Living in Light of Two Ages
Wisdom for Life and the Cause of Christ
This week on the White Horse Inn we discuss one of Paul's greatest concerns. When writing to the church in Corinth, the apostle had to continually remind them of the danger of distraction by the wisdom of this present age. Their faith was continually sidetracked by the lifestyles of this world. For "Greeks seek wisdom, and Jews seek miraculous signs, but we preach Christ crucified"(1 Cor. 1:22). The wisdom of the cross surpasses the wisdom of this world through the folly of what the church preaches.
On this program the hosts will interact with what the apostle is saying in this passage as they seek to understand the wisdom of the cross and the wisdom of this age. How are we distracted today? Do we have anything to learn from these apostolic warnings? Do we see the same kind of interest in a wisdom that is contrary to our Lord? Regrettably, this same problem arises in contemporary churches. The "wisdom for living” genre is a bestselling commodity in the Christian book industry and can be found in the teaching of contemporary churches. The Christian faith has been emptied of the cross and its meaning. Maybe, it's time for us to stop taking God's name in vain and begin again to be Christians in a pagan culture. Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we discuss the centrality of the cross in a world full of misguided wisdom (Originally Aired Aug 14, 2011)
With the annual Christ Reformed softball game tomorrow, Bartolo Colon should inspire the elders on to victory. He jiggles more than most of us do, and if he can still play the game, well then, so can we.
The Thirty-Seventh in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Humanity’s greatest enemy is death. Yet, God has promised that death will not have the last word. At the end of the age, God will raise the dead, judge all men and women, and then usher in a new heaven and earth where all traces of the curse and human sin are vanquished. But until that day, the curse remains, and those whom we love still die. So when Jesus’ friend Lazarus tastes death, those following Jesus look to him for comfort and guidance, as well as for some word of hope in anticipation of the great day of final victory over death at the end of the age. But at a burial ground in Bethany–a small village just outside of Jerusalem–Jesus does something beyond all human imagination. After weeping at the sight of Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus performs his seventh and greatest miraculous sign yet. He raises his friend from the dead, giving everyone present at the tomb the unmistakable proof that he is God incarnate, and that he is Lord over death and the grave. But he is also giving everyone a glimpse of what will happen in just a few short days when he dies on a Roman cross and is then raised from the dead on the third day. It is our Lord’s own bodily resurrection from the dead which is the guarantee of the great resurrection on the last day.
As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, we come to John’s account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (chapter 11). In verses 28-44, we see the emotions of Jesus on full display when Jesus rages against death, and then raises his dear friend Lazarus from the dead. If we thought that Jesus’ initial reaction to the news of Lazarus’ death was cold and indifferent, in this section of John’s account we will discover that we were greatly mistaken. Jesus was not unemotional about the death of his friend–as it seemed. Jesus knew that his hour was not yet–although his hour is drawing near. He also knew that there was still much for him to teach his disciples before they make their final trip to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, in which Jesus brings his messianic mission to its glorious climax as he reveals himself to be the true Passover lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
In this section of John, the disciple recounts Jesus’ great of compassion for Lazarus’ family, and he himself openly weeps at the sight of the tomb of his friend. But these are not just tears of sadness as the English word “weep” conveys. Jesus cries tears of both anger and anguish, as he witnesses what Adam’s fall and the curse have done to the human race. When we see Jesus weeping at the death of a close friend, we learn much about our Lord’s true human nature and the profound human emotions which Jesus truly felt. We also learn much about grief, and the Christian attitude toward death, which is grounded in the reality of human sin and the curse, and the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the body.
As I mentioned several weeks ago, John’s Gospel is difficult to preach since there are a number of lengthy discourses which are best treated as a single block of material. But since we don’t have the time to go through these discourses in the detail they deserve, I have chosen to break these discourses down into smaller units. The problem with doing so that it is easy to lose sight of the powerful drama and overall thrust of the narrative. Apart from the rich and profound theological implications of this passage, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus is very compelling in its own right. The inherent drama of the narrative is especially important to recapture before we take up our text–one of the most moving and dramatic in all the Bible.
