Yesterday, France was brutalized by Islamic terrorists.
This is a time for praying against what God is against, and for what God is for. God is against murder, and he is against the false gods that demand the slaughter of the innocent. He is for the putting down of injustice, and he is for the knowledge of his glory filling the earth, even through the salvation of former worshipers of Allah.
There are many things to pray on a weekend like this. Denny Burke recommends we pray the words of Psalm 10, and that’s a good suggestion:
Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.
Here are some helpful reflections, suggestions, and articles from around the web on this and related tragedies.
- John Piper helps us with his article, “France: A Fabric Torn.”
- Scotty Smith offers “A Prayer of Lament in Response to the Terror Attack in Paris.”
- If you’re up for some sermon listening, this might be a weekend for reviewing Ryan’s sermon on several imprecatory psalms, “Praying against what is against God.”
- Joe Carter offers his always timely, “9 Things You Should Know About Islamic State.”
- A year ago, Joe Carter published “Three Ways to Pray for our Enemies.”
- Back in February, Tom Schreiner offered “A Biblical Meditation on the Execution of 21 Christians.”
- Also in February, Caleb Greggsen answers the question, “Does Islam Inevitably Lead to Violence?“
- Finally, from the Atlantic March, here’s a careful and important piece on the origin and aims and ISIS: “What ISIS Really Wants.”
On October 11 we had the joy of witnessing the baptism of twelve brothers and sisters between our two Sunday services. In case you missed one or both of the services, here are the video testimonies from our brothers and sisters who were baptized.
As we listen to these testimonies, remember what baptism represents: the death and resurrection of a person in union with Jesus Christ, who died and was raised for their sake. That’s what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 6:3-4: “. . . all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
9:00 AM Service
[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]
10:45 AM Service
[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]
For more videos like these, click here for DSC’s YouTube Baptism playlist.
On September 30 we hosted this year’s Elders Q&A. Families have weekly, seasonal, and annual rhythms to keep them close. From meals to reunions, families have more and less structured ways of staying a family well.
The Elders Q&A is one of our annual rhythms as a church to stay a healthy family. This helps us stay a healthy church in a number of ways: it allows us to get feedback from you; it promotes an atmosphere of honesty and vulnerability; and it opens the lines of communication in a way that is symbolic of how it always really is. We’re available to you.
Trent opened the evening with an explanation of why we do this each year. Then, the evening was divided into two parts. In Part 1, Trent moderated pre-submitted questions among the elders. For Part 2, Nathan fielded questions from the floor.
Here’s a list of questions we addressed with time stamps for the audio, which is available here.
- 8:23 How does someone become an elder at Desert Springs Church?
- 9:46 How can we, as a congregation, better practically encourage and love the Staff and Elders?
Update to the Doctrinal Statement on Gender, Marriage, and Sexuality
- 11:16 Explanation and reading of the update to the DSC Doctrinal Statement.
- 14:54 If someone is a member and they disagree with us, what should they do?
- 15:40 This sounds like we’re hiding from conflict and unwilling to suffer consequences for our convictions. Is this a sign of doctrinal sheepishness or courage?
- 17:12 Can what I believe as a Christian on these matters effect how I operate my business?
- 17:51 People have different kinds of jobs where they may have different kinds of relationships with same-sex ceremonies. Does it matter what kind of a job a person has and how can they discern how to faithfully be a Christian?
- 20:39 What resources would you point a family to who has children interacting with other kids and families who embrace a genderless vision of marriage?
- 23:10 What is the change in the wedding policy, and what might it mean for some people who find themselves outside of what that policy would provide for?
Ministry Related Questions
- 28:33 Why don’t we have a college ministry, and why don’t we have a single’s ministry?
- 31:10 Community Groups are dormant during the summer months, which is 25% of the year. That seems to signal that Community Groups, for as much as we talk about their importance, are programmatically not emphasized like some other ministries that run year-round. Why is this so?
- 32:40 Do all Elders do counseling? Each man has a somewhat narrow area of oversight and one is assigned to Biblical Counseling. Is counseling something that all elders are responsible for?
- 34:04 What happens to the finances when the year is over if there’s a surplus in the budget?
