Wednesday, December 31, 2014

DPC, please pray for your missionaries.



The following is a note that DPC members & missionaries Sean & Amber DeMars have sent out to their supporters.  It's also a wonderful call to prayer for missionaries as one year ends & another begins.

The Lord Jesus can make all things new, according to his promise.  So, let us pray that we might all share in that renewal—through the fullness of the gospel, which is for the fullness of this world.
 


End of Year Thankfulness

by Sean & Amber DeMars

The year is coming to a close, which means that your inboxes have been filling up with any number of emails from various ministries and non-profits, reaching out in hopes of grabbing a peace of the end-of-year giving pie. 

Thankfully, we don't have to do that. The Lord has been kind to us. He has worked in and through the lives of so many people to provide for the DeMars family. There have been some shaky times for sure, but not a day has gone by where we haven't had a roof over our head, clothes on our backs, and enough food on the table to put us to bed with full stomachs. 

Not only so, but we have even had the luxury of being able to have some of our wants met, too...not just our needs. For all this and more we give thanks to God, but also to you. 

If you're receiving this email, you have given to our family and taken part in the harvest by providing for us financially. We are honored that you would even consider sharing a dime of your hard earned money with our family for the sake of the mission. 

So, as the year closes and the entire non-profit world scrambles to meet their financial deadlines, we are going to drop to our knees and pray a prayer of thankfulness to our God for people just like you. Then we will get on our nice, comfy couch and watch a movie (popcorn in hand, of course) with the fan set on full blast!

Finally, we want to close out the year by asking for your continued prayers. As we read Acts chapter six and see the Apostles devotion to the preaching and teaching of God's Word, we feel good about ourselves and let out a sigh of relief. "Shew...I'm good on that!" But, when we see the EQUAL importance placed on prayer by the Apostles, we pause and hold our breath as the hot knife of conviction cuts into our souls like soft butter. 

With our own prayer issues in mind, we turn to you all and ask "Please don't forget to pray for us."  Money comes and money goes. We've been very, very poor before, and we've been in positions of great abundance, too. We might revisit both of those places at some point throughout the remainder of our lives, and we're ok with that. But we're not ok with being spiritually bankrupt.

We need to pray. And we need you to pray. We need you to petition God on our behalf. For our safety. For our finances. For our ministry. But also for our personal holiness and relationship with King Jesus. 

Pray that we would remain steadfast in hope. Pray that we don't despair or succumb to sin in our moments of spiritual weakness. Pray for our marriage. Pray that we would be wise in our dealings with a foreign people. Pray for our language. Pray for our loneliness. Pray for us as we try to remember that all is vain if we have not love. Pray for us, please. It's all too easy to write a check or transfer money and completely forget about our greatest needs, which are not material, but spiritual. 

2014 has been great. We're excited to see what the Lord has for us in 2015. We know that whatever it is, it will be for our good and His glory. 

Sean, Amber, Patience, and baby Isabella. 



Monday, December 29, 2014

Improving Your Baptism



Recently gave thanks for the 33rd anniversary of my baptism into the visible church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The terminology will probably sound funny to most of us today, but at one point in Christian history it was a profoundly meaningful matter to give thought to the "improvement" of your baptism.

Consider this question from the Westminster Large Catechism: "How is our baptism to be improved by us?"

How would you answer that question?  Or does the question even make sense to us?

The wonderfully rich answer that the pastors and theologians of the mid-1600's gave us was this:
The needful but much neglected duty of improving our Baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.
Wonderfully rich.  So rich, in fact, that you'll have to read through it slowly & carefully, reflecting on each phrase, to grasp the fullness of it.

Those same pastors & theologians offer you this guidance in understanding the gracious gift of baptism:

I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, or his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.
II. The outward element to be used in the sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.
III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.
IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.
V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.
VI. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.
VII. The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered to any person.



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Fight For Christmas, Part III

This Sunday...

Series: The Fight For Christmas
III. From Heaven He Came And Sought Her
Revelation 19.6-9

Outline:
We Haven't Taken Fairy Tales Seriously Enough
The Marriage of the Lamb
Blessed Are Those Who Are Invited



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

He Came Down.




Join us at DPC on Christmas Eve at 5:00 for a Candlelight Service to celebrate the end of advent and the birth of our Savior!
"God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made - who, for us and for our salvation... came down from heaven..."
~The Nicene Creed
He came down.




Friday, December 19, 2014

The Fight For Christmas, Part II

We continue this Sunday... 

Series:  The Fight For Christmas
II.  Very God.
Romans 9.4,5


Outline:
God Over All
A Church Family Story
The Glory of Christmas





Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DPC Online Makeover!



Visit the newly remodeled DPC website by clicking HERE.

Deep and great thanks to Larry & Christine R. for their long efforts & wonderful work!




Friday, December 12, 2014

The Fight For Christmas

A new 3-part sermon series begins this Sunday at DPC...


