Friday, August 27, 2010

Elevenly is Heavenly

Eleven years ago today I had the joy of being the first man to fall in love with the most beautiful, lovely little girl I had ever seen in my life up to that time.  (Since then the record has been splendidly tied.)  These days this charming, pulchritudinous young lady enjoys watercolor painting...

playing the piano...

...and reading great books.

Calli, my prayer for you on this birthday is that you'll always prize the Lord Jesus Christ as your greatest treasure, and that the imperishable beauty of your faith in him will overcome the world.

"Little child, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world... For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"
... 1 John 4 & 5

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.... Though you have not seen him, you love him.  Though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your soul.... let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."
... 1 Peter 1 & 3

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Summer Fun at DPC

The final installment of Summer Spectacular was last night, and it was... spectacular...

the menu was amazing

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Three Types of Responses

King Jesus -- this mysterious but compelling figure who stands in the center of history -- is calling out to us:  "Come to me... Follow me."

As one of my seminary professors use to say, there are generally three kinds of responses among those who would call themselves "Christians."

  • Cultural Christians:  These people are "Christians" in the sense that there's no other box on the religious questionnaire that they would check.  They consider themselves to be Christians because most of the people in their culture or sub-culture generally (outwardly, at least) subscribe to a Biblical form of philosophy & morality... and they usually find it to be workable enough... on the outside at least. 

  • Convenient Christians:  These are "Christians" who are also "disciples" whenever it's easy to be so... whenever nothing else gets in the way.  To choose an easy example:  If it's sunny on Sunday morning, they may be golfing.  If they had a busy Saturday, they may be home resting on Sunday.  If there's a big game on Sunday, they're in pre-game-ceremony mode.  If a friend or relative is in town for the week, they're visiting.  If there's any kind of inconvenience involved, they find that they can't worship that day.  In general, they follow Jesus when it's convenient.

  • Committed Christians:  These are Christians who do not live their lives for their own pleasure, but rather live their lives for the Lord.  Of course there are a thousand benefits that are poured into the lives of these people every day -- Psalm 103.2 -- but these people are willing to follow Jesus even when the benefits aren't obvious.  They are ready to follow Jesus wherever he goes... they are even willing to suffer (as Jesus did) and only enter into glory later (as Jesus did).  

There might be some over-simplification in the categories above and the examples used may offend some folks, but in general, when the call to live sacrificially for the glory of King Jesus reaches the ears of those who claim the name "Christian," there are three ways of responding.

Some yawn.  They continue to trivialize themselves.  In the end, this kind of response simply can't bear the weight of human dignity -- the dignity that God intended us to inhabit.  It's self-destructive.

Others withdraw in fear.  They have no category for living sacrificially for the glory of King Jesus.  In the end they usually just stop paying attention to that kind of talk, even when someone reads it to them out of the Bible.  They ignore it & keep keeping on with the way life is supposed to go.

Others hear the call of Christ and their hearts are stirred to greater dedication.  They see that Jesus bore his cross for them; they stand ready to bear their cross for Jesus.  This is the way of following Christ... and they will not shrink back from the life of faith... and one day they will receive all that is promised (Hebrews 10.35-39).  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Progress and Upward Mobility

My wife recently showed me this passage from a book she was reading.  The book is "Miss Julia Takes Over," by Ann B. Ross.  This is hilarious:

"I hurried back across the parking lot... thinking to myself
that it was past time for [the pastor] to get a call to another church.  It'd been my experience that the Lord never called a preacher to a smaller, less affluent congregation than the one he was in, it being plain that the Lord believes in progress and upward mobility as much as any American.  But would you ever get a preacher to admit to such a thing?  No, you wouldn't.  I've heard preacher after preacher in my day get up in the pulpit and with a long face and sadness dripping from his words announce that the Lord had called him elsewhere.  He acts as if it's a matter of great regret to him, as if he's making a huge sacrifice to obey the Lord's leading and accept a call to a larger church and a bigger salary.  Have you ever noticed that?

I decided then and there that if [the pastor kept doing things that annoyed her], I was going to see if I couldn't arrange a call from the Lord.  I knew some Presbyterians in a large church down in South Carolina who were looking for a preacher.  A note to the effect that Pastor Ledbetter might be open to a move should do the trick.  I might even be open to contributing to the salary they were offering, just to get him away from here.  If I could get away with it."

Monday, August 23, 2010

13 Years of Awesomeness

Thirteen years ago today my wife and I met this wonderful, remarkable young man who's lived with us ever since.  Recently this young man has discovered a love for soccer...

