Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What do we want the Bible to do to us?

When introducing a book by George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis once said this:

"It gets under our skin, hits us at a level deeper than our thoughts or even our passions, troubles oldest certainties till all questions are reopened, and in general shocks us more fully awake than we are for most of our lives."

That's actually a great description for how a Christian longs to be grabbed by his or her Bible.

It's a good prayer to pray whenever we open Scripture: alone, with a friend, in families, in groups, or in church.




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

RMG on DeMars

RMG (Reflection Music Group) is a rap label, and apparently a pretty big deal in that circle of artists.  File that under things that I learned 2 minutes ago.

They did a write up on our friends the DeMars.  Sean is / was an accomplished rapper.  You can search youtube under his name & see it for yourself.

But you can read RMG's write up on the DeMars by clicking HERE.



Monday, October 29, 2012

The Holocaust



The picture above is little Patience DeMars playing in a hamper in Peru.  If you'd like to sign up to get her parents' newsletters, let me know.  They're always great to read!

The most recent two newsletters are full of stories of loving people well so that we might boldly proclaim the gospel to them with some credibility... glimpses into the up and down adventures of language school... thoughts on the different "ways" that missions might be pursued... the heartbreak of  witnessing active, raw, old-school idolatry... wonderments on a what a "reached" people group would look like... and a great little video, letting us see what a normal Saturday in Peru looks like.  Watch it with your kids!  I did.

But Sean also regularly includes an article that challenges or encourages or informs.  I've pasted in the most recent article below...


by Sean DeMars


I’m sitting here looking at a picture of the Allied Forces leading some german nationals through a tour of the concentration camp at Dachau. Later, the British forces would even force some of these same civilians to help them drag the victims bodies to mass grave sites. Why did they do this? Because many of the germans living around the concentration camps claimed ignorance of the activities taking place within them. Whether their plea of ignorance was true or not was of no consequence to the Allied Forces. They were going to make sure they could never claim ignorance again.

It’s so easy for us to ignore abortion because we don’t have to confront it. We don’t have to deal with it in it’s most vivid forms. The fact of the matter is: we live in a time where we can totally avoid the gruesome horrors of abortion, if we so choose. The other fact of the matter is this: modern technology can aid us in confronting the world with the concentration camp-like horrors of abortion. Like never before, we understand the fetus. Like never before, science is unified in the understanding that life begins at conception. Like never before, we can disseminate the horrors of abortion. Like never before, we can put these truths in peoples faces. We can keep them from ignoring the evil that sits before them.

I once listened to a doctor describe how he performs abortions. It wasn’t pretty. He described the cracking of skulls, the tearing off of limbs, and the saline solution that he used to burn babies to death inside the womb. It was horrible. The terror of such descriptions are only amplified as I sit and look at my beautiful ten month old daughter. Not more than a year ago, while she was still safe in her mothers womb, it would have been perfectly legal to rip her limb from limb, crack her skull, snip her spinal chord, and suction her out of her mothers womb.

The Nazis killed roughly 6,500,000 people in their concentration camps. If you want to count the Soviet prisoners that died in labor camps, that number would shoot up by about 2 million. 8.5 million people. That kind of number is hard for us to comprehend. Besides blades of grass, leaves on a tree, or grains of sand, few of us have ever seen 8.5 million of anything all at once. It’s hard for us to picture 8.5 million people. Most of us, when asked to imagine an astronomical amount of people, will probably imagine a large concert venue, packed to the brim, which is nothing compared to 8.5 million. A drop in the water pale. To put things in perspective: the population of New York City was 8,175,00 in 2010. That’s a few hundred thousand less than 8.5 million. Close, but no cigar. Imagine that. An entire metropolitan city worth of people…dead.

It’s all quite horrific, isn’t it? Can you imagine trying to stack that many bodies? Now imagine this: 54,559,617 babies. That’s an ocean of infants, isn’t it? They’re dead. They’re all dead. Not from miscarriage, or SIDS, or some freak accident. They’ve all been murdered. Their mothers, their family doctors, and the fathers who encouraged it (or acted with disinterest), they’re all guilty. I’m writing this article at 9:36a.m., and according to the life clock, there have already been 1,378 children murdered today in the United States of America. As of today: October 24, 2012, there have been 1,272,567,864 abortions worldwide….since 1980. That’s 1 billion, two hundred and seventy two million, five hundred and sixty seven thousand, eight hundred and sixty four dead babies. Dead.

Mention the holocaust to anyone and watch the tone of the conversation change. Speak of the deaths, show the pictures of the corpses, describe the medical experiments, and watch as people react with shock and awe, moral outrage, and a good dose of righteous indignation. Praise God. Describe a sea of dead infants with their skulls crushed in and their limbs torn off, and watch the conversation turn to rape, incest, and a long list of other “yeah butts”. Listen to the conversation turn to women’s rights and the power to choose. Prepare yourself for the backlash of pejoratives and insults.

Christians, we are called to be salt and light in this bland and dark world. We are called to defend the helpless. We are called to pursue justice. And we do. The Lord is obviously working and moving in and through his Church. I think he may be calling is to more, though. More than what we’re doing now. For the glory of God and the good of our neighbors, he’s calling us to do more. Not to earn his favor, but because of his love and because of his grace. I know, I know, not everyone is called to focus specifically on abortion. That’s ok. That’s great. I thank God that he sets men in different directions, with different plans, for his own glorious purposes.

