Providence Church: Proclaiming the Biblical and Reformed standard for faith, family and society. 

So You're Reformed, Are You?

I find it interesting that it is all of a sudden “cool” to be Reformed.  What has now come to be a household word in many respects, was virtually unknown 15-20 years ago.  Of that rare remnant who did know of it, most considered it a blasphemous heresy or, at the very least, something that corresponded to a vulgarity.

But, as they say, “times, they are a-changing.”  To a great extent the notion of “being Reformed” has paralleled the rise of the internet.  Approximately 10-15 years ago, Reformed theology was, like the internet, was a neat little idea played with by only a few.  Then it experienced a boom, so that now it is virtually everywhere.

Case in point is the Time magazine article that came out a few years ago.  In 2009 Time put out an issue that rated the top movements in America.  Number three was what they termed
the “Neo-Calvinist” movement.  Unfortunately, the notion of a neo-Calvinist is a broad one, and perhaps has little to do with Calvin and/or Calvinism as such (i.e. the doctrines of Grace, otherwise known as the five points of Calvinism).  It might have more to do with whether or not you carry an ESV Study Bible and attend a certain conference circuit.

Nevertheless, suddenly it is cool to be a Calvinist, and seemingly everyone was calling themselves Reformed.

Since being back in Ashland I’ve found that the word Reformed is bandied about rather frequently too.  Perhaps it’s just the circles I run in now, but prior to my going off to college and coming to understand RT, it was virtually non-existent.  While it is by no means dominant, there is a growing band of souls calling themselves reformed in this Anabaptist deluged area (which I find delightful, but extremely ironic). 

From my experience though, the trend in Ashland has followed the national scene.  Few really understand the full import of Reformed theology.  Most see it as a synonym for being a four (YIKES!) or five point Calvinist. 

That is why, for the next several months, this newsletter will be dedicated to filling out some of the overlooked girth of Reformed theology. 

I believe this will be useful for Providence church in particular too.  Providence church as an organization officially adheres to the full orb of Reformed theology.  That the church adheres to the London and Westminster Confessions testifies to this.  Yet our membership is rather diverse in its makeup.  Within our ranks we have those coming from fundamentalist Baptist, Methodist, Brethren, and Disciples of Christ backgrounds--just to name a few.  It’s likely that many in our congregation will benefit from such a study.

What’s even better is that, after this study, you can be really cool when you say “I’m Reformed.” You’ll actually know what it means!

New Video Series Starting Up

Come check it out:  Our Sunday evening study group would like to invite you to join us for our new series.  We will be watching and discussing the DVD from Focus on the Family, That the World May Know:  Faith Lessons from the Prophets and Kings.  Ray VanderLaan is an expert in the land of Palestine, and in each video segment he brings new meaning and significance to a particular Bible passage by helping us understand the terrain and context of the day.

Time:  Sunday's @ 6:30 pm
Place:  1010 Chestnut St. (The Timmons' house)

If you'd like more information, feel free to contact me.

On Preventing Further Suicides

New blog series starting up:  Recently, a number of young people in the Ashland area have committed suicide. Over the next few weeks/months I will be posting articles on how to help prevent repeated episodes.  The articles will deal with the Scriptural teaching regarding the issue, as well as deal with the fundemental worldview issues that lead to/open doors for suicide.

If you would like to follow, interact, or pass along the information to someone who might profit, feel free to visit my site.  The first article, entitled Teach the Law of God, is now up.  Articles to follow will touch on personal dignity and self worth, personal purpose and fulfilment, and self love.

Against Gluttony

Directions on governing your appetite:  Have you resolved to trim a few pounds in the New Year? Then perhaps the following smipits on governing your appetite from puritan minister Richard Baxter may be of some help!

1.  See all your food as provided and given you by God, and beg it and the blessing of it at his hand.  Then it will much restrain you from using it against him.  He is a wretch indeed that will take his food as from his father's hand, and throw it in his face.  He that percieves it is the hand of God that gives it to him will use it more reverently.

2.  Remember what the body is, what it will shortly be, and how loathsome and vile it will be in the dust.  Then think how far such a body should be pampered and pleased.  Pay not too much for a feast for worms.  Look into the grave and see what the end of all your pleasent meats and drinks will be.  

3.  Look upon the ancient Christians and the patterns of their abstinence.  Think whether their lives were like yours.  They were much in fastings and abstinence, and strangers to gluttony and excess.  Will you commend their holiness and yet be so far from any serious imitation of them?