Series:  The Fight For Christmas
I.  "Long Live the King!"
Revelation 12:1-5a


Outline:
Cosby vs. Seinfeld
The Dragon, The Woman, & The Child
v.10... & v.17


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Mystery of Earth's Water



Story in the news today:


WASHINGTON (AP) — The mystery of where Earth's water came from got murkier Wednesday when some astronomers essentially eliminated one of the chief suspects: comets.
Over the past few months, the European Space Agency's Rosetta space probe closely examined the type of comet that some scientists theorized could have brought water to our planet 4 billion years ago. It found water, but the wrong kind.
It was too heavy. One of the first scientific studies from the Rosetta mission found that the comet's water contains more of a hydrogen isotope called deuterium than water on Earth does.
"The question is who brought this water: Was it comets or was it something else?" asked Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern in Switzerland, lead author of a study published in the journal Science.
Something else, probably asteroids, Altwegg concluded. But others disagree.
Many scientists have long believed that Earth had water when it first formed, but that it boiled off, so that the water on the planet now had to have come from an outside source.
The findings from Rosetta's mission to the duck-shaped comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko complicate not just the question of the origin of Earth's water but our understanding of comets.
Until now, scientists pretty much sorted comets into two types: near and far. The near ones, sometimes called the Jupiter family, originally come from the Kuiper Belt outside Neptune and Pluto. The far ones hail from the Oort Cloud, which is much farther out.
In 1986, a spacecraft came within about 400 miles of Halley's comet, an Oort Cloud comet, and analyzed its water. It proved to be heavier than Earth's. But three years ago, scientists examined the water in a Kuiper Belt comet, Hartley 2, and it was a perfect match for Earth's, so the comet theory was back, stronger than ever, Altwegg said.
The comet visited by Rosetta is a Kuiper Belt comet, but its water was even heavier than Halley's, Altwegg said. That shows that Kuiper Belt comets aren't as uniform as thought, and it once again complicates the issue of Earth's water.
"That probably rules out Kuiper Belt comets from bringing water to Earth," she said.
University of Maryland astronomer Michael A'Hearn, who wasn't part of the research, called the results startling but said they don't eliminate comets altogether. The water could have come from other types of Kuiper Belt comets, he said.
NASA Near Earth Object program manager Donald Yeomans, however, said the study does pretty much rule out comets.
While asteroids are a good suspect — they probably had more water on them 4 billion years ago than they do now — another possibility is that Earth kept some of its original water in its crust or in ice at the poles, Altwegg said.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Healthy Relationship With Information



Here are the first three paragraphs of an article that might go a long, long way toward helping us re-think what we center our life and attention and affections around:
There is one version of the history of the forward march of modern media that is a story primarily about a drug, developed to make its users feel anger with delightful intensity. Refinement of this drug has made some great leaps in a very short time -- it used to be you had to wait until a certain time of day to get it. Then you had to deal with having it mixed in with a lot of filler material. Now you can go straight to the social media site of your choice, where you and your fellow junkies can trade images of victims overlayed with condemning quotes, or infographics which expose injustice in striking bar and pie charts. And now the shared experience of other people’s outrage has become part of the concoction, and it is immeasurably more potent as a result.
Like actual chemically-induced pleasures, in excess this anger is a sickness. It consumes your waking thoughts, and takes your vitality with you when it leaves. When the dose is administered, an extreme form of tunnel vision sets in. You get sucked into a monomaniacal focus on the object of some injustice, far away from you or anyone you know, and are temporarily unable to see anything that is actually a part of your life. You lose sight of vulgar morality, the stuff that really matters, and succumb to the siren song of telescopic morality. You rage at things you cannot control at the expense of time you could be investing improving the state of affairs around you, for your family, your community. The long term effect of mainlining telescopic morality is utter hollowness; ethical triviality. A life spent desperately grasping at fractured and filtered pieces of other people’s stories, a life hardly lived.
The problem of overcoming telescopic morality involves one of the central questions of our times: how to develop a healthy relationship with information. Given the sheer magnitude of the fresh information generated every hour of every day, this is no small challenge.

The whole of the article can be found by clicking HERE.

Mr. Gurri (the author) poses some great questions and splashes some rich common-grace wisdom on those who take the time to consider and reflect.

I would go a few steps further than he in answering the "what kind of life do I want to live" question.  Here's the life for which we were made: a life centered on the love of Christ, calling us to a love for Christ.

If Christ is the center of our affections, all our other loves and affections will find themselves being put in the proper order... including our love for information.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

About Batman


clicking on the comic strip will hopefully enlarge

if not, go purchase a magnifying glass




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What trumps worship?



The Ten Commandments are given to us twice, and the slight differences between the two accounts are beautifully enlightening.

Take the 4th command for example.  Here it is from Exodus 20:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
And here it is from Deuteronomy 5:

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Note that the first reason given for practicing Sabbath is creation—that for which you were made; a fundamental, God-given structure of human life.

And the second reason given for practicing Sabbath is redemption—you are not your own; you've been bought at a very dear and precious price.

********

And yet, overlooking both creation and redemption, Christians so often let just about anything trump our commitment to gather with other saints to worship our God on the Lord's Day (which is now Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection, the day the New Testament sets apart as holy, the day the New World broke into this Old World, which in theology is sometimes called the "Christian Sabbath").