I just want to pose a question to you: can we do more? I believe there were many genuine believers who had to stand before God and give an account for their indifference towards chattel slavery. There were probably a great many more who had to give an account for their indifference towards the civil rights struggles of America’s yesteryear. I think I can say with confidence that a great many Christians will have to give an account for their indifference to the sea of dead infants in our midst. I don’t say that en route to a full blown guilt trip. I say that with a broken heart, convicted conscience, and finger turned up to detect the wind of my own hypocrisy.

Family, I ask again: Can we do more? Is the Lord pleased with our indifference? Does the gospel that saved us while we were helpless motivate us to save those in the same condition? Let me ask it another way: Is God receiving the most glory from our lives? Are we acting in such a way as to redeem the time, free the slaves, defend the helpless, love the weak, and inform the ignorant? I know I’m not the example. This article, however, is just one of many tiny steps I’m taking in order to try and move in the right direction. By the grace of God, maybe we can all labor harder, pray more fervently, and cry more passionately for the lives of the unborn.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wendell Berry & Worship & Ministry

A friend pointed me to a short article on reading Wendell Berry that you can find by clicking HERE.

There are also 37 other reasons why you would do yourself a favor (for which yourself would thank you) by reading through some of Wendell Berry's fiction.

I'd also recommend this book...


And pastors will enjoy Berry on an even deeper level by remembering what Eugene Peterson says, which is something like this:  Reading Wendell Berry's fiction is the greatest aid to the development of pastoral theology he's ever known.  Whenever Berry writes about the love of the land, you simply substitute the word "parish" for "land," and there you go.  That's a great deal of the pastor's calling. 


 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!... For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. ~ King David






Alone Together
Is Technology Making Us Less Us?
by John Stonestreet


Facebook, Twitter, texting, email, video chats, sharing—the number of channels we use to communicate today is staggering. The amount of time we spend accessing these channels is increasing daily, and some of us have more online “friends” we’ve never met than the number of people our grandparents actually knew in their entire lifetimes.

We’re living in a new reality—where we can share intimate details of our lives, argue about politics, sports or religion, enjoy the same entertainment, and fall in love—all without ever meeting each other face-to-face.

Now, thanks to a team of researchers at MIT, we can even give physical affection remotely. The researchers created an inflatable vest that links to your Facebook account and “hugs” you every time someone “likes” something you’ve posted. Well, while we may not see many inflatable hug-vests hitting the streets in the near future, this invention is a perfect symbol of how the rise of social media is deeply—and some say permanently—changing our relationships.

Dr. Sherry Turkle, a specialist in technology and society, also at MIT, is one of those people. She believes all of this virtual friendship is falling woefully short of the real thing. In fact, she says, it’s leaving us less human. Turkle has spent years researching the ways technology changes people, and has written a book entitled “Alone Together,” in which she describes the disturbing trends.

“These days we expect more from technology than we expect from each other,” she explained in a TED talk recently. “Technology appeals to us where we are most vulnerable. We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control. But we are not so comfortable. We are not so in control,” she says.

This illusion of control, Turkle says, leads to some unexpected consequences. In a recent Wall Street Journal piece, Elizabeth Bernstein argues that one of these consequences is how we’ve become incredibly rude on the internet. We say things from behind the safety of our keyboard we’d never say face-to-face. And new studies suggest that our self-control actually deteriorates proportionately with our time online.

The devices on our desks and in our pockets, in Turkle’s words, “change our hearts and minds.” They offer what she calls “gratifying fantasies,” fantasies that give us the impression that we can fully control our relationships. But by trying to replace the vulnerability, the intimacy, the conflict and messiness of actual friendships with electronic substitutes, we diminish part of what it means to be human.

Parents, it is crucial that we help students thoughtfully and intentionally develop authentic relationship skills in this online age.

My friend Andy Braner, president of Camp Kivu in Colorado and one of the most thoughtful observers of youth culture, talked with me about this as my guest on BreakPoint this Week, which aired over the weekend.

Loneliness is the ironic epidemic of this over-connected age, Braner says, and students are longing to be truly known and truly connected. In fact, his book Alone, is must-reading for anyone wishing to mentor students in our disconnected networked age. Come to BreakPoint.org, click on the “This Week” tab, listen to my interview with Andy, and learn how to pick up his new book.

In the meantime, spend a little deliberate time connecting with friends and family the old-fashioned way. You know—without the text-lingo, the friend requests, or the inflatable vest.

For BreakPoint, I’m John Stonestreet.







Monday, October 22, 2012

Loving the Emotional Lepers

Earlier this morning, after breakfast, we enjoyed the normal family routine... I read a chapter of the Bible to everyone, we took out the Christmas card that was on the top of the stack, and prepared to distribute prayer assignments.

Today we were praying for the Mulligan family again.  (One day maybe we'll have 356 Christmas cards from friends & family, but for now everyone gets prayed for a few times a year.)

This Lee child claimed that Mulligan child to pray for, around the table, until everyone had a prayer assignment.  The Mulligan card then went back down to the bottom of the stack.

But then, as heads were being bowed, the 10-year-old suddenly shot his head up: "But, Dad!  Wait!  Who's going to pray for the people down in Peru!?!?"

****************

Are you praying for Sean & Amber & Patience DeMars?  If you'd like to know how to pray for them, ask me how you can get put on their newsletter list.

But for now, take a couple of minutes to read these heart-breaking, compassion-stirring, God-honoring, people-loving thoughts from Sean....

****************




Loving the Emotional Lepers
by Sean DeMars

We live in an age where we now know that leprosy is in fact not contagious. What was once unimaginable, like touching a leper, is now quite commonplace among those “in the know”. In the records of our Lord Jesus’s life, we see that he was well ahead of the curve (being God and all), and we see his great love being shown to the “unloveables”.  In the biblical times, it was quite an amazing thing to touch a leper, or anyone with a disease, really. Our Lord Jesus touched them all, though, and expected to be touched back. If you’re interested in reading more about this amazing truth, I would like to commend this article to you: http://www.ccef.org/jbc/when-god-touches-untouchables

Today, however, I want to talk to you about a different kind of “untouchable”. Let me paint a picture for you, of the kind of people I’m about to talk about:

He was born to a drug addict mother, and his father left him before he was born. He can’t remember the first few years of his life, but around age five he can remember his mother having sex in the same bed as him. He can remember the beatings from his mother beginning around the same time. He remembers watching his mother have emotional break downs at least once a day for most of his young life. His mother would get drunk and high friday night, beat him until monday morning (every week), and would repeat that cycle for years on end. His mom beat him until he was old enough to stop her. His mom was evicted from various living arrangements five times in 3 years, once for calling the landlord a “nigger”, another time for urinating in the laundry room while drunk, another time for being caught with cocaine. He lived in and out of cars and hotel rooms for six months at age 12. His mother was raped in a hotel parking lot. He had to call the police, she was too drunk. He started doing drugs at the age of 14, started selling drugs a little later, and was incarcerated for the first time at the age of 15. He spent the majority of his teenage years in and out of institutions. He’s done things unspeakable. He got saved at the age of 18...and he’s too broken for church people. It’s hard for them to be around him.

She was very young the first time it happened. Her brother began touching her at the age of seven. By age eleven, her brother was raping her. Pretty soon, it was an everyday affair. Her mother and father were both at work, of course. Her brother would make her do his homeschool homework, as well as her own. He would lock her in the closet for hours at a time. He would beat her mercilessly. He was systematic and cold in his daily persecution: sexual, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. She was 15 when she finally got the chance to escape. When she told her parents about it, they were virtually unmoved. No discipline was carried out. Until recently, the brother remained in the house (she moved out two years prior). To this day her parents still won’t talk about it, and her brother is cold and distant, even though she has fervently sought reconciliation.  She got saved at the age of 17. She’s too broken for church people. Because of that, she painted a mask of righteousness on her broken and tear stained face. She fell hard. The Lord caught her, but it was a hard fall none-the-less...

He’s from a home with two parents, a few brothers, and his family faithfully attended and supported their local church. He was always active and involved in the life of the church, and at one point, was an up-and-comer in the youth ministry. Starting at a very young age, he was molested by his big brother. His brother used pornography to get him into the activity. He was raped and molested by his brother several times. Later, when he got older, he thought this was all normal male activity, so he did the same things to his younger male cousin. He watched pornography for hours on end, and eventually, he got into some stuff that is, well...it’s not legal. Because of his abuse and subsequent “therapy”, he began to struggle with same sex desires. He’s pretty much been the black sheep of the family, and because of that, he kept all of his sins to himself...until he got caught. His families response? The worst kind of moralistic reparative therapy imaginable. His father and mother, both professing Christians, active in their local church, have never read the bible with their son. He absorbed an understanding of Christianity not even worthy of the title “heresy”. Because of his fathers lack of love and discipleship, he tried and to some extent still tries to latch on to any strong male figure he comes into contact with. He struggles with suicidal tendencies almost weekly. Depression isn’t the word for it. He got saved at the age of 19. Obviously, he’s quite broken...too broken for church people. He’s growing in Christ, by God’s grace, but he still wrestles with, in various obvious ways, many emotional issues. Christians tend to avoid him like the plague.

These three examples are all real. These are people that I know (very, very well), and their stories are too scary to be made up. This is just a small sampling. Were I to share all of the brokenness in the lives of people I know “the world wouldn’t have room enough for all of the books”. Why am I sharing this with you? Because it has been my experience that, in large part, many of us are guilty of avoiding the "emotional untouchables", people like the ones I have just described, just like the men and women of the Bible used to avoid lepers. Don’t you agree? When you look at your own life, just as I examine mine, can’t we see a pattern of lackluster love? I think so. But our crime is worse...

We avoid people because they are difficult. Oh, of course, they are difficult. No one would disagree with that. How can a person be well adjusted after going through the things that I’ve just described to you? But we don’t avoid these people because we’re afraid of our nose falling off, or because we think we might catch their blood disease. No. We avoid these people because they need more love. They need a stronger love. They need a more patient and consistent love. That’s a heck of a thing to say, but I think it’s true. BROKEN PEOPLE ARE HARD TO LOVE. The “difficulties” might be disguised and labeled and reasoned away in a variety of creative excuses, but when it comes down to it, they ARE harder to love.

Have you ever looked a leper in the face? I’m not talking about the ones that take good care of themselves, either. I’m talking about the ones who let themselves fall apart (excuse the pun) and refuse treatment. Have you ever been around a stage three cancer patient? They are hard to look at. The smell of a colostomy bag can really take your breath away. Even the smell of a dying person is too much to handle. These things and more can make it difficult to love the physically ill, but the emotionally and mentally ill, these people put off a different kind of odor: annoyance, exasperation, clinginess, constant crying, constant lying, sexual misconduct, strong addictions, flakiness...these are all very pungent aromas.

Personally, I find myself perfectly fine with observing these people through the safe "glass rooms of technology", occasional lunches, and even a Bible study once or twice. I don’t get a full whiff of their odor that way. I don’t have to stare directly into their face. No, when I interact with them that way, it’s really quite manageable. But when I open the door and take a step into the room with no windows, I’m trapped. There’s no escaping the odor. It confronts me, and it immediately takes my breath away. What do I do then? I hurriedly step out of the room, close the door behind myself, and try to catch my breath. Then I begin to think of reasons why I just can’t go back into that room: “He needs a professional.” “I’m just really busy.” “I’m struggling with my own issues, I can’t handle their issues too.” Etc. etc. etc.