...and a need for shaving...

...while continuing to read entire books faster than I can read stop signs.

Jonathan, my prayer for you on this birthday is that you'll always follow Christ with a whole heart.  I pray that you will live in the wisdom of God and in the life-giving grace of the Spirit...

"My son, be attentive to my words; 
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil."
... Proverbs 4

"[God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption."
... 1 Corinthians 1


In this very-real city, in living history, around 2,000 years ago... all my sins were paid for.

And death was conquered on my behalf.

This isn't "once upon a time" stuff.  This objectively happened in an actual city.  You can still go visit the place where this happened & take pictures of it if you wanted to.  God has dealt decisively and historically with all of my sins.

"Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, 'Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?"  Luke 24.18

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed."  The Apostle Peter

Four Things

Dear Church family & friends,

There are four things happening in the life and ministry of DPC this fall of which I want to make you aware...

Stronger Marriages
Marriages are under attack these days.  And it's not just because a handful of states several hundred miles away keep moving towards more and more recognition of same-sex marriages.  No, it's not that simple.  Marriages are under attack right here and right now.  If marriage really is meant to be a dramatization of the gospel — as the Bible repeatedly claims — then it is truly a huge thing for Adam's unruly children to grow into. We're going to need to encourage one another, strengthen our own commitment to marriage, and deepen our understanding of the counter-cultural implications of a union so profound that the Bible actually calls it "one flesh."  It's time for some push back.  It's past time.

Starting Sunday night, September 12 — and continuing to meet every second Sunday night of the month for a long, long time — we're going to have something of a "monthly workshop" for marriages.  We'll be meeting from 6:00 - 7:05 pm in the gathering room. Childcare will be provided.  For the first ten monthly meetings, we're going to be watching DVD's of Paul David Tripp presenting his marriage conference entitled,  What Did You Expect?  Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.  It's excellent.  We'll have some brief discussion after each session.

This ministry is for anyone who is married, who was once married, or who may be married some day in the future.  The whole world is invited.  Please tell them.

Leadership Training Class
DPC is in need of more givers, more leaders, more servants.  For seven Sunday nights (see the schedule below), I'm going to be teaching a Leadership Training Class.  Please note the topics listed below.  You'll see that the purpose of the class is not to make a bunch of Winston Churchills out of us.  Nor is the purpose for us to become graduate-level theologians.

Rather, the purpose is to challenge participants to be actively involved in their own spiritual growth and in the discipleship of others in the Body of Christ by serving in various “servant-leadership” capacities.  Eventually (not right away) this class will be required for anyone who serves the church in any leadership role whatsoever — from serving as an elder to serving as the Toddler Sunday School Class teacher... and everything in between and beyond.

This class will meet at the church from 6:00 - 7:00 pm on the Sunday nights listed below.  Childcare is provided.  It's open to men, women, teens, members, attenders, Alabama fans, Auburn fans, etc.  But to attend you must sign up.  See me if you'd like to sign up.  Or you can call the office at 256.351.6010.
September 26 Introduction:  A Reformed Church... With a Mission... Looking for Leaders
October 17 Leadership According to Jesus
October 24 The Leader & His / Her Bible
November 21 Rightly Handling the Word of Truth (Bible Interpretation)
December 5 The Leader & His / Her Prayers
January 9 The Leader's Life & Accountability
January 16 Leadership Involves Challenges... & Rewards

Iron Men Breakfast & Bible Study
A large part of the reason why marriages are under attack is because men are under attack.  Today's culture is rough on a man who wants to "keep his way pure" (Psalm 119.9).  You need to be a part of a true band of brothers, or you are going to be picked off by the enemy.

"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27.17).  If you're not being sharpened by brothers, you're being dulled by the world.

Tuesday mornings, 6:30 - 7:30 am (sharp!).  We'll be eating breakfast together & then discussing the book of Ecclesiastes ("A Life Worth Living").  All men & older boys are invited.  Invite friends from outside of the church as well.  We need to talk about the life worth living.

Iron Men:  Forged by God, Sharpened by Brothers.

Wednesday Night Ministries
Wednesday night ministries will resume on September 8.  The fellowship meal begins at 5:30 pm (see the Sunday bulletin for details about the meal), with events for all ages starting at 6:15 pm.  Adults can choose between choir practice (with Stu!) or the Wednesday Night Adult Bible Study.  We'll be continuing our study of 1st Samuel, picking up in chapter 9:  Saul: The Rise & Fall of a King.

