Thanksgiving

Posted by: on Nov 26, 2015 in Blog
Thanksgiving

Probably the most American holiday, right behind The Fourth of July, is Thanksgiving. Abraham Lincoln enshrined the holiday, fixing it on the calendar on the last thursday of November. The holiday, as it was conceived, was deeply embedded in the Christian tradition. It is a Christian attitude to be grateful. Why? Because the Christian Gospel gives us the single greatest example of absolute unmerited favor. We are grateful for a gracious God who saw in a pitiful, sinful creature, someone to be rescued. We indeed have each brought upon ourselves profound sin. We have offended our creator simply by not acknowledging Him, or even worse, denying Him.

But God was gracious. There is no greater thing to be thankful for than God’s salvation. And if your Thanksgiving expresses only gratitude to people or things, then it is deficient. Thanksgiving has always been about God. Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation is worth a read, if only to remind you that Abraham Lincoln, who some consider the greatest embodiment of American ideals, was himself grateful for the grace of the Christian God.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Paris and Evil

Posted by: on Nov 16, 2015 in Blog
Paris and Evil

In the hipstery corners of the internet, it’s en vogue to decry the decrying of the Paris attacks since we have not decried the dozens of terrorist attacks that have happened around the World before Paris. Now there’s a stack of people wishing they had been decrying those attacks before anyone else had started decrying them. Even now as I write this, I’m trying to out-meta all other meta commentary going on about Paris. Why? Because at this point, being the snarkiest, and most cynical voice online is the best way to get credibility, and if you’re the first? The world bows to your majesty.

Well, not really. But that emptiness, that void of substance behind the 14 minute hashtag trends and profile pic filters, has been the extent to which the majority of people intervene in any of these various crises. For most, clicking “like” and then going back to this is par for the course. But that’s not even what I’m actually about to complain about.

Some days ago, a cartoonist from Charlie Hebdo, a french satirical magazine, whom you might remember, suffered their own catastrophic terror attack  earlier this year, posted the cartoon below.

Joann-Sfar-Created-Drawing-Asking-People-to-Not-Use-PrayForParis-Hashtag

… or hedonism

I suppose I understand the sentiment. Radical Islamic terrorists are devout, religious zealots. It’s easy to see how Religion as a category can be tainted by the evil done in Islam’s name. But there is no wisdom in the assumption that Religion is to blame.

Islam, Roman Catholicism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Westboro Baptist Church, Secular Humanism, Atheism, Pastafarianism, and Scientology among others, all have one thing in common.

They do not liberate us from Sin.

Sin born in the hearts of those men is what caused the violence in Paris, and Syria, and Beirut, and Sudan, and Somalia, and Baghdad, and Lebanon.

All false religion fails to deliver its people from sin because it attempts to make its members earn their right to paradise. So they proceed to work themselves up the endless stairs. That’s when Evil is born. Men (and women) pursuing goals set by some false system of belief, a good that is not ACTUALLY good, a peace that is not ACTUALLY peace, a Utopia that is no such thing. In and of themselves, these goals only led to more carnage. Lenin, Pol Pot, Castro, Kim Il Sung, pursued their dreams of Utopia. Osama Bin Laden pursued a world ruled by what he believed is the greatest source of good. Were any of these men wrong? Were any of these men evil?

If your worldview doesn’t allow you to call something evil, then you have no basis to decry anything. Anything goes. Which means that worldview is worthless. A worldview that only says “music, kisses, life, champagne and joy!” has no ability to discern or correct. It is worthless and makes simple consuming and copulating animals out of responsible moral agents.

The only source of transcendent meaning, and therefore, the only worldview providing the capability to uphold good instead of evil, is the one found in the Bible. The alternative is a quagmire of opinions, apathy, or worse. You might object, saying “But Bible believers have been responsible for numerous wars all over the world, over thousands of years!”. If that’s you, consider the following.

