Tuesday, December 15, 2015
|David Samuel Adams|
February 25, 1932 - December 11, 2015
"encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing"
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
FYI... for the next week I will only answer to "NIMROD, A MIGHTY HUNTER BEFORE THE LORD."
Or just "Mighty Hunter" is fine, really.
"Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, 'Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.'"
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
One sometimes hears Christians describing their way of life as "in the world, but not of the world." And there's a helpful distinction and an important point to be grasped there.
But in the day of social media rants, perhaps we need to reflect on this aphorism as well: "IN the world, not AT the world."
In Jesus Christ, God became flesh. He can INTO the world, fully invading all the dark, sinful, yucky places of fallen society with redemptive love, eternal truth, and saving grace.
He actually entered into the brokenness. Himself. At his own cost and sacrifice.
He didn't merely yell or post or scold or fume from the safety of his armchair or from the sterilized moral high ground of social media. He didn't merely give us something to read. He didn't merely throw more laws at us. Louder this time.
He came himself, entering into a world that was suffering under its bondage to corruption. He came himself, weeping. He came himself, bearing the curse with us and for us.
So... if we're attempting to follow him, we're going to have to do more than spout (or spit?) truth AT the world.
We're going to have to actually embody his love, his truth, and his grace... IN the world.
Ranting on social media is easy. Any child can do that.
But visiting the bedridden neighbor? That requires a bit more of you.
As does asking the homosexual to lunch. Or making and delivering a meal to the ailing. Or giving deeply to the needy. Or assisting the single mom with childcare. Or truly grieving with the broken-hearted, when everything is really going just fine with your life. Or investing your time and love in the lonely and easily forgotten. Or comforting the depressed. Or running errands for the burdened. Or coming alongside the frayed marriage. Or asking the lost friend if he or she is interested in an honest, no-holds-barred exploration of the gospel, with Bibles opened. Or discipling a younger believer. Or getting down on our knees and praying.
IN the world.
Not merely AT the world.
Welcome to Jesus Christ.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
In 2 Corinthians 2.14, Paul says this: "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere."
A "triumphal procession."
And yet, there's an amazing irony here. When you look at what Paul's been writing about, since the beginning of the book, you see language like this:
- the Father of mercies and God of all comfort... comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction...
- we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings...
- If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
- we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
- For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.
- we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer...
- I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears...
- we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs...
- my spirit was not at rest...
There you have it. That's the immediate context of Paul's "triumphal procession." From the world's point of view it may not look very "triumphant."
But it was.
For as Paul says next: "For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ."
The DeMars are returning from the missions field. And from the world's point of view, it may not seem overly "triumphant."
But it is.
In the Roman world a "triumphal procession" would look like this: a general would return home from military service abroad, and everyone would come out to welcome him back, with great joy and celebration. He was serving the King well, and is now worthy of a "triumphal return!" The aroma of incense is in the air, and the party is on!
The DeMars are likewise returning home from difficult service abroad. They have served the King well. The aroma you smell is of Christ, as Paul says above.
Yes, they have suffered in this service (as Paul did), but such suffering is a sweet aroma to the King who voluntarily laid down his own life and was slain for his people.
Get ready to celebrate. Make this a "triumphal" return for those who have served the King well.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Orphan Sunday will be observed in beautiful fashion this Sunday at Decatur Presbyterian Church.
Come join us.
"In you the orphan finds mercy."
The Prophet Hosea
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
The Lord Jesus
"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'"
The Apostle Paul
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
The Apostle James
"Orphans no longer fatherless, Nor widows desolate."
Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand
# 323 in the Trinity Hymnal
by Henry Alford
Friday, October 30, 2015
I firmly believe that a time is coming when the church in America will seriously regret a decision it made to turn away from something.
And it turned away from it precisely when American Christians were becoming less and less familiar with their Bibles than ever before.
It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were becoming more and more shamelessly comfortable with the idea of honoring sport commitments over worship commitments.
It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were seeing more and more intense pressure to conform to the world's agenda and ways of thinking rather than being transformed to the mind of Christ.
It turned away from it precisely when more and more vocations were requiring American Christians to work rather than worship on Sunday mornings.
It turned away from it precisely when the battles of spiritual warfare were becoming more and more fierce and furious for American Christians than they had ever been in living memory.
It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were living in a society in which personal relationships and a thriving sense of community were becoming and more and more threatened by isolating tendencies and detachment.
It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were seeing their own children apostatize in ever increasing numbers.
It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were more in need of devoting themselves to prayer for one another and for their country and for their world than any other time in their lives.
