We are gearing up for our next installment of classes! We have a fantastic group of kids on board, and it looks like it is going to be a lot of fun. There's still time to get in if you'd like. Below are the details if you missed them.
The plan is to hold the classes on Friday afternoons at the Ashland Brethren in Christ church on Mifflin Ave. We will start on January 18th, and plan to run up to (or just a little after) Easter (approx. 10-12 weeks/classes).
After dinner it is quite difficult to contain my daughters. Prior to the meal they are usually a bit sluggish. But in no time at all, once they have eaten they are like wild Indians. That is because the meal has replenished their strength. The nutrients that they get from that food has a renewing power that is almost immediate.
As we come to this table today, I wish to remind you that the same ought to occur here. I do not doubt that many of you come here this morning weary and sullen. You have labored long in the week. You have met with many temptations. I don’t doubt that you have exhausted many of your spiritual energies. You have grown weary of pursuing perfection and striving for holiness.
I want you to know that this table is for you. Here you find all the nutrients your soul craves. This meal is provided that your strength might be renewed; that you might be energized to live for Christ and engage in the battle against sin.
The Lord provides tokens of his grace. He bids you, sinner, to come. Eat of his flesh and drink deeply of his blood. Fill yourself with the goodness of his being and satiate your appetite with the truth of his saving work. For when you do you will find that God will impart new zeal and vigor for his service.
Of course, if you are not spiritually hungry, we ask that you not partake. For this meal is not meant for you. If you do not eat this meal in faith, it can be like taking medicine that is not prescribed to you. It can cause more harm than good.
But if you need the refreshment of the gospel, we encourage you to enjoy the bounty of this great feast.
O God of mercy,
We do not presume to come to this Table trusting in our own righteousness. It is only by the bounty of our kindness that we may approach it. Indeed, O God, we are not worthy enough to gather the crumbs from beneath the table, let alone fill our pallet with its goodness.
But you are filled with grace and ever abounding with steadfast love. So we look to you to grant us to eat of the flesh of your dear son and to drink of his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his sacrifice and our souls washed by his most precious blood. And in doing so we pray that we may ever dwell in him and he in us. Amen.
Today we confess that we have fallen short of the glory of God, and that not just a little. We have run with wicked frenzy off the spiritual cliff and have plummeted into the depths of that foul abyss of sin.
We acknowledge that there is nothing good in us, we have all together become worthless. Indeed, our hearts are as empty wells. For our devotion is small at best.
We beg your pardon for how careless we are. We give you such little esteem, and rarely acknowledge the bounty of your goodness. O God, few have been the times that we have called out to you and remembered you in prayer. Even more seldom are the times where we turn our thoughts to you, to adore you or delight ourselves in you as we ought.
God, forgive us for our irreverent behavior, and do not treat us with similar coldness.
We pray that you would not likewise cast us far from your thoughts. Instead we ask that you would renew your saving promise to us, and assure us of your abiding presence. Let not our sins turn you away and do not abandon us to the grave.
For this we ask in the Strong Name of our Only Savior. Amen
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
“I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will remember your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25
Though God of God and Light of Light,
He shunned the grandeurs of his might.
He donned the form of mortal man
To carry out redemption’s plan.
He who did rule in riches lush
Let it all go that he may crush
With one great blow that serpent’s head,
And all the evils that we dread.
The King Divine, He took on skin!
Yea, he came down to cancel sin.
Was born to die; to be accursed!
That Adam’s pains may be reversed!
Jesus was born that death may be
Vanquished for all eternity!
So give him praise and ne’er forget
How he did stoop to pay your debt.
I've been asked by a local group called Leadership Ashland to be part of a panel discussion on home education. I thought I would post my reflections on the first question they are going to ask.
Q. Why choose home education, as opposed to public schooling?
Each family will most likely have their own reasons. For my family there are many, but I'll give you the top two.
The primary reason was because, as a Christian, my chief duty is to train my kids in the fear of God and pass on to them a distinctly Christian worldview.
The government schools have as their basis a distinctly un-Christian worldview. When I say that, you have to recognize that it is much more than teachers not being allowed to say a quick prayer with the kids before school starts. It is much more systemic than that. I'm saying that we have completely different philosophical basis. Government schools approach education from a Darwinian and atheistic viewpoint So when it come to basic questions of the nature of reality, ethics, and the nature of man, we are headed in completely different directions.
I came through the public education system, and I can honestly say that when I graduated I was a better atheist than Christian. I don't want that to happen to my children.
I could flesh that out more if you would like, but I think that it is enough to say that the main reason why we educate our children at home is that I want my kids to be nurtured in the fear of God.
The second reason why we home school is simply because we really love our children. It is hard for us to imagine being away from our kids for 7, 8, 9 hours a day. We love being around them. We learn together, we play together in the afternoons, we do almost everything with each other.
I remember that we were talking with a college age girl once. She said in an almost bewildered way, "You are with each other all day and all evening? You must really love each other!?"
She was right. We do!
We come to you acknowledging the poverty of our spirits. We recognize and confess that we have not loved you or obeyed you as we ought. We have been slow of heart and lukewarm in our devotion.
