Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hebron, India, Medina... nothing.



In the ancient world when a "great man" died, his tomb was enshrined.  You can see evidence of that when you read the Bible itself, but it's also easily seen in ancient world studies outside of the Bible.

That was the common custom:  preserve and venerate the tomb of a prophet or holy man (or an otherwise great man) as a shrine.

And so, consider the four major religions that are based upon the work of a great man (rather than merely based upon a set of principles or ideas)...

Judaism:  Abraham, who died around 4,000 years ago, died and was buried in Hebron.  The Jews still today consider his grave a holy site and venerate it.  It's a shrine.

Buddhism:  The Buddha's tomb is preserved in India.  It's a shrine.  People flock to it every year by the thousands.

Islam:  Mohammed died on June 8, 632.  His tomb is in Medina.  It's also a shrine.  People flock to it every year by the millions.

When Jesus was walking around in Palestine, he could have himself visited over 50 tombs / shrines of dead holy men, if he wanted to do so.  And that's just the 50 or so that we know about.

But for Jesus himself?...  There are no bones inside of a tomb getting venerated or worshiped.

Why is that?

Resurrection Day
DPC, March 31
Worship: 10:45am
Come Join Us!

"I am the resurrection and the life..."
Jesus





Friday, March 29, 2013

What Did Jesus Accomplish?

*


Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ was absurdly violent.  Exactly like the actual event of crucifixion.

One part of that film that sticks with me:  Jesus is carrying his cross through the streets of Jerusalem.  He's been beaten to a pulp.  He's weakened because of all the loss of blood.  His face is bruised, swollen, and caked with lost blood.

Suddenly he collapses to the ground, under the weight of the cross.  His mother rushes to his side, and he looks up at her through all of his agony and misery... and the smallest little hint of a smile breaks out on Jesus' face.

The scriptwriters then take the glorious words of the enthroned Jesus in Revelation 21.5 (“Behold, I am making all things new”) and put them here.

As Mary's heart is breaking, as she's watching her beloved son get slowly and tragically murdered right there in front of her---Jesus smiles at his mother and says, "Mother, I am making all things new."

That's what Jesus was accomplishing.

Good Friday Service
DPC, Tonight  
6:00 pm

*The photo above was taken by DPC member Lucinda Beddow, when she worshipped at one of our sister churches in Nashville this last Lord's Day.  The crown of thorns are lying on top of Isaiah 53, a prophecy of the sufferings of the Messiah, written around 700 BC.


 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Nation Waging War Against God



As I take a look at the headlines today (not the least of which is the conversation at the Supreme Court regarding the re-definition of marriage to include the idea of "homosexual marriage"), I'm reminded of the first part of Psalm 2:


Why do the nations rage (noisily assemble / conspire)
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

Carefully consider John Calvin's comments on this Psalm, searching to make the appropriate applications to this situation:

"We know how many conspired against David, and endeavored to prevent his coming to the throne, but David was thoroughly persuaded that he had been made king by divine appointment.  He encouraged himself by strong confidence in God against the whole world as he nobly poured contempt both on kings and their armies, because they waged war, not against mortal man, but against God himself.  The ground of such confidence was that he only followed the call of God.  From this he concluded that in his person, God was assailed; and God could not but show himself the defender of the kingdom of which he was the founder.  God principally proves his faithfulness in this, that he does not forsake the work of his own hands, but continually defends those whom he has once received into his favor.
"By honoring himself with the title of the Anointed, David declares that he reigned only by the authority and command of God.  That he prophesied concerning Christ, is clearly manifest from this, that he knew his own kingdom to be merely a shadow.  Those things which David testified concerning his own kingdom are properly applicable to Christ.  
"Let this, therefore, be held as a settled point, that all who do not submit themselves to the authority of Christ make war against God.  Since it seems good to God to rule by the hand of his own Son, those who refuse to obey Christ himself deny the authority of God, and it is vain for them to profess otherwise.
"Wicked men may not conduct themselves as wickedly as they please, but they shall at length feel what it is to make war against heaven.  God is so far exalted above the men of this world, that the whole mass of them could not possibly obscure his glory in the least degree.  As often, then, as the power of man appears formidable to us, let us remember how much it is transcended by the power of God.  In these words there is set before us the unchangeable and eternal purpose of God effectually to defend the kingdom of his Son, of which he is the founder; and this may well support our faith amid the troublous storms of the world.  Whatever plots, therefore, men may form against it, let this one consideration be sufficient to satisfy us, that they cannot render ineffectual the anointing of God."