It turned away from it precisely when the culture in which American Christians live desperately needed a more and more spiritually vigorous and healthy church in its midst.
It turned away from it precisely when American Christians needed to see the institution of the family more centered on God and not less so.
It turned away from it precisely when American Christians needed more discipleship and instruction in the glorious wonders of Christian theology and the holy calling of Christian living.
It turned away from it precisely when the faddish trend in American Christianity was to celebrate a deformed version of the doctrine of "grace" that practically eliminated any call to ever, ever die to self.
It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were being more deceived and rendered more spiritually powerless by the idols of ease and comfort and amusement than they had ever been.
It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were ignoring the 4th commandment with a strangely bold pride in this "freedom" and with a frightening indifference to what the Scriptures actually say to a people who neglect the holiness of the Lord's Day of worship and rest and mercy.
It turned away from it precisely when the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were receiving less and less public honor and reverence in this nation than American Christians of this generation had ever witnessed.
I firmly believe that a time is coming when the church in American will seriously regret this.
Mark Jones writes a brief article in favor of the thing from which we've turned away HERE.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
What do we do with our shame?
What do we do with our painful and humiliating sense of sinfulness?
Shame is awful. It's a trap from which there is no good escape... except one thing: full-blooded redemption.
Genesis chapters 1, 2, & 3 are absolutely foundational to our understanding of absolutely everything—God, our very own selves, our relationships with others, and this whole wide world. Here's the story, applied to this discomforting consciousness of wrong within ourselves...
In the beginning (Genesis 1&2) everything was "good." Even "very good."
This sheer goodness is memorably described this way: "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (2.25).
But then in Genesis 3 something horrible happens. It's something that we (humanity) did, and we did it intentionally, and now there's categorically nothing we can do to "undo" it.
And from this terrible thing that we did proceeds everything that is corrupt in this world: sin, devastation, disease, alienation, disaster, ruination, sorrow, death, suffering, fear, guilt, shame, etc.
Consequently, the man and his wife mentioned above quickly transition from naked and unashamed to naked and ashamed. They blame the other person, they hide from God, they make futile efforts to cover up their sin and shame, they deny all responsibility... it's all the same weak-sauce stuff we still do today. We are their children, after all.
But then something as unexpected as it is amazing happens.
God covers up their shame.
After making the first announcement (in Genesis 3.15) of the One who would one day appear to redeem them from this huge mess they've made, we read that "the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them" (3.21).
Think about that. God Himself covered their shame. And he did so through the death of the animals that provided those skins.
...the death of another to cover human shame...
That is the foundation of the whole Old Testament sacrificial system. That is the seed of the substitutionary atonement that we read about in the New Testament. That is the Bible's first hint of how God would ultimately free us from our sin and shame by taking it all upon Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Ultimate Substitute whose death covers our shame. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5.21).
I do. So do you. Take it all to Christ, that you might find refuge in him.
We'll never, ever be good enough to cover over our shame. We'll never, ever be successful enough to cover over our shame. We'll never, ever be disciplined enough to cover over our shame. We'll never, ever be sorry enough or spiritual enough or knowledgeable enough or committed enough.
Only God can cover the shame of sin.
And he does so through Jesus Christ.
"To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame." Psalm 22
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
“The Christian gospel continues to find new victories among the non-Western, premodern cultures of the world, but in the face of this modern Western culture the Church is everywhere in retreat.”
missionary, theologian, author
Does the state of the American church concern you?
Join us on Sundays as we continue our sermon series, seeking to understand God's intentions for his church more deeply.
"You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill..."
The Lord Jesus
Conquer of Death,
Risen King of the Universe
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
There are times when every honest sinner seems to have a difficult time fully grasping the profound reality of a full, complete, entire, absolute, itemized, exhaustive, perfect, whole, extensive, utter, particularized, unabridged, comprehensive, all-inclusive, outright, sheer, pure forgiveness.
"But you don't know what I've done!"
I sometimes respond, "Well... you don't know what I've done either!"
But look at Acts 3.14 & 15. The people addressed there did this:
"You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life."
And yet, they are told this:
"Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago."
And do you know who told them this?...
The same Peter who, just a few weeks before, denied Jesus three times in one night.
And yet, he was forgiven. By Jesus.
Forgiven, restored, consoled, made new. (See John 21.15-29.)
In the Acts 3 passage quoted above Peter—himself a product of Jesus' grace—is now offering Jesus' grace to people just like him.
That's exactly what the church is called to do, in Jesus' name.
"Repent... turn back... that your sins may be blotted out... that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."
