Saturday, December 28, 2013

From DPC members & missionaries, Sean & Amber...



Please pray for our friends the DeMars!  Here's the latest update from them...


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

Hey everyone, we hope all of you had a great Christmas and that you have a really awesome new years too.

If you've checked your email in the last two weeks I'm sure you've gotten 1-1,000,000 emails from various ministries and organizations asking you for that end of the year, tax-deductible money. Many of these groups are really awesome and more than deserving of a few green pieces of paper to help them reach their financial goals before the year closes out.

Well, this isn't one of those emails. This is an email to ask you for something more precious: your prayers. We are at the end of a tough year, and we are at the end of a long 9 months of baby waitin', and once this little girl gets here things are only going to ramp up some more. So, with that in mind, here's a list of things that you could be praying for, if or when you can remember:

1. That God would equip us to be good parents.
2. Further clarification and guidance about ministry stuff.
3. Gospel growth in Peru.
4. New relationships with the locals.
5. Continued progress with language learning.
6. Finances

That's it guys. Short and to the point. Have a great 2014. Remember, all things to the glory of HIS name.

p.s. Our teammates had their new baby, Joanna, and she's awesome!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Phil Robertson: Making the Case for Catechism



At DPC we teach our children and youth the Westminster Catechism on Wednesday nights.  Often people coming from different traditions look at this suspiciously at first, but usually they come around to seeing it as a wonderful discipleship tool for learning and teaching the Christian faith and life.

Phil Robertson (whom I regard as a brother in Christ, from the little bit that I know about him) has just made the case for catechism so much easier.

You're probably aware of the recent events flowing out of Mr. Roberton's interview with GQ magazine.  I won't rehearse the whole story here.

But this quote from The Decatur Daily this morning represents the point, as I understand it, where things began to get interesting:
Asked his definition of sinful behavior by GQ, Robertson replied, "Start with homosexual behavior and just go from there."
No quarrel with the point that homosexual behavior is a violation of God's law.  That's plainly the teaching of Scripture, and if you waffle on that point, you're enslaving yourself to the fear of man or the bondage of self, rather than enjoying the freedom and liberty of the fear of God.

However, was that really the best way for a Christian to define sinful behavior?

That definition puts sinful behavior "out there."  Them.  Over there.  Those people.  Not me.

What if Mr. Robertson had been catechized as a child?  What if he were able to paraphrase (using his own words!) the classic Christian definitions of sin that have served God's people well for centuries?

Westminster Shorter Catechism:  "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God." -- meaning that anytime we turn away from God by failing to keep his "thou shalt" commands or by breaking his "thou shalt not" commands, we are in sin.  Sinful behavior is basically anytime we say "not your way God, but my way."  Which we all do:  Me.  Mr. Robertson.  You.

Heidelberg Catechism:  "What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?  Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are....  How do you come to know your misery?  The law of God tells me....  Can you live up to all this perfectly?  No.  I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor....  Where does this corrupt human nature come from?  From the fall and disobedience of our fist parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise.  This fall so poisoned our nature that we are born sinners -- corrupt from conception on....  But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?  Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God."

Or there's the Lutheran tradition of defining sin as a self-centered failure to trust God.

There's also the riches of the Second Helvetic Confession, the Canons of Dort, etc.

And, of course, there's the beautiful simplicity of the Apostle John's definition of sin from 1 John 3.4:  "Sin is lawlessness."

Any of that would have been worlds and worlds better than "Start with homosexual behavior and just go from there."

Remember Paul's instruction to us when discussing God's truth with those outside of Christ:  "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." (Colossians 4.6)

If you'd like to read a good, short book on the value of catechism, you can get some good things out of Donald Van Dyken's Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children.

If only... if only...







Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Another Auburn Miracle

This is John Stonestreet's Breakpoint column / broadcast for today...


A Fairytale Come True
by John Stonestreet

An unborn girl escapes abortion, is adopted, and becomes a homecoming queen? This is not a fairytale.      

True stories are always full of both ugliness and beauty, and this one is no different. A married woman is sexually assaulted in California and becomes pregnant. Compounding her pain, her husband gives her an ultimatum: Abort this baby, or I’ll divorce you. That’s the ugly part. The woman, however, courageously decides that the child growing inside her is not the ugly part of her story, and gives birth. That and what follows is beautiful!

She moves to Alabama, is put in touch with a Christian adoption agency called Lifeline Children’s Services. Peggy Dutton and her husband are on the board of Lifeline. They get to know this courageous woman and agree to give her child a loving home. Two days after Molly’s birth, they adopt her.

Molly grows up and lives a gloriously average suburban life and now attends Auburn University as a horticulture student.

Almost no one there knew her story—until friends urged her to run for homecoming queen. For her platform issue, Molly chose alternatives for women facing crisis pregnancies. She told her story which spread like wildfire. Soon, Molly was all over TV and the Web winsomely sharing her positive message about life.

“It’s already been a huge response,” she said. “It shows how much the public wants to receive life. It has been viral.” And not only that—Molly Anne Dutton was named Auburn’s homecoming queen!

Amazing—from what some people would call a disposable “blob of tissue” to homecoming queen. All because of the selflessness of a mother.

And you thought fairytales at Auburn only came true on the football field!

Folks, Molly Anne Dutton’s story reminds us that we don’t have to choose between biblical truth and compelling stories. It’s not all about facts and figures. We must touch people’s hearts as well as their heads. And true truth always does that, because the ultimate Truth of the world was embodied personally in Jesus Christ.

