"Wholeness from Brokenness" with Dr. Michael S. Beates

Dear Church Family,

This weekend on Friday evening and Saturday morning, we will be hosting our fifth annual Midland Reformed Theological Conference at Providence Presbyterian Church. Our speaker this year is Dr. Michael S. Beates, who will be speaking on “Wholeness from Brokenness: Disability, the Image of God in Man, and the Hope of Redemption.” Here is the schedule:

Friday, February 22, 2019

7:00 pm - Lecture 1: Imago Dei and Hard Providence (Genesis 1-2; Job; 2 Corinthians 12)
8:00 pm - Lecture 2: David and Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

9:00 am - Lecture 3: Paul’s Appeal on Behalf of the Disability Community (1 Corinthians 12)
10:00 am - Lecture 4: The Luke 14 Mandate (Luke 14)
11:00 am - Q&A

For all the details, please visit this page on our church website: http://www.providencemidland.org/mrtc2019.

Dr. Beates is an ordained minister in the PCA, the dean of students at the Geneva School in Winter Park, FL, serves on the International Board of Directors at Joni and Friends, and is the author of Disability & the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace. He and his wife, Mary, are the parents of seven children, one of whom lives with profound disabilities and two others who face challenges.

Over the course of the last several weeks, our Men’s Discipleship Group has been reading and discussing Dr. Beates’ book during our weekly meetings on Tuesday mornings. While it would be impossible to recount the many lessons that we have learned, I want to share with you just two insights that have struck me as we’ve studied this book.

(1) A Renewed Understanding of the Sovereignty of God and Contentment

Of course, as Christians – and especially as Reformed and confessional believers – we believe in the sovereignty of God. We believe that He made all things out of nothing in the space of six days and that He governs all things according to the counsel of His own will. Yet, when it comes to physical, mental, and emotional disabilities or tragedies in this world, we sometimes want to think that God does not ordain these things, but simply uses these results of the Fall for His good purposes.

Granted, these things are a result of man’s sinfulness and the curse of the Fall. The effects of the Fall (sin, brokenness, pain, and suffering) were not a part of the created order; God made all things good! He is not the author of sin. At the same time, through the examination of the Scriptures in Disability & the Gospel, Dr. Beates reminds us that God is sovereign even over such things as physical deformities and the brokenness that we experience in this world.

Here is just one example. When the Lord called Moses to go back to Egypt in order to be the instrument through which God would rescue and redeem His people from slavery, Moses protests by drawing attention to the fact that he is “slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). God’s response to Moses is fascinating, and even a bit surprising. Though I’ve read these verses many times, Dr. Beates’ exposition is illuminating:

While many debate the meaning of Moses’s words, whether or not this meant Moses had a disabling speech impediment, God’s response (in 4:11) is unambiguous. “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” Consider what God is saying here. Be careful not to miss the full impact of this! If you are like me, when you begin to let this statement settle, you exclaim, ‘What?’ In this startling response, God not only does not deny responsibility for conditions we normally consider disabilities (blindness, deafness, muteness); rather, to our surprise, God takes credit for them! God says these things come from and are made by him. This is a hard statement! And we must accept it and learn from it. (Disability & the Gospel, 29).

 

Certainly, there is a mystery here. As creatures, it is impossible to fully comprehend the mind of the Lord and His purposes, but as Beates writes, we must accept and learn from these things. You see, a proper understanding of God’s sovereignty in all things is not simply a doctrine that deserves a chapter in a work of systematic theology. Our understanding of God, as He has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures, profoundly affects how we think, speak, and behave every day as His children. In the “Forward” of this book, Joni Eareckson Tada speaks of the importance of learning to “embrace that which God gives from his left hand.” She writes, “I discovered that a right understanding of God’s hand in our hardships was critical to my contentment.” (Disability & the Gospel, 9-11).

(2) A Renewed Understanding of God’s Grace and Mercy

When I first began reading this book, I assumed that the purpose and intent of the book was to develop a “theology of suffering” and that the lessons learned would be applicable only to those who suffer from profound disabilities and those who care for them. Perhaps you’ve thought similar things about the upcoming conference: “It may be helpful for those with disabilities or those who have family members with disabilities, but the theme of ‘Wholeness from Brokenness’ doesn’t really apply to me.”

