Archive for 2009

Jan 21

Quoting Ray Ortlund, Jr.

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Clarus 09,Quote

Ray Ortlund, Jr., who will, Lord willing, be with us for Clarus ’09 in May, is the author of a number of great books, including When God Comes to Church: A Biblical Model for Revival Today. Yesterday, Bob Kauflin posted some wonderful summaries and quotes of Ray’s book:

Hindering the Blessing of the Spirit

We cannot trigger a divine visitation on our churches, but it is our responsibility prayerfully to offer our Lord a church steeped in the gospel and tenderly responsive to his presence. His Spirit’s blessing should not have to work against the logic and ethos we create. (17) Does my church function with a logic or ethos that hinders the blessing of God’s Spirit? Are we dependent on technology, manipulation, creativity, or our own giftings to effect change in people? Are we steeped in the gospel and tenderly responsive to his presence? Or do we emphasize what we do and barrel through our plan, hoping some good will come from it?

Settling into Routine

We can settle into a routine of activities at church and in our small groups and Bible studies, with little expectation of anything new. The familiar becomes the predictable, and everything from here on out will be more of the same. We dip our teaspoon into the vast ocean of the living God. Holding that teaspoon in our hand, we say, “This is God.” We pour it out into our lives, and we say, “This is the Christian Experience.” (41) Do our lives reflect the power, wonder, glory, love, and holiness of the living God? Do we downplay people’s expectations of knowing Jesus Christ?

God is Patient, Not Us

We must not think of God as a cosmic miser, reluctantly parceling out meager blessings. Instead, we should think of ourselves as constantly hassling him with endless, rude entreaties. He is astonishingly patient and kind. (55) How often to I assume that when God doesn’t answer my prayers, the problem is with him, not me? How often do I miss the countless ways he has already poured out his blessings?

Methods Matter

A repentant church understands that methods are never value-free but always reveal where our trust really lies. (75) It’s “risky” to trust fully and completely in God’s promise to actively work through his appointed means – the preaching of his Word, the proclaiming of the gospel, and the fellowship of his people (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 11:26; Mt. 18:20).

The Proof that the Spirit is With Us

So what is the proof that the Spirit is being poured out on us? The voice of the church rings with prophetic clarity. The people of God are no longer passive, intimidated, unresponsive, uncertain. They are no longer preoccupied with self, convenience, comfort. They are no longer complaining, whining, griping. Instead, they become outspoken in God’s praises and gospel truth, “declaring the wonders of God” (Acts 2:11). (87) To turn us from self-exaltation to Christ-exaltation, from self-focus to Christ-focus, is a true mark of God’s presence in our midst.

Active, but Not Alive

The church is to be set a part by spirituality. Revival triggers a firm rejection of the foolish devices of carnality firing up the engine of the church and a joyous rediscovery of the awesome power of simple, biblical spirituality. The revival of a dead church occurs through spiritual awakening granted by God, not through our programs and devices. If a church is invigorated with other animating forces, it may be active but it is not alive. (120) May God protect us from having the appearance of life in our churches and ministries – activities, programs, busy-ness, full schedules – and no true life, which can only come through the gospel and the power of God’s Spirit.

What are You Expecting?

God is not limited to our past experiences, our traditions, or what we think the church’s next step should be. We must leave room for divine mystery, for surprise. God never acts our of character but he does exceed our expectations. (31) What are you expecting God to do in and through your life this year? Are you anticipating that you might be surprised?


Ray Ortlund, Jr. is the Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville and blogs at Christ is Deeper Still

Bob Kauflin is a Worship Leader guru and blogs at Worship Matters

Jan 20

A Remarkable Inauguration

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Meditation

Regardless of your politics, regardless of who got your vote, I hope you don’t miss the opportunity to give thanks to God for what it means that this country now has an African American in its highest office.

In his inaugural address today, President Obama said this:

“This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled.”