But back to this point: what trumps worship?  Chores, sports, travel, general busyness, neglected school projects, a unique opportunity to do something special, getting ahead on an upcoming project, vacation, checking off something on a to do list, a hobby, an entertainment, an amusement, etc., etc., etc.

I'm not referring to works of necessity; that's a different topic.

I'm simply referring to opportunities to do something else that are offered to us (not forced on us), and we willingly surrender, forsake, jettison, disown, forego, & set aside that which God commanded to be "remembered" and "observed."

But the deal is... what God commands to be remembered and observed is not just "more busyness for Jesus' sake"—some stale religious to do list.  Practicing sabbath is a gift.  You see that in the very command itself.

It's a gift given from the father to the son and daughter.  From the master to the male servant and female servant.  From the farmer to the ox and donkey and any other livestock.  From the native-born to the sojourning guest.

From God to you.

And when we think we don't need that gift, we're badly mistaken.

Feeling dry, used up, spent, lonely?  Remember creation.  Observe redemption.  Worship.

********

Perhaps it's the fear of missing out on something "better" than being in God's Presence with his people that pulls us in these other directions.


Consider God's promise in Isaiah 58: “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 

There is surely no scarcity in worshipping Christ with the assembled saints.  There is only abundance and grace.  There is the Promised Presence of God.  Do not fear.

********

Practicing Sabbath makes us different from many of our neighbors.  It makes us different, first of all, because we're living a life of trust, faith, and belief in God's Word.  We are consciously saying, "He made me, he redeemed me, he knows what I most need.  I trust him more than I trust myself.  It's not what I do that gives my life meaning; it's what God has done for me."

And in this way practicing Sabbath becomes a powerful sign and mark of living in covenant with God.  See Exodus 31.12-17.

And again, like all signs and marks of living in covenant with God, it's a gift.  It's the grace-and-peace-filled rhythm of work and rest, creation and redemption.

********

A final related thought: some of my greatest joys in worship have come when providential circumstances have kept my family and me from worshipping with our normal church family.

On vacation?  Traveling?  Out of town on business?

No matter!  Find a faithful church and worship!  I've delighted at times to intentionally take my family to a faithful church that is as far different from "our" church as possible on those occasions:  a 4,000 member African-American church... a hip, inner-city church... a Psalms-only, no musical instruments church... a ginormous mega-church... a tiny rural church...

Stretch yourself.  Remember that not all Jesus-followers are like you, and that's a good thing.  Explore the kingdom.

Or... have some work of necessity that prevents Sunday morning worship at your regular time?  Find a church that holds an evening worship service.  Or find a church that holds a much earlier Sunday morning worship.  It's all great joy if it's Christ.

But come to Christ, answer his call.  He will give you rest.  Remember creation.  Observe redemption.





Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A little advice to husbands...



1.  Invent a reason to take your wife to Birmingham.  Put it on the calendar.

2.  Call (205) 871-9622 a week or so before and make reservations for two.  Request the "chef's table," which does not mean an especially fancy table.  It's just the name for the barstool-table attached to the kitchen; from there you'll be able to watch the dozen or so cooking geniuses going about their dance/work as you enjoy your meal.  Best seats in the house.  Amazing fun.  And, strangely, it's not reserved first.

3.  Be prepared to spend a little bit of money.  Make it a special occasion.

4.  Thank me later.

The place is GianMarco's.  Read more about it HERE.

Best.  Food.  Ever.  



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Shadow of Gospel Wings




"Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him..." 
Deuteronomy 32


"Hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me..."
Psalm 17


"How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings..."
Psalm 36


"He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge..."
Psalm 91

Etc.

This beautiful picture is one of the most consistent metaphors that the Lord God uses when describing his care for his children.

Now... with that in mind... look at the words of your Savior, addressed to "church members" who were stuck in the emptiness of dead religion:

"How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"
Matthew 23

Two Reflections:

1.  Jesus is (again) identifying himself as God.  What God had said of himself in Deuteronomy, the Psalter, and elsewhere—that's what Jesus is saying of himself.  He's identifying himself as God in the flesh.

2.  Consider what Jesus' words mean...

The image may not seem especially powerful to those of us who are lacking in experience with hens and their broods, but it's an unforgettable image to farming families (especially of the past) who have experienced this:

A fire has swept through the farmyard and the hencoop.  Then next day you're cleaning everything up, preparing to rebuild what the fire destroyed.

You see a dead hen on the ground; the hen's body has been scorched and blackened by the fire.

You pick up the charred remains of the hen, preparing to dispose of it—and that's when you find living chicks underneath.  The mother hen had gathered and sheltered her chicks under her wings, and then remained unthinkably still while the fire raged over her.

The mother hen literally gave her life to protect and save her children.

(The same kind of thing was discovered with different kinds of birds after the Yellowstone fires of 1988, by the way.)

That's what Jesus is saying.  That's what God is saying.

It's a very vivid, very violent image of what Jesus said he longed to do for his people.  And it's actually one of the strongest statements in the whole Bible, describing what Jesus' death was all about.

Jesus wanted to take upon himself the full force of the fire of God's wrath against sin.  He wanted to bear in his own person the guilt and sin of his beloved people.  He wanted to absorb within himself the disaster that we deserve, because of our sin.

