The Prison ministry is going great! You can catch the latest here.
"Now there was darkness over all the land.”
There is a life giving force to the light. After coming through the deeps of winter, we embrace the illumination that accompanies spring. I know for my family Daylight Savings is on the par of a national holiday.
I don’t think any of us would deny that there is a renewing affect of light. Perhaps this was why light was the first gift of creation. The first recorded words of God were “Let there be light.” This light is appreciated so much that it comes to signify that which is good and joyous. The climax of this comes in the Savior’s designation of himself. He said, “I am the Light of the World.”
But in Matthew. 27:45 we see that light was taken from our Lord as he hung on the cross. Jesus was stripped of that first and great blessing of creation. We might say that the Light of the World was not allowed to enjoy the light of the world.
We might not think much of these words, but we should not overstep them. These words show us something of Jesus’ sufferings. Though we cannot see anything through the darkness, when we hear these words we must understand that we are peering into the pit of hell.
This should have been the brightest hours of the day. The 6th to the 9th hours was a Roman way of talking about Noon. to 3 p.m. But it seems like midnight. Is this a freak occurrence? Is it an super eclipse of the sun?
No. Science cannot explain how the sun, moon and stars were all deleted for a space of 3 hours. It can only be explained one way: The rays of the sun forsook him. God had turned his back on Christ. Therefore he is excommunicated from the presence of light. All of God’s favor is removed.
All of us know something of punishment. We certainly know that there are different forms of punishment. The form with which we are most familiar is the use of brute force. Parents spank their children. Criminals receive whippings or floggings. As we have seen in other places tonight, Jesus certainly received his fair share of brute force as he was beaten, whipped and crucified.
But the use of blows and scourges are not the only way to punish. Some of the worst punishments are ones that do not involve contact. By that I mean the elimination (or removal) of blessings. Sometimes children can endure a spanking pretty easily. But if you tell him he cannot go to a much anticipated party he might break. If you forbid him from going out to a game you can bypass his skin and bones and touch a part of his soul.
Solitary confinement has been used as one of the most painful sorts of punishment. Isolation from people and even light itself can torment a person in the mind, and afflict them far beyond what one might attain by scourging.
As he underwent the wrath of God, Jesus suffered more than simple afflictions upon his body. He was stripped of all good things. Even this most basic good: the one that all men enjoy to some degree. Remember, God makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). But at this point, the Sin Bearer could not be permitted to have even the most basic joy. A blanket must be cast over the sun.
He must experience the cruelty of the great Day of the Lord. This is what the Prophets foretold. Isaiah said, “Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both in wrath and fierce anger, for the stars of heaven and the constellations shall not give their light: The sun shall be darkened in its going forth and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
Again Isaiah said regarding the day of the Lord, “I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.” Jesus himself had even spoken of this terror. He said that the evil doers would be cast into the outer darkness. Now, as the darkness descends upon him, we understand (in a chilling way) that he is descending into hell.
Don’t forget too the effects of the darkness on one’s mental capacity. Why is it that we love Daylight Savings? It is because it brightens our spirits as well as our neighborhood. Some of you know that doctors prescribe more anti-depressants during the months that the sun seems to slumber. Up in Alaska darkness covers the land for days on end. During these times the government holds events (carnivals, races, etc) to try to lift people’s spirits. Our brother Lyle tells me that lots of people end up committing suicide or drinking to cope with the despair that accompanies the long darkness.
Think about that. Think about the mental agonies that accompanied his physical pain. Klass Schildner has made the comment, “No man saw what terrors distorted [Christ’s] face or how the affliction of hell entered his body… He allowed no one to look into hell.”
The furry of hell takes on new dimensions, doesn’t it? You might not see flames, but you certainly feel them. That’s because God’s wrath burns deeper than skin in the darkness.
Could there be a darker message? Certainly not. But as we try to look at what we cannot see, we do see the glimmer of good news. What? Good news? Where do we see that? If we see anything it is the horror of hell, isn’t it?
That is not the only thing we see. We do see one more thing. Through the darkness (or perhaps, in the darkness) we see that Christ is fulfilling his office of Mediator. He is saving his people from their sins.
At our other meeting place—at Armstrong—I find a good illustration of this. Each night when I go there to prepare for evening service, it is pitch black in that room. I open the door, but the light switches are on the other side of the room. Someone has to walk across the darkness to allow others to experience the light of the room.
Is that not what Christ did? In those three hours He made the trek through eternal darkness. By doing so he saves us from the darkness and despair of God’s wrath. Christ allows the light of heaven to radiate around those of us who are his people. We have opportunity to enjoy the inexpressible light of God’s presence because he took upon himself the dark curse of hell on our behalf.
Though we cannot see anything, we see something miraculous. Even though the cross is hidden by a wall of black velvet, we see something beautiful: We see the Son of God bringing light and life to his people.
Yep, you heard right: Calvinistic pick up lines. That's just one of the things you'll find in our church's latest newsletter.
Of course, it is chuck full of many other tasty morsels which are of a more edifying nature. This issue is dedicated to covenant theology. Covenant theology is the interpretive key to Scripture and helps us understand how God relates to us. This issue will define a covenant for you and begin to unravel the covenants of Scripture.
Yesterday I submitted a proposal to the area TEA party leaders. I asked about the possibility of working together to present a seminar entitled, "Faith of our Fathers." The topic would center around the American War for Independence and the religious influences that prompted it. The proposal was as follows:
The talk would be limited to an hour and would cover two basic points. First I would deal with some of the religious history that led up to the war, including the Reformation in Europe, the immigration of Protestants to America, and the influence of the Geneva Bible, the Great Awakening, and the famed New England Primmer.