Here’s another true fairytale, told by Jerry Root and our own Stan Guthrie in their outstanding book, “The Sacrament of Evangelism”:

“A woman named Virginia and her husband,” they write, “were expecting their first child. Doctors, however, said the kidneys of the unborn baby were pocked with cysts. They said the child could not possibly live more than a few hours and advised them to abort.”

Virginia was heartbroken, but she had no intention of ending the baby’s life. She told the doctor, “I do not know why God chose me to be the mother of this child, but since He did I will give birth to this child and I will love it with mother-love the best I can for as long as it lives.”

When the baby was born, Virginia rocked, nursed, and sang to her baby until the child died. Jerry and Stan note, “There are no scales to measure such love and courage.”

Years later, another woman told Jerry about her pregnant daughter: Doctors told her that the baby inside her would also die within hours after birth and advised an abortion.

So Jerry put her in touch with Virginia, who spoke with the daughter by phone every week. “Taking courage from Virginia’s example,” Jerry and Stan write, “the daughter chose to give mother-love to her child for as long as that child should live.” Beautiful, right? But here’s the kicker: “After the baby was born, the doctors discovered that they had made a misdiagnosis. The baby was fine.”

It’s in these stories of people like Molly and Virginia, and the gracious God they serve, that our neighbors will not only learn about the goodness of God; they’ll be able to see it.

And please, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter, share this broadcast with your friends. You’ll find a transcript and the audio at BreakPoint.org. What better time to share these kinds of stories than at Christmas, when the Truth became flesh and dwelt in our midst.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mind = Blown



DPC'ers,

I won't take the time to elaborate on this thought on Sunday when we study the role of prayer in Colossians 4, but let this thought from C.S. Lewis begin to challenge your understanding or prayer:


When we are praying about the result, say, of a battle or a medical consultation the thought will often cross our minds that (if only we knew it) the event is already decided one way or the other. I believe this to be no good reason for ceasing our prayers. The event certainly has been decided—in a sense it was decided ‘before all worlds’. But one of the things taken into account in deciding it, and therefore one of the things that really cause it to happen, may be this very prayer that we are now offering. Thus, shocking as it may sound, I conclude that we can at noon become part causes of an event occurring at ten a.m. (Some scientists would find this easier than popular thought does.) The imagination will, no doubt, try to play all sorts of tricks on us at this point. It will ask, ‘Then if I stop praying can God go back and alter what has already happened?’ No. The event has already happened and one of its causes has been the fact that you are asking such questions instead of praying. It will ask, ‘Then if I begin to pray can God go back and alter what has already happened?’ No. The event has already happened and one of its causes is your present prayer. Thus something does really depend on my choice. My free act contributes to the cosmic shape. That contribution is made in eternity or ‘before all worlds’; but my consciousness of contributing reaches me at a particular point in the time-series.
~ C.S. Lewis



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Doing Business With Christians



Back in the 2nd century Justin Martyr once described how so many former pagans were becoming Christians, leaving the darkness of their paganism and coming to the light of Christ.

He describes it as happening, "either from having watched the constancy of their Christian neighbors, or from having observed the wonderful patience of Christian travelers when overcharged [from an inn], or from doing business with Christians."

How many people do you know who have come to Christ through working with Christians?  Do our work habits commend the Christian faith and life?

May it be so among us!

This Sunday at DPC:  
"Christ, The One For Whom We Do All Our Work"
Colossians 3:22-4.1



Monday, November 25, 2013

Derrick Redmond



After yesterday's closing sermon illustration (Derrick Redmond & his father), Joyce sent me this article.

Wonderful.

Click HERE to read it.




Monday, November 18, 2013

November 22, 1963 - Remembering the Death of a Giant



Yes, I know that John F. Kennedy died on November 22, 1963.  But that's not the death to which I'm referring.  See this article by Eric Metaxas...


No Mere Christian
by Eric Metaxas

Fifty years ago this Friday, one of the great Christian voices passed away. In fact, without him, I probably wouldn’t be speaking to you today on BreakPoint.

On November 22, 1963, C. S. Lewis died of kidney failure. The death of one of the great Christian apologists of the 20th century didn’t make many headlines: Those belonged to President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated that very same day in Dallas.

If Lewis’s death didn’t impact the news cycle, however, his writings made a nearly incalculable impact on the Church. Use the phrase, “He’s not a tame lion, you know,” and nearly two generations of Christians would get the reference to the Christ figure Aslan the lion from the "Chronicles of Narnia". The name “Screwtape” can send chills down the spines of millions, who know, thanks in part to Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters,” that the Devil and his fiendishly sly temptations are not the stuff of superstition and fairy tales.

And the title of Lewis’s most famous work became an almost proper noun in itself: “Mere Christianity”—the book that paved the way for the conversion of one Chuck Colson.

On the night Chuck gave his life to Jesus, his friend Tom Phillips read to him Lewis’s masterful passage on pride:

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free,” Lewis wrote, “which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else . . . The vice I am talking of is Pride . . . Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind …

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

As Chuck said on BreakPoint many years later, “It felt as if Lewis were writing about me, former Marine captain, Special Counsel to the President of the United States, now in the midst of the Watergate scandal. I had an overwhelming sense that I was unclean.

“When I got to the automobile to drive away, I couldn’t. I was crying too hard . . . I spent an hour calling out to God. I did not even know the right words. I simply knew that I wanted Him. And I knew for certain that the God who created the universe heard my cry.”

And that was Lewis’s genius: his ability to take the vast and sometimes complicated claims of Christianity, boil them down and express them in a way that nearly everyone can understand--whether they’re driven to their knees by them or not.