This is the unspeakable beauty of the kingdom of God, offered by the King Who Forgives... even though he bears the scars of our sins forever.
And precisely because he bears the scars of our sins forever.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Do you remember the name Victoria Soto?
Here's a reminder, from her Wikipedia entry:
On December 14, 2012, Soto was teaching her first grade class at Sandy Hook Elementary School when Adam Lanza forced his way into the school and began to shoot staff and students. After killing fifteen students and two teachers in the first classroom, Lanza entered Soto's classroom. Soto had hidden several children in a closet, and when Lanza entered her classroom, she told him that the children were in the auditorium. When several children ran from their hiding places, Lanza began shooting the students. Soto was shot after she "threw herself in front of her first grade students."She was a true teacher. Not a hired hand.
If she lived out the beautiful expression "my life for yours" when bullets were flying around the room, how much more do you think she lived it out when preparing her lessons?
Consider this passage from John 10, to see how Jesus contrasts the true shepherd with the hired hand:
John 10 - "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd."
What's your vocation? What's your calling? What's the ordinary work that the Father has given you to do?
Are you a true custodian? A true shepherd? A true doctor? A true truck driver? A true engineer? A true teacher? A true mom? A true librarian? A true physical therapist? A true restaurant server? A true minister? A true carpenter? A true law enforcement officer? A true office clerk? A true computer programmer? A true screen writer? A true hotel manager? A true husband? A true student?
Or are you living as merely a hired hand?
My life for yours.
This is what living "in step with the truth of the gospel" (as Paul says in Galatians 2) looks like. My life for yours.
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."
~Jesus of Nazareth
Also to be considered here... how does this shape what it looks like to be a true church?
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
In a Bible study this week the question of the sinlessness of Jesus came up.
How could he be sinless, if he were indeed a true man? Men are, by definition and universal experience, sinful. Being a sinless man is like being a round square... or a yucky piece of bacon. It's unthinkable.
This is a great question, and there are a few different ways to come at it. And all of them are edifying.
First of all, remember that man as he was originally created was actually not sinful. Not at all. Man was originally created in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.
The corruption and shame and guilt—with which we are now sadly well acquainted—came later, when man "fell" into sin. This story is told in Genesis 3. That's when our very nature ("human" nature) was corrupted.
But originally Adam and Eve were pure and innocent, walking with God (and with one another) in the garden, naked and not ashamed.
This sense of intimacy and freedom and natural dignity and instinctive obedience are some of the many important things that were lost in the Fall. When we turned away from God, it was all shattered. It all fell into ruins. And we've been longing for a return to that state ever since.
But back to Jesus... how was he born into the history of humanity unscathed by the Fall?
That takes us to Luke 1.35: "And the angel answered her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.'"
It is the virgin birth that makes it possible for Jesus to be truly human, but without Adam's inherited sin.
I inherited Adam's sin. So did you. And that sin has two parts: legal guilt and a corrupted nature.
(To think about the difference between legal guilt and a corrupted nature, consider this: oak trees do not have legal guilt... but they do now have a corrupted nature—because of creation's bondage to the curse of sin. That is to say, all oak trees will die. See Romans 8.20-22. They will die because of Adam's sin. But we, Adam's unruly descendants, not only have that corrupted nature; we have also inherited his legal guilt.)
But the fact that Jesus was virgin born—without a human father—means that that line of descent from Adam was partially broken. Jesus did not descend from Adam in the same way I did or you did.
This is why the legal guilt and corrupted nature that belong to us did not belong to Jesus.
As the angel said to Mary, "therefore the child to be born will be called holy." It was the Holy Spirit that brought about the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, not a descendant of Adam.
By the way, I'm not saying that the transmission of sin only comes through the father. Scripture does not make that claim, and neither will I. But in the case of Jesus, the line of descent from Adam was broken. It was interrupted. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
In Luke 1.35 that is the event that's bound up with the holiness of Jesus. He inherited no legal guilt. He inherited no corrupted nature.
And yet, he was fully human. As Adam and Eve were fully human, before the death and decay of sin. He assumed the "true" human nature; not the false and guilty and corrupted one.
And by the way... because he assumed a human nature... he could now redeem it. He could redeem it from both the legal guilt and the corrupted nature.
And he did.
Praise be to Jesus, "the Sovereign Lord, holy and true" (Revelation 6.10).
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Scholar & pastor & seminary president & evangelical leader Ligon Duncan was once asked what ministry counsel he would like to give to pastors and other church leaders.
First, be patient.
Second, preach the Word from the pulpit with fervency, clarity and power, and let the prime means of grace do its work.
