Archive for June, 2012

Jun 29

The Steadfast Love of the LORD Never Ceases

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Follow-Up

At Wednesday’s Lord’s Supper service, Ryan preached a sermon titled, “The Roots of God’s Love,” unfolding the riches of two Hebrew words found in Exodus 34:6. There, God gave Moses his long name, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

The pairing, translated, “steadfast love and faithfulness,” shows up all over the Bible. Below you’ll find a myriad of verses from the Psalms, the rest of the Old Testament, and the New Testament that pick up this pairing. For this reason, you might consider printing this post out and tucking it in your Bible for a few weeks.

But first, we should explore the meaning of “steadfast love” a little further. As Ryan said, in most cases English is adequate to convey of the meaning the original Old Testament Hebrew text. In this specific case, the word, hesed, translated, “steadfast love,” is more difficult. This is evident from the myriad of ways this word gets translated: lovingkindness, steadfast love, goodness, etc.

Ryan gathered a number of helpful lines from various writers to give us this definition of hesed:

Hesed is. . .God’s gracious character and exceptional commitment to his people, . . .an attitude of God which arises out of his relationship with his people. It means that he has bound Himself to his people. Hesed is outside the realm of duty, even though a promise to do hesed brings with it the idea of commitment. It is not merely an attitude or an emotion; it is an emotion that leads to an activity beneficial to the recipient. . .in the context of a deep and enduring commitment made by one who is able to render assistance to the other/needy party. That is to say, God’s hesed is the providential exercise of his power on behalf of the needy people with whom he has established a special relationship. It is a promise and assurance of future help and fellowship, that is characterized by permanence, constancy and reliability. It is primal, elemental, associated with God’s love, grace, and compassion. It is rooted in God himself. In short, it is simply who God is.*

The pairing of “steadfast love”  and “faithfulness” appears twenty-four times throughout the Psalms, clearly drawing from Exodus 34:6. Here they are:

Psalm 25:10  All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Psalm 26:3  For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.

Psalm 40:10-11  I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!

Psalm 57:3  He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

Psalm 57:10  For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalm 61:7  May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

Psalm 69:13  But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Psalm 85:10  Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Psalm 86:15  But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Psalm 88:11  Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

Psalm 89:2  For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”

Psalm 89:14  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 89:24  My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted.

Psalm 89:33  …but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness.

Psalm 92:2  …to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night…

Psalm 98:3  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Psalm 100:5  For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 103:8  The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Psalm 108:4  For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Psalm 115:1  Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Psalm 117:2  For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

Psalm 145:8  The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Elsewhere in the Old Testament, “steadfast love” and “faithfulness” appear together from Genesis through the prophets:

Genesis 24:27  Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master.

Nehemiah 9:17  But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

Isaiah 16:5  …then a throne will be established in steadfast love, and on it will sit in faithfulness in the tent of David one who judges and seeks justice and is swift to do righteousness.

Hosea 2:19–20 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.

Joel 2:13  For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

Jonah 4:2  You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Micah 7:18–20  Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.

Then, in the New Testament, this pairing shows up in some surprisingly familiar places. The authors of the New Testament wrote in Koine Greek and carried over the meaning of these Hebrew words into words we translate, “grace” and “truth.”

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Hebrews 1:1–3, 2:17  Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by  his Son. . .He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. . .he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

The appearance of this pairing in John 1:14 is especially fascinating against the backdrop of the context of Exodus 34:6. God gave Moses his full name, “The LORD. . .abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” after Moses asked in 33:18, “Please show me your glory.” God would not do it, at least not for Moses, and not then.

But he has done it for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. For Christ is the radiance of God’s glory, and it is in the gracious salvation of sinners through Christ that God’s glory is most brightly seen and praised (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

For a rich meditation on the meaning of God’s hesed, consider reading Puritan, Edward Griffin’s, “The Tender Mercies of God.”


*Ryan compiled material from the following sources for an extended definition of hesed above. 

Jun 28

Interview with Nathan Sherman, Part 2

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Interview

Last week we began a three-part blog interview with Nathan Sherman, DSC’s new Minister to Youth and Families. Part 1 explored Nathan’s ministry background and training. In Part 2, below, we will learn about some of the formative influences in Nathan’s life. We’ll start by learning a bit about the most important person in his life, Marcie.