As long as people exist, evil exists in this present world. In civilizations where the Bible has played a central role as a foundational philosophical source, peace has been cultivated. No, they didn’t start out that way, and no, they didn’t always stay that way, but as a general rule, Western civilization became more and more peaceful. When a Western nation strayed out of line (usually motivated by some sort of dehumanizing, anti Christian, philosophy), other western nations would rise up and punish the aberration. Of course, if the Nation volunteers to deny the truth of Christian goodness, pain follows.

France is at a crossroads. It may follow the cries of her Philosopher/Artist/College Professor/Student/Barista or, maybe, it can listen to that old, dusty whisper from Jerusalem.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NASB95)

#PrayforParis

Abortion Protested

Posted by: on Sep 3, 2015 in Blog
Abortion Protested

A warm Saturday morning in Whittier CA usually means breakfast at one of the several wonderful restaurants nearby (Sol Maya to be precise)  or an early movie at the Whitter Village Cinema . I love this town, and its people. I’d never noticed the Planned Parenthood clinic sitting right down the street from some of my favorite haunts. So when I drove up the familiar road where I usually head for a friendly meal or a cheap movie, in order to join a protest in front of the clinic, my stomach churned.

Since 1973, about 53 million abortions have been performed legally in the United States. The good news is fewer women are getting abortions than just a few years ago. The bad news is, 53 million people have already died, and this year, thousands more will die. That’s self induced genocide. Untold riches, imagination, music, science, film, and art, have been ground in the mortar and pestle of social progress. An inordinate number of those liquidated are Hispanic or Black.  30% of total abortions are performed on Black women, 25% on Hispanic women. The Pro-Choice movement is often aligned with other Liberal social justice causes like the expansion of welfare, Affirmative action, or Feminism. But abortion has decimated the ranks of these exact same minorities Pro-Choice voices say they represent . Women of color have been slaughtered by the millions, by their own people. The line goes, “we must provide safe and legal abortions for the sake of these oppressed women”. But how can a procedure that ends the life of a human being who would otherwise be born healthy, be considered safe? It is most certainly not safe for the babies who are murdered inside of their own mothers.

As a Christian pastor, my primary concern here is not political. Abortion is evil, akin to slavery or human trafficking. Both of these have been strongly opposed by Christians, not just through legislative action but also by assisting the victims of these evils.

As women walked into the clinic that morning, my friend pleaded with them not to commit their children to death. His urgency disturbed even some who were standing with us in the protest. I could not fault him for his boldness. And after some thought, I commend it. Though I stood quietly holding my sign, I had not yet formed an opinion of whether or not I too should beg these women to turn around and let their children live. Even now, my temperament might keep me from loudly voicing such a sentiment to a lady I’ve never met.

The Bible is explicit in condemning the analog of abortion in its day. Though the invasive procedure that now exists was not in use at the time, unborn children were still regarded as precious and worthy of every protection any person would have.

Planned Parenthood is just one front in the ongoing slaughter of unborn children. Abortion, like slavery, must be revealed as the horrendous evil it truly is, and society must turn from it in repentance, asking for the mercy of God.

Jeremy from our church holding up a sign designed by abolishhumanabortion.com

Jeremy from our church holding up a sign designed by abolishhumanabortion.com

 

The Dominican Republic and her inhabitants

Posted by: on Aug 3, 2015 in Blog
The Dominican Republic and her inhabitants

I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this trip. To be honest, had I been in charge, we would’ve scrapped the whole thing pretty early on. This had mostly to do with how much I hate sweating. Alas, my wife (and I’m pretty sure God) dragged my sorry, damp, swampy, dadbod to this ISLAND PARADISE OF WONDER. I’m not kidding. The place looks like The Wizard of Oz if Oz was some gorgeous island in the Caribbean… uh…

Anyway.

We were there as participants with Students International. A missions organization dedicated to bringing young Americans to some of the poorest areas in the world in order to introduce them to to the work of missions and perhaps inspire some of them to become long term missionaries. Old fogies like the ones that made up our group (save one lil’ blonde whirlwind) had to get used to the finely structured schedule and dorm living. But this reacquired discipline helped bring about a clear focus.