Jesus welcomes you to take refuge under his wings.

His remaining still on the cross is the unthinkable fulfillment of all the "taking refuge under the shadow of your wings" language that we find throughout the Bible.

Welcome to the crucified love of your God.










Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The DPC Adoption Fund



Recently, during a Report of the Living Church, before a worship service began, I announced & briefly described a new ministry initiative at DPC... The DPC Adoption Fund.

And then, more recently yet, I took three of our weekly e-newsletters to the church family to describe this initiative more fully.

Here are all three of those articles, back-to-back.

I invite you to consider supporting this ministry...

"In you the orphan finds mercy." — Hosea 14.3 (Part I)


If you were here last Sunday, you heard me announce a new ministry initiative our elders have established—The DPC Adoption Fund!

But for those of you who were not with us—or for those of you who want to revisit how this new ministry will work—I'm going to review & explain it a bit more, over the next couple of newsletters.

In Psalm 68 our God describes himself to us as "Father of the fatherless."  You know what that is?  That's the language of adoption.  And the church—reflecting the character of this God—is called to cultivate a culture of adoption, to love adoption, to celebrate adoption, to understand our very faith in terms of adoption!  (see Romans 8.15, 23; 9.4; Galatians 4.5; Ephesians 1.5)

In fact, the Scriptures give us a whole doctrine of adoption.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes the doctrine beautifully, in one simple sentence: "Adoption is an act of God's free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the children of God."

Hear the Apostle John: "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God!"... "To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

Whenever the Bible speaks in these terms, that's the language of adoption.

And because we have been lavishly loved of God and adopted into his family in this way, Christians have historically had a great interest in adoption!  That's just part of our heritage.

Whether it's the ancient Christians of the Roman empire searching for and adopting the abandoned babies of that time... or the European Christians adopting the persecuted children of the Jews in World War II... or the countless orphanages which Christians have founded around the world... the church has always sacrificed itself to meaningfully reflect the mercy and love of God to the orphan. 

And really, this is the only way that this world's treatment of inconvenient, unwanted children will ever be effectively addressed.  The church of the Lord Jesus Christ must rise up and say, "There are no inconvenient, unwanted children in this whole world.  We will take your children.  We will love them and sacrifice ourselves for them.  Give them to us."

What if every faithful church in this country united together in saying this?  What if we restructured our budgets around saying this?  What if we all found ways in which each one of us could be a part of saying that?

Well, that's what the DPC Adoption Fund is all about.  It's a way in which every single one of us—from the smallest child in Sunday School to the most elderly senior among us—can be a significant part of saying that.

More next week.

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

"In you the orphan finds mercy." — Hosea 14.3 (Part II)


In last week's article we introduced the theological foundation for and the love-for-the-kingdom-of-God motivation behind the DPC Adoption Fund.  If you've deleted last week's email and want it sent to you again, just let us know.  Of course, you will be much shamed and ridiculed, but we'll send it anyway.

Recently two DPC families have announced plans to adopt needy children into their homes.  And more are considering.  

But you know what?  Adoption is tough.  And adopting families need the support of their church.  It's a very difficult calling.

And while adoption itself is not a calling for everyone, every Christian can and has good reason to want to be engaged and involved in the work and ministry of adoption.  

That's what the DPC Adoption Fund is all about.  It's one way a whole church can meaningfully say to a family, "We want to help you in this adoption.  We support you in this call; we are in this with you; through you, we're adopting this child into our church family."

There are two ways to give to the DPC Adoption Fund.

One is by direct, designated giving.  This will mostly be used, I imagine, by family members and friends and other outside-of-DPC acquaintances of adopting families who want to make a tax-deductible gift to a specific adoption.  But it's open to anyone.  Merely write a check to DPC with "Durocher adoption" or "Keith adoption" (or others in the future?) on the memo line, and your gift will go specifically to that family's adoption expenses.

The other way to give comes from DPC's new partnership with a beautiful ministry called "Lifesong for Orphans."

More on that next week.


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

"In you the orphan finds mercy." — Hosea 14.3 (Part III)


This is Part 3 of a series of articles on a new DPC ministry initiative, the DPC Adoption Fund. Last week we ended by announcing DPC's partnership with a wonderful ministry called "Lifesong for Orphans." 

Visiting lifesongfororphans.org will allow you to get more familiar, but here's a brief introduction:

Lifesong is designed to help churches help their families meet the challenges of adoption, so that those families might enjoy effective and successful adoptions.  Few things are more heartbreaking than a miscarried adoption.  

Of course, every loving church would want to do all they could to help their adopting families, but few churches have the resources to know exactly how to best help.  But that's exactly what Lifesong does!  

And they do it in three big ways:

1.  They manage, facilitate, and administer a church adoption fund.  And through this fund, every penny you donate goes directly to helping families in your church meet the financial challenges of adoption. Every penny. More on that in a moment. 

2.  They connect adopting families to resources.  When one investigates adoption, one can find thousands of rabbit trails... and some of them are not helpful. But here is a great team of experienced people, ready to help you navigate adoption—again, at no cost.  

3.  They help examine and affirm a family's sense of call and readiness to adopt.  As we said in last week's article, adoption is not a calling for everyone. (Though everyone can be involved in the ministry of adoption! Indeed, that's what this serioes of articles is all about.)