Lewis’s straight talk in “Mere Christianity”—the kind of straight talk Chuck himself became so adept at—provided the basis, the template, for much of modern-day Christian apologetics. Take for instance, “Mere Christianity’s” best-known passage:

Was Jesus just a good moral teacher? “That is the one thing we must not say,” Lewis wrote. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said . . . would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else would be the Devil of Hell. . . Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”

So, if you’re looking for compelling ways to think and talk about what Christians believe and why we believe it, “Mere Christianity” is a great place to start. It’s also a great book for that seeker in your life. We have it for you, of course, in the BreakPoint online bookstore.

Stay tuned this week to BreakPoint, as John Stonestreet and I share more of our thoughts on the works of C. S. Lewis.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

High Praise



On behalf of my team, I accept this compliment.
"Alabama coach Nick Saban, however, sees potential for a trap for his players and calls the Bulldogs the best 4-5 team in the country."
~TN Valley Gameday, November 16, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Church"



Someone just sent me this interesting exercise in thought from Max Lucado...


The church names we banter about?  They don’t exist in heaven.  Because it’s not the denomination that saves you.  And I wonder, if there’re no denominations in heaven, why do we have denominations on earth?
I know this is a crazy thought—but what would happen if all the churches agreed, on a given day, to change their names simply to “church?”  And then when people chose which church to attend, they wouldn’t do so by the sign outside, they’d do so by the hearts of the people inside.
And then, when people were asked what church they attended, their answer wouldn’t be a label but just a location. And then, we Christians wouldn’t be known for what divides us; instead we’d be known for what unites us—our common Father.
Crazy idea?  Perhaps.   But I think God would like it.  It was His idea to begin with!
Hmmm....

"I will build my ekklesia, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."  (Jesus of Nazareth)



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

help for your prayers



For me, one of the most practically helpful aids to meaningful, rich prayer is so Biblical and so simple, it's trickily easy to completely overlook.

Kneel.

"O come, let us worship and bow down; 
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker."
Psalm 95.6

As a human being, I am a body-soul nexus.  That is to say, my body & my soul are connected.  The posture of my body influences and affects the "posture" of my soul.  That's just the way God made us.

Isn't this what Screwtape told Wormwood, when he was giving him advice on undermining and weakening a Christian's prayer?

"At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily posture makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects theirs souls.  It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our best work is done by keeping things out."

Try it.

See if God hasn't made you that way too.

"And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, 
and knelt down and prayed."
Luke 22.41



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tim & Aileen... a Dramatization of Christ and the Church



This week at DPC we'll focus on Colossians 3:19, which is God's gospel-filled command to husbands.

There's a deep mystery about marriage that we must begin to grasp.  And that is this -- a faithful, Christian marriage is an earthly dramatization of the relationship between Christ and his church.  This is beautifully taught in Ephesians 5, and briefly summarized in Colossians 3.

Men, in preparation for Sunday's time of renewal in the Word, please read this recent blog post by a brother named Tim Challies...


18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing With My Wife
October 29, 2013
by Tim Challies
Last week I shared 18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing With My Kids, and the time I spent writing that article got me thinking about the fifteen years I’ve been married to Aileen (and the three years before that when we dated). I felt it was only right to think of another eighteen things, and this time to do so in her honor.
Here are 18 things I know I will never regret doing with my wife.
1. Praying with her. It took too long for the two of us to begin to really pray together; even now, we have a long way to go. But we have learned the importance of praying together and never regret the times we spend together before the Lord.
2. Dating her. We have all heard a thousand times how important it is to keep dating, even after getting married. This is easier said than done when the children are young and high-maintenance, but we have found it much easier now that the kids are just a little bit older. I have never regretted these times alone together.
3. Serving with her. While the majority of my relationship with Aileen is lived out face-to-face, we have always worked very well together side-by-side. We’ve planned and executed all kinds of events and programs in the past, and inevitably grow closer as we have done this. I never regret the time we spend serving together.
4. Looking back with her. Some of our sweetest times are spent looking at relics of days gone by—the silly journals we kept when dating, the photos of our wedding, the children when they were infants. Looking back is a genuine pleasure and we never regret that time together, remembering what the Lord has done and where he has brought us.
5. Leading her in love. I am convinced God has called me to lovingly lead my wife. This kind of leadership does not come easy to me, but I know there is a high cost to refusing to take it up. I never regret leading Aileen, when I lead with her good as my goal and with Christ as my model.
 6. Buying her flowers. I am fifteen years into marriage and still feel sheepish carrying a bouquet of flowers through a parking lot. But the flowers continue to be special, she continues to love them, I continue to enjoy giving the gift. I will never regret showing love that way.
7. Asking her forgiveness. It is a strange and ugly reality that the person I love most is the person I sin against most often. I have never-ending opportunities to ask her forgiveness. While it requires choking down my pride, I know I will never regret asking her to forgive me when I have sinned against her.
8. Forgiving her. Of course it works both ways, and she sins against me as well. Like me, she can struggle with asking for forgiveness, so when she does ask, I never regret immediately and sincerely forgiving her, and putting that offense out of my mind.
9. Holding her hand. It is so easy to allow what used to be special to become unremarkable and forgotten. Holding hands is one of those sweet habits that can so quickly be lost. I will never regret reaching out and walking with her, hand-in-hand.
10. Planning her hobby time. Aileen gives so much of herself to home and family, but tends to be at her best when she has a hobby to give some of her time and attention to. I never regret the time we carve out to plan how she can give time to the hobbies she loves.
11. Washing her with the Word. The book of Ephesians makes it clear that one of a husband’s joyful responsibilities is washing his wife in the water of God’s Word. As our marriage has progressed we have seen more and more clearly the value and beauty of doing this very thing. I will never regret those times we spend together, hearing from God through his Word.
12. Listening to her. I am far too quick to give my own opinion, to make excuses, to speak without really listening and hearing. But I am learning that I will never regret the times when I patiently listen and allow Aileen to speak without interruption, without interjection, without having me become all defensive.
13. Reading with her. If you want to talk about compatibility within marriage, well, Aileen and I are very incompatible when it comes to the books we love to read. But when we do find one of those books and when we commit to reading it together, I never regret the time or the effort.
14. Delighting in her. In all the sin, stress and strain life can bring, it is so easy to lose that sense of wonder and delight in the gift of a wife. I will never regret thinking about her, thanking God for her, and increasing my delight in her.
15. Enjoying shared interests. One of the first things I did when when I began dating Aileen was learn to like tennis; that was just the first of many interests we learned to enjoy together. I have never regretted learning to enjoy something she loves for her sake and for the sake of our relationship.
16. Worshipping with her. One of my great joys in life is worshipping the Lord side-by-side with the one person I love more than any other. This is a little foretaste of heaven, just a glimpse of eternity, where we will worship him perfectly forever. I never regret prioritizing church and worshipping with Aileen.
17. Getting away with her. We love our family vacations with the five of us sprawled out at the beach or huddled in a cabin. But Aileen and I also find great benefit in vacations alone, whether that is a couple of days somewhere nearby, or a week somewhere far from home. I will never regret interrupting normal life for these sweet times together.
18. Saying I love you. Yes, even the “I love you” can become an empty habit rather than a meaningful declaration. When I pause for just a moment, when I think about what I am saying, that little phrase takes on much greater depth of meaning. I never have and I never will regret looking Aileen in the eyes and saying, “I love you.”
The joy of this list is that I could so easily have come up with another eighteen items, and another eighteen beyond that. The Lord has blessed me so far beyond what I deserve.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