Let me tell you: nothing could be further from the truth! Yes, at the conference (as in the book), we will learn lessons from the Scriptures about what God says about disabilities and suffering. And, we will learn about how the church of Jesus Christ is called to welcome and minister to the needs of those who seem ‘less normal.’ But, one of the over-arching themes of the book – which will be explored at the conference, as well – is that those with more visible disabilities remind every one of us of our own weakness, brokenness, inability, and sin. Dr. Beates writes:

While the near goal of this book is that people with disabilities inhabit the worshiping community of God, the ultimate goal of this book is that God’s people will have a renewed sense of what it means to live as God’s children – accepted by his love despite our weakness, brokenness, and inability. Those who live with physical, mental, and other disabilities will help God’s people see those disabilities in themselves in a more authentic way. As we join hands with these brothers and sisters, seeing ourselves in each other, walking in relationship, then we will begin to move forward as a church with new power – transforming power. (Disability & the Gospel, 143).

 

The good news forgiveness and eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ is only available to those who recognize their own neediness. As Jesus said, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). And only when we come to see our own sin and inability, will we then be able to know and experience the grace and mercy of God.

Those with quite visible physical, mental, and emotional disabilities remind us that all of us are a sinful and broken people; we are much worse than we have ever cared to believe ourselves to be. Only then, may we find forgiveness, healing, and embrace the promise of God: For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

I hope to see you at the conference this weekend.

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Praying Together

Dear Church Family,

This week we will add two new weekly prayer meetings to the corporate life of our church. The Women’s Prayer Meeting begins tonight (February 12th) at the church, from 8:00-9:00 pm. Carol Morgan will be leading this weekly time of prayer for the women. And, beginning this coming Sunday (February 17th), all in the church are invited to the pastor’s home for a Sunday evening, weekly prayer meeting from 6:30-7:30 pm.

Women’s Prayer Meeting: Beginning on Tuesday, February 12th, Carol Morgan will be leading a weekly, Tuesday evening women’s prayer meeting at the church (8:00-9:00 pm) for those women who would like to attend.

Church-wide Prayer Meeting: Beginning on Sunday, February 17th, all who would like to participate are invited to the home of Pastor and Mrs. Dietsch (3608 Gulf Ave) for a weekly, Sunday evening prayer meeting at 6:30-7:30 pm; this prayer meeting is open to all men and women, young and old.

 

In the book of Acts, we find that corporate prayer was a central aspect of the life of the early church. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the people of God – men and women – continually devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). Upon the influx of over 3,000 souls into the church on the day of Pentecost, new and old believers gathered together “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Prayer was also an important element in the early church’s bearing up under persecution (Acts 4).

This is just a brief survey from the opening chapters of the book of Acts of how prayer was a central part of the life of the early church, but we could go on. Continuing throughout the book of Acts we are shown examples of how the first Christians were in the habit of gathering to pray together. Likewise, the letters of the New Testament are replete with exhortations for God’s people to “devote themselves to prayer” (e.g., Romans 12:12; 1 Corinthians 7:5; Colossians 4:2).

In keeping with this emphasis on the importance of prayer, our own Westminster Standards speak of three outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to His church the benefits of redemption: the word, sacraments, and prayer (WLC 154; WSC 88). And, while saving faith is ordinarily wrought by the Spirit of Christ by the ministry of the word, our faith is increased and strengthened by all three outward and ordinary means of grace: the word, sacraments, and prayer. In the worship services of our church, we emphasize these outward and ordinary means of grace by giving significant time to the reading and preaching of God’s word, weekly participation in the Lord’s supper, and multiple times of prayer throughout each service.

At the same time, something that I’ve long thought that was missing in the corporate life of our church is a weekly prayer meeting. In thinking about this, I recently ran across and re-read an article by Paul Levy entitled, “Why is a central Prayer Gathering in a church so important.” Paul Levy is the pastor of International Presbyterian Church in London, and in that article he lists and explains nine reasons why a corporate prayer meeting is important for the life of a church:

(1) It tells us that God is God.

(2) It reminds us that Salvation is in God’s hands.

(3) It tells us that we are not on our own.

(4) There is something that unites us together when we pray together.

(5) The devil hates to see people pray.

(6) Prayer is a means of grace.

(7) Prayer humbles us.

(8) Praying together reminds me that there is a world out there.

(9) Prayer reminds me that God is Trinity.

The Westminster Larger Catechism defines prayer as “an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies” (WLC 178). God’s word exhorts individual believers to pray at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18), and I hope you will join us as we gather together as God’s people to offer up our desires to God, confess our sins, and give thanks to the Lord for all His mercies.