These are pregnant words indeed. So much more could have been said about the historical background that makes this inauguration so remarkable. We should ponder that today. We should recall, or possibly even research, some of the stories and statistics of blacks being captured, sold, trafficked, enslaved, beaten, and killed in this country. We should remember the gross evil that was in this country when a “right” to enslave a man based solely on color was defended even unto civil war (and the deaths of 620,000 therein). We should remember that Rosa Parks not giving up her seat to a white man was a cultural shockwave just over 50 years ago. We should recall that segregation wasn’t merely a cultural phenomenon then, but a political one under the Jim Crow laws: separate drinking fountains, separate waiting areas, separate schools, separate places to eat were law in most states. And this was in my father’s lifetime.

I don’t know such days except for books and movies. But however I have learned or will continue to learn of such history, I cannot allow myself to feel like it is distant history. It is not.

There’s a lot behind the tears of African Americans standing on the National Mall in Washington DC today. It’s a duty and a privilege for me to understand what’s behind them (as best as a white, 34 year old male can), and join them in giving thanks to God for these remarkable days.

So go find someone who knows American history better than you; find someone who knows what the segregation of the 1950s was like, and ask them to tell you some stories of what they saw. Go get a new book from the library or bookstore; watch Amistad or Mississippi Burning; do some surfing on the web to recall forgotten details or learn new ones about the story of race in our country.

But then don’t forget to move your reflection from this story to The story. The story of redemptive history doesn’t ultimately rise and fall on American politics and culture. He uses this or that story for His redemptive purposes, but He is unfolding a hope which is far beyond the scope or ability of any human institution or ideal. In fact, the reality of His kingdom alone can give enduring hope amidst the worst atrocities — in days of legalized slavery and in days of legalized abortion. Even when it seems to the contrary, Jesus is putting all things under His feet (1 Cor 15:27); He is reconciling all things unto Himself (Col 1:20). In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, black nor white (Gal 3:28). In the New Heaven and the New Earth the wolf and lamb will lie down together; a boy will put his hand into the den of a cobra without fear (Isa 11). What are these but pictures of unthinkable, unparalleled peace. It is the peace of a new creation and a heavenly country. Our King and His kingdom have long been inaugurated; we only await the consummation. It is coming. And when it does, we — with a multitude which no man can number, from every tribe and kindred — will weep with holy joy that the day has finally come.

Jan 19

Calvin’s Institutes – A Piece of Cake?

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Miscellaneous

Actually, yes – even in Latin. Quite literally. And not just a piece of cake, but a whole cake. At least it is to Bryan Lopez (long-time youth intern at DSC). If you know Bry, I bet he already sent this to you (who can blame him?). In case you haven’t seen this, here is his recent birthday cake in all its reformational glory.

Jan 13

Meditation: The Book of Hebrews

2009 | by Ron Giese | Category: Meditation

I’ve been in the book of Hebrews lately working through what people call the “warning passages.” Commentators vary a little on how many there are, but the main ones are: 2:1-4; 3:6, 14; 6:4-6; 10:26-27; and 12:8.

A large part of Hebrews is about warning believers (that is, us!). Not warning them about the evils of the world. Rather, warning them to take Christ seriously, His work seriously, and to “preach” the gospel to ourselves and “examine” ourselves (parts of verses elsewhere in the New Testament but the idea is very much here in Hebrews).

If I had to do a two-word caption for the book I think I’d pick: Solus Christus (Latin for “only Christ”). If you gave me a couple more words I’d go for: “The Supremacy of Christ.” A little longer: “The Supremacy of Christ over the Old Covenant.” And about the longest I’d want to go: “The Supremacy of Christ over the Old Covenant for Those Undergoing Persecution.”

There are two books in the New Testament that, in a significant way, address persecuted Christians: the book of Revelation and the book of Hebrews. Revelation is written more for the church as she undergoes persecution, and Hebrews is more for a mix of both the corporate church and individual believers. Here in the States we don’t really face persecution, at least anything like what they did in the first century. However, although the audience of the book of Hebrews faced temptations to return to Judaism that we don’t face, we face equally powerful temptations that seem to transcend time and geography. Temptations like materialism, self-love (narcissism), love of pleasure (hedonism), or love of religion (true good can come out of the deepest parts of us, from us just by ourselves, and this good should be recognized by others and God).

A large part of the purpose of the book, again, is to warn and exhort Christians (the best examples are 3:12; 4:11; 6:11-2; 10:23-24; and 12:1-3). The warning in the cultural context comes since they will be tempted, via persecution and religious “peer pressure,” to neglect or treat lightly their salvation in Christ alone.

An interesting thing to do when looking at a biblical book is to see how it begins and ends (such as, at the beginning: looking at the first verse, first paragraph, and first chapter or two). The thought here is that authors often reveal more of their focus or themes at these places, and of the two, especially the beginning.

How does the book of Hebrews begin? With the supremacy of Christ. In the first paragraph (1:1-4) we read that Christ is the exact representation of God (i.e., he is God), and is now completely done making purification for sins, now resting in an exalted position with God the Father. Then the rest of chapter 1 is an affirmation of the supremacy of Christ, specifically the supremacy of Christ over angels.

When this chapter is done note how chapter two begins, with 2:1, “for this reason…”

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it (Heb 2:1).

If I say, “our house is old, and for this reason I want to do some improvements,” what I’m really saying is “I want to do improvements,” not “our house is old.” Or maybe they’re both equally important and I really can’t say one without the other. Thus it’s a little hard to say what is most important in the opening two chapters of Hebrews, theology (supremacy of Christ) or exhortation (therefore let us not neglect this). And of course when we have a difficult time determining which is primary, the answer is usually not so much to keep debating the two options but to embrace both, even to see both not as two separate teachings but as two complementary aspects of the same doctrine. Christ is supreme, and this means, in part, that He will persevere, and in part, that true understanding and reception of this prompts our perseverance.

Now let’s look briefly at one verse at the end of the book. At the very end is a key clause in 13:22, “But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation.” The author is saying that his purpose (or at least one major purpose) is to exhort. And he is also telling us that they need to “bear” this exhortation, meaning it will not be a light or easy one to receive. Again we see the idea of exhortation, and a heavy exhortation or warning at that, in the book of Hebrews.

The beginning and end bookend a number of warnings in the middle. Many of which are a great appendix to the thoughts of Romans 12 that Ryan brought out last Sunday (Jan 11).

For instance, let us run “with endurance” the race set before us (Heb 12:1), “fixing our eyes on Jesus,” (12:2), who is not just the “author” but the “perfecter” of (as in the one who completes) our faith, and let us “consider” Him who has endured his own persecution, so that we “may not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3).

Further, because God Himself is “faithful” (Heb 10:23), “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (v. 23).

And how might we do this? By (next verse, 10:24), considering “how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” and “not forsaking our own assembling together” but rather, as we come together often, “encouraging one another” (10:25).

Jan 9

About This Blog

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Miscellaneous

Well, I never thought that my first blog post would begin with an apology for being a neglectful blogger! But that’s exactly how this should begin. So sorry! I hope that in future days this is a place you come back to frequently because you benefit from multiple posts per week.

Why should you come back? Why do we have a blog now, anyway? What do we hope to accomplish through this blog? Well, I’m glad you asked.

This is a church blog. Like any other good Christian blogs that might point you to helpful articles, sermons, or quotes on the web, or comment on a passage, doctrine, or a current event (check out some great ones at our Resource page), this blog will do similar things, but it is primarily aimed toward the saints at DSC. Anyone is welcome to read what’s posted here, of course (the web is, after all, world-wide now); but the posts primarily relate to what God is doing in and through DSC. It is a more personal, more thorough venue for communicating, promoting, and teaching.

So here’s a sample of the kind of stuff you’ll hopefully consistently see on this blog:

More thorough and more behind-the-scenes communication about the nuts and bolts of our church and its leadership. This might look like an explanation about some decisions we make, more detail about what’s going on this week, plans in the works, etc. Ron’s first couple of posts on communication and finances are great examples of this.

Another platform for promoting DSC events and/or ministries. We are constantly looking for ways that DSC’s ministry opportunities can be more efficiently and more thoroughly communicated. As Ron said in a recent post, the Newsletter is one example of this. This blog is another way. Here events can get an extra measure of promotion and appeal, or just another reminder that its happening in just a few days, or that the sign-ups for it end this week. You get the idea.

Sermon preview. Most weeks, by Thursday or Friday I plan to let you know what that Sunday’s message is about and from what passage it comes. So, for example, this Sunday is our Ministry Fair Sunday. To help us think about where we fit in and how we can properly serve the Body, I’ll preach from Romans 12  “To be in Christ is to be in His Body.” Some weeks I might mention just the passage and title (like this week); other weeks might include a quote or a short description. But the biggest reason for the sermon preview is to encourage you to read the passage of that Sunday’s sermon sometime before we assemble on Sunday morning. Perhaps it will also be a reminder to pray for me (or whoever is preaching that Sunday), that God would be rightly explained, exalted, and enjoyed through the preaching.

Sermon follow-up. Most weeks, there are many overflow thoughts and applications that couldnt get fit into the sermon (yes, believe it or not, I actually cut material to make a 50-55 min. sermon!). Sometimes after the sermon there are things I wish I hadn’t said or had communicated more clearly, or an objection or question that wasn’t adequately anticipated and answered – anything that I may want to clarify afterward now can get clarified. Sometimes things get said in one service’s sermon that didn’t get said in the other, and I wish it had – I can share that on the blog later that week. There are also web articles or books that I’ve found or referred back to that week that would make for great follow up reading on that week’s topic or passage, should you want to dig deeper.

Miscellaneous recommendations of articles, sermons, ministries, blog posts from around the web or quotes from our own reading. On our previous website, we had a section we called “Best of the Web” where this was done. We plan for those web resource tips to continue here. Some weeks you’ll see just one or two such recommendations. Some days may have several recommendations. These may relate to things we’re talking about as a church right then or might be more arbitrary, but are nevertheless trustworthy, good, and, hopefully, helpful.

Commentary on a passage, a quote, a doctrine, an aspect of the Christian life. Again, this may or may not relate to any one thing being preached or planned for at DSC, but as the mood hits either Ron or I we will take opportunity to write out a meditation about something we’re reading or thinking. Again, Ron has already provided a great example of this with a meditation on “His mercy endureth forever.”

Get to know a ministry or a staff member. As part of the increased communication already mentioned, this blog can provide an opportunity for you to better get to know specific staff members, elders, deacons, or other ministry leaders. For instance, in the near future I plan to interview Memo Ochoa, our communications director and website Jedi, about the creation of the new site and other aspects of his job. Since Memo is a behind-the-scenes kind of staff member, it’s possible that you may not know who he is, let alone what drives his vision for God-glorifying design work. But I’ll leave the rest for the actual interview.

Hearing more about how a ministry event went; how God worked and where that was seen. This blog may also be helpful for another kind of interview: where Ron or I ask questions of a DSC member about a recent ministry event in which they were able to be involved. We often have major ministry events which take place away from the DSC campus that are significant, powerful displays of God’s goodness and glory (a missions trip to Guatemala, an afternoon with East Central Ministries, or a Father-Son retreat). We try, from time to time, to share just a few highlights in a Sunday morning service for such things, but so much more could be said than what we’re able to say in our corporate meetings. Perhaps this blog will prove to be a good place for those experiences to more specifically and more personally be relayed to the church body.

So we hope you’ll come back and keep coming back. Or, if you want to have these posts e-mailed to you or to use them with a blog feeder, you can access those options at the top-right corner of the blog where it says RSS.