Here are two things that make you curl up your eyebrows and wonder....
1. Ashland City Schools Board of Education- The board is contemplating stealing more money from us so that it can build a new sports complex. The Times Gazette reported that the school has received over a million dollars in private donations for the project. Of course, these donations mean then mean that everyone in the city supports the project and that we should levy a tax to fund it...uh, wait.
Why not go ahead and continue to do what is working and let private donations take care of it? Crazy, I know.
2. After the mass school shooting this past week, the Facebook lit up with its normal riot. One thing I found funny is that various people were talking about how they were scared to send their child the school the next morning.
So let me get this straight...you have a deep concern that your child may be in grave danger because you are sending him/her into a place that poses an extreme risk to their very livelihood?
The answer seems pretty easy to me: ditch the school.
I continue to be facinated by the tattoo culture. And the more I hear about people and their tattoos, the more I find it to be a religious act.
Today a friend posted on their fb page a pic of their new tattoo. They captioned it by saying, "This is fear, pain, self-doubt, and frustration. This is challenge, openness, vulnerability, and growth. This is support, encouragement, connection, and respect. This is passion, determination, desire, and perseverance. This is grit, confidence, strength, and courage." It was the language of religion.
In my mind there is a parallel from the world of tattoos and the rite of baptism. Baptism is a reminder, a mark for encouragement, a testimony to a struggle, perseverance, and strength. It witnesses to vulnerability and growth.
When God puts his mark on it signifies much of what is expressed in the modern tattoo. However, it is an invisible sign. One that still very much testifies to the invisible God and the life/relationship we have in Him.
Basic Faith: An Introduction to the Core Christian Beliefs
This ebook is a brief introduction to some of the most basic doctrines of Christianity. In less than 30 pages you'll learn some of the most essential truths you must believe to be a Christian. Chapters focus on the Bible, the Trinity, Sin & Salvation, Christian Living, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper.
Thanks to a wedding I attended this past weekend I had a glimpse into what a Reformed church in Ashland could look like. Almost 500 people attended the wedding. Most of the families who were present were theologically reformed.*
I could not help but be amazed. What a joy it was to sit and sing praise to God with so many who had a similar doctrinal mindset. It was held in the University chapel, and the thought that we almost filled that rather large venue was awesome.
It struck me that if they were all to band together in humble love, such a church would have a incredible impact on the rest of the community. Specifically I think of the ability to fund outreach events, diaconal ministries, and missions. It could staff multiple full time ministers for the purpose of discipleship, schooling, and evangelism. It could host seminars and conferences. It would certainly have more sway over other churches in the area. I would not doubt that it would also greatly influence public policy and shape the whole political contour of the city.
The encouragement that I received by means of this wedding is tremendous. It gives me good hopes for the work ahead at Hopewell Church and what it can be.
*This of course is only counting the Reformed people who are associated with the wedding party. It obviously does not include those who are outside the bride or groom's circle of friends. To be sure, I know of still others who profess to be Reformed in the area and would have filled a few more pews.
King Alfred the Great - Recently read this short work on King Alfred the Great, which details the life of a godly leader. His administration is essentially the foundation for common law, which is built on the Mosaic code. The work expresses how society at large profited--stealing and general evil was diminished throughout the land. His character is highlighted, especially his diligence to study and develop personal piety.
The Christian Ministry, by Charles Bridges - I have begun to read this book. I have desired some personal encouragement in regards to the work of the ministry. This quote stands out not only as profound:
“The Ministration of the Church, as Calvin observes, is ‘not an easy and indulgent exercise, but a hard and severe warfare, where Satan is exerting all his power against us, and moving every stone for our disturbance.’”
Josh Harris Ted Talk, Strong Enough to be Wrong - That was the first time she had ever heard a religious leader admit he was wrong.
At Christmas time we remember the good news of the Savior's birth. He entered the world to bring salvation to men.
But our appreciation of Christ will be more fully attuned when we remember that His incarnation was anything but glorious.
The Son of God's entrance into the world was part of his humiliation and thus very "inglorious." We can only appreciate the work of the Savior when we see his incarnation in this light.
Consider the depths to which he did descend to bring you salvation:
1. He left his Father - Prior to the incarnation the Son dwelt in the bosom of the Father, wherein he enjoyed perfect love, joy, and blessing. His leaving this sweet realm marks his first step into hell (for hell is separation from God). What pain it is for us to leave home and part with human parents! How infinitely greater was the pain of Christ in relinquishing the enchanting place of the Father's presence!