And Lifesong does all of this at no charge to the church.  100% of what we give goes to helping our families.  

How?  Because Lifesong's salary needs, office needs, travel needs, and all other administrative needs are cared for by a foundation that supports this ministry from the proceeds of a business that sold well, many years ago.

So... the DPC Adoption Fund is a win for everyone.

The child gets adopted.  The family gets support, encouragement, and help from their church.  And the church itself gets meaningfully engaged in the ministry of adoption.  

No matter what season or stage of life you're in—from the smallest child in Sunday School to the most elderly senior among us—you can point to a former orphan, now adopted into a Christ-honoring, covenant-keeping family and say, "By God's grace, I was privileged to be a real part of that."  

"In you the orphan finds mercy."  Hosea 14.3




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

One of the "Sacraments" of Marriage



Several years ago my family and I had the joy of hosting R.C. Sproul, Jr. and his wife, Denise, for lunch one Lord's Day after worship.  They were a lovely couple, filled with the festive humor and the child-like wonder and the cheerful wisdom of lives well lived, under the Lordship of Christ.

I remember being impressed with their simple, humble faith.  I don't know what I was expecting exactly, but (foolishly, I'm sure) I must have been expecting something else.

In December of 2011 Denise left this world for the better country God has promised his people.

Since that time R.C. Sproul, Jr. has written beautifully about marriage and love, gain and loss, grief and hope.

Below is a link to a brief piece that every man ought to read.

Husbands, Hold Your Wife's Hand



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Science...



One of the great things about the Christian faith is how it so heartily commands and encourages the pursuit of science.  "Study every single inch of this big, beautiful world... search out its full potential... figure out how it all works and all the cool things you can do with it... enjoy its glory and image your Creator by being creative yourself, with the stuff of creation... take dominion."

In fact, the doctrine of creation and the orderly universe that comes with it is the very basis for the investigations of science.

Adam was doing the work of science way back in Genesis 2, when he classified the animals by this name or that. Science is one way of getting to know the mind of the Maker, more fully exploring and appreciating all that he has spoken into existence.

"God, who founded everything in the world according to the norm of quantity, also has endowed man with a mind which can comprehend these norms.... God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his image so that we could share in his own thoughts."
~Johannes Kepler, amazing scientist of the 16th & 17th centuries, best known for articulating the laws of planetary motion

However... the image-bearers who should have been seeking more of God's eternal, inexhaustible mind fell into the ruins of sin.  And now, our "science" often develops along unbelievably destructive paths.  Rather than using science to serve humanity and bring glory to God, we use it to dehumanize humanity and usurp the authority of God.  We create efficient methods for euthanasia... we harvest human embryos for medical research... we remove the contents of their skulls as inconvenient babies are being delivered into this world.

But through the grace of Christ our Savior, we can once again pursue science with wisdom, with love for God, and love for neighbor... with holiness.

And one day, in the resurrection, when the heavens and the earth have been made new, can you imagine what discoveries of science await the people of God?  Shazam.

Below there is a link to an interesting article highlighting the wrong-headedness of how our culture often understands (or mis-understands) science.  I don't believe the author is writing from a Christ-centric point of view, but he has lots of good & insightful things to say.  "How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything"...

Click HERE.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Power of God for... everything.



In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul writes: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."

That's what the gospel is, in our experience: the power of God for salvation.

But as you begin to consciously live in such a way that you're seeking to bring all of your conduct in all areas of your life "in step with the truth of the gospel" (Galatians 2.14), you begin to realize more & more that the gospel is not merely the power of God for salvation.

The gospel is also the power of God for... marriage... for parenting... for being the church well... for leadership... for following... for serving... for being a friend... for participating in the world of sports well & wisely... for pursuing your vocation well... for loving your neighbor... for worship... for healthy intimacy of any sort... for repenting... for forgiving... for living well... for dying well... for godly sexuality... for joy in the midst of trial... for lamenting our griefs with holiness... for humility... for honesty in communication... for gratitude... for understanding the news... for dealing with enemies well... for processing life decisions... for praying... for stewarding money wisely... for godly leisure... for eating and drinking... for treating people—all people, even those very different from you—with dignity... for growing in wisdom and knowledge... for honoring your family... for obeying God... for understanding history... for honorably & rightly pursuing any & every human activity under the sun!

It's the gospel's unique ability to renew us every morning (even every moment!) that enables us to set our heart, mind, and hands to the task before us (whatever it may be) with true knowledge of who we are & true knowledge of who God is.  

If the gospel isn't continually revitalizing you, you will inevitably—as an unruly child of Adam—begin to corrupt and defile whatever it is you're doing.

And when that happens, you need the power of God to make things right.

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures."  
1 Corinthians 15 



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Two Sides Of The Same Coin



Have you ever noticed that sometimes in the gospels Jesus commands people to repent...
"repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand... bear fruit in keeping with repentance... the men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here... I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance...unless you repent, you will all likewise perish... there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents"... etc... 

