Archive for August, 2011

Aug 29

What Can Miserable Christians Sing?

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Preview

Last week we published a blog announcing Ryan’s new Sunday sermon series, Pour Out Your Heart to Him: A Study in the Psalms, starting in mid-September.

The Psalms are refreshing to our souls for many reasons, not the least of which because they poetically carry the full range of human emotions. They display a combination of raw human honesty and deep God-dependent trust. We certainly need them for both.

A few years ago, Carl Trueman wrote an article, “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?,” later published in The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism. To this short article, which he wrote briskly in about 30 minutes, Trueman has received more positive feedback than from any other piece he’s written.

So, what can miserable Christians sing? Carl Trueman considers the question:

Having experienced — and generally appreciated — worship across the whole evangelical spectrum, from Charismatic to Reformed — I am myself less concerned here with the form of worship than I am with its content. Thus, I would like to make just one observation: the psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, have almost entirely dropped from view in the contemporary Western evangelical scene. I am not certain about why this should be, but I have an instinctive feel that it has more than a little to do with the fact that a high proportion of the psalter is taken up with lamentation, with feeling sad, unhappy, tormented, and broken.

In modern Western culture, these are simply not emotions which have much credibility: sure, people still feel these things, but to admit that they are a normal part of one’s everyday life is tantamount to admitting that one has failed in today’s health, wealth, and happiness society. And, of course, if one does admit to them, one must neither accept them nor take any personal responsibility for them: one must blame one’s parents, sue one’s employer, pop a pill, or check into a clinic in order to have such dysfunctional emotions soothed and one’s self-image restored.

Now, one would not expect the world to have much time for the weakness of the psalmists’ cries. It is very disturbing, however, when these cries of lamentation disappear from the language and worship of the church. Perhaps the Western church feels no need to lament — but then it is sadly deluded about how healthy it really is in terms of numbers, influence and spiritual maturity. Perhaps — and this is more likely — it has drunk so deeply at the well of modern Western materialism that it simply does not know what to do with such cries and regards them as little short of embarrassing. Yet the human condition is a poor one — and Christians who are aware of the deceitfulness of the human heart and are looking for a better country should know this.

A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party — a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals. Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is — or at least should be — all about health, wealth, and happiness silently corrupted the content of our worship? Few Christians in areas where the church has been strongest over recent decades — China, Africa, Eastern Europe – would regard uninterrupted emotional highs as normal Christian experience.

Indeed, the biblical portraits of believers give no room to such a notion. Look at Abraham, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, and the detailed account of the psalmists’ experiences. Much agony, much lamentation, occasional despair — and joy, when it manifests itself — is very different from the frothy triumphalism that has infected so much of our modern Western Christianity. In the psalms, God has given the church a language which allows it to express even the deepest agonies of the human soul in the context of worship. Does our contemporary language of worship reflect the horizon of expectation regarding the believer’s experience which the psalter proposes as normative? If not, why not? Is it because the comfortable values of Western middle-class consumerism have silently infiltrated the church and made us consider such cries irrelevant, embarrassing, and signs of abject failure?

I did once suggest at a church meeting that the psalms should take a higher priority in evangelical worship than they generally do — and was told in no uncertain terms by one indignant person that such a view betrayed a heart that had no interest in evangelism. On the contrary, I believe it is the exclusion of the experiences and expectations of the psalmists from our worship — and thus from our horizons of expectation — which has in a large part crippled the evangelistic efforts of the church in the West and turned us all into spiritual pixies.

By excluding the cries of loneliness, dispossession, and desolation from its worship, the church has effectively silenced and excluded the voices of those who are themselves lonely, dispossessed, and desolate, both inside and outside the church. By so doing, it has implicitly endorsed the banal aspirations of consumerism, generated an insipid, trivial and unrealistically triumphalist Christianity, and confirmed its impeccable credentials as a club for the complacent. In the last year, I have asked three very different evangelical audiences what miserable Christians can sing in church. On each occasion my question has elicited uproarious laughter, as if the idea of a broken-hearted, lonely, or despairing Christian was so absurd as to be comical — and yet I posed the question in all seriousness. Is it any wonder that British evangelicalism, from the Reformed to the Charismatic, is almost entirely a comfortable, middle-class phenomenon?