We had a chance to meet Marcie during your visit with us in May. She’s a marvelous lady. Tell us a funny story from the early stages of your relationship. 

She is a marvelous lady, isn’t she? Marcie and I are both from Denton, TX, but we didn’t know each other growing up—we went to different churches and high schools. We knew of each other and had a lot of mutual friends but had never met. I went to college in Austin, and she went to the University of South Florida in Tampa to be closer to her family who had just moved back to Florida.

So there was this smarty-pants at Harvard that made this website that allowed you to put pictures of yourself on the internet to make people think that your life is a lot more exciting than it actually is. And in our junior year of college, we became “friends” on this Book of Faces. Always having a secret crush on Marcie, I messaged her, and apparently she had a secret crush on me too because it took about 15 seconds for her to reply. These messages turned into phone calls, plane flights, an engagement ring, and three sons.

How does she complement and strengthen you as a husband and father? 

First of all, she’s my best friend, which makes the whole one-flesh thing a lot easier because I genuinely love just being around her. She’s a place of rest for me, and I love to just sit and talk about ministry, talk about ourselves, or just watch a TV show with her. She’s bold and not afraid to confront me in the ways in which I’m blind to my sin, stupidity, and laziness. I’ve learned to be a better listener and not talk so much just because she often tells me to shut my mouth. She loves our boys, and even though we’ve only been parents for 3 ½ years, she’s already an exceptional and intentional mother as she’s at home with them.

She also has a Master’s from Southern Seminary in Biblical Counseling and is a really great counselor and discipler of women and girls. I’m excited for the girls in the youth ministry to not only spend intentional time in the Bible together with her but also for them to just watch her be a wife and mom.

What book has had the most impact on your life, besides the Bible?

If I had to only pick one book, I suppose I would pick Desiring God by John Piper. His ideas of Christian Hedonism—God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him—have been extraordinarily influential in my life. If God has created us to find joy, and the place in which we find maximum joy is in him, this changes the way we both pursue God and fight sin. If it’s true that “pleasure is the measure of our treasure,” then the amount of pleasure we have in God is a reliable barometer for our spiritual life.

Tell us about the most influential sermon you’ve heard? 

In October of 2009, my last year at Southern Seminary, pastor Matt Chandler preached in our chapel service. He preached from Hebrews 11 about those who through faith had conquered and stopped the mouths of lions but also about those who through faith were tortured, imprisoned and put to death. He preached not only about the inevitability of suffering but also its importance in the lives of believers. He prayed that when he inevitably encountered suffering, he would respond well and in faith. This was an extremely challenging sermon to a room full of seminarians who could sometimes tend toward faithless theology, and it would have stood alone as one of the most challenging sermons I ever heard.

However, the next month Matt Chandler had a seizure on Thanksgiving morning, revealing what was thought to be terminal brain cancer. Throughout treatment—and now through his complete recovery—he has been a faithful witness to God’s grace and mercy and absolutely practiced what he preached at Southern the month before. I pray that when suffering comes to me and my family—and it will come—that I will respond by faith in our good and loving Father.

Check back later for Part 3 of this thee-part interview with Nathan.

Jun 26

The Praise of God, the Regulative Principle, and Self-Love

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Follow-Up

In Sunday’s sermon, “A Both/And Kind of Praise,” Ryan began a four-part mini-series on the subject of praise in the book of Psalms.

In his second point, Ryan said that praise is “Bible-formed and Bible-filled.” That is, as it concerns our corporate gatherings, the Bible directs the shape and the substance of our time together. Ryan referenced a theological term that has been used to express this principle since the time of the Reformation, called, “the regulative principle.” In short, the regulative principle says that in our corporate worship gatherings, we will only do what God has explicitly told us to do.

Here’s how the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it:

“The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and is limited by his own revealed will, [thus,] he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, [with] any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.”

And so, when we gather at DSC, we do what Scripture commands. We read the Word together (1 Timothy 4:13), we hear the Word preached together (2 Timothy 4:2), we sing the Word together (Colossians 3:16), and we pray the Word together.

To the person off the street, this should sound quite boring. That’s understandable. We live in a culture characterized by narcissism. It’s the air we breathe. And that’s why we tether ourselves to Scripture, trusting God’s wisdom and the sufficiency of his Word to tell us what we need when we come together. And as we gather to do just these things each week, we find satisfaction in God and demonstrate to the world where the real wisdom and power and joy in life is – in God, his Gospel, and his Word.