You see, the Dominican Republic (the DR to the initiated) really does emanate a meditative tranquility. The people are kind beyond most anything I’ve encountered stateside. And the poverty itself, though a true problem that must be addressed, is simply a fact of life that does not hinder.

“The people are content here” said one of the missionaries who is herself a Dominican native. The people have what they need, they know nothing else and are content with what they have.

For many visitors, the lesson ends there. But this missionary had one more thing to say.

“The greatest poverty is to not come near to God.”

Not gonna lie. We have video of her saying that and I watched it about twelve times. I teared up every time. Some of it has to do with how easy it is to make me cry. I cry watching Folgers commercials. But it also has to do with how elegantly she summed up all of missions. We did not go there to teach preschoolers how to read, though that was something we did. We did not go there to help a medical team take stock of the general health of the people in the area, though that was something we did. We did not go there to document and film what the participants and missionaries are doing at each site, though that is something we did.

We went there to carry the Gospel to a people who need it.

People can be poor, people can be rich. Cars and swimming pools, or tin cans and burning garbage, its the same poverty, if the Gospel is missing. Which means that coming back doesn’t mean we have left the mission field.

In some ways, our country is becoming more and more poor. I’m not talking about the Income gap. The Gospel, the true Gospel, the one that proclaims that Christ has purchased for Himself a people by way of sacrifice. The Gospel that saves because of God’s unmerited favor towards His own, the one that demands nothing and gives everything. This rare Gospel which has become one of the most offensive ideas to modern western society, is the one which is being quickly run out of the idea marketplace.

God’s people carry the most precious treasure on Earth. A message from the Creator that brings depth and significance to all things. It redeems a people who have been enslaved by sin. No one is exempt, Everyone was born unable to please God, able only to produce a stinking offense to the King of the Universe. But Jesus was a worthy sacrifice. His life and death procured at the highest price, eternal life for His people.

I’m glad I went on this trip because I met a group of missionaries who know that this is the true gift they bear. We also got to know the Dominicans themselves, who are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. Now we’re back, and we are more rich for having gone.IMG_2445

Did I mention the food? Oh man. I need to go back there and eat my weight in Mofongo and Pica Pollo.

Again.

Updated info!

Posted by: on Jul 3, 2015 in Blog

Our website is pending a big, beautiful overhaul very soon! Until then, you’ll find some of the info on these pages is out of date.

Here’s our Sunday schedule so you can come visit!

  • 9:00 am – Spanish Service
  • 10:15 am – English Service
  • 11:45 am – Bible Fellowship (where we discuss the sermon and dive even deeper into some great topics! All ages welcome.)
  • 12:30 pm – Lunch! A group of us will often walk to the Brea Mall food court or caravan to a nearby restaurant. We’d love to have you join us!

If you have any questions, please contact Pastor Miguel Martinez: migflea@gmail.com, 562.900.1044

Join us at the Brea July 4th Country Fair!

Posted by: on Jul 4, 2012 in Blog
Join us at the Brea July 4th Country Fair!

Grace Covenant Community Church will have two booths at the city of Brea July 4th Country Fair.  Come join us and play ring toss, write letters to our troops, or just fellowship with us.  The fair goes from 10am to 4pm at City Hall Park.  We hope to see you there!

http://www.ci.brea.ca.us/article.cfm?id=2977

 

The Way I See It

Posted by: on Mar 3, 2012 in Blog
Photo credit marfis75 on flickr

Photo credit marfis75 on flickr

“I’ll have a triple venti nonfat upside-down Caramel Macchiato with sugar-free vanilla, at 180.  Within these words of a typical order at any Starbucks coffee shop you can learn a great deal about the world in which we live. There is perhaps no more relevant or revealing symbol of today’s culture than Starbucks.  It is not the incredible popularity of Starbucks that makes it relevant; it is the fact that Starbucks offers exactly what the postmodern culture of the Western world is seeking. In other words, if you want to see the face of our culture, or to know its passions and pursuits, you need not look much further than your local Starbucks. The very symbol of Starbucks is the Siren, that mythical beauty of Homer’s Odyssey who lured sailors to their death with her song of enchantment. So too, does Starbucks entice us with promises of more than just a $4.00 cup of coffee.