...and then at other times, he commands them to believe...
"do not fear, only believe... all things are possible for one who believes... o foolish ones and slow of heart to believe... whoever believes in the son has eternal life... woman, believe me... truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life... How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?... if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?... This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent... whoever believes in me shall never thirst... you have seen me and yet do not believe... For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life... Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life... Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins....etc... especially etc. in John!... 

Well, which is it?... Of course, it's both.  Repent & believe, in the gospel, are functional synonyms.  They are two sides of the same coin—the coin of conversion.

Repentance-filled faith & faith-filled repentance.

And you see this throughout the Bible, actually.  Sometimes people ask Peter how they can be saved & he tells them to repent.  On another occasion a man asks Paul how he can be saved & he tells the man to believe.

It seems that these two ideas in the gospel cannot be fully distinguished from one other.  They must always exist together.  To turn away from self & sin is to turn to Christ.  And to turn to Christ is to turn away from self & sin.

This also helps explain why the Bible indicates that if one hasn't turned away from sin at all—in the sense of living in continual, ongoing, careless, habitual defiance of God—then one has not yet truly believed.
"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'"
~Mark 1








Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Theology on Fire"... Worship, Music, Christian Formation



Below are seven paragraphs from Kevin Twit's very good article: "What's In a Song? Tuning Our Hearts."  Link to the full article is below...


During my time in the ministry, I have come to appreciate the power of hymns to help us meditate upon the reality of God’s grace in worship and mold us as the people of God. When my students actually begin to read the words, they can’t believe that they used to regard hymns as lifeless and dull. As one student put it, “These songs convey emotion. Sorrow, loneliness, surprise, overwhelming joy! They are all here, and my generation doesn't associate any of those qualities with hymns.” Unfortunately, sometimes this rich theological poetry is connected to tunes that fail to express the emotion of the lyric to my students. The words are so rich that we have begun to write new tunes for some of them. And I take whatever opportunity I can to urge gifted composers to search out powerful hymns that have tragically dropped out of use, or even to write new hymns.
Hymns take a truth from Scripture and let us sit in it for a while. They engage intellect, imagination, and emotion. The hymns are mini-meditations upon the mysteries of the Gospel that drive us to worship. They offer a story, something very attractive to postmodern people, and invite us to come in and see if it might be our story, too. For instance, I love to introduce students to the hymns of Anne Steele. She was an 18th century English Baptist hymn-writer who spent 50 years as an invalid. I believe she wrote some of the most remarkable hymns about the power of the Gospel in the midst of grief and pain that you will ever find. Yet her hymns unfortunately have vanished from almost every modern hymnal. When people sing her words they find themselves in her story. They find they can fellowship with a woman who lived 300 years. Suddenly the Kingdom of God becomes huge to them!
Hymns are theology on fire. They are theology expressed in beautiful, poetic language that gets at the heart, and engages the imagination. They help us to sit for three or four minutes in the mysteries of the Gospel that fill us with wonder. The hymn-writers really glory in these paradoxical statements. One of my favorite examples is in a hymn by Augustus Toplady (the author of “Rock of Ages”). He writes, “O love incomprehensible, that made Thee bleed for me. The Judge of all hath suffered death, to set His prisoner free.” To sit in that thought, even for a little while, changes you! And the more you meditate upon it, the more it overwhelms your heart.
C.H. Spurgeon once said “When I cannot understand anything in the Bible, it seems as though God had set a chair there for me, at which to kneel and worship; and that the mysteries are intended to be an altar of devotion.” These mysteries are what the hymns love to dwell upon. Hymns are mini-meditations on the ironies of the Gospel that drive us to worship. They are an opportunity to meditate upon a mystery like “And can it be, that Thou my God should die for me?” until it begins to really sink into our heart.
If we ever lose our sense of wonder, we will be conformed to the culture. If we ever lose our sense of the beauty and the amazement, we will be conformed to the culture, we will be conformed to the flesh. Hymns, you see, are not only opportunities for our meditation, they were often the result of meditation. It used to be that it was the pastors who would write the hymns. Often they would write a hymn at the end of a week of meditating upon their sermon.
.....
In her book, A Royal Waste of Time, Marva Dawn tells of Vaclav Havel, a playwright who is also the president of the Czech Republic. He was asked, how the revolution to overthrow communism in the Czech Republic was bloodless and yet had experienced real staying power. He simply replied, “We had our parallel society. And in that parallel society, we wrote our plays and sang our songs and read our poems, until we knew the truth so well that we could go out into the streets of Prague and say, 'We don’t believe your lies anymore!' And communism had to fall.” 
Isn’t that a beautiful picture of what worship should be about? We gather to sing our songs so we will know the truth so well that we can go out into the world and we say, “We don’t believe your lies anymore! We won’t be squeezed into your mold!” And so we can speak to our fearful heart and say, “Heart, I don’t believe your lies anymore!” (or as Charles Wesley put it, “Arise my soul arise! Shake off your guilty fear!”) because Jesus can trump even what my heart says! And Jesus does trump our hearts as He becomes beautiful and believable to you. That is why we gather in worship. That is why I urge you, use the hymns of the church! God is using them to mold us to the truth, restore our sanity, and open our eyes to see Jesus as beautiful and believable.