I think we all fail to love the ones that are hard to love, and then we tell ourselves various lies to make it all ok. We then go back to our own little worlds as if these people don’t exist. After all, they’ll get through this, right? Of course, because these people are maladjusted, they don’t just leave us alone. They call us. They Facebook us. They leave strange voicemails. They annoy us. They do some strange stuff. Now, we obviously realize that this “odd behavior” is really just a cry for help, but we just call them weird under our breath, silence our cell phones, and try to get back to our “normal” conversations. Occasionally we’ll feel guilty, or we’ll be in an especially pious mood, and we’ll answer that call, or respond to that Facebook message. Almost immediately, though, we begin to smell that odor again, and we regret opening the door. We won’t do that again...

I’m so prone to ignoring the biblical truth that my sin was the worst of all odors, and the God of the Bible has the most sensitive of all noses. I hated him. I loved myself and my own pungent filth. But God, in his infinite goodness, mercy, grace and kindness, chose to wade through my excrement and filth. He didn’t hold his nose, either. He opened it as wide as he could. He didn’t just save me from a distance, like a new dad holding a diaper  at arms length with one hand, and holding his nose tight with the other. No. He came down to me. He walked through, and lived in my filth with me. I was a leper, and he touched me, right in my sores. At times, the God Man must have felt it unbearable. Then, certainly not due to my own righteousness, he came closer and embraced me. He embraced my filth and stench, and he did it by becoming the worst filth and stench of all (2 Cor 5:21). He didn’t just tolerate my filth, he actually took it on himself. He drank the cup down to it’s very dregs.

Now I can stand before him, covered in the cleanness that he has provided in a way that no one expected. I mean, how do you make a man clean by becoming dirty like him? Glory! Praise God for his infinite grace!!! Right?

Maybe not. You see, I still deal with my brothers and sisters, my fellow saints, the ones I will spend eternity with, I still treat them like I have never been dirty. Like I still don’t have a semblance of stench emanating from me. Like I don’t need the Spirit to give me a good cologne bath every now and then. When God sends me people with a stronger residual than myself, when he sends them into my life, I turn my nose up and smell my own cologne, as if it isn’t just a bottle of my own self-righteous vomit that I’ve been spraying myself with. When God sends these broken people into my life, so that I might glorify Him by the way I love them, I find some way to treat them like the untouchables that I once was.

Friends, brother, sisters, saints, beloved, please...for the glory of God and the good of your own soul, start loving people that are hard to love. Quit trying to sweep them under the rug, or refer them out to “specialists” (which is not to say, of course, that specialists aren’t needed). Please, love them. Love them like you have been loved. You never know, loving the odorous people might actually make you smell better by the time it’s all done with. I’ll tell you what, you try to do better, and I’ll join you. I have failed considerably...and I probably will again. I call people “weird”. I make snap judgements. I avoid people that I just don’t feel like talking to. “I don’t have the time”, I tell myself. And I actually convince myself to believe my own lies. I repent, now, with you and God as my audience...would you join me?

It’s not easy friends. It’s hard. And it won't always be smooth. Sometimes people will hurt you, or disappoint you. Sometimes people will latch on to you like you're God, even though they’ve seen enough of your sin to know the truth. People will mock you. You’ll battle your own pride. You’ll be told things like “It seems like only the really messed up people have anything good to say about you.” Which of course implies “The rest of us really well adjusted people aren’t all that impressed.” Some of your more well adjusted freinds will stop coming around because your "other" friend is just too much to deal with. "Call me when just the two of us can hang..."

For those of you who feel like you’re giving your all, who feel like you just can’t take it anymore, who feel like loving broken people will eventually break you....be encouraged. The LORD doesn’t give us more than we can bear. Lean wholly on Christ, look into the mirror of his Word, and see yourself as one leper loving another. Let that beautiful disgusting truth encourage you.

I don’t know how to end this. I have much more to say, but fear that I have said too much already. I guess the wise thing to do would be to let the LORD have the final Word:

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. - 1 John 4:8

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. - 1 John 3:10

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. - 1 John 4:7

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. - John 13:34

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. -John 15:12

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.- 1 John 3:23


Friday, October 19, 2012

Tonight.



Man Night.
6:30 PM
Tommy's House
2422 Jarvis St. SW
Bring Something to Grill.  
Drinks & Sides Provided.
All men 18 years of age & up.
Bring a friend.
Dress for sitting outside, around the firepits.

Our official conversation / discussion will start off by considering the ideas in an interview that you can read by clicking HERE.  But where our conversation may go from there, no man knows...



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Frustrated with your church?



A consumer-oriented culture develops a consumer-oriented mentality in all of us.  And we end using that mentality in our approach to our marriages, our jobs, our churches... everything.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers some very helpful wisdom in this passage from his book Life Together:


If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.
This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations. A pastor should never complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.
. . . let [the pastor or zealous member] nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.



Monday, October 15, 2012

Desires & Fears (challenging thoughts from Peru)



If these excerpts are the only part of the DeMars Missionary Newsletters that you read, you're missing gems like this:
As far as language school goes, we’re still grinding away. We’re memorizing a ton of verbs. We’re also trying to practice as much as possible, but it’s difficult when you only know present tense. You sound like Tarzan. 
You should really sign up for the whole thing.  Ask me how.  The following excerpts come from two different newsletters...