DSC’s Next Church Plant
- 38:16 Update on Redemption Church.
- 39:44 I’ve heard rumors that DSC will be planting another church. Is there any substance whatsoever to that rumor?
- 39:56 Why would a church like ours plant more than one church? Isn’t one enough?
- 41:03 Who’s going to lead us in planting this church?
- 42:31 Not every pastor sets out to plant a church. Why would you, Nathan Sherman, want to plant a church?
- 45:25 What is the timeline for this church plant?
- 45:42 Where will this church plant be established?
- 46:43 How will this church plant be funded?
- 48:04 With whom will this new church plant be affiliated?
- 51:28 Some people have different experiences with denominationalism, and different experiences with the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) in particular. What would be some misconceptions that you would address for us?
- 55:26 What are we going to do about Nathan leaving? What happens from here? What will the transition look like?
- 57:33 How can someone learn more about this church plant?
Questions from the Floor
- 59:39 What is the church’s policy now on usage of the facility? Is there a policy about members only, who can use the church for “other” events (other than weddings)?
- 1:02:49 Are there events that cannot be held at the church in the youth department specifically? Are we able to use the church for youth functions? Is there a policy that says that we don’t use the facility for youth functions?
- 1:05:00 Has there been any discussion about growing in our work with Native American communities?
- 1:08:05 Ryan, you recently completed your PhD. Why did you pick John Owen, and how has that helped you personally? How do you think that has helped the church? How does that help the larger church?
- 1:11:07 You said if we had issues with the statement before November 1st, to come and talk with you and we could leave the church without any discipline. Then we talked about employment and career decisions. To me, the implication was if you made that decision to “bake the cake, take the picture etc.” After November 1st, you could be subject to church discipline. I just want to make sure I understand what exactly the policy is on that?
- 1:16:19 If New Mexico legalizes marijuana, should a Christian be able to do that?
For audio from past Elders Q&A gatherings, click here.
Hopefully you were able to join us last Friday for the album release concert for, This Is Our Song. The album is now available at the Book Nook on Sundays or for download here.
You’ll recognize some or all of the songs on this album, as these songs have filled our life as a church across the years. Many were written or arranged by members at DSC, and some were written in reflection on the message of a book of Scripture we heard preached together. Here are the songs that you you picked for this album:
- Blessed Assurance
- My Father Planned It All
- Christ Is All
- God Moves In a Mysterious Way
- We Give Thanks
- Great Things
- Lord, We Come to Hear Your Word
- Be Strong
- Raise Your Voice
- Clap Your Hands
- Come and Dine
Questions are crucial for understanding, unity, and fruitfulness in almost any relationship. This is obvious in marriage, parenting, and at work.
Good questions and thoughtful answers are important in the context of the church as well, perhaps especially between shepherds and the flock. Together we share all of the benefits of salvation as God’s new covenant people: forgiveness, adoption, the Spirit, and on and on. There are shepherds here. But we’re all bothers and sisters. We’re a family. And so DSC’s elders are available in the halls around church, by email, and once each year we set aside an evening to take questions in the context of a corporate gathering. We call it, an “Elders Q&A.”
Our next Elders Q&A will take place on the last Wednesday of this month, September 30, at 6:30 PM with dinner together at 5:30 PM.
If you have a question, submit it. If you don’t, think of one and then submit it. Here are four ways to ask your questions:
- Submit your question using your bulletin Comment Card on Sunday and drop that in an offering box.
- Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Communicate your question for the Q&A to an elder in person or through email. Click here for faces and emails.
- Show up with your question on the 30th. The elders will take some questions from a mic in the course of the evening.
Of course, we appreciate your questions early. This helps us notice recurring themes and spend our time in a way that best serves the congregation. Any questions that are not addressed at the Q&A will be answered through the DSC Blog or by email.
Get acquainted with DSC’s elders by reading their biographies on the Leadership Page. Also, audio from previous Elder Q&A evenings is available at our Messages Page under the topic “Elder Q&A.” For a few recaps from previous years, click here, here, and here.