Third, emphasize the importance of a weekly prayer meeting.
Fourth, invite a core group of potential leaders in the congregation to study the Bible and pray with you, weekly and personally. Meet as a small group and do a Bible survey, and lead them in prayer. Model for them how to do it. Make them take part and be active participants. Watch the contagion spread among them for the study of God’s Word and prayer in the church, homes and their personal lives. Let them become recruiters and encouragers of others to study the Word and pray for themselves.
Fifth, in the course of your teaching/preaching the Bible in the local church, spend time explicitly and specifically on explaining why it is important for Christians to study the Word and to pray, and how one ought to do it.
Sixth, get your people to read good books about Bible study and prayer.
Saturday, September 5, 2015
There has been a great deal said and implied about the Kim Davis conundrum, and I won't pretend to have the wisdom to warrant a long post.
But imagine the precedents being set here; precedents that could exponentially multiply conundrums for our children and grandchildren.
What Peter Leithart says HERE is very much worth careful consideration.
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Just saw this. Most movies targeted to Christians strike me as weak stuff.
But this... this has potential.
Click HERE to see the trailer.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Yolanda Adams recently went on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, in order to introduce & explain one of the key application points of our upcoming sermon on Psalm 16.
You can hear her analysis by clicking HERE.
Thank you, Yolanda.
To hear more, come join us at Decatur Presbyterian Church on Sunday.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
How do you view the church?
Take note of the immense vastness that separates how a demon might view the church and how we often view the church, from this part of letter #2 in C.S. Lewis' book, The Screwtape Letters.
These are letters that Lewis imagined a senior devil writing to a junior devil...
My dear Wormwood,
I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. Do not indulge the hope that you will escape the usual penalties; indeed, in your better moments, I trust you would hardly even wish to do so. In the meantime we must make the best of the situation. There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy’s camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favor.
One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbors whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbors. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ’ and the actual faces in the next pew....
Our view of the church often needs
significant reform and serious renewal.
We plan to start a new sermon series at DPC
on Sunday, September 13.
"A city set on a hill..."
Jesus of Nazareth, describing his people
Come Join Us!
Friday, August 21, 2015
"If a person knew there were no God and said so, he would be wise and perhaps even courageous for standing against the nearly universal but mistaken opinions of the human race.
"If he did not know whether there were a God and said so, he would at least be an honest skeptic or agnostic.
"If a person is convinced there is no God when actually there is one, he is merely mistaken.
"But none of these is the case, according to Paul's careful exposition. The reason the person is a fool and not merely mistaken is that he knows there is a God and yet chooses to believe and act as if there is none."
James Boice, commenting on The Apostle Paul's words in Romans 1, which is actually a commentary on Psalm 14... which is what we'll be looking at this Sunday at DPC.
You are most welcome to join us.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
“The thing I am here to say to you is this: that it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everyone knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.
....Theologically this country is at present is in a state of utter chaos established in the name of religious toleration and rapidly degenerating into flight from reason and the death of hope."
The United Kingdom
1893 - 1957
from her book,
Creed or Chaos?:
Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Every good thing we could think or desire
is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For,
He was sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;
He was made a curse for our blessing;
sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;
He died for our life;
so that by him fury is made gentle,
darkness turned into light,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
force forced back,
war warred against,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
mortality made immortal.
In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune.
For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us,
and the sting of death to pierce us,
are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.
If we are able to boast with the Apostle, saying,
"O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?,"
it is because by the Spirit of Christ, we live no longer, by Christ lives in us.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Below is an example of what will be emailed you to Monday-Friday if you sign up for CULTIVATE, an opportunity to read and pray through the Bible in community.
If you're interested, email your request to be subscribed to:
We start on Monday morning, August 17.
If you're interested, email your request to be subscribed to:
We start on Monday morning, August 17.
-The Call into God's Presence-
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. Psalm 139.2
-The Psalm of Prayer for this Week-
The fall of man. Innocence lost. Paradise ruined. Exile from the garden. The pains of childbirth and the frustrations of toil in a fallen world. Lies, sin, guilt, shame, judgment, evil, suffering, corruption, fears, estrangement, destruction, futility, the curse of death, etc. All of these disasters (and more) come, not from God's good creation in Genesis 1 & 2, but from man's rebellion in Genesis 3. This is no longer the world for which we were made. Humanity said, "Not your way God, but my way!" And now, as Proverbs says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." How did this happen? Satan, "the father of lies" (see John 8.44), first persuaded humanity to question God's goodness—even in spite of the fact that they were standing in the paradise described in the previous two chapters—and then persuaded them to doubt God's Word. These are the twin roots of every sin since; indeed, he truly is "the father of lies." And yet, right in the midst of the sentences of judgement, God graciously speaks of a Savior who will come to crush Satan and all his work (v.15).