Thoughts on Our Desires


I (Sean) have never had an original idea in my life. Therefore, I spend my days trying to climb atop the shoulders of the gigantic saints who have come before me. Today I tried to climb up and onto the broad shoulder mantle of C.S. Lewis. I barely got high enough to see past the top of his head.

Anyways, reading Lewis always gets me thinking about desires. Many desires we have aren’t bad, but simply out of proper proportion. I think Augustine had something to say about that. Jesus, too...

Anyways, I realized that I have a lot of good desires, but some of my great desires (which are obviously alien to my own nature), are being trumped by my good desires. There are a lot of things that are good and godly that I simply can’t pursue because they would impede my journey to the greater things.

Friends, we all have the tendency to exalt sinful things over Godly things. You know that. But maybe sometimes we forget about our tendency to exalt good things over great things. That kind of thing is quite dangerous in its own right. Join me this week in examining your longings, passions, and desires. See if there might be something that you have been chasing after hard that, maybe...just maybe, you might need to let go of. I know I’ve found at least one of those things in my life just today.

Join me in examining your methodology, your time and money management, philosophy of ministry, or your freedoms in Christ. We cling to things, sometimes, because they’re “not sinful”. Surely our barometer is off if that’s the way we decide what to obstain from, embrace and/or pursue. What have you embraced in your life due to practicality, or expediency, that might be a little more shallow and a little less eternal? What great things are you brushing to the edge in order to make room for good things? Surely there is something in our lives that is strangling the eternal. Maybe that thing isn't even bad or sinful. But maybe the good things are just as dangerous when improperly considered.

Thoughts on our Fears


Let me talk to you about fear. I get the impression from some people that a common misconception about missionaries is that they’re fearless. Friends, nothing could be further from the truth. As someone who is new to this “missionary” game, allow me to shed a little bit of light on the subject....from a personal perspective.

 I’m afraid. I can’t even begin to explain to you how afraid I am. I can’t explain to you what the fear feels like. Not all fears feel the same, you know. Here’s what I can do, though. I can share some of my fears with you. I can show you my fears and help you develop a more natural empathy. Here goes nothen’...

I’m afraid of snakes and spiders. I’m afraid of getting bit and losing a leg (which is not uncommon in the jungle) or dying a painfully slow death. It’s not the death that scares me, it’s the pain.

I’m afraid of getting malaria.

I’m afraid of getting dengue fever.

I’m afraid my own mental and spiritual inadequacies.

I’m afraid of my knee finally snapping on me, leaving me crippled without the money for surgery.

I’m afraid of my wife and/or daughter dying, while I’m forced to watch helplessly.

I’m afraid of mosquitos. Non stop mosquitos for years on end.

I’m afraid of having to battle gastrointestinal issues for the rest of my life.

I’m afraid of being poor the rest of my life.

I’m afraid of America. I’m afraid that when things get really tough I’ll give up and go back to the easy life, caring only about myself.

I’m afraid of big bodies of water. Petrified, actually. Good thing I’ll be traveling the Amazon....

I’m afraid that we will give it all up and fail miserably.

I’m afraid of moral failure. I know my sin all too well to actually believe the lie that I’m above the sins that ensnare us all.

I’m afraid that my teammates will see me for who I really am and wish me gone.

I’m afraid that my friends in America will forget about us 2, 5, 10 years into this thing.

I’m afraid because we have no money coming in from fundraising.

I’m afraid...

I’m afraid...

I’m afraid...

And so is my wife. We have enough fears to build a house on. We’re not special. We’re unique, just like everyone else. We battle fear and anxiety. We feel weak. Even now, after only a short time, we sometimes feel like quitting. We victimize ourselves. We think the worst. We fail to trust in the promises of God. We fail to see eternity because we are being blinded by this ugly and fallen world.

But let me tell you what I’m truly afraid of:

I’m afraid of the Lord Jesus, in all of his splendor and glory, standing before me, and over me, on that final day. I’m afraid he’ll say “Turn away from me, I don’t know you. I never have”. I’m afraid of the account I’m going to have to give of my life. I’m afraid that I might stand before my beautiful and perfect savior and see my life in perfect 20/20. I’m afraid of seeing a wasted life, and wasted money, and wasted time, and careless speech. That is what truly scares me. Not in a bad way, either. In a good way. It’s the kind of Godly fear that sanctifies us.

Fear is good, but not all kinds of fear. There is a kind of majestic and glorious fear, a fear that is subject to the glory of God and the love of Christ. That kind of fear sets men free from lesser fears. Lesser fears cripple us, and lead us to a false religion that the apostle James doesn’t think too highly of. But greater fears kill those lesser fears. The greater fears produce wisdom. Wisdom sees through the lies and disbelief that our lesser fears are composed of.

I thank God for my fears, the lesser and the greater. My prayer is that they would, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be helpful to us when held in proper proportion. Remember, friends, the possession of fears doesn’t speak to our character. No, what speaks to our character, what speaks to truth of the Holy Spirit living and working in us, what really speaks volumes is which fears we submit to. By God’s grace, we are fighting daily to resist the fears of doubt and unbelief. Please pray for us.




Monday, October 8, 2012

Notes from Peru


More excerpts from recent missionary updates from our friends Sean & Amber & Patience DeMars in Peru... (as always, if you want to get on their list to receive the full updates, which I recommend, let me know)... 