If the Bible Itself Hadn't Said It...





My children's birthdays are usually celebrated here at Ransom Road, but Jaden & Joseph's recent birthdays came to pass during a significant blogging break... so allow me to make up for that...

Proverbs 18.24 says this:


A man of many companions may come to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

That whole "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" business... you know what?  If the Bible itself hadn't said it, I'd never believe it.

I'd throw the flag and declare it to be obvious nonsense.  Then I'd throw in a few choice synonyms for good measure:  hogwash, balderdash, baloney, rubbish, silly talk, prattle, rot, hooey, and tripe.  And maybe even poppycock, tomfoolery, malarky, and gibberish.

It's impossible to imagine a friend sticking closer to anyone than Jaden sticks to Joseph or than Joseph sticks to Jaden.  They are literally growing up with their very best buddy Right. Next. To. Them. All. The. Time.

And it's awesome.  I love these two knuckleheads more than I can describe.  Even with my obvious mastery of synonyms.

Jaden & Joseph, I pray you always know and rejoice in the steadfastness and constancy of your richly hilarious and deeply moving friendship with one another.

And I pray you always encourage one another to follow Christ intensely and intentionally -- with all heart, soul, mind, and strength.



Friday, October 25, 2013

One of My Favorite Passages on Marriage



This Sunday at DPC we'll continue considering what a Christian marriage looks like, according to the Word of God.

And that reminds me of one of my all-time favorite passages on marriage, from Mike Mason's book "The Mystery of Marriage"...

“Marriage is the closest bond that is possible between two human beings.  That, at least, was the original idea behind it.  It was to be something unique, without parallel or precedent.  In the sheer sweep and radical abandon of its commitment, it was to transcend every other form of human union on earth, every other covenant that could possibly be made between two people.  Friendship, parent-child, master-pupil -- marriage would surpass all these other bonds in a whole constellation of remarkable ways, including equality of the partners, permanent commitment, cohabitation, sexual relations, and the spontaneous creation of blood ties through simple spoken promises.  As it was originally designed, marriage was a union to end all unions, the very last word, and the first, in human intimacy.  Socially, legally, physically, emotionally, every which way, there is just no other means of getting closer to another human being, and never has been, than in marriage.
Such extraordinary closeness is bought at a cost, and the cost is nothing more nor less than one’s own self.  No one has ever been married without being shocked at the enormity of this price and at the monstrous inconvenience of this thing called intimacy which suddenly invades their life.  At the wedding the a bride and groom may have gone through the motions of the candlelighting ceremony, each blowing out their own flame and lighting one central candle in place of the two, but the touching simplicity of this ritual has little in common with the actual day-to-day pressures involved as two persons are merged into one.  It is a different matter when the flame that must be extinguished is no lambent flicker of a candle, but the blistering inferno of self-will and independence.  There is really nothing else like this lifelong cauterization of the ego that must take place in marriage.  All of life, is in one way or another, humbling.  But there is nothing like the experience of being humbled by another person, and by the same person day in and day out.  It can be exhausting, unnerving, infuriating, disintegrating.  There is no suffering like the suffering involved in being close to another person.  But neither is there any joy and the comfort that are wrung out like wine from the crush and ferment of two lives being pressed together.
What happens to a couple when they fall in love, when they pitch headlong into this winepress of intimacy, is not simply that they are swept off their feet: more than that, it is the very ground they are standing on, the whole world and ground of their separate selves, that is swept away.  A person in love cannot help becoming, in some sense, a new person.  After all, even to stand for 5 minutes beside a stranger in a supermarket line-up, without exchanging one word, is to be drawn irresistibly, uncomfortably, enigmatically into the dizzying vortex of another human life.  It is to be subtly swayed, held, hypnotized, transfixed – moved and influenced in a myriad of ways, subliminal and seldom analyzed, but nonetheless potent.  But marriage takes this same imponderable magnetism and raises it to an infinite power!  The very next step in human closeness, beyond marriage, would be just to scrap the original man and woman and create one new human being out of the two.
But this is exactly what happens (both in symbol and in actuality) in the birth of a child!  Eventually the parents die, leaving the child a living sign of the unthinkable extremity of union which took place between two distinct lives.  The two become one: “Has not the Lord made them one?  In flesh and spirit they are His.  And why one?  Because he was seeking godly offspring.” (Malachi 2:15)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

