doing and she is carrying God -- Immanuel – “God is with us.” 

  • What is it that made the shepherds run back into the fields rejoicing? What was it that caused the Wise Men to fall on their face and bow down and worship by divesting themselves of wealth?  
  • What is it that caused Simeon to run to the temple and take the Baby from their arms and tell the Lord -- now I can die! 
  • What is it that in Revelation 12, caused Satan himself to do everything in his power in the heavenlies to prevent the birth of Christ? 
It was this fact and this fact alone: the announcement that God is not a distant, far-off, uninvolved God. That God is not some cosmic clockmaker who just wound the world up and walked away. It was the reality that God came near; God was now with us. The Creator and Sustainer of the universe is a relational God who stripped Himself of His glory and became like us in the form of a baby, who was all God and all human yet without sin, He dwelt on earth. And He dwells with His followers today.

This Christmas as we turn our attention to Jesus, let’s not forget the intent of Jesus’ coming. Christmas is God coming to rescue us. It was an act of humility, love and sacrifice unparalleled in the history of the world. But the act did not take place in a vacuum. The act had a fierce intention to it, and the object of this act was you and me; the purpose was our rescue and restoration, to bring us back to God. Why have we lost sight of that?

Christmas is the most stunning rescue story of all time. Under cover of night, in a remote village in Palestine, in a world held captive by the dark prince, God comes to earth as a human being, a little boy. He invades the human race in order to rescue the human race. Satan was furious. He lashed out desperately to tried and stop the invasion. The angels went to war. (Revelation 12) But God could not be stopped. He would ransom and restore His beloved. The beauty of the act cannot be adequately expressed. And what are we to think of the ones God would go to such lengths to rescue, and at such a price? How precious they must be. They must be worth a great deal to him. Inestimable worth. 
At least, that ought to be the effect of Christmas upon us. May this truth help us to celebrate Christmas for what it is – as a daring rescue. God with us! May we be stunned at the way God goes about things. To fall in love again with His amazing heart. 

My prayer for us this Christmas season is that we would truly experience Immanuel -- God came to be with us!  I look forward to celebrating with you both this Sunday and diving deeper into Immanuel through our Hark! series. And then on Christmas Eve, I cannot wait to gather with you at one (or more!) of our 4 Christmas Eve Gatherings
Don’t come alone.  Celebrating the birth of Jesus is just too good to keep to ourselves! Who is God calling you to Immanualize?  To invest in relationally and invite to join you on Christmas Eve at one of our gatherings?

Merry Christmas beloved Church family! I love being your pastor!