By the way, the DeMars have a new mailing address, good from now until December:

Sean and Amber DeMars
Castilla 1898
Arequipa, Peru


I don’t believe that we believe in hell. I really don’t. We don’t believe what the bible says about God’s wrath. We don’t believe it’s eternal. We don’t believe it’s devastating. So devastating that the fire metaphor is only a shadow of what’s to come. We don’t believe eternal wrath is the only end for all men who reject Christ. We affirm it in our creeds and statements of faith, but our orthopraxy is considerably more than a stones throw away from our orthodoxy.

You see, if we did believe what the Bible says about hell, our lives would look different. Much different, in fact. We would through a continent's worth of broken glass to preach the gospel to the unsaved world. We would pray for our family members, who are dead in sin, every single day, almost as if their eternities depended upon it. We would study more. We would watch t.v. less. We would stop wasting our lives on trivial things this world offers us. We would, to “borrow” from C.S. Lewis, stop chasing these “lesser pleasures”.

If we really believed what God has to say about his wrath, poured out on unrepentant sinners, our bank accounts would look different. Our check books would look different. Our homes would look different. Our children’s education would look different. Our time management would be different. Oh, how different our lives would be if we believed what we say we believe! Oh, the costs we would count. The crosses we would carry. Men would hate us, like they hated our master. Men would try and kill us, like they killed our master. We would partake in the sufferings of Christ with a depth greater than most of us from America have ever experienced in our lives.

Hell would never be far from our thoughts, if we believed this, and neither would heaven. The Gospel of Grace would compel us to pray more, pray harder, and pray with millions of more tears. We would see ourselves for what we really are, in light of who God really is, and we would be broken. We would lay our lives down “for the surpassing worth...”. Our time, talents, and treasure would all be counted as rubbish. Missionaries wouldn’t have to beg for money. Forgiveness would be given in the blink of an eye, because we would truly see what forgiveness has saved us from. Love would be crashing over us like a tsunami of joy in the perfect tense...

I could go on for days about how things would be different if we really believed in hell, but the fact is, pontificating doesn’t make us believe. And yet, there is more grace. You see, the unbelief that even the most stalwart of Saints struggle with, that too is forgiven at the cross. The Christian who does all of the good deeds he ought (care for the widows and orphans, evangelism, discipleship, etc.) still fails to love like God has commanded him to. He still fails to meet the standard. But there is more grace. And that truth, my friends, should compel us even further. You see, grace is a vicious cycle of forgiveness: We fail to do what we ought, yet we are forgiven. That forgiveness should then compel us to pray more, try harder, love better. And then we fail again. This time the fall is much harder. The grace, though, is that much sweeter. That joy compels us again...

That’s the cycle until we are called home. My friends, let the gospel of grace drive you to go hard after Jesus. You have been given much, if you’re an American. And you know what that means, don’t you? Brothers and sisters in Christ, the world is dying. The world is suffering. Hell is real. God is good, and he is calling all men to repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation. God is redeeming the cosmos, and he has called you to proclaim his reconciling deeds. You are Christ’s ambassadors. Fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Take up your cross. Count your life as nothing at all. Declare with the Psalmist that there is nothing on earth you desire but God. Our flesh will fail, and so will our hearts. But God, he is our portion forever. Let’s live like we believe that while we live in these bodies of death. Let us spur each other on to good works. Let’s love harder, pray more fervently, give more generously, repent more vigorously, fear God more, fear man less, care for widows and orphans, keep ourselves free from the sins of this world, preach the word, live the word, make disciples of all nations, run hard after the prize (God), and let’s do  IT ALL for the glory of our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


From A Separate Newsletter... 


N.D. Wilson (quoting his father, I believe) once commented that he prefers philosophy where someone ends up with a bloody nose. I agree. That statement was in reference to his time in a particular philosophy class where he observed the status quo in most universities. He observed men pontificating on philosophies as if they were beautiful butterflies (my metaphor, not his), winging their way to and fro throughout the atmosphere. These butterflies are beautiful, gentle, and most importantly, they are perfectly harmless.

Yet, any careful thinker/observer of history, will note that philosophy is anything BUT harmless. Rather than viewing our philosophical positions as butterflies, they ought rather to be seen as wasps. You see, wasps are still beautiful. They’re intricate. They’re incredible when observed in detail. They are truly the result of a God who creates beauty (although, I myself see them as the spawn of satan). Ah, but are they not dangerous? Of course they are. Most ideas are not butterflies, they’re wasps. And they’ll sting an entire race/class/gender of people if you’re not careful.

The same can also be said about theology (where the two become betwixt, I do not know).

Disclaimer before moving forward: I know that in America, the problem isn’t too much thinking, it’s not enough. With that being said, there are tiny circles within the larger, yet still tiny, circle of doctrine lovers. Some of these smaller circles-within-a-circle, and the people they are composed of, treat theology like a butterfly. They like to pontificate upon grand ideas with marshmallowy words. They observe their own observations and applaud themselves with chests full of air. They develop bedsores from all the sitting required to work their way through the grand works of a dead dutch guy. There’s no problem with studying dead dutch guys, of course, but the dead dutch guy studying is for the end of self glorification, not the distilling and distribution of theological wealth.

Just like most “Intro to Philosophy” classes, theological truth can become impotent in several ways, and for several reasons. Allow me to list a few:


  1. If theological truth is merely observed and agreed upon, without love empowered action pulling clean up.
  2. If theological truth is ignored.
  3. If theological truth is held with an embrace that kills it, like a little boy hugging a puppy to death.
  4. The first three can cause the fourth, wherein observers see the first three and decide they’d rather ignore doctrine altogether.