Wow.  Pray for our nation.

Providentially, my Bible reading this morning had me in Romans 1---the second half of which terrifyingly describes God's wrath against an idolatrous culture which God eventually gives up to "dishonorable passions."

This morning's post is written out of prayerful concern for our nation.  There is, of course, much more to say about the church's & the Christian's response to this issue---particularly the church's & the Christian's response to the individual homosexual.

But I'll save that very important matter for a future post.

If you're still with me this far & if it's still Thursday morning when you're reading this, pray for my wife.  She's currently in surgery for kidney issues.








Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Called Into Reality




At DPC our worship service begins with a "Call to Worship," from the Scriptures.

What is a call to worship?...

"Every call to worship is a call into the Real World....  I encounter such constant and widespread lying about reality each day and meet with such skilled and systematic distortion of the truth that I'm always in danger of losing my grip on reality.  The reality, of course, is that God is sovereign and Christ is savior.  The reality is that prayer is my mother tongue and the eucharist my basic food.  The reality is that baptism, not Myers-Briggs, defines who I am."

~ Eugene H. Peterson, from his book Take & Read

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Totally Nailed It


There's a place in Huntsville that does English Country Dancing (think: Jane Austen films) every Monday night.  Last night I took my family.

I was totally Mr. Darcy.  Nailed it.




Monday, March 25, 2013

The Book of Examples


If you're using the Bible-reading plan mentioned HERE, then a few days ago you made it to the end of the book of Numbers.

This is the book that Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 10, when he says this:


For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.


Numbers is 36 chapters (1,288 verses) of examples from which God's people may still learn much-needed truths and wisdom today.  This book records all that happened during Israel's 40 years of wilderness wandering, and it's recorded by a master storyteller.

Reading this book thoughtfully you become more and more aware of what a healthy, godly community of believers would look like... and you also become more and more aware of how often we (like them) fall miserably short.  It's often like looking in a mirror.

This book is (literally) a journey.  And---like most journeys---there are good days & bad days.  But, like Paul says above, there is much to learn from this book---both the "law" parts and the "story" parts.

Here you read of God's judgment on sinners, his miraculous intervention to deliver his people, his presence with his people in the pillar of fire & cloud, the blossoming of Aaron's rod, the faithfulness of Joshua and Caleb, the leadership & courage & failure of Moses, the fiery serpents, the brazen serpent, the unwitting prophecies of Balaam, the water from the rock, etc.

It's a strong reminder of our own constant need of God's saving grace.

"The central message of the book... may be expressed in words which occur in... Romans 11:22---'Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God.'  In Numbers we see the severity of God, in the old generation which fell in the wilderness and never entered Canaan.  We see the goodness of God, in the new generation which was protected, preserved, and provided for.... Closely running up to this central message of the book are two other lessons---two warnings to ourselves; and these also may be expressed in words from the New Testament.  The first is a warning against presumption (1 Corinthians 10:1-12).... The second warning is against unbelief (Hebrews 3:12).... The New Testament itself interprets the book of Numbers for us...: 1. 'Behold the goodness and severity of God.'  2. 'Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed....' 'take heed lest there be in you---unbelief.'"
~J. Sidlow Baxter
"In Genesis God elected a people, in Exodus he redeemed them, in Leviticus he sanctified them, and in Numbers he directed them."
~Bruce Wilkinson & Kenneth Boa
"What then is the essence of religious rituals in the Bible?  It is a means of communication between God and man, a drama on a stage watched by human and divine spectators.  Old Testament rituals express religious truths visually as opposed to verbally.  They are the ancient equivalent of television."
~Gordon J. Wenham
"How faithful is God to promises made to an ungrateful and rebellious people?  Does God give people a second chance?  What does it mean to be a holy community, and how is that sanctity to be maintained?  What kind of leadership does a journeying people need on its way between promise and fulfillment?  How does God provide when the leaders struggle under their burden or even abandon their task?  These are some of the important questions addressed in the book of Numbers."
~Katharine Doob Sakenfield
"The book of Numbers is a study in the contrast between God's faithfulness and human disobedience."
~R.K. Harrison
LEVITICUS POST





Friday, March 22, 2013

Learn to Pray the Psalms




This Sunday at DPC we'll be continuing our occasional series through the Psalter, looking at Psalm 3... which I have helpfully printed for you above.

I wanted to make a case (again) for learning to pray the Psalms in the sermon itself, but I don't think there'll be time.  So, let me say it here.