-Song for October-
This is my Father's world,
And to my list'ning ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father's world,
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker's praise.
This is my Father's world:
He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass I hear him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father's world,
O let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav'n be one.
Maltbie D. Babcock, 1858-1901
-CULTIVATE-For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. Hebrews 6.7
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Fealty - fidelity to a lord; the obligation or the engagement to be faithful to a lord, usually sworn to by a vassal.
One of the greatest pieces of wise counsel anyone can give to a professing Christian is this: if you have not already made a once-for-all, firm decision that you will be committed to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, do so now.
As a Christian, you are enlisted in the service of the King of kings, and he has commanded your faithfulness to the assembling together of his beloved people.
For a believer, this is not a maybe / maybe not decision that is still up for grabs or dependent upon our feelings or conditioned upon other opportunities on Sunday mornings.
Don't make this decision week by week.
Make it in a firm, decisive, determined, conclusive, once-for-all, strong-minded way, in the name of Jesus. Make it a vow before the Lord. And then keep your vows before the Lord. Psalm 116.14.
There are 1,000 reasons why the Lord—in his glorious wisdom—gave us the church. It's an act of fidelity to our Lord to believe them all.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
From the back of DPC's worship guide this last Sunday...
Pray for America,
239 years old this 4th of July!
"Democracy has not always been associated with freedom. Most thinkers from ancient Greece until the American Revolution viewed democracy as little better than mob rule. The French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville was a student of government and knew these arguments well, and the executions of many of his relatives during the French Revolution gave him a personal understanding of the compatibility of democracy and tyranny. Yet, he went to America in 1831 looking for democracy. He wanted to know why a democratic government was succeeding in the United States when it had failed in so many other places, not least France, which had just gone through another revolution in 1830."
~The Trinity Forum, discussing Alexis de Tocqueville's book, Democracy in America
Quotes from Democracy in America:
“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”
“Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.”
“everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure”
“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”
“I am unaware of his plans but I shall never stop believing in them because I cannot fathom them and I prefer to mistrust my own intellectual capacities than his justice.”
“As I see it, only God can be all-powerful without danger, because his wisdom and justice are always equal to his power. Thus there is no authority on earth so inherently worthy of respect, or invested with a right so sacred, that I would want to let it act without oversight or rule without impediment.”
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
I passed a church this week that had these words of ineptness out on its sign:
"Remember, American ends with I CAN."
Displaying this message out in front of a building presumably dedicated to proclaiming the good news of the gospel is so, so, so very misguided.
If the gospel is all about how Christ was slain for us, as the bearer of our sins, because we CAN'T do anything that would save our souls... then this is the ungospel.
If the good news is that one day America (and all the other fallen tribes and nations of this world) will perish and be replaced by the Kingdom of Jesus Christ... then this just ends up putting our focus and energies back on more bad news.
Yes, I love this country for all the right reasons to love this country. But this country cannot be the center of the Christian's love. Jesus Christ and his Kingdom must stand in the center of the Christian's love.
And if that is so, then all of our other loves will be rightly re-ordered and properly strengthened.
The church is not here to save America. It's not here to boost our confidence in America's "can-do-ness."
That is not our mission.
Our mission is to point to Jesus Christ, to proclaim his gospel, to humbly serve this whole world in his name, to live faithfully in the land in which he's placed us, to gain a hearing for the Word of God through the kindness & love & wisdom of our lives, to feed the hungry, to seek the eternal good of the city we call home, to persuade people of the truth of Christ's Eternal Kingdom, to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, to love our neighbors, to bear witness to God's grace by example and by word, to pray for his Kingdom to come in power.... and to cheerfully pay any price for doing so, if we must.
It's time to put aside our obsession with finding political avenues to "take back the country."
It's time to lay down our lives and give ourselves up for the good of our neighbors, defining that good around the gospel alone.
We're in good company. That's exactly what the first-century church did.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
I've had several conversations about suffering and evil lately.
And not just the kind of theoretical conversations where you try to "explain" suffering and evil.
But the concrete, real-life conversations where you are called to actively resist suffering and evil, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In some recent study I was reminded of John Calvin's definition of faith:
“Faith is ultimately a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”
Notice a few quick things:
First, notice that Calvin doesn't define "faith" in the context of the question of whether or not God exists, and then attempt to establish God's existence by appealing to various proofs. Believing in God is elementary, compared to where he's going.
