Connections  October - December 2018
Men’s Connect Director Ray Degani Feeds a Hunger for Knowing God

  • Learning to Give to the World

        At first glance, Ray Degani appears much younger than his 31 years. And his casual dress and demeanor belies the fact that he is a leader who is getting things done.

        As Men’s Connect Director, he is organizing events where men can share their thoughts on how to go about their day as men of God.

        “I want to be the man God wants me to be,” Ray said. “(Events like) the Saturday morning breakfast and the annual retreat are perfect for this because we can have a good time doing something of real value.”

        In 2016, then-Men’s Connect Director Joe Preston invited Ray to participate in organizing the monthly Men’s Breakfast.

        Ray’s ability to manage the breakfast and other the projects allowed Joe to hand him the baton. Ray credits Joe and Steve Seeger for helping him manage things, and not just the details of preparing vittles for 25 to 30 hungry men. 

        "They are mentors to me", Ray said. "I've learned a lot from them in large and small ways".

        Ray's faith in God has always been a part of his life and he talks to God everyday. 
        I've never had a thunderous moment where I went from non-believer to believer. I've always always been on board". 

        Ray and his older brother, Greg, grew up in Simi Valley. Their parents, Greg, Sr., and Julie, have both passed away. Julie suffered from an autoimmune disorder diagnosed when she was a young woman.

       "My whole life has been defined by her illness," he said. "Most of my life was focused on taking care of her."

       Ray and his wife, Emily (nee Monreal) have been married for five years. 

       They met in 2012 while working together at BJ’s restaurant.

        “We didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things at first, so I didn’t think we would even be dating,” Ray said.

       One day, before leaving work, he jokingly told her to text him so they could meet after work. “She didn’t actually have my number so I didn’t expect her to text.

    But she went on the company intranet and got it and sent me the text,” Ray said.

        One year later they were married. Ray is one of three brothers in-law that have played leadership roles at Life Spring. Emily’s sisters and their husbands are Lisa and Thinus Van der Merwe and Megan and Scott Wetzel.

        At first, Ray was reluctant to come to Life Spring, but Emily convinced him otherwise. He’s glad he listened to his wife. “Things weren’t easy in our marriage at first,” he said. “But after letting Jesus be Number One in me and our marriage—our marriage is the best thing in my life now.”

  • Why John said “Grace Upon Grace”

    "For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace".

    John 1:16 ESV

       Do you know what my kids hear me say all the time?

       I hope you’ve heard it a million times from your parents, and that you say it often to your children, if you have any. “I love you!”

            There are so many different ways to tell our children about the love we have for them, and they need to hear it from us. It’s so important, in fact, that I repeat it over and over to my kids.  When thinking of today’s verse, I couldn’t help but be reminded of telling my kids of my love for them. 

       The Apostle John could have easily written that we receive grace from God, but he says that we receive “grace upon grace.”  

       God obviously thought it was important enough to I think that, just as I tell my kids ‘I love you’ all the time, God wants us to know he is a God full of grace who gives grace.

       In a Christmas sermon, John Piper explains it like this: 

     “God doesn’t just want to stock your head with knowledge about His truth

    and grace, he wants you to receive it and experience it.” 

       This Christmas he wants to give you personally a foundation of truth and  

    reality to stand on, so you won’t cave in under stress.This Christmas he wants to treat you with grace - to forgive all your sins - all of them! - to take away all your guilt, to make your conscience clean, to help you with your problems, to give you strength for each day, and to fill you with hope and joy and peace.  

       Isn’t that the meaning of grace? And isn’t that why he pitched his tent among us?

       So carve out a little easy livin’ time this week and refresh your heart and spirit with blessedness instead of business. 

       And don’t worry; the chores will still be there. They aren’t going anywhere!

                                                                                                                    - Joe Stowell

  • What Should We Teach Our Children About Halloween?

    It’s not uncommon for people to struggle with whether to celebrate Halloween. This answer from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association may offer some guidance:

      For some people, this holiday is a time for dress-up and candy; it is an opportunity for fun.  Those who are interested in the right or wrong of the celebration may look at the holiday’s origin in the occult and believe it should not be celebrated at all; they are aware that some groups celebrate Halloween as a tribute to Satan.On the other hand, others recognize that Halloween, the eve of “All Saints Day,” on November 1, is also associated with Martin Luther and the Reformation.

       They celebrate the religious freedoms won at that time in history. Since each of those perspectives contain truth, it is difficult to know how to respond.

        We encourage each family to develop their own approach to Halloween based on their own convictions and the options for celebration available to them.

       Some parents adapt the traditional  Halloween practices, while others develop totally different alternatives. These alternatives may include fall festival parties where children are encouraged to dress in a particular theme such as positive cartoon or book characters, famous historical characters, or Bible heroes.  

       Carrying out that theme with simple acting can be fun and an opportunity for teaching values. Children will always be attracted to costumes and treats; finding positive ways to enjoy these pleasures is the primary challenge for caring adults.
                                                                      - See the complete article at   

  • on the calendar

    • Sunday, October 7 Sunday Pizza at Jax After second service  Also on November 4 & December 2
    • Tuesday, October 9 Youth Prayer Event At the church, 6 to 8 p.m. 
    • Saturday, October 13 Men’s Breakfast 9 a.m. at the church patio Also on December 8
    • Sunday, October 14 Teacher Appreciation Lunch Noon to 2 p.m., church patio
    • Saturday, October 20 Thrive Six Flags trip Meet at the church, 8 a.m. 
    • Saturday, October 27 Women’s Breakfast 8:30 a.m. in the lobby
    • Sunday, October 28 Children’s Harvest Celebration During Sunday school
    • Friday, November 2 Women’s Spa Night 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.,at the Borg’s Home
    • Tuesday, November 6 Thrive Harvest Festival At the church, 6 to 8 p.m.
    • Friday thru Sunday November 16 to 18 Men’s Retreat, Pismo Beach
    • Friday, December 7 Women’s Christmas Dinner Posada Royale, 6 to 9 p.m. 
    • December 23, 2018 Sunday Service 9 a.m. & 10:30 a.m. 
    • Monday, December 24 Christmas Eve Service 4:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. 
    • Sunday, December 30, Sunday Service 9 a.m. & 10:30 a.m.