Learn to pray the Psalms.

Why?...

A few weeks ago a lady sat in my study weeping, telling me the awful, awful things that had happened to her in life.  Evil things, wretched things, grievous things.  Things for which we were not made.  And after all of that, she said, "Now, if all of that had happened to you, would you be cool with that?"

It seemed an odd question.  Of course I wouldn't be "cool" with that.  Why would she ask that?

Because she had been in a church full of that hateful, false teaching that is sometimes called "the prosperity gospel."  In her mind, for God to tolerate her or like her, she had to be happy clappy all the time, no matter what.

What balderdash.  There are 1,000 ways the Bible lays the axe to the root of that kind of thinking.

But one way is the very existence of what we call "The Psalms of Lament." Psalm 3 is such a Psalm.  In fact "lament" is the most common category or form of Psalm we have in the whole Psalter.  In fact, it's the largest by far.  It's basically a third of the Psalter.

Note - there are lots of different kinds of Psalms.  When you look at a Psalm, try to determine its function.  Does it declare the deeds and character of God?  Does it confess sin?  Does it present a plea for help?  What does it do?

The "lament" Psalms lay a troubling situation before the Lord.  And then they ask for help.

Nonsense like the "prosperity gospel" would have no purchase over us at all if we were accustomed to praying the Psalms.  Remember, the Psalter is your God-given prayer and worship and hymn book.  And if you use it to pray and worship and sing, you will find it forming (not just expressing) your beliefs.

(what follows are some thoughts gleaned & developed
from the introduction of the book "Heart Aflame")

A wonderful surprise awaits the person who learns how to pray the Psalms.  But you do have to "learn" it.  It may not always come easy.  It's something to grow into, as all real things are.

When it gets difficult, you have a choice.  You can give up.  Or you can stay at it until it becomes clearer and clearer.  And if the Psalms become clearer and clearer to you---it's amazing what else will become clearer.  Throughout your whole life.  This is a gift that keeps on giving.

Sinclair Ferguson has called the Psalms "a mineral rich quarry of theology."  And as you become more and more familiar with them, you will find your own experience mirrored in them all over the place.  They are a sure and wise guide to all prayer.  You will come to love the Psalms.  Dearly.  Perhaps it will become your favorite, most "useful" book in the Bible.

John Calvin said the Psalms are "an anatomy of all the parts of the soul."  What did he mean by that?  He meant that every experience, every emotion, all the heights and depths, all the joys and sorrows, all the mysteries of human life are found in the Psalms.

Calvin:  "There is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror."  Then he mentions several:  "griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated."

What tremendous, rich spiritual treasures are found in the Psalms.  Read them daily!  They illuminate the depths of human life with God's own light.  Reading and praying them daily will not fail to bring you spiritual health and spiritual strength.

There was a time in the history of the church when the book of Psalms was the basic diet of all Christian worship and song and prayer.  It was like that for centuries.  And you know what?  That was a much healthier, stronger, richer time for the church.

Psalms were commonly sung at church and sung around the table at home as well.  The Psalter formed the people.  In the words of Psalm 119, they were hiding God's Word in their hearts, learning not to sin against him.  The Word was a lamp to their feet and a light to their path.

That kind of Scripture-knowledge is unusual for Christians today.  Do you think we're stronger & richer or weaker & poorer for it?

The answer is obvious.

Take up a Psalm.  Read it.  Pray it.  Sing it, if you can.  Believe it.  Live it.  Embrace it.  Make it your own.  Repeat and repeat until the truth of that Psalm has grasped your heart.  Let it dwell in you richly (Colossians 3).  

In our twitter world, we don't concentrate & meditate on things very well anymore.  We don't know how.  We can't handle it.

And it shows.

May God give us grace & leaders such that we might return more and more to the Psalter, that it may shape us the way God intended.  So that we might lean into the world in the right way.  So that we might take our place in the fellowship of God's people.  So that we might play our part in the unfolding story of redemption.

For we are the heirs of that story.  And also the stewards of that story.

We are the people of hope.  We are the people of the covenant.  We are the people of the Psalms.




Thursday, March 21, 2013

5




Most babies come of out the womb wailing in fear.  Think about it.

"What's happening!?!?!  Where did the snuggly sleeping bag go?  Why is it so cold?  Who's grabbing me?  WHY are you sticking your fingers in my mouth?  What are you SLAPPING me for?!?!?... Why do I have to BREATHE?!?"  