One of the clever marketing tools of Starbucks is their “The Way I See It” campaign. These are the sayings or philosophies of various contributors that are found on each cup of coffee they sell. Postmodern philosophy and the most current politically correct crusade pervade these little “nuggets” of humanistic thought. But as a pastor, and all who desire to share Jesus with others, this is the culture we must learn to engage. We are expected to communicate Christ in a relevant and effective fashion. Paul introduced the God of Creation to the Greek philosophers in Athens by talking philosophy with them (Acts 17); in the same way, you and I can use the lonely, empty path of humanism to share the hope we have in Christ Jesus to those we encounter. We can contrast the incomplete and insufficient call for human charity with the full and perfect agapè love of God.

The philosophies of man and the pursuit of gods of our own making have been with mankind since Adam and Eve; but God has been about the business of redeeming a people of His choosing from among the all the world’s amateur philosophers and idol-makers. He has redeemed you and me, and now He calls us to love others, proclaim the gospel, and live out our faith in this world. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 6:2Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. The gospel message is urgent; and it is relevant. Let’s be anxious, loving, and always ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you. Just read the message of a Starbucks cup and compare it to the hope of the gospel. Then share the good news with others— maybe over a cup of coffee.

The Prodigal’s Lament

Posted by: on Feb 29, 2012 in Blog
The Prodigal Son ~FallingSpirit on DeviantART

The Prodigal Son ~FallingSpirit on DeviantART

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is the familiar story of the prodigal son. This parable from Luke 15 captures not only the wayward heart of all of us, but more importantly illustrates the patience and love of God for His children.

All of us are “prodigals” to some degree. We spend our lives on selfish pursuits, seeking gratification in temporal pleasures like a 21st Century Esau. And though I do not wear the name as a form of identity, “prodigal” is still an apt description of who I am the moment I waiver in my affection for Christ, my Savior. The term serves to remind me of who I was, and who I would be still, were it not for a merciful heavenly Father who saved me and His Son who bore my sin and shame.

“Saints and Sinners” — that’s what we are. It’s an oxymoronic term that aptly describes the state of the yet to be glorified Christian; but I fear we sometimes bear it too proudly. While there is comfort found in the forgiveness that is mine in Christ, dare I be comfortable in my sin? I think it is possible to be too quick to claim Christ’s pardoning blood when it precedes confession and repentance. Not that pardon is contingent on these things, but absent a repentant heart can we really be confident in our calling and election? After all, Scripture says that the true Christian has been born again, is a new creation, and will be transformed more and more into the image of Christ. The unrepentant can find little comfort in the biblical description of God’s grace.

That is where the story of the prodigal becomes convicting, encouraging, and comforting. It is convicting because, to paraphrase Paul, “I am the chief of prodigals”. I let my eyes (and ultimately my heart) feast on the wares of the merchants of Vanity Fair. I am also guilty of finding pleasure in the gifts of God that does not flow out of my love for Him. To enjoy the gift without first enjoying, loving, and adoring the Giver is a prodigal act. But, like the prodigal son, I find the treasures of this world to be counterfeit, and my joy in them fleeting.  However, out of the destruction of our prodigal ways comes hope, as we come to our senses and repent of our sin. Luke tells us that the prodigal “came to his senses” (NASB vv. 17-19) and determined to return home; and he knew that even if his father took him in as a servant, it would be much better than what he had found in the world. When we see our sin, we must confess it and return to our Father with a repentant heart, knowing that He will run to us with outstretched arms, and mercy beyond measure. And we will discover that it is only in His presence that we find true satisfaction and lasting joy.