But, of course, we don’t always get it right. In fact, sometimes God’s people get it quite wrong. In a recent broadcast of The White Horse Inn, “The Narcissism Epidemic,” Michael Horton explores how a self-love culture can and has infected our understanding of the nature of the Christian life and the church. Horton also includes a number of helpful links to articles and other related resources.

Jun 21

An Invitation and a Warning in Psalm 95

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Follow-Up

In Sunday’s sermon, “Oh Come! Today!,” Ryan unpacked Psalm 95, a psalm with both an invitation to praise God and a warning for failing to do so.

In verses 1-7a, God’s people are called to praise God with joyful singing (v1), but also by bowing down to him (v6). So, in this invitation we find that there are a diversity of proper responses to God. As Ryan said on Sunday, in this psalm, “there is rejoicing and reverence; gladness and gravity; it is full of wonder and weight; it should make us happy and humble; we should want to get loud and low.”

In verses 7b-11, we read a stern warning against unbelief from the example Israel in her unbelief and hardness of heart. He calls them to believe, “Today!” (7b). In Hebrews 3-4, the  author of Hebrews uses this warning to ground a similar exhortation to his readers. This warning, given to professing Christians, brings into focus the importance of continued believing for final salvation.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
–Hebrews 3:12-15

Did you notice the, “if,” in the second to last sentence of that quote? That’s a big “if.” We belong to Christ now, if we continue believing to the end.

This warning does not technically contract the popular saying, “once saved, always saved.” What it does say, however, is that a failure to continue believing will demonstrate that one has never truly believed in the first place. For that reason, what is often meant by, “once saved, always saved,” is somewhat misleading. There should be no comfort for the persistently unrepentant and unbelieving in any past profession or previous appearance of faith.

Several resources might be helpful to you in mining out the gems from this lofty text. In John Piper’s sermon, “Eternal Security is a Community Project,” he unpacks the implications of this warning for our assurance and for our life together as the church. And on that wonderful word, “Today!”, Charles Spurgeon delivered an entire sermon, available here. That God calls us to continue believing “today,” means that there is still time, for God is patient. And it also means that now is that time, for today is now, but tomorrow is not promised to us. For more messages from DSC on perseverance as a necessary fruit of true conversion, click here. For messages on assurance of salvation, click here.

Jun 20

Interview with Nathan Sherman, Part 1

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Interview

Earlier this month, we were pleased to announce that Nathan Sherman accepted our offer to serve as DSC’s new Minister to Youth and Families. You can read that original announcement here.

Nathan is quite busy making preparations to move his family of five to Albuquerque in early July, but he was kind to answer a number of questions for what will be a three-part blog interview.

Part 1, below, explores Nathan’s ministry background, training, and hopes for his time at DSC. Part 2 will explore some of the influences that have shaped Nathan’s life. And Part 3 will reveal, among other things, a story of how Nathan terrorized his childhood cat, Coconut.

Before the interview, though, here are two photos of Nathan, Marcie, and their new baby, Micah. One before Micah’s birth and one after. Before the series is out, we’ll have a photo of the whole family together.

First things first. You just had a third little boy, Micah. Congratulations! How’s the family doing? 

We’re doing great, and Micah is such a great baby! We’ve heard from other families that their third baby was easier than the first two, and that has certainly been true for us, as well. Whether he’s just an easy baby, or we know a little better what we’re doing as parents is unclear, but considering we have three boys under 4 years in the house, we don’t have any complaints. We can’t wait for you to meet Owen, Caleb, and Micah!

You have been on staff at Providence Church in Austin for two years now. Tell us a little about this church, your specific role, and how your time at Providence has formed your approach to ministry.

Providence officially launched in November of 2010, and has been slowly growing over the last year-and-a-half. We’re a part of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, and we have definitely felt the need to plant more gospel-centered churches in Austin, as it’s the second fastest- growing metro-area in the country. An average of 85 new residents move to Austin every day, which can sometimes feel daunting. By and large though, the people who are being added to our numbers are coming through the missional relationships of our people. We have more people meeting in our Gospel Communities (Community Groups) meeting throughout the city than we have coming to our Sunday service, which means our people are inviting their friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. into their homes to talk about God and his gospel. In a largely a-religious city like Austin, we are so excited for the way this is unfolding—people coming to faith in Jesus Christ through the lives of the Church rather than merely an attractional Sunday service.