4.  Forget not how the first sin entered the world:  It was by eating the forbidden fruit.  And let the slain creatures whose lives are lost for you (i.e. your meat) remind you of that sin which brought the burden on them for your sakes.  Then every piece of flesh that you see will call this to mind:  Do not sin as your first parents sinned by pleasing your appetites, for this is our death!  And the devouring of the flesh of your fellow creatures is the fruit of that sin.

5.  Think what a pititulf price a little gluttonous pleasure of the throat is, for a man to sell his God and salvation for.  Remember what an odious, swinish, damning sin it is, for a man's heart to be set upon his belly.  "All that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts." Gal 5.24.

Richard Baxter was a puritan minister who excelled in pastoral counseling.  People came from miles around to recieve specific directives on dealing will all kinds of issues.  The above excerpt was adapted from his great tomb, "A Christian Directory," a book wherein he addresses thousands of topics with practical, biblical advice.  

Sanctity of Life Rally!

Don't miss it: 
Sunday January 29
6:00 pm 
@ Trinity Lutheran Church
Located on Center Street
To find out more click here.

The Living Word and Dead White Guys

Examining the roots of Reformed Theology:  To understand Reformed theology, perhaps the best place to begin is at its beginning.  

Reformed theology is the name we give to that set of doctrines that was developed during the 16th and 17th centuries, a period known as the Reformation.  At this point in history God raised up certain men who sought to bring greatly needed reforms to the church.  People such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Zwingli, Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Bucer to name just a few, dedicated themselves to studying and preaching the Bible.  In doing so they sought to bring the church back to her Biblical foundation.

Over the centuries leading up to this time gross errors had crept into the church.  Morality in particular had sunk quite low, especially among the clergy.  Some of their practices were quite scandalous in nature, and a lot of the time their immorality was public knowledge.  It was not uncommon for priests (who were not permitted to be married) to have multiple illegitimate children by several different women.  Simony, the act of giving people certain offices in the church in return for money or favors, was also a common practice at the time.  All in all, tyrrany and greed characterized the ecclesiastical scene, and such corruptions were bringing a great deal of shame upon the church.

However, what the reformers were most concerned with were the doctrinal issues that were askew.  While they certainly didn't overlook the questionable ethics of the day, they recognized that the doctrinal issues were of a more fundemental and foundational nature.  With their consciences bound by the word of God, they spoke out against such things as the selling of indulgences and the doctrine of purgatory.  They contensted the infallibility of the popes and the authority of the church over Scripture.  They declared that justification came by faith alone in Christ alone, rather than through the several sacraments Rome had come to embrace.  As they lived and worked among their congregations they taught the Scriptures and began to lay out the principles of what we now call Reformed theology. 

Yet I digress...sort of.

In all reality, the Reformation didn't develop Reformed theology.  It had been there in the Bible since the beginning of Christianity.  The Reformation was merely an agent God used in formally formulating the principles of Reformed theology.  If the Reformers could speak today, they would tell us that they never thought up anything new.  Their whole aim was simply to express what was already encapsulated in the Scripture.  

In other words, the Reformation was nothing other than a huge back to the Bible movement.  One of the motto's that arose even speaks to this.  The cry of the Reformation is "reformata, semper reformanda", reformed and always reforming.  That is to say, the church is to be reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God.    

No Cowboy Christians Permitted!

Believers need a local church:  You see him riding off into the sunset.  There is an air of triumph in the gait.  He’s the essence of the great individual who needs no one.  He’s the Lone Ranger. 

What is pictured above is a great icon of Americana.  It is a depiction of strength and a will to live.  Yet the notion is one that is by no means Biblical.  In all reality, the Lone Ranger life is the life of weakness and deprivation.

In the very beginning God said that it was “not good for man to be alone.”  The Lord had created man to live in community—with his wife and, by extension, the others that would come through that marriage

This truth is echoed throughout the Scriptures, particularly when it comes to the life of the saints.  The best example is found in Hebrews 10:25 where the Spirit commands us not to forsake the assembling together.

The Hebrew Christians to whom this was written needed strength to press on in the Christian life.  The way this would happen was through deep and meaningful relationships, with God and with other brothers in Christ.  So the Lord commanded them to adhere to main means of cultivating these relationships: corporate worship in the local church.

Unfortunately, many Christians have taken up the Lone Ranger mentality.  They bounce from church to church  (if they go at all, that is!), trying to be strong and victorious.  What they are actually doing is depriving themselves of the nurishment that comes through the corporate body.  

This is why we encourage membership in a local church.  It is as you commit to a single body of believers that you find the community for which you were originally designed and so much need. 
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