(No, I don't mean to dismiss the conversations about God's existence altogether... I'm merely pointing to a context that people of faith may find to be deeper and more "actualized.")
Second, notice that Calvin's definition presupposes evil and suffering. It's a matter of having a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, even in the face of evil and suffering.
What if you suffered an unspeakably abusive childhood? What if you live in an area of the world where conversion to Christianity immediately invites the death penalty? What if an untreatable disease leaves you with chronic pain that will never be healed in this world? What if your closest friend or family member selfishly betrays you? What if your precious child is lost to you?
Now—in that context—read Calvin's definition of faith more carefully.
Third, notice what faith is founded upon. It's not founded upon "proofs" and it's not founded upon our "feelings"—to highlight but two mistakes often made by two very different but equally confused people.
It's founded upon "the truth of the freely given promise in Christ." Christ Jesus, the Son of God who became a man, so that he might suffer the wrath of God in our place, for our salvation.
In Christ Jesus, God is revealed as the God who loves us. The God who wept for us... bled for us... and died for us.
And who is risen. And in whom, all things will be made new.
Fourth, notice that faith is something that is both revealed to the mind and sealed upon the heart. Never separate the two.
If someone's experience of faith in only a "heart" matter, that hardly constitutes the fullness of Christian faith. At best, it's a very childish faith that desperately needs to grow up (while remaining child-like... which is very different from childish).
At worst, this person is deceived. Sentimentality is not faith.
Fifth, notice that Christian faith is Trinitarian. It's a firm and certain knowledge of the Father's benevolence, founded upon the redemptive work of the Son, applied and sealed to us through the power of the Spirit.
Now. Let us go past the theoretical world of explaining suffering and evil. Let's move on to actively resisting suffering and evil, by faith. Read Hebrews 11. This is the Christian life.
Monday, June 15, 2015
So... after Pastor Jeff Hooker & I organized a "pulpit swap" for the Sunday after our denomination's General Assembly, I get this note from concerned parishioner, Marc D:
"Also, Jeff didn't quote CS Lewis. You might want to have a talk with him."
Thank you, Marc, for bringing this to my attention.
These things are always difficult, but you did the right thing.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
One of the most intelligent men I knew during my 15 years in St. Louis once told me this: "Almost everything I know about World War II, I learned from reading Herman Wouk's books, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance."
I found this almost impossible to believe, because I had heard this friend speak about the events and timeline and personalities of World War II in some wonderfully vivid detail. So, I informed him that he was lying. There you go. I win. Busted.
He then gave me his copy of The Winds of War. I'm reading it for the second time now.
Herman Wouk is one of the most gifted and interesting authors that God, in his common grace, ever gave humanity. And Wouk's attention to historical research is extraordinary.
Today he's 100 years old. Happy birthday, Mr. Wouk.
I'm praying today that the God of whom you wrote in your book This Is My God (the God of Judaism) might yet be known to you as the God who revealed himself to us in human skin, as Jesus of Nazareth.
Reader, click HERE if you'd like to see a brief introduction to Wouk's work. It's an article from The Atlantic, "The Great War Novelist America Forgot."
"One can detract from Wouk by saying there’s more to the story than he tells. Yet the story he tells is story enough. Give Wouk’s books to someone who knows little of the Second World War, and when they finish, they will feel almost as if they had lived through it. The novels are a monument as polished and fitting as all the marble slabs and columns erected since 1945—and vastly more eloquent and informative. The writer who created them deserves better remembrance and more honor in the literature of the country he loves so well."
Friday, May 22, 2015
Trajan was the Roman Emperor from 98AD-117AD.
During Trajan's reign a Roman Governor (of a distant province) named Pliny writes to him for advice. He's come across something new in his experience, and isn't sure what he's supposed to do.
He's come across Christians.
Look at how he describes them, the true and the false. Read the descriptions of Christian worship that we find here. Amazing.
Pliny to the Emperor Trajan
It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.
Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.
Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.
They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.
I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.
Trajan to Pliny
You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it--that is, by worshiping our gods--even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
I remember the literature class in high school in which we studied John Milton's Paradise Lost.
And I remember the joy and thrill I was just barely tasting in the study of it... but, sadly, I was too much beholden to the conspiracy of cool to really start getting into literature at that time.
Sorry, Mrs. Warren. If only I could sit in your classes again.
But anyway... taste the joy and thrill with me again, to the measureless glory of Christ. Here's the scene: before the world was created, Satan & his minions rebelled against God. And after getting himself cast down from heaven, he waits for the day of his sweet revenge.