My official title at Providence has been Staff Missionary, and I have been largely acting as intern/pastoral assistant, while also trying to establish and cultivate a missional momentum within our church toward the city.  Being a so-called gospel-centered church means that we talk about how the gospel should shape, inform, and transform everything we do—as individuals and as a church. This has completely changed the way I think about and daily believe the gospel. That is, that the gospel is not merely the entry point of the Christian life, but it is the entirety of the Christian life. In turn, that changes how I think about the church, my vocation, my family, my neighbors, and youth ministry. I can’t wait to begin to flesh out many of these things with the DSC youth and their families!

How did you first find out about DSC? 

In April, Ryan Kelly was at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky and providentially sat next to Aaron Colyer, who was my roommate from my freshman year at the University of Texas and is now the Student Pastor at a church in Dallas. They began talking about youth ministry in general, and Ryan mentioned that DSC was beginning their search for a Youth Minister to replace Greg. Aaron said, “I think I have your guy.”

I talked to Tim Bradley on the phone the next week, and then Marcie and I flew to Albuquerque shortly after that. It has been a pretty quick process, but we’ve had a unique sense of God’s providence and guiding throughout it all.

You are coming to DSC as a Minister to Youth and Families. During your interview weekend, there was a real sense of unity among the elders and you on the importance of the church’s ministry to youth and to families. How did you arrive at this approach to youth ministry?

I was in a youth ministry in the 90s, which meant, like many other youth ministries in America at the time, that the youth ministry was completely quarantined from the rest of the church, and there was very little parent involvement both in the youth ministry and in the discipleship of their children. I think I always thought this wasn’t really ideal, but just kind of the way it was.

In seminary, the discontent I had with youth ministry—but could never put a finger on—was exposed. That is, that the family—and not the church—should be the primary place of discipleship for children and youth. The church should come alongside parents in the work of discipleship that parents are already doing, equipping them to better disciplers, and acting as a complementary—but never substitutionary—voice of the gospel.

While we only have a few teenagers at Providence (we have 40-50 elementary aged kids and younger), we are seeing how this goal of family discipleship is being practically played out. Long ago, a pastor said that each family should function like a little church: worship, education, discipleship, and mission together, as families. This is a lofty and often intimidating ideal, but based on my reading of Deuteronomy 6 and how God generally operates through families—both biblically and experientially—it is my understanding that this model of family-equipping youth ministry is the most effective model for the discipleship, not only our children, but for our parents as well.

What are you most looking forward to about serving DSC’s youth?

I can’t wait to grow in the gospel. I can’t wait to learn about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and where we fit into the great narrative of the history of God’s redemption. I can’t wait to play games and watch movies. I can’t wait be on mission in Albuquerque. I can’t wait to take trips and go to breakfast with students and eat lunch in school cafeterias. I can’t wait to dance, play, and have fun.

I can’t wait to meet with dads and moms and talk about parenting, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I can’t wait for families to continue to grow together in their belief in the gospel. I can’t wait to fight against sin and see the Kingdom of Heaven making itself more known in our lives, in Albuquerque, and on earth. I can’t wait to see people come to faith in Christ and to be baptized!

Before your time at Providence, you completed a Master’s of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. What role did seminary play in your preparation for your new role at DSC?

Southern provides a rich and robust theological education, all the while doing very well at keeping this education practical, applicable, and pastoral. For instance, in one class, rather than turning in a large research paper, I had to write ten sermons. These sermons demonstrated my comprehension of the material, but then forced me to deal with the text personally, and on top of that, now I have ten sermons in my back pocket ready to use.

I came to understand that preaching is much harder and much more important than I thought. I came to understand that I didn’t understand the Bible nearly as well as I thought. I didn’t understand God, myself, or the Cross nearly as well as I thought. I didn’t care about the lost and missions as much as I thought. I didn’t understand the function or the purpose of the Church as much as I thought.

And as mentioned above, Southern really shaped my understanding of what the family is and how family ministry should function.

Check back later for Part 2 of this thee-part interview with Nathan.