Let us not neglect to meet together!  Rather, let us encourage one another... and all the more as you see the Day drawing near,

Tommy Lee

Friday, August 13, 2010

Meet the Schieler Family!

DPC just called a new Worship Director... Stu Schieler!  He and his family are pictured below, with one of the awesomest-looking dogs I've seen in a long time.  I asked the Schieler family to tell us a little bit about themselves... you can enjoy that "interview" below the picture.  The Lord has not only graciously given us a wonderful Worship Director... he's also given us a terrific new family in the process... with one of the awesomest-looking dogs I've seen in a long time.  (oh, yeah, there's a cat in there too)

Schieler History
Long ago in a galaxy far, far away called Florida, God saw fit to remove the “she’s the yucky best friend of my baby sister” scales from Stu’s eyes and caused him to see Lory.  Lory was the eldest daughter of the PCA Worship Leader at their church in Miami, Florida.  A wise organist consistently put the two together singing weddings and the romance finally wore off on Stu.  Their first date was to a supposed church youth movie night to see Cinderella. (Yes, at one time the Disney classics were shown in real theaters).  Lory said that she would attend and then asked who was going.  Stu’s reply was, “you…and me.”  From then on, it’s continued to be you and me.

Now the you and me happily includes a lovely daughter Jessie (14 going on 15) and a dashing son Tel (13).  The Schieler family also includes a 120 lb Malamute named Denali and a rescued orange cat named Toby.  Since Stu and Lory grew up in Miami, they adore the Miami Hurricanes and the Miami Dolphins.  Tel continues the Hurricane fascination but Jessie ventures out to include FSU (from band camp) or her new favorite -- Auburn.  This family loves football!

The Schielers love to primitive camp.  They take the tent, the guitar, the lanterns, the dog, and the canoe and they are all set.  A cooler filled with all sorts of camping delicacies is a necessity but other than that, it’s pretty much just God and the open sky.  We look forward to returning to the Big South Fork in KY.  Our children have never camped there and it’s incredibly beautiful!

Two years ago, the extended family went on a 2 week trip to Alaska.  It was life-changing for all of the Schielers!  God’s magnificent artistry in Denali National Park is unrivaled.  Tel almost stayed in the wilderness.  We dream of going back some day…to visit of course!  We plan on living in Decatur forever Lord-willing!

Apart from Christ, the Schieler family agrees that music is God’s greatest gift to us!  Jessie sings soprano and loves to play her flute.  Tel sings a perfect alto right now and enjoys playing his trumpet.  Lory sings alto, soprano II, or whatever crazy part Stu hears in his head that is missing from the chord. :>)  Stu sings Baritone, Bass,  and some parts that are only heard in his musical world!  Stu loves to play his guitar and also plays trumpet.  BEWARE – You have been warned—Stu’s love of praising the Lord through music is a joy he feels that EVERYONE should experience firsthand…. Even if the only one in your family with a musical bone is your great aunt Irma, Stu will think that there is a place for you in DPC’s music ministry.  He can get very creative and he fully believes that God’s ability to decipher joyful noises is much greater than ours!

Schieler Fun Facts:
Stu’s birthplace:  Ripon, WI   (moved to FL when he was 8)

Lory’s birthplace:  Miami, FL

Jessie’s birthplace:  Nashville, TN   (moved to FL when she was 1 month old)

Tel’s birthplace:  Tampa, FL

Stu & Lory have been married for 22 years this fall!  They started out in Miami, FL then moved to Divide, CO, then to Nashville, TN, then to Tampa, FL (almost 15 years) and now to paradise-- Decatur, Alabama!

Schieler Favorites:
Stu:  exploring, camping, music, 4-wheeling, watching old movies, Disney World & sitting around the camp fire

Lory:  reading, nature, music, Christmas, Disney World, riding horses, attending Schieler kid events :>) & singing

Jessie:  animals, friends, drawing, movies, music, outdoors, flute, band, & Disney

Tel:  pyro-boy (anything to do with fire or fireworks), legos, Star Wars, remote control cars, Harry Potter, camping, music, X-Box, & chocolate

The entire family loves mountain dew!  Everyone likes roller coasters except Lory.