Then Milton tells of our world being formed, in beauty and glory and mystery.
But. Satan sees man. Now comes the day of his revenge. He can't destroy God Himself, but he can destroy the image-bearers of God.
And now the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), considering what awful things Satan intends for man, holds counsel:
On his right the radiant image of his glory sat.
His only son. On earth he first beheld
Our two first parents, yet the only two
Our two first parents, yet the only two
Of mankind, in the Happy Garden placed....
He then surveyed Hell and the gulf between, and Satan there....
Ready now to stoop, with wearied wings and willing feet....
Him God beholding from his prospect high,
Wherein past, present, future, he behold,
Thus to His only son foreseeing spake: --
"Only begotten son, seest thou what rage
Transports our Adversary... he wings his way...
Directly towards the new-created World,
And Man here placed, with purpose to assay
If him by force he can destroy, or, worse,
By some false guile pervert: and shall pervert;
For Man will hearken to his glozing lies,
And easily transgress the sole command"....
Then the Father says this, contrasting two destinies: that of Satan & his minions, and that of mankind:
The first sort by their own suggestion fell,
Self-tempted, self-depraved; Man falls, deceived
By the other first: Man, therefore, shall find grace.
O Father, gracious was that word which closed
Thy Sovereign sentence, that Man should find grace....
Thy Sovereign sentence, that Man should find grace....
Happy for man, so coming! He her aid
Can never seek, once dead in sins and lost--
Atonement for himself, or offering meet,
Indebted and undone, hath none to bring.
Behold me, then: me for him, life for life,
I offer; on me let thine anger fall;
Account me Man:... on me let Death wreak all his rage.
Under his gloomy power I shall not long lie vanquished....
Then, with the multitude of my redeemed,
Shall enter Heaven, long absent, and return.
Father, to see Thy face, wherein no cloud
Of anger shall remain, but peace assured
And reconcilement: wrath shall be no more
Thenceforth, but in thy presence joy entire.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Dr. John Duncan (often called "Rabbi" Duncan, due to his missionary love for the Jewish people), lived from 1796-1870. He was an amazing man, eventually becoming a professor at Edinburgh.
His genius was so striking he was once asked why he wasn't writing a book. His response, which in and of itself proves itself to be at least half true: "I cannot write, I'm just a talker."
One of his many comments that someone wrote down, that we might still ponder it today, is about Christian unity, priorities, and identity:
"I'm first a Christian, next a catholic*, then a calvinist, fourth a paedo-baptist, and fifth a Presbyterian. I cannot reverse this order."
*"catholic" here means all-embracing... not Roman Catholic, but the true church, which is not the possession of just one group of people. Rather, it's the "universal" church; it is for all people who repent of their sins and believe upon Christ.
Some more of Rabbi Duncan's thoughts on this particular theme:
"It would be well for Christendom if all the members of Christ's catholic church would endeavor to preserve the unity of the Spirit, and think oftener of the many and major points in which they agree than the few and minor ones in which they differ."
"When we all reach yonder country, we shall wonder what foolish bairns [children] we have been."
"The world is crying out for a working church and a united working church—truthing it in love."
"Seas and continents separate in space, but the church of Christ is one in him."
"The present principle that is to unite the church in the possession of the one faith is love... Love is the great inward uniting principle."
"It is a beautiful thing to see an assured and strong believer tender to weak faith, and a weak believer thanking God for his grace to the strong."
Consider Paul's exhortation to the church in Ephesians 4.1-6:
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
That's seven "one's" in that last sentence.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
"Christians must live in such a manner that their lives would make no sense if their God does not exist."
Christianity is more than a religious hobby that offers us a convenient sin-management program with a nice afterlife thrown in as a bonus.
It's a life where Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is the center of all our loves, all our affections. And as that gets worked out in the stuff of life, the Christian life begins to look increasingly and significantly different from the average.
"He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'” ~ Revelation 21
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." ~ 2 Corinthians 5
Jesus didn't just come to make us nice. Your grandmother can make you nice
Jesus came to make us new.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
A few thoughts still roaming around in my head from an officer installation service at DPC several weeks ago...
In his book, Dining with the Devil, Os Guinness laments how often churches "secularize" what they are looking for in their leaders...
"How else can one explain the comment of a Japanese businessman to [a westerner visiting Japan]? 'Whenever I meet a Buddhist leader, I meet a holy man. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager.'"
But what's at the heart of the distinction between "secular" qualifications for leadership and distinctly Christian qualifications for leadership?
Sacrifice and service.