To read the full article, click HERE.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Resurrection: All Things Made New




Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”


.... Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true.




Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Sure and Steadfast Anchor



One day—one way or another—this will be you.  And this will be me.

See THIS anchor point you to the True Anchor... the only anchor that holds.
"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
Hebrews 6



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

From the People of Christ in Syria & Lebanon



For an update to the situation in Syria and Lebanon, click...

HERE

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, 
or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

The Apostle Paul



Thursday, September 4, 2014

The DeMars Family Update



Here's the latest news from DPC members & missionaries to Peru, Sean & Amber (& their beautiful daughters Patience & Isabella)...


The DeMars Family Update...

Hey all, we’re back with another update. I know that these updates have been more infrequent as of late, and that’s somewhat intentional. We know that your inbox is prime real estate, and we want to make sure we don’t flood y’all with too much, too often.

There have been a few interesting family and ministry developments as of late. Let’s get into it.

Interesting Family Developments: We’re awesome. We’re growing in awesomeness everyday. Bella’s teeth are coming in, Patience is talking, and Amber has lost all of her baby weight and then some. Patience is making friends with some of the neighborhood children, too. Their favorite game is “Rock Throw”, which is basically EXACTLY what it sounds like. They just throw rocks at each other. We’ll take it. Better than sitting in front of a TV for hours on end.

Interesting Ministry Developments: Our relationship with La Iglesia Central is growing more with each passing weak, and Sean’s teaching is seeming to be bearing some fruit in the life of the church.

Sean has also been forming a tighter relationship with an Elder named Mariano. Mariano has had a solid theological education, but has been in limbo as to how one ought to apply his doctrine to the life of the church. Sean is going to be reading through a few books (in spanish) with the elders of the church and a few of the members with leadership potential.

Additionally, Sean will be teaching a week long class on the Doctrine of God to over forty peruvian pastors in February.

Finally, we’ve begun having conversations, specific conversations, about getting to the Urarina with the gospel. It’s a long, slow process, but we are making progress.

There are several other little things that are going on right now that are encouraging evidences of God’s grace in our lives here in the jungle, but we won’t bore you with every little detail.

Finally, we will be going to Arequipa for two more weeks of language study in October. We haven’t received any additional financial support towards that end, but there are a few things in motion right now that have only further convinced us that Sean needs to continue to pursue excellence with his spanish. Please pray that these two weeks of classroom time will help equip Sean for further learning and acclimation.

Overall, our family is at a peak right now. We’ve had our fair share of Valley’s up to this point, so we’re enjoying the view from here while it lasts. :)

As always, we love to hear from you guys, so don’t hesitate for even a second to write or Skype. 

Sean, Amber, Patience, and Baby Isabella

Our Address:

Sean & Amber DeMars
Castilla Postal 168
Yurimaguas, Peru








Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Rained-Out Homily



We've had several DPC weddings this summer, but the one from this past weekend was—in some ways—perhaps the most memorable.  It was an outdoor wedding, set in a gloriously beautiful backyard.  But with the rain and the flashes of lightning, we had to abridge some of the ceremony.

However, as I told Cino & Kelly, I did want them to have a wedding "charge."  So, Cino & Kelly, here you go...

You asked that your wedding ceremony be centered around the theme of thankfulness.  Therefore we opened the ceremony with Psalm 100 as our call to worship, which included these exhortations:  "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!  Give thanks to him; bless his name!"

And you specifically requested Colossians 2.6,7 as the Scripture reading:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
I remember when I asked you why you wanted thankfulness to be your theme, you immediately rattled off a list!

1.  Because we've been saved by the grace of Christ, through faith.  We have the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.

2.  Because God brought us together.  Kelly said, "I would never, in 1,000,000 years, have gone into Best Buy.  I'm not a fan of technology."

3.  Because we've been given a wonderful church, wonderful friends, and wonderful families.

4.  Because we have so many physical, material blessings... our health, house, cars, jobs.  We're given unexpected, undeserved blessings from every direction.

You then went on to wonder if maybe you use the word "thankfulness" too much!

And as I thought about the role of thankfulness in marriage... and the role of thankfulness in the epistle to the Colossians (from which you chose your marriage Scripture—Colossians 2.6,7, quoted above)... it occurred to me more and more that thankfulness is actually one of the great keys to both marriage and the Christian life.

Let's think about it...

1st
The Apostle Paul begins almost every single one of his letters with thankfulness.  In fact, in Colossians (the epistle you chose), thankfulness appears at the key parts of every single chapter.

Now, one thing that's interesting about this is that Paul will always have some controversial things to say in these letters.  He will have some hard things to say.  He will have to address some problems.

But he wins a hearing for himself by doing so in the enveloping context of genuine, heart-felt thankfulness.

And so it is in marriage.

In every marriage there will be some controversial things.  There will be some hard things that have to be said.  There will be problems to address.

(As people have sometimes told me that they're having marriage problems, I've used the old quip: "Of course you're having marriage problems!  That's the kind of problems you have when you're married.")

But problems can be dealt with, hard things can be lovingly said, and controversies can be resolved... if you win a hearing with one another... in the enveloping context of genuine, heart-felt thankfulness.

