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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources

 

Living in Light of Two Ages

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Tuesday
Dec132016

"With the Help of Our God" -- Nehemiah 6:1-19

The Sixteenth in a Series of Sermons on Ezra-Nehemiah

If you cannot thwart your enemy’s efforts by mockery or by threats of invasion, you hope that internal strife will do him in.  If that does not work, then you can kill him–or at least you can threaten to kill him so that your enemy becomes so intimidated by the threat, he simply gives up and those under his leadership become lost sheep without a shepherd.  If threats like this do not work, you can take the less radical but equally desperate step of inventing falsehoods and then threatening to reveal these falsehood publicly.  You might even trick your enemy into doing something foolish which might even cost him his own life, if not his reputation.  The Book of Nehemiah has been full of twists and turns already, but things ratchet up greatly when death threats and blackmail become part of our story.

We are continuing our study of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and as we saw last time, the people of Israel faced a serious dilemma.  The walls of their city are in ruins.  They live under constant threat of invasion–a real and pressing danger.  No one is safe and everyone lives in constant fear of attack.  Under the capable leadership of Nehemiah, the entire population in and around Jerusalem, devoted themselves to the massive effort of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, gates, and fortifications so that the city is once again secure and the people safe from attack.  While everyone in the Jerusalem area benefits from this rebuilding effort, the price was very high.  The work which was required to rebuild the walls, took people away from their daily tasks of providing food and shelter and the necessities of life.  The longer this daily work was neglected, the greater was the crisis facing the people.
 
As we saw last time, Nehemiah chapter 5 recounts a troubling incident during the rebuilding process in which the people of Israel cried out to God because of growing and serious hardships.  The daily work required to provide food, water, clothing, and shelter was not being done because the men were working hard to rebuild the walls.  But they were not paid for this work, nor taking care of crops and fields.  Shortages were growing severe and many of the people began doing desperate things in order to survive.  Some were taking out loans on their small plots of land to secure enough money to buy the necessities of life.  Some were forced to become indentured-servants, or even worse, forced to deliver their children into service as laborers (in the case of girls, as concubines).  Just as they had done in their time in Egypt, when they labored under the cruel hand of the Pharaoh, the people of Israel cried out to YHWH for deliverance.  He heard their cries in Egypt.  He hears them in Jerusalem a thousand years later.

It was not just the shortages, but cruel injustice inflicted upon the poor and needy which lay at the heart of the crisis.   Those making loans to desperate people and forcing them into debt-slavery were their fellow Jews.  Some (like Nehemiah) made loans to struggling people with the intention of helping them endure the present crisis.  But such help wasn’t really help.  Once someone took out a debt they could not possibly repay, they would lose everything.  Jewish law required that all debts be repaid, forcing those borrowers who defaulted to become debt-slaves who then lost everything.  

This was a time of national emergency and it was out of desperation that people mortgaged their property, an especially difficult circumstance since the reason people could not repay their loans was because they were off working on the walls, labor for which they were not reimbursed.  But some of the wealthy among them loaned money, knowing in advance that the borrower could not repay the loans, and did so as a way to acquire the person’s property when they inevitably defaulted.  Some even stooped so low as to indenture those who defaulted, and were in turn selling these indentured servants to fellow Jews or even Gentiles.

To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here

Monday
Dec122016

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (December 12-18)

Sunday Morning, December 18 (the Fourth Sunday in Advent).   As we get close to Christmas, we will turn our attention to Matthew's gospel (1:1-17) and the account of the genealogy of Jesus.  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  We will take up the Heidelberg Catechism's discussion of the resurrection of the body (Lord's Day 22, Q & A 57-58).  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study:  Returns in February.

Celebrate Christmas at Christ Reformed Church:  Service of Lessons and Carols on Friday, December 23, @ 7:00 p.m.  Worship @ 10:30 a.m. on Christmas Sunday (December 25).

Academy:  Resumes in February 2017 with a viewing and discussion of Allen Guelzo's Teaching Company Course, The American Mind.

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Info), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).

Sunday
Dec112016

"In Him" -- Colossians 2:6-15

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon:  Click Here

Sunday
Dec112016

This Week's White Horse Inn (Updated Website)

A Theology of Christmas Movies

What’s the true spirit of Christmas? That’s the question at the heart of countless Christmas movies that clutter the airwaves and cable listings at this time of year. But the answer one typically receives from films of this genre is not merely a departure from the biblical narrative, but rather is a kind of anti-gospel that turns our attention completely away from the redemption provided by the incarnate Son of God. The hosts will discuss this topic by walking through memorable lines from movies such as A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and many others.

Click Here

Tuesday
Dec062016

"In the Fear of Our God" -- Nehemiah 5:1-13

The Fifteenth in a Series of Sermons on Ezra-Nehemiah

Fear and threat of disaster seem to bring out the best or the worst in people.  In Nehemiah 4 we read the remarkable account of the people of Israel coming together as one in their collective effort to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem.  With a Herculean effort–brought about, in part, by the decisive and capable leadership of Nehemiah–the Jews managed to complete the walls, gates, and fortifications surrounding the entire city.  The walls were but half of their eventual height and strength, but the work was done quickly in the face of threat of attack by the chief antagonist of the Book of Nehemiah, a man named Sanballat.  Sanballat was a Samaritan and the former governor of Judea.  If Sanballat’s threats did not succeed in keeping the Jews from rebuilding their walls, the human toll exacted by the nearly two months of difficult labor in rebuilding the walls leads to the scenario described in chapter 5; the revelation of terrible injustice wrought on the people of Israel by their own brothers, as well as serious shortages of the necessities of life.  Out of this very real distress arises a crisis in which the people of God cry out to YHWH and their leaders for relief, a cry which reveals deep troubles within the community of Israel.  If chapter 4 is about Israel’s defiant response to an external threat, then chapter 5 is about an even greater threat–the rise of internal dissent within the ranks of Israel.

We are returning to our series on Ezra-Nehemiah after a break of several weeks.  Recall from our time in chapter 4, Sanballat heard about the rapid progress the Jews were making in rebuilding their walls and defenses, and tried to stop the Jews through ridicule (which did not work), and then through the threat of attack upon Jerusalem by his own small forces.  Sanballat could not attack Jerusalem without the permission of the Persian king Artaxerses, who instead commissioned his own cup-bearer, Nehemiah, to do the job of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls and gates–not only vital to the city’s defense, but also a major part of the city’s infrastructure.  Sanballat used a clever ruse, threatening to invade Jerusalem, hoping that panic would come over the people so that the work of rebuilding would stop, and the Jews would flee the city, leaving Jerusalem in ruins.  

It was through Nehemiah’s strong and decisive action that the Jews did not panic and instead prepared for war.  Nehemiah had the men work with their construction tools in one hand, and their weapons in the other.  He stationed reserve troops to respond quickly to any point of attack. He positioned weapons strategically around the city so that at the first word of attack, the wall-builders could immediately become soldiers.  While preparing the people for battle, at the same time, Nehemiah reminded the former exiles that success in battle was assured because YHWH always remembers his covenant promises and fights for his people.  Nehemiah’s message to Israel is that you prepare yourselves for battle, but you must trust YHWH to bring about a victorious outcome.

The fact that YHWH fights on behalf of his people directs us to one of the great subplots running throughout all the Bible–Christ (at this point in redemptive history, the promised Messiah) against the Antichrist, those human agents of Satan who seek to thwart God’s purposes, thereby delaying or preventing the coming of the Messiah.  Satan attempts this disruption by using two preferred tactics: external force, and/or internal strife or deception.  We see the first method used by Satan come into play with the threats made by Sanballat aimed toward stopping the rebuilding of the city’s walls and infrastructure.  Sanballat is doing this for purely personal reasons.  He’s mad that Nehemiah has replaced him as governor, and as a Samaritan, he believes the Jews are apostates, and the true temple of God is on Mount Gerazim (in Samaria), not Mount Zion.  So even though he has his own personal reasons to oppose the rebuilding of Jerusalem, his actions (along with Tobias, his lackey, and Geshem [i.e., Chunky]) ultimately serve the purposes of Antichrist.  If the Israelites flee, the walls of Jerusalem are not rebuilt, the city will remain in ruins, and more importantly, the sacrifices and offerings made by the priests in the temple will cease, or be seriously compromised.  This is Satan’s ultimate purpose.

To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here

 

Monday
Dec052016

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (December 5-11)

Sunday Morning, December 11 (the Third Sunday in Advent).   We will take up Paul's discussion of our union with Christ in his person and work in Colossians 2:6-15.  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  We will continue our dicussion of Christ's church, focusing again upon the "communion of saints" (Lord's Day 21, Q & A 54-56).  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study:  Returns in February.

