Archive for August, 2011
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.
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
- Christianity Explained, Michael Bennet
- Fear Not!: Death and the Afterlife from a Christian Perspective, Ligon Duncan
- Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, John Piper
- King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, Tim Keller
- Notes From the Tilt a Whirl DVD, N.D. Wilson
- The God Who is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story, D.A. Carson
- The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller
- Vintage Jesus: Timely Answers to Timely Questions, Mark Driscoll
Resources for Planting
- Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission, Darrin Patrick
- Planting Missional Churches, Ed Stetzer
Resources for Praying
- Window On The World, Daphne Spraggett
Resources that Equip
- Bringing the Gospel Home, Randy Newman
- Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, J.I. Packer
- Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, Richard Pratt
- Learning Evangelism from Jesus, Jerram Barrs
- Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel, Mack Stiles
- The Heart of Evangelism, Jerram Barrs
- Reasons of the Heart: Recovering Christian Persuasion, William Edgar
- The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Mark Dever
- The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out without Selling Out, Mark Driscoll
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.
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.
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
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]
On Saturday, August 6, 350 men gathered at DSC from four churches for encouragement and help from God’s Word in the man’s fight for godliness. Fighting for Godliness, of course, was the theme for this year’s The Man Conference, hosted by Blaze Christian Fellowship, Desert Springs Church, Mars Hill Church, and Trinity at the Marketplace. Our speakers, Michael Kelshaw and Carlos Montoya, preached sermons worth listening to if you are a man and missed the conference.
Here’s the audio from this year’s theme, Fighting for Godliness:
- “Fighting for the Gospel,” Michael Kelshaw
- “Fighting to be a Godly Husband and Dad,” Carlos Montoya
- “Question and Answer 1,” A.J. Hamilton, Michael Kelshaw, Carlos Montoya
- “Fighting for the Mission,” Carlos Montoya
- “Question and Answer 2,” A.J. Hamilton, Ryan Kelly, Michael Kelshaw, Carlos Montoya
In Sunday’s sermon, “God Speaks in the Book of Ephesians,” Ron provided an overview of what is one of the New Testament’s most theologically majestic books.
Ron began his sermon with an important point: “All the battles that count are spiritual battles.”
Before the fall of humankind into sin there was no such thing as “battle.” Every struggle of every kind is a reminder that we are in a fallen world. For Christians, every struggle is a reminder of what Christ came to end. That’s why Paul begins his letter by reminding his Christian readers about all that God has won for them in Christ. He writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3).
In the eleven verses which follow, Paul expands on what he means by “every spiritual blessing.” Here’s a list of how God has blessed us “in Christ”:
- “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (1:4)
- “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (1:5-6)
- “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…” (1:7)
- “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (1:11-12)
- “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (1:13-14)
If our prayers to God or thoughts about Him are becoming routine, this package of blessings gives us high thoughts and rich words to enliven our affections for Him.
In his sermon, Ron read a quote, “We do not fight for victory. We fight from victory.” That’s significant. All of the spiritual blessings that we know in Christ have been decisively won for us, and enjoying them is the fuel for the fight of the Christian life. That’s why Paul says at the start of chapter 4, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:1).
For more information about our plan to listen through the New Testament in 90 days and for a listening schedule, visit the God Speaks: We listen landing page.