2. He was born - He who was very God of very God took upon himself the very flesh He did create. He created man in His own image, but then took the image of man himself. And while this cannot expressly be said to be part of his 'humiliation" (for he retains his human nature now in his exaltation), it is a superb act of condescension on his part.
3. He was born into severe conditions - Christ was not only born into abject poverty, but his birth suffered from the further indignities of obscurity and insult. Bethlehem was little known town, the stable was an undignified place, the manger was, to say the least, crude. Added is the insult of relatives in Bethlehem who did not show compassion on the poor travelers and expecting mother.
4. He was utterly dependent - The sovereign Creator, upon whom all creation depends, was himself made dependent upon Mary & Joseph. He who was used to the service of angels was at the mercy of new parents.
5. He suffered the extremities of infancy - Catholic dogma says that Christ retained the reason of a grown man from infancy. But this is not true. He grew in wisdom & stature. More than that, He suffered from the first hour the new experiences of humanity: hunger, neglect, fatigue, grief, etc.
6. His infancy was filled with accentuated agonies - The conditions surrounding his birth were filled with adversity, adding to his difficulties. He felt the pricks of hay for bedding, endured the pains of an unhospitable manger, and was threatened with death by Herod.
7. He subjected himself to the law - He who was the very Lawgiver, Lord, and Judge put himself under the law. It was not just to live by it as a rule--for he already did this by nature. Rather, he came under the curse of it. He came into this world to fulfill its stipulations for others. In sum, He was born to die.
This documentary on Netflix about lying and deceitful habits is quite intriguing. It expresses well that all men lie (profusely!). It also is interesting to see the rationalizations that lie behind the act of lying and the different avenues that encourage people in their lies.
However, the flick has a glaring mistake: it denies that men are inherently evil. The producers are themselves self deceived because they proclaim that man is basically good. It should be obvious by their own overwhelming data that prolific liars like us are not intrinsically good (or even “basically” good). It is amazing that the video time and again say how bad lying is, yet will not admit the radical depravity that induces it.
It is interesting too that it highlights the use of God’s law as a civil restraint upon society. One part of their study has people recite the 10 commandments before taking the lie test. This recitation curbed immoral choices COMPLETELY, even among atheists and people of other religious adherence.
Unfortunately, as behaviorists (who think man is merely an animal who can be manipulated by mere environmental change) they believe they have the power to change men and manufacture a utopian society where cheating is virtually vanquished. This is perhaps their greater deception. It is the chief lie, for it indicates that they believe themselves to be God.
Man is not a mere animal. We are spiritual creatures who need moral/spiritual restoration. Only the Lord can fix the heart.
General Duties of Deacons
The care of the poor –
Deacons are primarily charged with the ministry of mercy, which occurs both within and without the boundaries of the local church to which they belong. The relief of congregation members is primary. Yet, when there is none (or are few) who need assistance within the church, the deacons should be employed in bringing relief to the community at large, that those outside the church may feel the power of Christian love and saving effects of the gospel. Moreover, deacons are to aid in the assistance of other churches, even those in different regions of the world as is evidenced by Paul’s collection for Jerusalem (2 Cor.8-9).
The broader support of the afflicted, sick, and weak
The deacons assist by moral support, encouragements, visits, and the like to those who are in need of such. While the elders, as shepherds of God’s flock, ought to minister the word and pray with/for such, the deacons may demonstrate their ministration of mercy by coordinating more frequent expressions of friendship, courtesy and temporal care.
These courtesies may also include transportation, facilitating fellowship for shut ins, provisions made for education of young people who may be in need of it, etc.
The care of the church’s property and finances
Building, grounds, equipment, janitorial needs, collections/accountings, community benevolence.
The recruiting of members’ involvement in works of mercy and service
The deacons seek to enlist others from the local fellowship to assist them and dutifully employ them in the above mentioned duties
Usual Diaconal Committees
As the deacons must execute their duties in a timely manner, it may require separate teams be created. The creation of committees is thus wise. The following composes an ordinary distribution of duties:
This week the Supreme Court began hearings on the case of Christian baker Jack Philips. Since it is back in the public eye we are are once again being inundated with arguments to support same sex marriage.