2nd
It's absolutely a wonderful and happy thing that you are intentionally beginning your marriage on a note of great thankfulness!

But... the fact is... thankfulness won't always feel so natural to you.  Why?  Because the raging self-love that's now so "natural" to the fallen, unruly children of Adam and Eve will at times push you to be diametrically opposed to a generous, other-praising spirit of thankfulness.

That's exactly why Paul, in these epistles, is always calling and commanding Christians to thankfulness!  Because it's not always "natural" to us.  He's commanding to our weakness.

And so it is in marriage.

Realize that in the marriage relationship, you will have extraordinary power over one another.  With just a few words, a few sentences of love and appreciation and celebration of the other, you can LIFT UP your husband or your wife, like no one else can!

But... husbands and wives don't always choose to use that power.  Sadly, we often choose to do just the opposite.  Why?  Again, because of that raging self-love that we just mentioned.

If you'll recall, in our pre-marital counseling conversation, I mentioned to you the top five areas of marital problems:  finances, bedroom, in-laws, children, & communication.  But, do you remember what we said was at the core of all of those problems?  Selfishness.  Self-love.

A key to a happy, holy, strong marriage—full of love and loyalty— is generous appreciation and acknowledgement of the other person... warmly & regularly expressed.

It's difficult to stay sideways with someone who is always expressing thankfulness for you!

3rd
Note that whenever Paul mentions thankfulness, the heart of what he's thankful for is not the Colossians or the Ephesians or the Philippians themselves so much... but it's what Christ has accomplished for and through his people.

Think of what Christ accomplished for his people when he died for their sins on the cross.  Think of what Christ accomplished for his people when he walked out of that tomb, as a sign of their justification and life before God.  Think of what Christ has done for his people and promised his people in the gospel.

If you have Christ, you have everything.  Even if you have nothing else, In Christ Alone (one of your chosen wedding songs), you have everything.

So, give thanks to him first of all.  Let your thankfulness always start there.  With Christ himself.  With the Giver, and not merely the gifts.

In Colossians (and the other letters of Paul), the conversation is serious!  He gives warnings and exhortations and discusses hard things—things that require you to THINK (not just things that are "easy")... and he does it all with the authoritative word of Christ.

And so it is in marriage.

In marriage, the conversation is often serious!  Warnings, exhortations, hard things—things that require you to think (not just easy things)... and Christians must do all of this with the authoritative word of Christ.

But—the intention is that this whole conversation of marriage should always be resting on a foundation of thankfulness.  Not just thankfulness for one another.  But sincere, deep, true thankfulness for what Christ has already done for his people in the work of the gospel.

Remember this: the heart of the gospel is not your work.  It's Christ's work.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.








Monday, August 18, 2014

Amos - "The First Reformer"




At DPC, we start our next sermon series on September 7. As you see in the graphic above, we're headed back to the Old Testament for a season, with a nine-sermon series through the prophet Amos.

"The lion has roared—who will not fear?  The Lord God has spoken."  Amos 3.8

Amos has been called "The First Reformer," and if you read through his book, you'll see why. He lived in a world of evil and injustice... exactly like you and I do. And he knew that this mattered greatly to the Lord God.

But, for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5.24) there will be Hell to pay.

The question is—who will pay it?

(many thanks to Christine Rowlette for creating the graphic above)



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Did you hear about Sean DeMars?



Sean DeMars—one of the most happily married men I know—publicly said on Facebook that the article linked below was so good, he wants to marry it.

Now, you've got to read it, just to keep up with the latest gossip.

Click HERE.  



Saturday, August 9, 2014

“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”



The stories (and pictures) of how the church of Christ is being butchered and slaughtered in Iraq right now are beyond devastating.  I'm tempted to provide links to every story I've read, just to try to wake us all up to the reality of evil.  Hell is indeed breaking loose.

Pray.  Pray for the Lord to destroy this enemy.  How he destroys them is his sovereign choice.  Sometimes he destroys his enemies by making them into his friends.  Such was the case with me.  Praise be to Christ.

Sometimes he destroys them in other ways—just read the Scriptures.  But eventually all enemies will be destroyed, hence the joy at the end of the book of Revelation, which my family is finishing now... very timely.

But I am linking to three stories:

HERE - Sean DeMars' piece entitled To The Christian Parents In Iraq.  Faithful & true words, aptly given.

HERE - an explanation of the symbol used above.  How an Arabic letter was reclaimed to support Iraq's persecuted Christians.  Beautiful story, in the midst of so much twisted evil.  The sign of the Nazarene.  The sign of allegiance to Christ.

HERE - at least one answer to the question, what else can we do?  Help for Christians in Iraq.

Back when the church would sing strongly and vigorously about these very matters in worship before our God who reigns in Heaven... which we desperately need to learn to do once more... this was one such song, given below.  Awake my soul and sing...


The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train.

That martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave;
Who saw his Master in the sky,
And called on Him to save.
Like Him, with pardon on His tongue,
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong:
Who follows in His train?

A glorious band, the chosen few
On whom the Spirit came;
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel,
The lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their heads the death to feel:
Who follows in their train?

A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Savior’s throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of Heav’n,
Through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given,
To follow in their train.