The second half of the speech would address some of the particular religious beliefs which led the colonists to stand up against the tyranny of England.
I told them that I was not looking to receive any pay for it, but that I would gladly speak for free. I merely would like to opportunity to encourage people to think about the heritage and doctrines that shaped our nation.
I would ask for your prayers in this regard as it would be a great opportunity to reach a wider body of people.
[The following article was submitted to the Ashland Times Gazette editorials]
With the recent decision to reconfigure the city schools, the thought of home schooling your child(ren) may have crossed your mind. If it has, you may like to know that you are not the only one.
Moreover, you may like to know that the Ashland area has a thriving home school community that can assist both you and your child in this joyous endeavor.
For over 25 years hundreds of us have been bringing our children home to strengthen the family bond and provide the mental, emotional, and spiritual nurture our children need.
One of the benefits of this heritage is that a solid home school network has emerged. Our group, having a great deal of experience upon which to draw, is able to assist you in the transition to, and success in, home education.
The Ashland-Richland home school website (www.archenetwork.weebly.com) will reveal some of the vital resources that are available. To begin with, the site offers guidance on how to get started in home education. For instance, there are resources to help you navigate curriculum choices and state regulations.
The site will also show you some of the many educational opportunities available for home schoolers in our area. A few examples include our home school gym class, Spanish class, and public speaking and creative writing courses. Of course, we also enjoy many fun filled field trips, picnics, and play events throughout the year.
While you may still be hesitant, I can assure you that the rewards of home education far surpass the drawbacks. Some of the rewards include the ability to tailor your children’s education to fit their interests and particular learning style and set your own hours. The fact that kids can typically finish a whole day’s schooling in just 2-3 hours also appeals to them!
Above all, homeschooling fosters the relationship you have with your children. As you work and learn together the bond between you cannot help but be strengthened. The home will become the central focus of life and the family will have opportunity to interact on a deep and meaningful way on a daily basis.
In sum, home education is a terrific option for parents who find the recent reconfiguration problematic for their families. With all the support that is available, and given the benefits to be reaped, you may rest assured that it is most definitely a viable option.
If you would like to talk more about this option, please feel to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-289-2552.
This is a jolly good article on John Witherspoon, one of the founding fathers of our country and noted Presbyterian minister. Of note is this quote:
“A satire that does not bite,” Witherspoon observed, “is good for nothing.” In Witherspoon’s view, the Moderates cut the heart out of religion. For them, he said, religion will be perfected only “when we shall have driven away the whole common people … and captivated the hearts of the gentry to a love of our solitary temples.”
I'm doing some research on the American Revolution and some of the religious background to it. I found a rousing quote from Loraine Boettner on this page. I liked the part where he recounts the letter that the Loyalist's wrote home:
‘I fix all the blame for these extraordinary proceedings [i.e. the war] upon the Presbyterians. They have been the chief and principal instruments in all these flaming measures. They always do and ever will act against government from that restless and turbulent anti-monarchial spirit which has always distinguished them everywhere.’
Question: How is the word made effectual to salvation?
Answer: The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
—The Westminster Shorter Catechism
When I first started blogging, I devoted a good deal of the space to the amazing ways that the Word worked to convert people. My favorite story is still that of Jonah's reluctant preaching in the city of Nineveh. It is likely that he didn't even carry out his whole preaching campaign, but quit early. Nevertheless, the Spirit caused the the word to spread throughout the whole city.
I have always loved the power of God working through His word. That's why I love this question and answer in the shorter catechism. I love how it captures the New Testament's emphasis on preaching too. Paul didn't just encourage Timothy to read the Scriptures, he charged him to "preach the Word." The Ethiopian in Acts 8 diligently read the Scriptures, but he didn't come to a full grasp of the truth of them until Philip began to expound the text.
In reading the New Testament you can't help but see that God places a special blessing upon the preaching of His Word. Unfortunately, in our day, acclaim is given more to an individual's personal and private reading of Scripture as the main means of increasing personal piety. This isn't the way it should be. While we should love personal and private reading of Scripture, we should put a higher priority on the public proclamation of the word by a gospel minister.
As we turn to consider Adam, it is important to begin thinking about the concept of “covenant” in the Bible. The word covenant is used over 300 times in the Bible, so it is rather important. Most of all, it represents the way in which God interacts with man.
A covenant is a relationship built on promises, where blessings result for obedience and curses result from disobedience. (for instance, a marriage covenant). The word covenant comes from the Hebrew word berith, which means “to cut.” The idea in ancient times was that people “cut a covenant.” Animals would be cut in two and their body parts laid opposite each other so that the blood would flow together. Then the two parties would walk through the blood and meet each other in the middle and make their covenant. In the act the parties covenanting were saying, “If I break my end of the covenant, let me become like these animals.”
Usually a king or superior establishes a covenant with a vassal (or lesser) person. We see God establishing these covenants throughout the Bible [Noah (Gen 9), Abraham (Gen 15), David (1 Sam. 7), new covenant (Jer. 31)]. Though it is not mentioned directly in Genesis 1-2, the idea is certainly present (cf Hosea 6:7).
When God created Adam, He entered into a covenant with him. This is sometimes called “The covenant of works” or “the covenant of life.” Essentially, God promised to give Adam life so long as he obeyed (works). Note how this corresponds to the idea of the kingdom of God. The King covenants with his subject, Adam, thus promising him life and happiness in His kingdom.
But, when Adam ate the fruit of the tree, Adam broke his covenant. As a result, God cursed him with the penalty of death.
We'll return later to discuss the whole notion of the covenant of grace.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.