News from Peru!



Sean & Amber -- DPC members & missionaries -- have sent out this wonderful update:




BABY #2


Alright guys, we are proud to announce to you all Isabella Faith DeMars, baby no. 2. We have been trying to find out the sex for the last five weeks, and now we finally know! We are super excited and can't wait for December to get here. 


A few of you all have also asked about stuff for the new baby. Amber put together a registry at amazon.com. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/registry/baby/2JUFKMM09MP00  


Prayer Requests:

- Sean is going back into the jungle for a few days. He'll be preaching and getting to know the community a little better during his visit. Please pray that the Lord would go before him and prepare hearts for the glorious gospel of Christ. 

- Amber is doing a lot better this pregnancy. All of the "morning sickness" has subsided. Please pray for her continuing health, as well as that of baby Isabella. 

- The new baby will also bring a big batch of new expenses. Big ones. As most of you know, we haven't done any fundraising for support, so any expenses over 2 US dollars are a little overwhelming. lol. Please pray for 1) our provision, 2) our trust in Christ, not in our circumstances.

- Our teammates are also expecting a new baby. Please pray that our team can cope with two new babies.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Technology Outpacing Wisdom

Another great book review from the Wall Street Journal on the need for all of us (but especially families with children) to carefully think through our use of technology... & our temptation towards the neglect of "real life."

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


Touchscreen Toddlers and Instagram Teens

Too much technology makes today's children disconnected from real life



By 
  • AMY FINNERTY




  • Those who haven't spent much time "IRL" with their kids lately will recognize their own households in the pages of "The Big Disconnect." In Real Life, a state now so exotic that it needs its own identity tag, refers to the way families used to interact, before we started to text each other from one room to the next. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist alarmed by the wired way we live now, wants us to reclaim the immemorial rhythms of the hearth and shield our children from the excesses of the digital age.
    The author draws on her own psychology practice and interviews with kids, parents and experts to argue, persuasively, that tech is rewiring human relations.  While focusing on child development, she registers the irony of hand-wringing by adults who themselves Facebook compulsively and text while breastfeeding.  From infancy to retirement, tech now trespasses on the most intimate recesses of our lives.  
    But an important distinction exists between the post-Internet generation and their elders, who have known something other than the one-click gratification of Google. The author believes that those who once visited libraries or waited days by the kitchen phone for a girl to call developed resilience, and their young brains were afforded gentle hours of creative meandering. As adults, their tolerance of "boredom"—an absence of hyper-stimulation and instant satisfaction—contributed to happiness and productivity.
    Today, even infancy is wired. At a time of unparalleled brain growth, the baby's nursery is intruded upon by gadgets. Toddlers are handed iPads to quiet them, even while research tells us, according to Ms. Steiner-Adair, that "engaging with the screen activity may itself be rerouting brain development" and undermining "neural connections your child needs to develop reading, writing, and higher-level thinking later."
    According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Ms. Steiner-Adair reports, 30% of America's kids under the age of 3 have televisions in their rooms. Another survey shows that a third of Gen-Y mothers allow their 2-year-olds to play with smartphones. The younger the parent, the earlier kids are plugging in. Tech takes precious time away from lessons in self-regulation, Ms. Steiner-Adair believes. It is through practice in real life, she says, that you develop "the capacity to soothe yourself and calm yourself down, to deal with impulsivity, tolerate frustration, work through boredom to creativity."


    Ironically, the technology that allows parents to work from home can disrupt the very bonding and modeling of behavior that the author believes are essential to brain health. The TV and house phone were inventions that we could walk away from, but today we are attached to our devices as if they were prosthetic extensions of our hearts and minds. One result is that some 4-year-olds can download apps before they can put on their own shoes. Technology has gained a "de facto coparenting role," the author notes.

    By middle school, children's social lives have been amped up by Facebook and texting. Without the "nuanced sensory feedback" of face-to-face intercourse, misunderstandings escalate and social skills go missing. The halting give-and-take of adolescent courtship, for example, is distorted. By their earliest teens, most children, Ms. Steiner-Adair says, have been steeped in the "chaos and moral indifference of the cyber culture," treacherous territory for those whose judgment isn't yet fully developed.

    Despite the considerable social good it can foster, Facebook also encourages "impulsive sharing" and self-promotion that for high-schoolers often takes the form of pouty posing or drunken oversharing. Responses are unfiltered, and young and old alike are robbed of the healing calm of distance, the time it would take to write a note or go for a walk and cool off.