Consider these three moments in the life of our Lord Jesus:
Matthew 4.11, after the temptations, before beginning his ministry of service: "Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him."
Luke 22.43, when Jesus is praying to his Father, before his sacrifice on the cross: "And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him."
Note that Jesus accepted heavenly strength for both service and sacrifice. He's the Leader of God's people (Acts 5.31), and that's what leaders in the Kingdom of God are all about: sacrifice and service. That's where all their strength is pointed.
Contrast this with Jesus' refusal to request a heavenly "rescue" at his arrest, in Matthew 26.53: "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?"... but he didn't make that appeal to his Father.
Because Jesus' leadership was not bent towards his own self-advantage, for his own benefit, unto his own glory.
His leadership was "holy." It was not "secular" (to use Os Guinness's distinction) in any way.
It was sacrifice & service, aimed at the glory of God and issuing from a pure love for others.
Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20
May we pray for a day when Christian leaders everywhere are known by all for their holiness. That is, for their alikeness to Jesus.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
We kick everything off THIS SATURDAY NIGHT, with a BBQ dinner, at 6:00 pm. Nursery provided for ages 0-3.
Then we gather for a Church Family Breakfast (provided by the deacons) on Sunday morning, at 9:00 am. Following breakfast, Sean & Amber DeMars will be giving a report on their work in Peru. And then Sean will be preaching the Word of God to us that Sunday morning in worship.
At 6:30 Sunday evening the Frontline Prayer meeting will be held at the church, and the theme of our praying this month will be missions.
Then Wednesday night, April 15, at 6:15 we'll have a Q&A session with the DeMars. Also, some of Sean's great photography will be on display.
Friday night, April 17 at 7:00 pm will be family movie night at DPC, donations only, & all proceeds go to the DeMars!
And finally, next Sunday morning, April 19, we start with another 9:00 am Church Family Breakfast (potluck, this time), followed by a report by Janice Allen & a sermon by Walter Wood.
Click HERE for more details...
Come join us! Invite a friend!
Monday, April 6, 2015
This Saturday night DPC kicks off our 2015 Missions Conference, and it's going to be full of rich encouragement and helpful guidance for Christians who love the gospel and love this world. Invite your friends!
Our first guest speakers will be our own members & missionaries, Sean & Amber DeMars. More about that later.
Our second guest speaker will be Walter Wood. More about him later as well. But, with the resurrection of our Lord fresh on our minds, let me go ahead and give you an initial introduction to Walter now...
"Why I Believe In The Resurrection"
by Walter Wood
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
John Stott once described the Christian as someone who possesses "a submissive spirit, namely their a priori resolve to believe and obey whatever Scripture may be found to teach. They are committed to Scripture in advance, whatever it may later be found to say."
Whatever it may teach or say.
This is the freedom of the child of God.
I'm not bound to this or that cultural trend... I'm not bound to the shallowness of my own opinions or the times in which I live... I'm not bound to the fear of displeasing this person or having to please that person...
I'm bound to Jesus Christ, as revealed in his Word. Therefore, I am free.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Lately at DPC we've been surveying what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. One of the books I've recommended is Sam Allberry's "Is God anti-gay?," subtitled "And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and same-sex attraction."
I highly recommend every adult Christian spend some time with this book. This is an arena of culture where Christians need to be faithfully present, with the gospel.
Below is a list of the "other questions" that Allberry—who has himself struggled with same-sex attraction, but has found rest in Christ—treats in this book:
- What does the Bible actually say about marriage and sex?
- What does the Bible actually say about homosexuality?
- Would a same-sex partnership be ok with God if it's committed & faithful?
- Does Jesus himself ever talk about these issues?
- What should a Christian do if he/she finds himself/herself experiencing same-sex attraction?
- Can God change our sexual desires?
- Can we really expect unmarried Christians with same-sex attraction to remain single?
- Can singleness be healthy?
- What are the main struggles for a Christian dealing with same-sex attraction?
- How can all of this be part of God's purpose?
- What do Christians say to people who accuse the church of picking and choosing which Old Testament laws to apply?
- How should the church regard someone in their midst who is struggling with same-sex attraction?
- What should we do if a gay couple starts coming to church?
- Why can't Christians just agree to disagree on this?
- How should a Christian respond to an unbelieving friend who announces that he/she is gay?
- What's the best way to bring the gospel to a homosexual friend?
- How can the church be an effective witness to the world with regard to this issue?
- What should a Christian do if a Christian friend confesses this struggle to you personally?
- What does Jesus have to offer the homosexual?
All good questions. And, Christian, you're going to need to have good answers. This book is a great place to start.