In my few years as a Christian, I’ve most certainly missed the mark, on either side, more than once. If I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet that you have too. I’d double down on that bet, (if I were a bettin’ man, that is) and bet that you’ll miss the mark again. So will I. But failure doesn’t excuse us from pursuing a robust and deeply rooted knowledge of God, sin, man, hell, heaven, etc.

 Brothers, let us leave behind our paper thin convictions. Study God’s word to know who God is, and then tattoo it on your heart. Study God’s word and observe the people around you to understand the damnable depravity and immeasurable beauty of the thing God created in His image: man.

 I know, this can be dangerous. Men can cling too tightly to the wrong truths, or lies for that matter. I know. But aren’t all good things dangerous when handled by the heart of man? Of course they are. That doesn’t mean that we reject them, does it? If that were the case, no one would have sex or use the internet. But danger is the name of the game, from what I can tell. Just look at the life of our savior. The physical danger he faced pails in comparison to the spiritual danger he faced every day of his life.

 Some things are dangerous, and hard. We don’t run from those things, though. We embrace them. We are careful. We are vigilant. We are brave. We trust in the God who delivers. The God who builds and preserves his church. The God who works all things together for our Good. The God who doesn’t give us more than we can bear.

 I said all of that to say this: Brothers, get a nose bleed. Or, better yet, give one to someone else (a wolf would be preferable). Let’s repent of our butterfly theology. Let’s handle the wasp, ever so carefully. Why? Because people are dying. Because hell is real. Because God is the reward of all men who repent and trust in Christ, and because you have that reward. Let’s start treating our theology like peoples lives depend on it, because they do. And not just their vapor of a life on earth, either. No, their eternities depend on it. The descent into heresy is a gradual one. The drift into soggy, soft, and superficial Christianity is is even more so. Every single thing you do is, in some way, the result of what you believe about God, man, eternity, and more. Do you realize that? There’s no escaping theology, but there is escaping flaccid doctrine; exchanging it for God glorifying, soul saving, heart refreshing, life giving truth.

 I’m not talking about preserving a robust orthodoxy for the sake of preservation, like my wife’s memory box. I’m talking about a preservation of robust orthodoxy for the glory of God and the eternal joy and good of our neighbors. The Lord will not let the gates of hell prevail against his church, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back and watch the enemy work against our walls.

 Some of my doctrine disenfranchised friends might be asking “Sean, that’s all well and good, but where’s the love?” Oh my friends, if you could only see how this is love! It’s a love ten thousand times stronger than blanket acceptance of all sin, simple platitudes, and smiles ‘round-the-clock. It’s a deeper kind of love. It’s a stronger kind of love. It’s a love more enduring. It’s a love that summarizes the law. It’s a love that loves sinners while they’re still dead in sin. It’s a saving love. Ask me how I know...

A little more from John Owen

I was reading “The Glory of Christ” by John Owen, today. Of course, when you read Owen you have to read him with highlighter in hand, and that’s what I was doing when I came to this particular passage:

 “Since men fell from God by sin, a great part of their misery and punishment is that their minds are covered with thick darkness, and so they are ignorant of the true nature and glory of God”

I highlighted this particular passage until my sharpie went dry. This quote is from a larger portion of argumentation, wherein Owen makes the case that the true punishment of sin is that man is kept from seeing the glory of God. I think I “knew” that before reading it, but it hit me like a lead pipe when I read it aloud. It makes perfect sense, of course. The true reward for all men who repent and believe on Christ is that they will see God in the glory of Christ for all of eternity.

Some might feel that this lessens the severity of the doctrine of hell, but I think it actually intensifies it to the umpteenth degree. An eternity separated from the goodness and glory of God is an unquantifiable suffering. It makes perfect sense of the allegorical language the bible uses when referring to hell: nothing in our finite vocabulary can actually describe it. Like most truth, you actually have to experience it to understand it rightly.

Think about it: ponder the suffering and agony you’ve dealt with in your life, that’s the result of a world where the glory of God can only be understood the way a blind man understands his home. The above quote from Owen is talking about this temporal life, but I think C.S. Lewis (someone I don’t particularly agree with on the doctrine of hell) really brings this home when he writes about hell being the natural end of God giving men what they really want. The initial phase of the wrath of God towards unrepentant sinners is a darkening of the mind and a dullness to the perception of the glory of God, but the end result is God giving men that which they truly enjoy...an existence devoid of the fullness of his glory of God. It doesn’t sound as scary of fire and teeth gnashing, but the truth is, it’s much MUCH worse.

And maybe heaven doesn’t sound as awesome when it’s talked about this way, but I promise, an eternity basking in the fullness of the glory of God...radiating on you with the fierce intensity of a thousand suns...that will be infinitely better than a cloud with cold apple juice on tap.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tragedy & the Sovereignty of God



Three days ago Shannon Macfarlane Sproul was welcomed into the eternal gates of splendor and glory.  Please join me in praying for the family as they grieve their earthly loss.  In two months they'll find themselves at the one year anniversary of the death of the wife & mother of the family as well.

If you want to see something of the Sproul family and their faith in the sovereignty of God -- even in the midst of tragedy -- click HERE and scroll down to the brief "Joni and Friends" video.

It's a 12 minute investment for which you will be thankful.  Perhaps for the rest of your life.




Friday, October 5, 2012

DPC: MOVIE ON THE LAWN



TONIGHT!
6:30 pm

Family-Friendly Movie, 
Popcorn, 
Friends, 
Beautiful Outdoor Weather, 
Giant 25 Foot Inflatable Movie Screen

Bring a lawn chair, 
maybe a blanket, 
and a invite some friends!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Colonel Invites You... to Oktoberfest!