    Technology is also entwined with sexuality as never before. Many tween boys have had their first sexual encounters with online porn, while girls assess their attractiveness based on Instagram self-portraits. This is "the first generation," says Ms. Steiner-Adair, "to grow up in a culture where being sexually intimate is understood to be disconnected from the context of a relationship." Facebook evolved from a collegiate "hotness" rating tool and is now a morally agnostic medium linked to a "lean in" role model. But for today's young woman, that boy she is stressed about is never out of sight or out of mind and is relentlessly present on the laptop she turns on to do homework or on the phone in her handbag. There is rarely an escape from image-management. Ms. Steiner-Adair says that "recent reports on emerging patterns of depression and loneliness among heavy tech users suggest some teens spend upward of half the day—eleven hours—tending their Facebook profiles."

    Families, too, suffer from "relational fatigue," thanks to ceaseless sharing. Parents know where their children are and what they are doing at every minute (except when kids turn off their phones to avoid parental stalking). Teen girls feel guilty if they haven't updated friends every half-hour. We are "imprisoned" by the demands of managing peers and relatives, receiving and sending an unbroken barrage of messages for no reason other than our addiction to constant contact. It is exhausting.

    Texting and Facebook can be valuable tools, the author admits, but they don't necessarily foster humanity. She cites an analysis of 72 studies that included nearly 14,000 college students between 1979 and 2009. It shows a "sharp decline in the empathy trait." It isn't just that it is easier to be cruel via device; it also seems that some children may not be learning how to read IRL responses as humans had for millennia.

    Is Ms. Steiner-Adair's portrait of modern life, disrupted and impoverished by invasive technology, a compelling one? She isn't the first social observer to be skeptical of today's tech obsessions. Sherry Turkle, in "Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other" (2012), sounded some of Ms. Steiner-Adair's themes. Technology's defenders, in turn, reply that the naysayers are overreacting and would never trade their own electronic devices for the "real life" of yesteryear. And besides, aren't tech-fluent kids with little patience for plodding methods at an advantage in today's economy? Certainly they are adept multitaskers whose time on computers is neurologically and psychologically "action packed"—entirely in keeping with our culture and the demands that adult life will put on them.

    But Ms. Steiner-Adair makes a point of conceding that technology is an ever more inevitable component in schools, the workplace and family life and a font of wondrous opportunity. She simply wants parents to provide a model for "safe and civil" interaction with tech, while not allowing "new apps" to "obliterate old truths."

    The author believes that the "sustainable family recognizes the pervasive presence of tech in today's world" but develops a mindful approach to limit it. She calls for old-fashioned remedies—ask the girl out in person, play board games now and then. Solo, family and peer play, she believes, nurtures "curiosity, grit, and zest and a whole host of social and emotional learning." Even in a tech-driven world, she says, unplugged activities are linked not only to mental health and civility but also to "success in school and life"—that is to say, to success in real life.
    —Ms. Finnerty is a writer in
    Brooklyn, N.Y.

    A version of this article appeared August 31, 2013, on page C9 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Touchscreen Toddlers and Instagram Teens.

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    14!


    Happy Birthday, Calli!

    My prayer for you this year is that, like the sparrow, 
    you may dwell in the house of the Lord, ever singing his praises...





    How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
    My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
    my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.
    Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
    at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
    Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
    ever singing your praise! 


    Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
    As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
    They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion.
    O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
    give ear, O God of Jacob! 


    Behold our shield, O God;
    look on the face of your anointed!
    For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere.
    I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
    For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor.
    No good thing does he withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.
    O Lord of hosts,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you!

    Psalm 84



    Saturday, August 24, 2013

    Augustine: Finding Time to Read the Bible



    In my early morning reading, I'm working my way through Peter Brown's amazing biography of Augustine.  This morning Augustine was beginning to feel the tugs of the Holy Spirit toward what the gospel of Christ means for the meaning of life:

    "...is it true that nothing can be grasped with certainty for the directing of this life?  No: we must search the more closely and not despair.  For now the things in the Scriptures which used to seem absurd are no longer so.... 
    I shall set my foot on that step on which my parents placed me as a child, until I clearly find the truth.  But where shall I search?  When shall I search?  Ambrose [the pastor of the church Augustine was attending] is busy.  I am myself too busy to read.  
    And in any event, where can I find the books?  Who has them, or when can I procure them?  Can I borrow them from anyone?  
    I must appoint set times, set aside certain hours for the health of my soul.  A great hope has dawned: the [Christian] faith does not teach things I thought and vainly accused it of.... Do I hesitate to knock, that other truths may be opened?  
    My pupils occupy the morning hours [August was employed as a professor], but what do I do with the rest?  Why not do this?  But if I do, when shall I have time to visit powerful friends of whose influence I stand in need, or when prepare the lessons I sell to my pupils, or when refresh myself by relaxing my mind from too close preoccupation with my heavy concerns?"
    ~St. Augustine
    This is exactly the struggle we all have when God begins to call us out of the shadows & into real life:

    Is it true that life is as shallow as the world would have me believe?  No.  I must search and not despair, for the Scriptures no longer seem absurd to me.  They are true.  I will search them until I find this truth.  But when?  How?  There are 1,000 excuses.  And yet, I must do this for the health of my soul.  A great hope has dawned!  Am I just scared of what this truth will end up requiring of me?  What will I have to sacrifice in my "busy," cluttered life to search the Scriptures?

    "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?"  ~ Matthew 16





    Friday, August 23, 2013

    16!

    Happy Birthday, Jonathan!  

    My prayer for you this year is the eagle prayer... 




    Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
    “My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
    Have you not known? Have you not heard?

    The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
    He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.

    Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
    but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
    they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

    Isaiah 40.27-31



    Saturday, August 10, 2013

    5 Ingredients for an Epic Vacation (plus a bonus)




    1.  FRIENDS

    Consider inviting friends to enjoy a vacation with you!  Many years ago my wife & I were in a Bible Study with several other young adults, all newly married.  We became especially good friends with two other couples -- before any of us started having children.  And then the children gradually started showing up, basically 3 at a time (one from each family).

    We've shared several vacations together now.  Just us six adults.  And 15 children.  The 21 Marleedinks.



    Do friends on vacation for a week or more sometimes get sideways with each other?  Sure.  But repentance, forgiveness, and love is the very language of true friendship -- even friendship with God himself.  It's worth every moment, even the moments when someone gets grumpy for a few minutes.

    2.  FUNDS

    We do our best (interpretation: my wife is very wise) to make vacations very affordable.  By the time we get back, I don't want to see another peanut butter & jelly sandwich for a month.  But still, there is a cost, and that cost is going to be more than what can be pulled out of a regular monthly budget.  We discipline ourselves to set aside a certain amount every month for 24 months.  "Epic" vacations don't take place every year; they only happen once every 2 years.

    And in those 2 years, there are many months where we think we really need to borrow against the vacation fund.  But do all that you can reasonably do to resist.  You're investing in family memories.

    3.  WORSHIP

    One of the lamest things I see Christians doing is taking a "vacation" from worshiping God.  How ridiculous.  On the Lord's Day the Risen King is summoning his children to assemble in worship all over the world... except for the ones on vacation?

    Rather, this is a wonderful opportunity to expose yourself and your children to another part of Christ's kingdom!  During vacation weeks I've taken my family to a small country church of 20something worshippers... to a large African American church of 2,000 worshippers... to a "hip" inner-city church with a thousand young adults, no children in sight... to an exclusive-psalmody-no-music church... etc.  Broaden your experience with & understanding of God's family.  It'll do you good.

    Also, consider short daily devotions throughout the vacation.  On this last vacation all 21 of us made a week-long study of Revelation 1-3, mostly in 3-minute devotions, in the middle of the day, while surrounded by majestic mountains.

    4.  EXPLORE!

    Stretch yourself & your kids.  Do something out of the ordinary.  Climb a mountain, walk up a mountainous sand dune, go white-water rafting, go kayaking, hike "up" the middle of a mountain stream for a couple of miles, take an old-fashioned train ride.

    Have them do something they've never done before, and perhaps didn't think they could.

    5.  NO ELECTRONICS

    Take a fast from all rectangles... phones, computers, ipod, ipad, etc.  The world will still be pretty much the same when you get back.  (But maybe you will have changed?)

    Instead, use your downtime to play some basketball, some ultimate frisbee, have some wrestling matches, look at maps, read a book to some kids.  They don't even have to be your kids.  Any kids will do.

    BONUS

    The dad should start the week off with something fun & out-of-the-ordinary, because this is vacation week & the rules have all changed.  Set the tone by doing something unexpected.  Bring your wife home her favorite pretzel order from Mellow Mushroom... bring home a donut dinner plate for the kids... or maybe shave your head... whatever strikes your fancy.









    Monday, July 8, 2013

    Welcome, Baby Brooks!




    DPC welcomes Baby Brooks, born to Scott & Beth on Friday morning, at 7:15am!  Brooks weighed in at 6 pounds, 7 ounces, and is 19 & a half inches long.

    Do you remember what God's first command to humanity was?  That first command to his image-bearers wasn't about sin or work or holiness... or even worship.  You'll find the first command in Genesis 1:28... "Be fruitful and multiply."

    The whole command is: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

    God was commanding his people to exercise their calling as his image-bearing representatives throughout all of creation!  And it is in this specific way -- through childbirth -- that he called us to "multiply" our efforts to serve and honor him -- our Creator -- in every corner of creation.

    This is important for Christians to remember, especially in our day of materialism and the enslaving, dominating desire for easy, instant gratification -- in such a setting people are sometimes deceived into thinking that children are more of a hassle than a blessing.

    In such a setting birth rates among God's image-bearers might fall farther for longer than at any other time in human history (except for in times of world war or famine).  And that's exactly where we are right now.

    But no.  God's people should not be so deceived.

    Listen to Psalm 127:  "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!  He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."

    Give thanks for Brooks!  God's work is advancing right before our very eyes.


    Thursday, June 13, 2013

    Pictures Now Viewable

    Someone told me that the pictures of the baptism service in the post below weren't viewable.  Sorry about that; I had used a shortcut this time, but it apparently didn't work as well "out there" as it did on my computer.

    But they're now corrected.  Enjoy.



    Monday, June 10, 2013

    "Dunkings available, upon request."

    As an elder's wife said yesterday, we should put an asterisk next to our church name that would point people to the message: "Dunkings available, upon request."

    Yesterday was a great day!  DPC was invited to a sister church in the area who kindly let us use their baptistry in the afternoon.  (Thank you, First Bible!  And thank you to Mark, the First Bible member who ran the sound & took these pictures for us!)

    Jennifer is in Christ.  She is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  (2 Corinthians 5.17)  Give the Redeemer praise for what he's doing through The Refuge of Grace, which you can read more about HERE.




















    Thursday, May 9, 2013

    Welcome, Baby Adeline!



    DPC welcomes Baby Adeline, born to Steve & Adriane at 7:22 this morning!  She weighed in at 6 pounds 14 ounces, and is 19 inches long.  Give thanks for this precious gift from God.

    "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, 
    coming down from the Father of lights
    with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
    James 1.17

    "People who do not like children are swine, 
    dunces, and blockheads,
    not worthy to be called men and women,
    because they despise the blessing of God,
    the Creator and Author of marriage."
    Martin Luther



    Friday, May 3, 2013

    Man Night!



    Iron Men,

    Think about this... in the Lord's Prayer we pray that God might give us our daily bread, right?

    How exactly does God answer that prayer for you?

    Well, there's the guy who sells seed to the farmer.  There's the farmer himself.  There's the banker who lent the farmer money for the tractor.  There are the people who made the tractor, and the other people who sold the tractor.  There are the harvesters.  There's the baker.  There's the cook.  There's the truck driver who delivered it all to the grocery store.  There are the grocery store employees.  There's also the lady at the checkout counter, or the kid handing you your cheeseburger through the fast food window.  And a whole lot more as well, but you get the point.

    All of this... just to give you your daily bread.  All of these different people and their work... God used every last one of them (in answer to your prayer) to give you the food you ate yesterday.

    This is the doctrine of vocation.  This is the dignity of all honorable work.  God provides for our needs through one another's work.  I serve you and you serve me, all through the particular work that God Himself has called us to.

    God is powerfully at work in this world through the means of vocation.

    That's what we're talking about tonight at Man Night.  And it's about the most practical thing you can imagine, in a thousand different ways.  Hope to see you there!

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



    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    This is what God intended all along...



    Check this out:

    Genesis 1:28 ~ “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion"

    Colossians 1:5,6 ~ "the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing"

    Colossians 1:10 ~ "bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God"

    In the first reference, God is commanding humanity (at the time of creation) to bear fruit and increase.

    In the second reference, the gospel (which brings about the new creation) is now bearing fruit and increasing.

    In the third reference (a prayer for God's people), we are once again bearing fruit and increasing; bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

    What a great progression.  What is said about humanity is then said about the gospel and is then said about the people in whose lives and hearts the gospel is at work.

    In the re-created humanity of the church, God is doing exactly that which he always intended...  He's reaping a rich harvest of image-bearers who will revel and flourish before him.

    Come to Jesus Christ and become who you were made to be.  Become truly human.

    All through the power of the gospel and the grace of the Savior.


      

    Monday, April 29, 2013

    Celebrating S'mores & Fires & Friends



    “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

    ~C.S. Lewis



    Sunday, April 28, 2013

    The Book of Longing



    If you're using the Bible reading plan discussed HERE, then you're in the midst of the book of Judges.  Let me tell you right now... don't hold out hope for a happy ending.

    This is an era of chaos, lawlessness, violence, and gross immorality---sexual and otherwise.

    "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  That's how the book of Judges describes itself.  Everyone's doing what's right in his own eyes; no one is concerned about God's eyes.  Sad stuff.

    The consequences are disturbing, and the conclusion is obvious: WE NEED A KING!  We need a faithful king, an eternal king---one who will rule over us in wisdom and love.  Because left to ourselves, we fall apart and our entire culture becomes unraveled.

    By the way, have you seen today's newspaper?

    We still need that king.  And the good news of the gospel is that we have him!  He is King Jesus, the one prefigured and foreshadowed in many wonderful ways throughout the book of Judges, over and over and over again.

    This is 21 chapters (618 verses) of a sad tale, full of longing---skillfully told.  Unforgettable stories, unforgettable people.  


    Actually, sometimes the stories in this book are downright gruesome.  Why do you think God thought it was important for us to read this?  The point is plain and profound: we need the Bible's king.

    There's an important cycle in the book of Judges:

    1. The people of God do evil.  
    2. They are punished for this evil.  
    3. They cry out to God for deliverance.  
    4. He graciously sends a savior / deliverer / rescuer / judge.  Each one of these judges is a picture of Christ in some way.  But, of course, the picture is very limited and the deliverance is very temporary.
    5. When the judge dies, the people generally return to Step 1.  (It's a cycle that every self-aware Christian can identify with.)  
    We need a Savior / Deliverer / Rescuer / Judge / King who can somehow establish his righteousness over us forever.  We need a Greater Samson, a Greater Gideon, a Greater Deborah, a Greater Ehud, a Greater Othniel, a Greater Shamgar, a Greater Jephthah, etc.

    And in Christ, that's what we're freely given.

    He's the Greater Adam (Romans 5), the Greater Moses (Mark 6; John 5), the Greater David (Matthew 12), and the Greater Solomon (Luke 11).  The salvation he brings is the Greater Exodus (Hebrews 12) and the Greater Restoration from Exile (Luke 4).  The church he founds is the Living Temple (1 Peter 2) and the Israel of God (Galatians 6).

    And on top of all that, he's also our Greater Judge and our Long-For King.  
    "What do these judges have in common?... What they have in common... is their rich diversity.  The book of Judges delights in surprises, in diversity of character and situation, in reversals of expectations. The hand of the Lord falls where it will, often in unexpected places---on a southpaw, on two women, on the youngest son of a poor farmer in a weak clan, on the son of a prostitute, on the son of a barren woman...."
    ~Kenneth R.R. Gros Lous
    "The book of Judges is full of paradox.  It contains some of the most famous of the Bible's stories and some of the least known.  In them there is much that is attractive, perhaps more than is repulsive.  Their lessons are at one simple and difficult.  They show us man's blackest sin, but we see it by the light of God's most luminous grace."
    ~Michael Wilcock

    JOSHUA POST