In the context of any home there’s a need for redirection from time to time. If a couple needs to get more sleep, they might discuss needing more sleep and then start to go to bed earlier. With a church of 600-700 adults in and out of the building on a Sunday for planned worship services, redirection is not so easy, but it is needed for this family just the same.
So, at the start of our Lord’s Supper service on Wednesday night we shared an announcement, a clarification, and an exhortation related to our Sunday corporate gatherings.
An announcement regarding seating on Sundays
We’ve got a really good problem: DSC is growing.
Our membership classes have been larger by a third for over a year and both services are quite full on Sunday morning. You may have noticed that increasingly we have less seats available on Sunday morning once we’re 10-15 minutes into the service.
This kind of growth in numbers requires a corresponding growth in hospitality.
Given how the room is designed it’s hard to see and sometimes navigate to the seats that are open. In our space, the room can look jammed full even with 250 seats available. This means it’s increasingly difficult for some to find their way to a seat.
In the smaller setting of our home, any of us would naturally get up to make room if someone came in and needed a seat. But with a gathering our size this doesn’t come so naturally. We need to organize for our hospitality a bit.
So, starting in October you’ll begin to see what we’re calling Section Hosts around the room; six of them. These people will be wearing a badge, coming early to mingle and make connections, and helping those looking for a seat to find a seat.
Your Section Host will need your help. You can help this need by doing two things: First, sit in harder to get to seats: the middle of a row instead of the edge, for example. Or sit down in the floor section. Those are the least visible and accessible seats once the service starts. By sitting down there you are freeing up a seat for someone who would come after you. Second, come early or on time to the service. More on that in a moment.
A clarification regarding children on Sundays
You’ll remember that about a year ago we encouraged the participation of children in the worship service.
If children can understand what’s going on in the Sunday worship service they should probably be in here with us. Of course, it’s for you to figure out how to do that, to train your children, and help them. But we wanted to set this as a new and good ideal for most families. And we gave some tips for how to ease your little ones into being with us. Click here for a follow-up blog post, “Families Together with the Family of God on Sunday” and here for Ryan’s sermon “God’s People in God’s Presence.” Also, since that time we’ve made available in print form John Piper’s article, “The Family: Together in God’s Presence.” It’s the little orange pamphlet available around the building. Including children in the worship service is not easy, but it’s important. We all need to be patient with young families.
Our church has grown in this area and we’re thrilled.
By way of clarification, we want to address the question of small babies. There are few things more beautiful to God than parents and their babies. So, we offer this clarification with full admiration for the vocation of motherhood, fatherhood, and recognition of the difficulty of those youngest years with a child. This church family loves babies and esteems parents.
Here’s the clarification: As we’ve said, if a child can understand what is going on in the service they should probably join us in here. But if a child is at an age where they cry when he or she is hungry, they probably can’t understand what’s going on and they should probably be in the nursery or cry room or foyer.
Now, if you and your baby can pull it off, and you are going to attempt to sit in the service (this is not illegal at DSC!), we would still ask that parents with infants aim for a seat near a door so they can exit briskly if the child does activate their noise box.
The reasons for this are simple and they have to do with hearing God’s Word:
- The baby can’t understand God’s Word
- The baby can, however, make it hard for others to hear God’s Word (including you)
- The baby can even make it hard for the service leaders to hear themselves think as they lead us God’s worship through his Word
Here’s the gist: If you think there’s a good chance your baby will cry, we would ask that you consider putting them in the nursery or using the cry room. If they do start crying, even if you think they might stop, head for an exit and take care of that lovely child.
An exhortation to seek God early
There’s a really easy way for us to have happier marriages on Sunday, a better witness, better hospitality, more and better conversations with our brothers and sisters, a better spiritual example for our kids and Sunday memories during their childhood, how we can cheer our Lord’s heart, and how we can honor everyone in the room better when we’re together. Who could resist all of this?
Here’s the exhortation: be on time.
How easy is that?
Not so easy, if we know ourselves and especially our church. We have done quite well at including our little ones in the service, better than we expected in some ways. We addressed the issue of lateness in 2011 but we have not, in the long term, improved as a congregation at being on time. We seem particularly and historically bad at this actually. Ouch! We all know we need to improve here, so hopefully this exhortation actually feels like something of a relief.
If you aren’t aware of how bad the problem is, it might be because you are entering the worship center 5-20 minutes late on a regular basis. There are Sundays in which at the start of either service there are only 50 people in a room that on many Sundays will fill to 300 by the time the sermon starts. Some Sundays are better than others, but this pattern is not owing to many legitimate reasons for being late, but a culture of lateness rooted in a basic lack of preparedness for what we do together each Lord’s Day.
There are some things in life we are regularly on time or early to and there are other things we are regularly late for. It usually had to do with incentives. What we get for being on time or what it cost us for being late.
So, since we are people with motivations, let us offer some compelling incentives to be on time:
- Unity. This is one way to pursue unity in our church. It says, “we want to be together.” It also helps mitigate against unity-harming pride in our body. For those that are on time it can be tempting to condescend toward the body for this cultural problem.
- Witness. It commends the gospel and the God we sing and hear about in our services since it says we really do want to be here, and we really do want to sing and hear these things. We can imagine that there are family members and friends that haven’t been invited to church because of the embarrassment it would bring to have to explain why the room was so empty when the service began.
- Honor. It honors our service leaders who prepare for and lead these services.
- Word. Movement in the room can distract others from what we’re singing, praying, and hearing together.
- Joy. Some are late and it’s no hit to their happiness that morning. For others it’s a point of constant tension or guilt.
- Modeling. The kids in our congregation will remember the empty room. Your kids will remember coming late. Expect they’ll do the same.
- Worship. You are not connecting with God during the first song if you aren’t there for it. The services are designed with a certain logic, including invocation and a call to worship, and alter the confession of sin in song, Scripture, or prayer. We’ll fight not to miss the beginning of a movie and for good reason. The services are structured similarly to move from beginning to end, and every part is needed for sinners like us who need God. If you’ve never discerned the logic then you might be like the person who only knows movies starting 10 minutes in.
Now, a word to married men. Here’s the word: lead.
Leading doesn’t mean merely saying “we’re going to be on time!” Leading is saying “What time do we need to get up to be on time? What do we need to do the night before? What do we need to not stay up late doing the night before?” (like watching a movie). And, gentleman, if you are the one making the family late, you know what to do. And if you have small kids, remember that they are your kids too. If your wife cares for the children in the mornings during the week if you work outside the home it may be tempting to expect her to manage them on Sunday morning as well. But unless you’re leaving early to serve at church apart from your family on Sunday, getting the kids ready is part of getting your family ready. Sundays should be an easier morning for your wife for having you home.
Finally, there’s the danger in this exhortation that some will turn around and go home when they are late. Please know that you are not looked on by the church’s leadership in judgment, even on the Sunday after this exhortation. There are always reasons some are late. We will assume the best of any individual while recognizing that there is a need for growth here as a church.
To hear Ryan’s original exhortation to pursue God’s presence, in part, by being on time to church, listen to his sermon on Psalm 16, “In Hot Pursuit of His Presence.” The exhortation comes at the end and includes reasons to come early, practical suggestions for how to prepare for Sunday, and a vision for what Sundays could look like if we were on time. In that sermon, he closed with these wise, pastoral, loving, and convicting words from Charles Spurgeon:
“There should be some preparation of the heart in coming to the worship of God. Consider who he is and in whose name we gather, and surely we cannot rush together without thought. Consider whom we profess to worship, and we shall not hurry into his presence as men run to a fire. Moses, the man of God, was warned to put off your shoes from his feet when God only revealed himself in a bush. How should we prepare ourselves when we come to him who reveals himself in Christ Jesus, his dear son? There should be no stumbling to the place of worship half-asleep, no roaming here as if it were no more than going to playhouse. We cannot expect to profit much if we bring with us a swarm of idle thoughts and a heart crammed with vanity.”
Lord’s Suppers are great for getting our family on the same page. If you missed hearing this in person at our gathering last Wednesday night, thank you for reading this entire post.
May Sundays speak to the work of God in our lives and in our church through hospitality, attention to the Word, and an apparent eagerness to be together in God’s presence.
Looking forward to growing with you –
Trent, for the elders