Members of the DPC church family may recognize the man in the picture above.  That's Larry Rowlette Colonel Cullman, and he's inviting all of us to Oktoberfest!

The festival lasts from October 6 to October 13, with Saturday, October 13 being the most event-filled day on the schedule.  If you're looking for some fun family-style memories, you should check it out.

The Colonel himself is your emcee and host throughout the festival and the fun includes geocaching, photography contests, arts and crafts, kids games, lots and lots and lots and lots of great German food, live German music, many other types of live music as well, dancing, a street sale, a car show, walking tours, a Zumba Party, story-telling, words like "BratFest"& "Festhalle," fun contests, regular races, bed races, wiener dog races (also known as Hundfest), mud runs, the Bratwurst Eating Contest, the Burgermeister Ball, and also lots and lots and lots and lots of great German food, etc.

There is a stack of Oktoberfest schedules / brochures on a table in the DPC Gathering Room.  Or, you can visit the Cullman Oktoberfest website by clicking HERE.

Last year I took some children to Oktoberfest and one of my sons won the Alphorn Contest.




Wednesday, October 3, 2012

INVASION



On Tuesday mornings at 6:30 all men & older boys are invited to join the Iron Men of DPC for a Bible Study at Java Jaay's on 6th Avenue.

The name of the study is...

INVASION: The King of Glory Comes
Conversations On What It Looks Like To Follow Jesus

We're basically working through an unpacking of what the Lord Christ meant when he taught us, "The kingdom of the heavens is similar to a bit of yeast which a woman took and hid in half a bushel of dough.  After a while all the dough was pervaded by it."

Having spent 4 weeks laying a foundation for it, we're now turning our attention to a conversational study on the Sermon on the Mount.  Here Jesus is teaching us what it looks like to live our lives in his Kingdom... what it looks like when that yeast of the Kingdom begins to work its way into all the corners of our lives.

The King of Glory has invaded.  
Nothing will ever be the same again.

The four basic assumptions of the study are these:

Christ's Kingdom is his powerful rule in word and deed, through which he is bringing God's healing to every single aspect of human life in this world.

Christ's Church is the community through which his kingdom is coming into this world.

Christ's Gospel can transform any person, any family, any relationship, any community, any work, any institution, any city, any nation.

Christ's Men have been entrusted with the stewardship of leadership.  Men matter.

Come join us!


Iron Men of DPC
Forged by God; Sharpened by Brothers
Iron sharpens Iron, and one man sharpens another. ~ Proverbs 27.17



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Refuge of Grace!...(order by Friday, October 6!)...

A local church (St. John's Episcopal) is having their 3rd Annual Festival on Saturday, October 13.  By going to their website (which you can visit by clicking HERE) you can read what all they do and what all they offer at the festival.

But I'd like to encourage you to place an order for the Pick-Up or Eat-In Lobsters and / or the BBQ Pork Dinners.  Orders are being taken through Friday, October 6.  And this year all proceeds go to...



If you're not familiar with Refuge of Grace, please visit their website by clicking HERE.

Refuge of Grace is a beautiful ministry founded by DPC member Leigh Littrell.  And the women who serve and who are being served at Refuge of Grace are all amazing.  I've copied the mission statement of this ministry here:


Our mission is to create an environment for loving and serving women that nurtures freedom in their hearts to receive God’s love and that honors God in all we do. Refuge of Grace strives to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of women in crisis by providing resources over a 12- to 24-month period to assist them in achieving a lifelong process of personal transformation through the power and truth of Jesus Christ.

Programs at Refuge of Grace are issue-oriented depending on each individual. In addition to Bible Studies, program topics include: Addiction, Anger and Violence, Relapse Prevention, Relationships and Mending Healthy Ones, Grief and Loss, Codependency, Budgeting, Parenting, Nutrition, Education, Employment, Victimization as well as any other programming these women may need. The women have opportunities to participate in activities such as equine therapy, art therapy, cooking classes, as well as physical exercise. The programs also include individual Biblical counseling for the women and their children.

The ultimate goal is for these women to have their children live with them at Refuge of Grace. In doing so, they will be able to learn how to become a mother in a strong Christian environment. They will also work a full-time job. Aftercare planning not only includes job and home placement but also, most importantly, a church with a new group of friends holding each other accountable to the struggles we all face.

The hope of Refuge of Grace is to prepare these women with the tools they need to re-enter society grounded with the love of Christ as strong, confident, and self-sufficient members of the community.

Monday, October 1, 2012

8


Eight years ago today my wife & first three kids met this handsome new addition to the family, and we have all been abundantly blessed by his presence on every single one of the 2,920 days since then... give or take here or there for a leap year.

Joseph is one of the most compassionate, kind-hearted people I know.  We recently had a family member comment on how he often searches out the person who may be lonely in any setting and loves on them.  And anyone would be encouraged to hear him pray.  I always am.

As you can see in the picture above, one of the things he enjoys most is playing with weapons.  He also loves being with his friends, learning more about the magic of reading, living life with his brother & roommate & best buddy Jaden, wrestling, bike-riding, and having a good book read to him.

Joseph, my prayer for you on this birthday is that you will walk blamelessly (through the repentance of sins) and do what is right, speaking truth in your heart.  May you despise all that is vile---slandering with your tongue, doing evil to your neighbor, taking up a reproach against your friend.  May you always honor those who fear the Lord.  May your word always be completely trustworthy.  May you be a wise steward of all that God has given you.  And in following Christ, may you not be moved.  (Psalm 15)


"Build me a son, O Lord, 
who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, 
and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, 
one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, 
and humble and gentle in victory."
~Douglas MacArthur~