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

A Time to Pray

Dear Church Family,

In July, I wrote to you about how Elder Greg and Rachel Berkhouse will be relocating to the Dallas area, beginning this transition in the early part of 2019. Recently, Elder Reed Gilmore has also communicated to the session that he and LuAnn are making preparations to eventually move to Boerne, Texas; he plans to step down from the Session sometime during the first quarter of 2019. In losing two of the three elders and their families in the coming months, suffice it to say, we are entering into a major transitional season in the leadership and government of our church.

Last month, we began an officer training class which will conclude in February 2019. Presently, there are six men in attendance. We have a need for new deacons, but an especially acute need for new elders. From the earliest days of the New Testament church, after preaching the gospel and making disciples, the apostles appointed elders in every church that they had planted (Acts 14:21-23); the purpose for which the Apostle Paul left Titus on Crete was so that he “would set in order what remains and appoint elders in very city” (Titus 1:5). The elders of the church are a crucial and essential part of how the Lord grows His kingdom in this world.

So, please pray for the men in the officer training class that this would a be fruitful time of learning and discerning the Lord’s calling. Pray for our soon to depart elders and their families. Pray for your session as we prepare to make these transitions and select men to nominate to the congregation for office in the church sometime in the first part of next year. Finally, please pray for our church that the Lord would continue to bless us such that we might be “steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58) as we are about our mission of gathering and perfecting the saints (WCF 25.3).

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Discipleship Opportunities

Dear Church Family,

As the summer has come to a close, there are many discipleship opportunities at PPC that are resuming. Below are the details concerning Sunday school, the Men’s Discipleship Group, Women’s Bible Study, Christian Service Brigade, and the Officer Training Class. I hope you will avail yourself of these opportunities to participate in the corporate life of the church, as we endeavor to grow in Christ together.

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL

Sunday school classes for all ages resume this coming Sunday, September 9, 2018 (9:30-10:30 am).

Adult Class
Teacher: Pastor Dietsch
Topic: “The Apostles’ Creed” – our plan is to spend half our time viewing a video series from Third Millennium Ministries (http://thirdmill.org/seminary/course.asp/vs/apc) and the other half of our time discussing what we learn.

High School Class
Teachers: Elder Paul Wheeler, Stephen Stroope
Topic: The Book of Proverbs

Elementary II Class
Teachers: Arlyn & Tammy Henken, Ray Jones
Topic: God’s Servants: Studies of the little-known people in the Bible

Elementary I Class
Teacher: Kathryn Wheeler
Topic: Pleasing God: The Ten Commandments & Growth in Christian Character

PreK/Kindergarten Class
Teacher: Clay Finley (Helper: Mia Capo)
Topic: Serving the Savior: Learning to Trust and Obey Jesus through New Testament Lessons

 

MEN’S DISCIPLESHIP GROUP

The Men’s Discipleship Group will resume on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2018 (6:30-7:30 am) in the fellowship hall. All men (ages 15 and up) are invited. Breakfast is provided. We will be picking up our study of the Book of Proverbs in chapter 11 of the book A Father’s Gift: Lessons from Proverbs by Kenneth B. Wingate.

 

WOMEN’S BIBLE STUDY

The Women’s Bible will begin meeting on Friday, September 21, 2018 (10:00-11:30 am) in the fellowship hall. Studying In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin. Contact Stephanie Jones: 432-770-9890.

 

CHRISTIAN SERVICE BRIGADE

This ministry for young men - Stockade (ages 8-11) and Battalion (ages 12-18) - resumes on Wednesday, September 12th (7:00-8:30 pm) in the fellowship hall. Even you know of any young men who might be interested (especially those who are not members of PPC), please invite them to attend or contact Pastor Dietsch to learn more.

 

OFFICER TRAINING CLASS

Begins on Sunday, September 16th (5:00-7:00 pm) in the classroom next to the kitchen. Over the course of sixteen sessions, participants will study an overview of the Bible, the Westminster Standards, our denomination’s Book of Church Order, and other topics in preparation to be an elder or deacon in the church. If you were not nominated for the office of elder or deacon, you are welcome to attend and participate in the class. Contact Pastor Dietsch for more information.

 

Conclusion

If you have any questions about any of these discipleship opportunities, please let me know. Shoot me an email or give me a call!

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch