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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.

Dec 12

Meditation: “His Mercy Endureth Forever”

2008 | by Ron Giese | Category: Meditation

“His mercy endureth forever.”

This phrase occurs 41 times in the Old Testament. As it was translated in the early 1600s for what we know as the King James Version, the translation committee must have taken great comfort from this truth. For in the days of King James I (1603-25) the times in England were perilous, and the future quite unknown.

Not much was different from the times in Israel when these words were given by God to His prophets. For when we read these words it is often in a context where Israel is under threat of invasion and exile. The word “mercy” has more the meaning of “steadfast love” (ESV), loyalty, or commitment. Thus the verse is a reminder that, although we are often unfaithful to God, He is always faithful, through all generations, in good times and bad.

Days of the Babylonian threat to Judah, days of the early 17th century, today. Again not that different. As C.S. Lewis so wisely concluded, it is “chronological snobbery” to view our time as more advanced, more moral, or we could add, less uncertain than times past.

We live in days of stock markets diving through floors, basements, and even finding previously unknown catacombs below the basements! We live in days of wars still fought in two other countries. We live in days of sizeable cities like Juarez, Mexico in the hands of criminal elements. Yet God is no more or less faithful to His glory, His purposes, and yes, His people than the times we think of as being more prosperous.

What a joy for us, together, to worship Christ and not commerce during such times!

Dec 12

Administrative Update: Communications

2008 | by Ron Giese | Category: Administrative

Over the past few years a significant piece of feedback we’ve heard is that there needs to be better communication. As an example, we might bring a missions team to the front of church to pray as we send them out, and hear someone later say, “I didn’t know we were doing a missions trip for medical purposes in Guatemala, if I had known I would have wanted to go.”

So to this end we’ve done a number of things to improve this area in the past year or two. Some of the more visible examples are: (1) you’ll know the minute you walk through the foyer that things looks different than they did 18 months ago‚ instead of a large number of tables, often with the same display week after week, there are four kiosk stations now, each with a flat screen that can, if the ministry wants, rotate announcements and pictures; (2) we’ve begun an email newsletter, which comes out the first week of each month; (3) we’ve printed, on one card, the calendar events for the whole year (the 2009 calendar card is available at the welcome center)‚ so that with the calendar tacked up on a refrigerator or handy near a desk or dresser at home, we shouldn’t have to wonder any more about when the men’s retreat or VBS or summer camp is; (4) this new web site will allow for better navigation, updates, links, and control of archived audios; and (5) in early 2008 we came out with ministry cards (they are at the welcome center), where the basics about each ministry such as purpose and contact information are outlined.

We’re always open to new ideas for communication, so if you have any please email me at ron@desertspringschurch.org.