To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here
Sunday Morning (June 21): Our text for this coming Sunday is Psalm 116--a Psalm of Praise. Our Lord's Day worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.
Sunday Afternoon: This week we will consider Lord's Day 21 (Q & A 54-56) and the "communion of saints." Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.
Wednesday Night Bible Study : Will resume in the Fall (TBA)
The Academy: On Hiatus until Fall (TBA)
Christ Reformed Church's Annual Picnic: Saturday, June 20 Christ Reformed Picnic 2015
For more information and directions, check out the Christ Reformed website: Christ Reformed Church
Joy Beyond Agony
This week on the White Horse Inn we talk with Jane Roach who was the Director of Training for Bible Study Fellowship for more than twenty-five years. She currently assists the Texas Hill Country Bible Conference, and directs women’s ministries at her local church. She is the author of the recent book, Joy beyond Agony: Embracing the Cross of Christ.
Many Christians in our day misunderstand the nature of the life we have in Christ. The focus of teaching often centers on practical lessons designed to help us cope with life’s problems, rather than shaping our faith and love in the pattern of Christ. To grow in one’s faith a deeper understanding of the cross of Christ critical. Why is this particular event at the center of the Christian faith? What really happened to Jesus during his crucifixion? Is a suffering Messiah found in the Old Testament? Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we seek to understand the work of Christ in our life in the midst of agony.
By nature, I am not one to be easily swayed. Nor am I given to embrace conspiracy theories--I am convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated JFK acting alone. I am not impressed by sensational or tabloid journalism, typical of our day. I am pretty much set in my political opinions, as well as how I see and understand America's role in the modern world.
Therefore, it is rare when an author provokes me to anger, and causes me to re-think opinions I've long held, and in which I was once fairly settled. David A. Andelman's book A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today made me mad. I can honestly say this book forced me to think long and hard about America's role in forming the modern world--a role which led to a very flawed and failed treaty (Versailles), which set in motion a series of tragic events which brought about the death of millions (in a second World War, and a host of cataclysmic events including the Bolshevik revolution, the unending Arab-Israeli conflict), the re-ordering of the lives of millions more, and all with a callous indifference which will (and should) shock readers not previously aware that such a thing actually took place.
Thankfully, I am not as impressionable as I might have been back in my college days. Had I read this book then--instead of protesting Jane Fonda's visit to my college campus--I might have joined with those burning the American flag and cheering her on. There is much here which is disillusioning.
A Shattered Peace recounts the world-changing events which transpired during the days of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, and which culminated in the disastrous Treaty of Versailles. Many of our nation's actions and motives during the months when the modern world was formed in the Quai d`Orsay in Paris are troubling. In a very compelling manner, David Andelman describes the jaded "we know better" attitudes and patterns in American and Western European diplomacy which produced the Treaty of Versailles--attributes which persist down to the present day, and which can still found throughout the diplomatic/strategic visions of each of the last four American presidential administrations (Republican and Democrat).
The story Andelman tells is not pretty. A Shattered Peace is not the typical left-wing attack upon American foreign policy under Republican Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes. In fact, the book is endorsed by two of America's most capable diplomats, Henry Kissinger and Richard Holbrooke, who acknowledge that the very-flawed Treaty of Versailles "cast a long shadow." Andelman aims at the father of American progressivism, Woodrow Wilson, whom Andelman describes as the epitome of virtue and naivete. Andelman exposes Wilson's stubborn arrogance as the critical factor in the "America knows best" mindset with which the peace conference opened. But Wilson was not alone in creating the disaster of Versailles. Wilson was simply in over his head when dealing with the long-standing diplomatic culture of Europe--Realpolitik. Woodrow Wilson was like the rich but clueless guy folks invite to their poker parties--knowing they can shake him down and he'll be none the wiser, despite his losses.