Indeed, O God, our failures are manifold. Yet, we come to you acknowledging the root and cause of it all. It has been our failure to believe in you and love you with all of our heart.
Since you have not been the delight of our life and treasured above all things, we have lingered long in sin, and we have retreated from the fight against temptation.
Father, your word speaks clearly as to our duty. We are to mortify our sin; we are to gouge it out; we are to wage war against the flesh; we are to flee that which is evil and pursue that which is good; are to hate it and sorrow over it.
Yet we have not.
We have been quick to regard the sin of others, and make much of how detestable it is. Yet our own shortcomings have been slighted and treated with little concern. We have neglected them, excused them, justified and overlooked them.
Yes, it is true, we have played the Pharisee, and we have played it well.
But we come to you now, o God, admitting that we have not been filled with that holy zeal; nor have we been jealous for your honor.
Father, we pray that you would forgive us for not having that burning love. And we pray that you would render to us the saving mercies and precious blood of Calvary’s cross.
We know that the only remedy for our condition is the balm of Christ, whose heart ever burned strong for you and whose sacrifice has been made on our behalf.
And it is in his name and for his sake we pray.
Assurance of Pardon:
“This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of all acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.”
Mifflin is basically Nowheresville, Ohio. So why be determined to see a church built there? Because of its strategic location!
I often think that Mifflin is a good example of Israel of old. Israel was no where in particular, but it it was the main highway to everywhere. To get to any of the major empires and places of culture, one had to pass through Israel.
God had placed Israel in the one place where it could have the greatest affect on the world.
I often see Mifflin and such a town. By itself, it is nothing. Yet, being located by St. Rt. 30, it has the potential to reach a number of the greater cities in the area. Mansfield, Ashland, and Wooster all are within its reach.
Providence has been looking for a new place to meet for the last several months. Our desire is to stay in that vicinity for this very reason. Our members come from all of these locals, and we hope that we may continue to birth growth in them all because of it.
Some argue that Christ still has a future plan for national Israel. One of the reasons they say this is because of the description of a new temple in Ezekiel 40. Their argument goes like this: God gave us very specific architectural instructions in this passage. Why would he be so specific if it were not to be built?
Part of their reasoning may be that the first temple and the tabernacle in the wilderness had very specific directions. All of it had to be made precisely as was laid out in Scripture.
I'm glad to see that these brethren are eager to hold tenaciously to the inspired text. In a day where many are flippant regarding the holy Word of God, their zeal is refreshing.
While I appreciate my dispensationalists strong adherence to the divinity of text, I wish to offer clarity as to how the Spirit's word is to be understood. First, I will agree: Ezekiel's vision is specific; very specific! However, the details of the passage give us understanding of a greater reality. The specifics help us to see that God had something greater in mind than just stones and mortar.
Tracing out the details one comes to find that this temple is somewhat different than the original. It is perfectly square. It, essentially, is an ideal temple (whereas the first was "oblong" in its shape). Its dimensions set before us a picture of a time where there is no defect or skew among God's house.
This is one reason why it may be pointing to a future reality of the eternal kingdom, and not a time of reinstated Jewish rule.
"But the details!" they cry. "You can't have architectural detail like this with no plans to actually build it." To this I respond by pointing us back to the original tabernacle in the book of Exodus. Yes, Moses was given incredibly specific directions for the building of the tabernacle. And the text tells us that he followed each minutia precisely.
Yet when we come to the book of Hebrews, we read that the these details served a greater purpose. The structure on earth was never intended to be limited to itself. Hebrews tells us that it was a type that pointed to the heavenly reality. It was supposed to replicate the dwelling of God in heaven. They were "copies of the heavenly things" (Heb. 9:23; shadows of the good things to come" (Heb. 10:1).
Most importantly, Heb. 8:5 says that God told Moses to make everything according to the pattern shown on the mountain. Yet the same verse proclaims that these served as "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things." In sum, they were pictures that gave us an understanding of the real work of Jesus Christ as atoning sacrifice.
The details then served a greater purpose. It pointed to the reality of God with man; Christ and his church. With that knowledge we can then look to the vision of Ezekiel and see that the details may indicate something more than just architectural instruction. Ezekiel, who has had radical, symbolic visions and prophetic actions that indicated heavenly realities, may likely be talking about ideas that are not merely physical in appearance.
It's guaranteed to be better than your neighbor's fruitcake. That's right, it's our churches latest newsletter!
This Christmas issue is dedicated to Jesus as it probes the significance of His name.
Unlike most parents, Joseph and Mary didn't have to agonize over what he should be called. The Lord sent them direct instructions via an angel. That's because his name would be a billboard for his life's purpose.
I've said this a number of times. I think it is an acurate description of the pastor's work.
As a minister of the Gospel you often have to be blunt. You have to address things people don't necessarily want to hear, let alone talk about.
But it is our job to make people face their sin and the reality of God's call to obedience. We are not allowed to simply "Let well enough alone."
Our job is to make it clear where Christ stands. And that means crossing thresholds that polite company ought not to do.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.