If you’d like to read more from Carl Trueman, several of his books are available at our Resource Center, including The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism. Also, Carl Trueman has spoken at DSC now several times. You can find audio from his teaching and preaching here.

Aug 26

Resource Center, September: Great Commission Resources

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Book Nook,Recommended Resources

This Sunday begins Missions Emphasis Week at DSC. Sunday will see highlights of our various missions initiatives in the service and at kiosks in the foyer. At our Lord’s Supper on August 31, we will hear an extended interview with our resident church planter, Carlos Griego. All of this is to better unify us around our vision for the fulfillment of Christ’s words when he commanded his disciples in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

This weekend will also mark the start of the Resource Center’s September feature: Great Commission Resources. We’ve selected a number of resources across a spectrum of important literature and hope that these resources will serve you in the fulfillment of our truly great commission.

Resources to Share

Resources for Planting

Resources for Praying

Resources that Equip

We also have a number of Crossway ESV Bibles available for purchase.
You’ll notice that the accent this month is on the sharing the gospel side of the Great Commission. Of course, the great commission, which is to “make disciples,” includes “teaching them to obey” all that Jesus commanded. Throughout the year, we carry a number of titles for the process of discipling new believers.

Also, note that while most of these books will be available this coming Sunday, all of these books will be available throughout the month of September.

Recommendations from Previous Resource Highlights: Parenting, Biblical Manhood

Aug 24

Starting in September: A Study in The Psalms

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Preview

In Colossians 3:16, we’re commanded, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (3:16). Written in a fallen world by and for those trusting in the promises of God, the Psalms are for our instruction today. Reading them, praying them, and singing them are all ways in which we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.

Mid-September will begin a new Sunday sermon series, Pour Out Your Heart to Him: A Study in The Psalms. Ryan is looking forward to the conclusion of his writing leave and his return to preaching. In addition, this series will coordinate with the release of a new DSC album of Psalms set to song, Psalterium. More details are forthcoming, but mark your calendar for the release concert on October 21 at 7:00 PM.

Some of the Psalms are written from great distress, either from personal sin or attacks and injustice from without. Some are written from hearts overwhelmed with the greatness of God. All of them are written to help us trust in the faithfulness of a God who makes and keeps promises.

The title for the series comes from Psalm 62:8, where David writes, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him.” The context of verses 3-8 give us a taste of the emotionally dynamic nature of these prayers.

How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

All of that is true. There are great injustices and frustrations in a fallen world. But God alone is our rock and our salvation and he has provided salvation in its fullness in Jesus Christ.

For that reason, we can pour out our hearts to Him.

Aug 22

Sermon Follow-up: “God Speaks in the Book of Hebrews”

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Follow-Up

In Sunday’s Sermon, “God Speaks in the Book of Hebrews,” we considered the high priestly work of Jesus Christ. By his blood, Hebrews says, we’re able to “draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

In coordination with the sermon, we closed the service with an importnat song, “Before the Throne of God.” The words express well the good news written about in the Book of Hebrews. Perhaps you’ll use it to aid your prayers this week.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Words: Charitie L. Bancroft, 1863

The song leaders from Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY, recently recorded this song. You can listen here and purchase from Amazon here.

Aug 17

Remembering the Gold Rush: VBS Recap Video

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Events

Jesus spent time with children.

In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Our theme for VBS this year was, “The Gold Rush: Discovering the Rock of Ages.” From July 25-29, we spent a week with children, helping them rightly identify Jesus Christ by asking them an important question. We asked the question Jesus himself asked of his disciples in Luke 9:20, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, of course, answered correctly, Jesus is “The Christ of God.”

We thank God for the faithfulness of 160 workers and His goodness to bring over 300 children to VBS this year. Here’s the video we showed on a Sunday several weeks back.

[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]