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...

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.

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!

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.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Day For Praying the Strongest Prayers God Gave Us

Are you keeping up with the news of what's going on in Iraq?

Clicking HERE will get you started.

This is a day for the strongest prayers God gave us.  Earlier today I gathered my family, explained what was going on (the blood of the martyrs—and how seriously Jesus takes it—is something we've been reading about in Revelation recently), and prayed.

We ended our time of prayer with Psalm 83.

O God, do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace or be still, O God!

For behold, your enemies make an uproar;
those who hate you have raised their heads.

They lay crafty plans against your people;
they consult together against your treasured ones.

They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation;
let the name of Israel be remembered no more!”

For they conspire with one accord;
against you they make a covenant—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
Moab and the Hagrites,
Gebal and Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
Asshur also has joined them;
they are the strong arm of the children of Lot. Selah

Do to them as you did to Midian,
as to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
who were destroyed at En-dor,
who became dung for the ground.

Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
who said, “Let us take possession for ourselves
of the pastures of God.”

O my God, make them like whirling dust,
like chaff before the wind.

As fire consumes the forest,
as the flame sets the mountains ablaze,
so may you pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your hurricane!

Fill their faces with shame,
that they may seek your name, O Lord.

Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
let them perish in disgrace,
that they may know that you alone,
whose name is the Lord,
are the Most High over all the earth.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Psalm 8

This Sunday at DPC we're going to be looking at Psalm 8, which is helpfully printed above for anyone who would like to go ahead & get started.

To help you further prepare, I'm reposting below an old post on the Psalter... 

The book of Psalms is probably my favorite book of the Bible.  Each and every one of the 150 Psalms is so much "bigger than itself." 

What do I mean by that?...

Well, on one level -- when God inspired the original Psalmist to write a Psalm, the Psalmist found that the Psalm applied perfectly to his own situation.  It helped him pray his way through whatever was going on in his life at that time.  It was a godly response to the thing in front of him. 

But on the next level -- that inspired prayer / worship song then became a "window into the life of faith" for all of God's people, both individually and corporately (as a nation).  Whatever kind of "moment" they were in the midst of -- wisdom, gratitude, worship, grief, confession, repentance, faith, heartbreak, joy, anger, fear, temptation, doubt, depression, etc. -- God had now given them a way to see it, sing it, pray it, enter into it, and come out on the other side in triumph. 

On a third level -- when Jesus himself lived the life of faith perfectly before his Father, he prayed the Psalms!  More on that in a future post...

On a fourth level -- you and I have been given this great gift as well, and it still fits perfectly.  Your Psalter (that big song & worship & prayer book that God put right in the very center & heart of your Bible) is your "window into the life of faith."

Do you want to learn the habits and dispositions and features and beliefs of the life of faith in all of its rawness and joy and deep reality?  Then learn to pray and sing and worship through the Psalms. 

That's why God gave this gift to his people. 

"Still today the Old Testament book of Psalms gives great power for faith and life.  This is simply because it preserves a conceptually rich language about God and our relationships to him.  If you bury yourself in Psalms, you emerge knowing God and understanding life.
And that is by no means a matter, as some suggest, of the 'poetic effect' of the great language.  No mere emotional lift is involved.  What makes the language great and provides the emotional lift is chiefly its picture of God and of life.  We learn from the psalms how to think and act in reference to God.  We drink in God and God's world from them.  They provide a vocabulary for living Godward, one inspired by God himself.  They show us who God is, and that expands and lifts and directs our minds and hearts."
~Dallas Willard~

I once had someone tell me they weren't terribly interested in learning to pray or sing or "live" the Psalms within the life of their church because they liked the way they prayed and sang and lived now. 

I want to pray and sing and live the Psalms because -- like the Psalms themselves -- I desperately want and need to become so much bigger than I am.  I need to become more than what I am. 

And God has given me (and you!) the Psalms so that we might grow -- grow into more than what we presently are.

(A note for those paying attention to details:  in case you're wondering why the Hebrew of Psalm 8, pictured above, appears to have one more verse than it does in English... in the Hebrew the title of the Psalm, "To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David," acts as verse 1)