Stu & Lory travels singing for Christ:
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, England, France, Mexico, Costa Rica, & Panama (Lory’s list also includes Australia and New Zealand with the University of TN at Chattanooga Singers)

Schieler Testimonies: 
 The Lord saw fit to call each of us to Himself when we were all children.  Lory, Jessie & Tel remember clear experiences…Lory was in her 3rd grade SS class outside and Tel was in his bunk bed as Mom and Dad were tucking him in.  Jessie remembers having prayers by herself as a first grader asking Jesus to come into her heart. Stu can’t remember a single clear event but he experienced Christ in a personal way at an early age and doesn’t have any recollection of being without Christ.  We give God the glory, praise to the Son, and honor to the Holy Spirit!

We can’t wait to worship regularly with you!  There’s nothing better on earth!  We’re thankful that God will allow us to worship in heaven too!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Care Groups

Care Groups

"... to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."
Acts 20:28

Dear Church Family,

This Sunday (August 15), DPC will be launching our Care Group ministry.  You might be asking, "What is this Care Group ministry stuff all about?"  I hope that this letter of Questions & Answers will serve as a helpful introduction.  In addition to this letter, we'll further consider some of the thinking of Care Group ministry in the sermon this Sunday.  And on Sunday evening, we'll kickoff the Care Groups with a church-wide fellowship meal at 5:30 pm.  The meal will be provided by some of the Iron Men of DPC.  Come and enjoy!  And feel free to invite a friend.

What is a Care Group?  
Care Groups are about to become a very important part of the life and ministry of DPC.  This will be the framework from which your pastors and elders and deacons will seek "to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood" — as the Apostle Paul charged the officers of the Ephesian church to do in Acts 20:28.

In ministering to a church (as in most other things in life) one quickly discovers that if you aim at nothing in particular, you will hit it almost every time.  Furthermore, you will discover that if something is simply seen as "everyone's responsibility," it quickly becomes (practically speaking) no one's responsibility.

Your officers are unwilling to let their care of you and your family fall into either one of these traps.  Our Care Group ministry will provide an infrastructure to ensure that:

1. We are not aiming at "nothing in particular" when it comes to the church's care for you.
2. The church's care for you will not be overlooked.

Who is this for?  Am I supposed to sign up?
It is for you.  And you are already signed up.  We've divided the entire church family (members and consistent attenders) into different Care Groups.  Each Care Group will have two officer families leading it.

But what if I'm not an official member of DPC?
For Care Group purposes, that doesn't matter.  Your being a part of a Care Group is not a commitment to church membership on your part.  It merely represents our commitment to take our care of you and your family more seriously for as long as you choose to fellowship with us.

Whose group am I in?
Come to church this Sunday and find out!  There will be an insert in the bulletin letting everyone know which group they belong to.

What if I wanted to be in a different group?
You will one day!  These are not permanent groups.  Rather, group membership will be completely reshuffled from time to time in order to cross-seed the richness of the church's fellowship — with respect to member-to-member fellowship and officer-to-member fellowship and officer-to-officer fellowship.

We're still figuring out how often we'll reshuffle the groups.  Maybe every year or maybe every other year.  But every time we "renew" Care Groups in this manner, we'll revisit the importance of this kind of ministry within the body of Christ and enjoy another big kickoff.

What is the purpose?
This question was largely answered by the first Question & Answer above ("What is a Care Group?").  To unpack it a bit more:  we hope to see this ministry be used by God to edify and encourage and "connect" members of the church.  We hope the quality of our fellowship will be enriched, for God has not called us to merely be a part of a crowd on Sunday morning... he's called us to be a part of a genuine community... a family.

We pray that your Care Group will help the church better know and meet your needs.  And we also pray that your Care Group will be an avenue through which you discover more ways that you can use and grow in the gifts that God has given you for service to the body Christ and to the world in his name.

Basically we want to grow in our pursuit of all the blessings of community:  fellowship, love, accountability, service and ministry to one another, hospitality, prayer, identifying with one another, walking with God and being his people in creative ways together, etc.  And we want to grow in our pursuit of these things with planned intentionality.  

Whose idea was it to use a structure like this?
Roughly 3,456 years ago there was a priest of Midian (specifically the tribe of the Midianites known as the Kenites; they lived in the Sinai desert) whose name was Jethro.  Moses married one of Jethro's daughters.  Dividing up the people of God into manageable groups for ministry was basically Jethro's idea.  See Exodus 18.10-27.

What will being in a Care Group look like?
At the very least, you should be invited to four Care Group meetings per year.  Those meetings may take a variety of forms, so I won't try to describe a meeting here.  But the common denominator of the meetings is that you'll be sharing life and prayer and fellowship with your brothers and sisters in the church.  You'll also have an elder and a deacon who you will come to see as "your" elder and deacon for the duration of that particular Care Group.  Of course, all the ordained officers of the church are your servant-leaders, but this will be a great opportunity to enrich your fellowship with particular officers while you're identified with their group.