Let's examine their rationale and see how none of the reasons should be influential for us as Christians.
1. It's LOVE! The world today has a radical misconception of what love is and what kinds of things you can love. Love is not to be defined as a feeling, romantic desire, erotic impulse, or even zealous, long lasting commitment to another.
Love is only to be defined by God and His law. The Lord alone, who himself is the embodiment of Love, tells us what we are to love and how that love is to manifests itself. In the case of homosexual marriage, it is a misplaced 'affection' and a perversion of how love is to be expressed.
2. They are consenting adults! Mutual agreement can be a good thing, but we need to recognize that consent of involved parties does not make an action right or wrong.
We must keep in mind that God's approval is what matters most. If God is against it, it doesn't matter how many people may concur with a decision. Even if the Supreme Court ends up offering up its unanimous consent, it is still wrong.
3. It's a committed / monogamous relationship - In a day where most change lovers as often as they change their clothes, it is almost refreshing to hear people talk about monogamy. But we shouldn't be fooled - homosexuals rarely are monogamous. We know that one perversion usually is followed by another, and studies have shown this to be true in the case of homosexuality.
But even in the rare instance where monogamy may be practiced, it still doesn't constitute a lawful marriage. God not only requires singular devotion, He also requires two people of the opposite sex: a male & female.
4. It doesn't hurt anyone - This tag is bandied about regularly and loosely. And, as you may have guessed by now, harm (or lack of it) does not constitute lawfulness in and of itself. God's Word is to be the final authority in all matters of life and faith.
But Christians shouldn't be fooled by this innocent sounding declaration. We know that the wages of sin is death. Sin always has consequences. And those who embrace sinful lifestyles not only harm themselves, but they also inflict harm on those around them.
The effects of homosexuality are rabid, starting with the decreased life span and increased sickliness of those who practice such things. It also has ramifications for children of such couples and has destructive social implications too (including financial burdens, political fallout, etc).
5. You can't legislate morality - Well, what else is there to legislate then? Such a declaration is a complete misnomer because morality is exactly what is under the government's particular scrutiny. The civil magistrate was instituted by God for the expressed purpose of maintaining a just and orderly society. It is God's expressed agent in punishing the evildoer and exacting His vengeance in cases of criminal offense. (Rom. 13)
Moreover, if morality can't be legislated, why was Jack Philips (and others like him) were taken to court in the first place?
If the present SCOTUS case tells us anything, it isn't that we cannot legislate morality. The real issue is, "Which morality do we legislate?"
This case is a simple reminder that all nations are inherently religious and their laws reflect the god of the land. Since this is so, let us pray that God might be honored and our land might be granted true revival.
This article appeared in the Hopewell Weekly, the weekly e-newsletter of Hopewell Church. Subscribe below to stay up to date on teachings, church events, and prayer requests.
Tis the season! Christmas is upon us and the New Year is dawning. It is a great time for a last ditch effort to contact all those who have visited the church over the course of the year.
Sending out Christmas cards is a perfect way to remind those visitors of your existence and provide a gospel resource for their spiritual nurture.
I began by ordering some cheap Christmas cards off of amazon. Almost 40 cards can be purchased for under $10. For this occasion I chose cards with a nice picture on the front and blank inside. I then designed a simple, gospel based greeting on my computer and ran them through my printer. I added a seasonal Bible verse and simple message. In years past I put the church’s logo on it. This year I chose to say, “Merry Christmas from the Hopewell Church family.”
After they were printed I then added a personal, hand written message. It was just two quick lines that spoke of the gospel and expressed that they were in my prayers.
As an added feature this year I included a special gift with the card. Earlier in the year I had created an ebook on the end times. I had converted the eschatology chapter of Louis Berkhof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine to a sleek ebook that helped to link readers back to our church’s social media outlets. Since it deals with Christ’s second coming it fit perfect with the Advent season.
Again, this was put together on my computer. I created a little document that resembled a small gift certificate. I then placed a QR code on it which served as the link to the ebook (which was hosted on our website). When the QR code is scanned, the ebook automatically downloads to the reader’s device.
This little slip of paper was then folded and inserted into each of the Christmas cards.
All in all, each person who visited received a gospel centered Christmas card along with a personalized message and solid discipleship resource. They were reminded of our interest in them and given another encouragement to attend again. Best of all the total cost with postage was less than $25.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.