That's the way we come into this world.  And it's pretty scary, apparently.  Most babies (in my experience of five) cry and scream when they come out.  They're terrified.

But a little over five years ago this little girl came into the world as calm as a cucumber.  As cool as a simile.  As collected as a Hindu cow.  No worries.  No fear.  If you didn't know any better, you'd swear she had done this before.

All she did was look around.  And blink those big, beautiful eyes that God gave her.  It was stunning.  Absolutely stunning.

And it seems to me that she still has no fear today.  She can be the most undaunted, daring, stouthearted, tenacious, adventuresome little swashbuckler I know.  A visiting friend once said he didn't want to do something because he might die.  She looked at him with a fierce puzzlement and said, "But then you get to see Jesus!"

And then, on a dime, she can turn into the sweetheart princess from a fairytale.  She's awesome.

Some of her current favorite things include playgrounds, eating, being five, enjoying her friends, her three brothers, her sister, her mother, singing, dancing, and playing pool at The Brick with her dad---which she's done one time.  

Caitlin, my prayer for you this year that you've turned five is that you will live in the new life and living hope that is given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  That you will always look to the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.  That by God's power you will be guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  I pray that you will rejoice in this life, even if---for a little while---you find yourself grieved by various trials.  I pray that the tested genuineness of your faith---more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire---may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will continue to always love him and believe in him and know a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory---as you obtain the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your soul.   (1 Peter 1.3-9)  


"Be kind to thy father, for when thou were young,
who loved thee so fondly as he?
He caught the first accents that fell from thy tongue,
and joined in thy innocent glee."
Margaret Courtney







Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Refuge of Grace

In today's Breakpoint article, Eric Metaxas mentions DPC's own Leigh Littrell, founder of Refuge of Grace!  It's the 10th paragraph in...




Become a Centurion!
Stand on Tall Shoulders

Eric Metaxas
March 12, 2013

It’s hard to believe that Chuck Colson went home to be with the Lord almost a year ago. As hard as it was for me to be on the stage with him when he fell ill, I’m so thankful that the Lord allowed me to be there with my friend and mentor.

It was the next day, actually, when the folks at the Colson Center asked me to fill in at BreakPoint, as we all hoped, temporarily.

And when it became clear that Chuck wasn’t going to return to the microphone, they asked me to stay on, with of course, my dear friend John Stonestreet.

It wasn’t a hard decision for two reasons. First, I loved Chuck, and I’d have done anything for him. Second, and this is important, I wasn’t being asked to fill Chuck’s shoes.

You see, Chuck never wanted anyone to fill his shoes. He wanted people to stand on his shoulders. Just as he had been standing on the shoulders and work of men like C. S. Lewis, Abraham Kuyper, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and of course Augustine of Hippo.

That’s exactly why, nearly ten years ago, Chuck launched the Centurions Program. Each year, we take 100 people who are eager to live out the Gospel and defend Truth in the marketplace of ideas, have them study under some of the best minds in the Christian world, read the great Christian classics together, view movies and critique them, link them together online, and then gather them for residencies at the Colson Center headquarters in Virginia.

But the Centurions Program is not an ivory-tower experience. What mattered most to Chuck was what the Centurions do with their training. Each Centurion develops a plan to impact their particular sphere of influence in their communities.

While we’ve had film producers, legislators, and even religious leaders join the Centurions, Chuck was always most enthusiastic about what he called the “extraordinary ordinary” people who came, learned, and went out to apply what they learned.

People like Bethany Woodcock, who’s the founder of “Not In My Backyard” (NiMBY), a grassroots organization dedicated to ending human trafficking in our own back yards and beyond.

And there’s Leigh Littrell, who’s the founder of Refuge of Grace, a residential home for women and children in crisis that offers Christian counseling in a nurturing, safe environment.

And Stuart Kellogg, who during the day applies a Christian perspective to his work as a television station manager, and who disciples inmates at night in a nearby prison.

Finally, there’s Darren Ho, a businessman in Shanghai whose Workplace Initiative helps other expatriates integrate their vocation and faith to better serve their organizations—and in the process be a witness for Christ in China.

Could the Lord be calling you to apply to the Centurions Program? And consider this: To make the program even more accessible and affordable, we now have regional Centurions Programs in seven areas around the country.

Please, come toBreakPoint.org, and we’ll give you information about this life- and culture-changing program.