What are some of the goals for these Care Groups?
Care Groups will serve many goals in the life of our church.  This will be a primary training ground for future church officers.  Care Groups will also facilitate the exercise of different ministries within the church.  For example, each Care Group will eventually have one of our supported missionaries assigned to its care.  That Care Group will have the privilege of staying in touch with that missionary, encouraging that missionary, praying for that missionary, keeping the rest of the church in touch with what's going on in the life and ministry of that missionary, etc.

The Care Groups will also be the vehicle in which we continue to minister to DPC's college students, as they begin to take ownership of their faith in a new way in the midst of the complexities of the university years.  The Care Groups will also be the place where meal ministry organization will take place... for those moments when delivering a meal to someone (who's just had a baby or had surgery, etc.) is a lovely way to demonstrate the care of Christ to them.

There are many other ways in which Care Groups can creatively help us be the body of Christ to one another... too many to attempt an exhaustive list.  But we'll have the joy of discovering more and more of these things as we walk this path together.  

Will Pastor Lee have a Care Group?
Yes.  All Care Group leaders and their families will be in my Care Group.  I'll make sure that none of our officers' families are being overlooked by the church's ministry, as they will make sure that your family (and my family) are not overlooked.  Of course, I am still your pastor, and I am available to you at any time.  Establishing Care Groups will not eliminate pastoral care; it will enrich and deepen it.

How can I be a faithful, fruitful, helpful Care Group member?
Thank you for asking this question!  I encourage you to start with the following:

  • Offer the hospitality of your home to your Care Group leaders sometime.  Don't force them to host all the meetings that take place in homes.
  • Pray especially for your Care Group leaders and members, as you get to know more of the needs and concerns of their lives.
  • Make it a personal goal to know and love and "own" the members of your Care Group.  Put yourself on the front-line of the church's care for your fellow Care Group members.  When one of your Care Group members or leaders needs encouragement, knock down everyone in your way and show that person the special honor worthy of a being made in the image of God.
  • When your Care Group leaders begin their search for a Meal Ministry Captain in your group, consider taking that role.  In the past, this role has been overwhelming because one person was serving the entire church in this capacity.  That's not the case any longer.  You'll only be serving the needs of your particular group.  Needs won't come up that often.  And when they do, you can recruit meal-givers from the entire congregation -- not just your group.    

What's the next step?
Pray that this ministry will be a true avenue of growth in the love of Christ for all of us (officers, members, adults, children, those who feel burnt out, those who feel marginalized, etc.).  Pray that this will be a means through which God will teach us more and more of what it means to "be" the church to one another (and not just "go to church together").

Come to church on Sunday expecting God to begin a great work through this ministry.  Be ready to listen and ready to worship and ready to love and ready to hope.  And make sure you come to the Fellowship Meal on Sunday night at 5:30.  After the meal, the different Care Groups will meet (briefly) for the first time.

And encourage your leaders in this endeavor!  Remember that God commands you to honor them because "they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13.17).  They are sacrificially investing themselves in this ministry for the sake of Christ's ministry to you.

When my group is meeting & doing something cool together, can I invite a friend?
Please do.

Grace and peace to you in the Name of Christ — who purchased the church with his own blood,

Tommy Lee

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Two Conversations

A father who recently gave his daughter away in marriage told me about a conversation he once had with his prospective son-in-law.  It went something like this...

Father:  "Boy, do you know Jesus?"

Prospective Son-in-Law:  "Yes, Sir!"

Father:  "Good.  Because if you ever hurt my daughter, I'm going to send you to meet him real fast."

Another father of my acquaintance recently gave his daughter away in marriage as well.  This father conducted an interview with the prospective son-in-law.  Part of the interview went like this:

Father:  "Tell me why you want to marry my daughter in particular.  Why her?  Why do you think -- out of all the women in the world -- that she's the right one for you?"

Prospective Son-in-Law:  "Because I believe that she can help me reverse the curse."

You gotta love God's institution of marriage.  There's so much going on in it!  Fathers giving the care of beloved daughters away to other men -- men they pray will be honorable...  Two sinners daring to become one flesh, risking so much of their future happiness on this one other person...  Adam's unruly children uniting together and hoping -- if they are believers -- that their union will be the kind of union that truly participates in and gets swept along with Christ's work of redemption in this broken world.

It's a lot to grow into.