Celebrate Christmas at Christ Reformed Church:  Service of Lessons and Carols on Friday, December 23, @ 7:00 p.m.  Worship @ 10:30 a.m. on Christmas morning.

Academy:  Resumes in February 2017 with a viewing and discussion of Allen Guelzo's Teaching Company Course, The American Mind.

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Info), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).

Sunday
Dec042016

"Christ in You, The Hope of Glory" -- Colossians 1:24-2:5

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon in Colossians (also the second Sunday in Advent)

Click Here

Sunday
Dec042016

This Week's White Horse Inn (Updated Website)

Christ The Holy Temple

In the second chapter of John’s gospel, people come to Jesus asking for a sign, and Jesus responds by saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” referring to the temple of his body. What this means is that he was the true temple, the true location of God’s holy presence with his people, which was prefigured throughout Israel’s history as a tabernacle or temple. On this program the hosts will explore this theme of God dwelling with his people as we continue our series on The Incarnation.

Click Here

Wednesday
Nov302016

Re-Launch of the Lectio Continua Series of New Testament Commentaries

LECTIO CONTINUA NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY SERIES from Puritan Seminary on Vimeo.

 

This series (including my volume on 1 Corinthians) was previously published by Tolle Lege Press.  Reformation Heritage Press has taken over the series, and my volume soon will be available again, along with others in the series.

Tuesday
Nov292016

"Remember the Lord" -- Nehemiah 4:1-14

The Fourteenth in a Series of Sermons on Ezra-Nehemiah

Nehemiah 3 is a “nothing but the facts” kind of chapter which reflects a genuine kumbaya moment in Israel’s history.  Virtually the entire population of Jerusalem joined together to repair the city’s walls.  But that sense of peace and unity was about to be put to the test when the city is suddenly threatened by Gentile neighbors and apostate Jews, who did not want to see Jerusalem rise from rubble and ashes and return to the great city it once had been.  The work of rebuilding continues in earnest in chapter 4 under the direction of Nehemiah, but with taunts and threats being directed toward the Jews from Israel’s neighbors, there is a new and profound sense of urgency to complete the walls because of threat of imminent attack.

We are continuing our series on Ezra and Nehemiah and now we come to Nehemiah 4, where we find a completely different set of circumstances from that described in chapter 3.  As we saw last time, Nehemiah pulled off the remarkable feat of organizing and mobilizing the inhabitants of Jerusalem to undertake the huge task of rebuilding the city’s walls, gates, and defenses.  There was a wonderful sense of unity among the inhabitants of Jerusalem as everyone from the high priest to perfume-makers and merchants join together to begin the laborious process of rebuilding the city’s fallen fortifications.  

But if unity of the citizens of Jerusalem was the theme of chapter 3, in chapter 4 collective opposition from Israel’s neighbors to the rebuilding project seems to come from all quarters.  There are the Samaritans to the north and west (i.e., a mixture of Jewish apostates and “the peoples of the land”– Gentiles relocated there by the Persians).  There are Arabian tribes associated with Geshem (“chunky”) which likely included the Idumeans, who were from the provinces immediately to the south of Judah, and while technically under Persian control, were only loosely so.  The Ammonites were located to the east of Judah (in what is now Jordan).  They too were under Persian administration, but they resented the people of Judah and certainly did not want to see Jerusalem rebuilt, its temple restored, or the nation of Israel prosper once again.  A new group of adversaries is mentioned in chapter 4, the descendants of the ancient Philistines (the Ashdodites).  They too have a long history of hostility toward Israel.  

The chief protagonist in the Book of Nehemiah (first mentioned in chapter two) reappears in chapter 4–Sanballat, who now launches into a prolonged and bitter diatribe against Nehemiah and the people of God.  There is really nothing Sanballat can do to stop the rebuilding process, yet that does not keep him from making threats and mocking the Jews and their efforts to rebuild.  Since Nehemiah is operating with the full authority of the Persian king Artaxerxes I, Sanballat has no legal authority whatsoever to interfere with the rebuilding project in Jerusalem.  Sanballat is very likely resentful of the fact that the king’s cupbearer has been appointed governor over a region (Judah) which, until Nehemiah’s arrival, had been under Sanballat’s control.  And as long as Sanballat was in charge, the situation in Jerusalem would remain as it had been–the city would remain in ruins even if the temple itself had been rebuilt.

To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here