And by the way, from April 26 through 28, we’ll be holding our 2013 Wilberforce Weekend Conference in Washington, DC. In addition to hearing great speakers—including Wilberforce Award Winner Cardinal Timothy Dolan—you’ll be able to meet and interact with a number of folks who’ve gone through the Centurions Program. John Stonestreet and I will of course be there as well. Again, for more on the Centurions Program, and on the conference, please visit BreakPoint.org.

Could the Lord be calling you to apply to the Centurions Program? And consider this: To make the program even more accessible and affordable, we now have regional Centurions Programs in seven areas around the country. Please, come to BreakPoint.org, and we’ll give you information about this life- and culture-changing program.

And by the way, from April 26 through 28, we’ll be holding our 2013 Wilberforce Weekend Conference in Washington, DC. In addition to hearing great speakers—including Wilberforce Award Winner Cardinal Timothy Dolan—you’ll be able to meet and interact with a number of folks who’ve gone through the Centurions Program. John Stonestreet and I will of course be there as well.

Again, for more on the Centurions Program, and on the conference, please visit BreakPoint.org.
Become a Centurion!
Stand on Tall Shoulders
Next Steps
Take a few moments and look at the Centurions program.
Besides the national program, did you know that there are now regional programs in Seattle, Michigan, Colorado, New England, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and New Mexico?

Check it all out at Centurionsprogram.org.
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Saturday, March 9, 2013

whine



I don't know who came up with this "Spring Forward" idea, but I tell you this:

he was not a pastor.




Monday, March 4, 2013

Some Thoughts on Musical Maturity in the Kingdom of God

DPC has a great philosophy of worship music, along with some extremely talented musicians.  It's a privilege to be served by them every Lord's Day.

What follows are just some stray thoughts about music in worship that I wrote down after talking to some friends in St. Louis back in January:

If a church has two worship services and two completely different styles of music in those worship services, how is that embodying the Kingdom of Heaven?  Is it not perhaps embodying our own kingdoms, along preferential lines?

It's a question worth asking, it seems to me.  How much better would it be for the body of Christ to worship together in a local church and learn how to sing and enjoy each others' songs?

After all, the church is called to be the embodiment of this new world that Jesus is calling into being (Matthew 19.28)... not just a "nice" version of the old world, where we commonly divide up everything along the preferential lines of our own individual kingdoms.

Perhaps it's not such a bad thing for people to occasionally be musically uncomfortable in worship.  Because if you're always completely comfortable (musically-speaking) in worship, then that means that your neighbor probably is not.

The glory of the saints' worship of God did not end in 1950.  Let's not be ridiculous.

But... the glory of the saints' worship of God did not begin in 1950 either.  Let's not be ridiculous.



Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Book of the Covenant


If you're following the Scripture-reading plan discussed HERE, then today you finished the book of Leviticus.  Congratulations!  This is probably the book that presents the greatest challenge to modern-day Bible readers.

So... why should we read it?

Well... this is the book in which God gives his Old Testament people instructions concerning what their whole lives should look like:  worship life... social life... legal life... the physical life of your body... the relationships in your life... sexual life... just everyday life.

God here spiritually and morally forms Israel into a nation.  Yes, there are lots of details here, but that's because this world matters to God.  And how we live in this world matters to God.  If someone thinks otherwise, they obviously haven't read Leviticus.

Here we read about the Old Testament offerings to God, about the life of God's priests, about how God's people were to handle being "unclean," about the spiritual richness of the Day of Atonement, about what Old Testament holiness looked like (regarding food and sex and morals and justice and rituals), about week-long Festivals and Sabbaths and Jubilee, about blessings and curses and vows...

It's the handbook of life with God under the Mosaic Covenant... 27 chapters, 859 verses... and in various and sundry beautiful ways it's preparing us for meeting Jesus Himself---our ultimate Priest, our true Atonement.
"Leviticus not only presents the entire religious system of ancient Israel, but it also lays the theological foundation for the New Testament teaching about the atoning work of Jesus Christ."
~Allen P. Ross
"The word holy is used 91 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times.  References to uncleanness number 128.  There's no question what this book is all about."
~Warren W. Wiersbe 
"Leviticus locates the individual in the context of the larger community.  Human life is lived in the context of the larger community.... The primary theological image of Leviticus is the holy God dwelling in the midst of the Israelite community.  Leviticus takes the concrete presence of God seriously and seeks to discover what it means to live life in the presence of the holy God."
~Frank H. Gorman, Jr. 

EXODUS POST