Great Britain and France initially saw Wilson as the sole bright light in a very dark place--Wilson was thought to have a genuine solution to ending the years of war, with horrific casualties and the undoing of the previous order of things. But then Britain's David Lloyd-George and France's George Clemenceau manipulated and outmaneuvered Wilson repeatedly--forcing Wilson into compromise after compromise of the very principles Wilson claimed were inviolate. According to Andelman, Wilson's "Fourteen Points–under whose banner American boys had gone to war, and often to their deaths on the battlefields and France and Belgium–were eviscerated by America’s own allies, all of whom had come to Paris with their own particular priorities. None of these involved self-determination, territorial integrity, or the various freedoms on which the Points were based.” (David Andelman, A Shattered Peace, 318).
In fact, says Andelman,
“the document [Wilson] took home with him from Paris was profoundly flawed in almost every respect. It failed to embrace any of the elevating moral vision that he had brought over with him. In his efforts to win acceptance by the allies of his beloved league of nations [Article Fourteen], he compromised at virtually every turn with respect to the world he and his fellow peacemakers were creating. Then, after returning to Washington with this perverted vision, he compounded the felony with a categorical refusal to entertain a single amendment or reservation to the treaty from the Republican-controlled Senate. Many of these amendments, ironically, would have restored some of the goals that Wilson had surrendered in Paris.” Andelman, A Shattered Peace, 318).
Not only was Wilson blissfully unaware of how badly he played the game, the game itself was beyond the pale--European imperialists dividing up the world as though they were playing a game of Risk. The haphazard nature of the process of settling national boundaries after the Great War, especially in the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, was cynically described by Harold Nicolson, a young British diplomat at Versailles, in his diary (cited by Andelman).
A heavily furnished study with my huge map on the carpet. Bending over it (bubble, bubble, toil and trouble) are Clemenceau, Lloyd George and PW. They have pulled up armchairs and crouch low over the map . . . . They are cutting the Baghdad railway. Clemenceau says nothing during all of this. He sits at the edge of his chair and leans his two blue-gloved hands down upon the map. More than ever does he look like a gorilla of yellow ivory . . . . It is appalling that these ignorant and irresponsible men should be cutting Asia Minor to bits as if they were dividing a cake . . . . Isn’t it terrible, the happiness of millions being discarded in that way? Their decisions are immoral and impracticable . . . . These three ignorant men with a child to lead them . . . . The child I suppose is me. Anyhow, it is an anxious child. ( A Shattered Peace, 1-2)
It is hard to imagine the leader of the free world (Woodrow Wilson) and the representatives of the two victorious great powers (Lloyd-George and Clemenceau) down on their hands and knees, looking at a huge map, dividing up the world, and creating artificial nations and spheres of influence, which had never before existed (i.e., Iraq) and which have greatly troubled the world since.
Among the consequences of the Versailles treaty, Andelman describes the following:
- Arbitrarily determining the boundaries of Rumania, Hungary, and Bulgaria, which led to great strife and conflict among these nations in the years to follow
- Versailles recognized the new nations of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, yet left scores of ethnic minorities in new countries, cut-off from their former nations. This included millions of ethnic Germans in Poland and the Sudetenland, virtually guaranteeing Der Fuhrer's occupying them by peace or by force
- China sought self-government, but Wilson sold them out due to his concern that Japan would not endorse the League of Nations
- The Balfour Declaration and the establishment of a Jewish homeland (not a state) in Palestine. This issue has not been settled since
- Redrawing the map of the entire Middle East--producing endless conflict and a resurgence of militant Islam
- And then, of course, there were the economic reparations required of Germany, which ensured that Germany would go to war against Britain and France again because of the injustice of it all
I could go on and on, but am getting angry again just thinking about how three men (Italy was there too, but not nearly as active) and their staffs of ill-informed and aggressive political wannabes carved up the world, without a clue as to what they were doing, and how many millions of lives their decisions would impact.
You get the point--the Treaty of Versailles was an unmitigated disaster. David Andelman's A Shattered Peace recounts the whole gory process and the consequences of it all--all the way down to the formation of ISIS.
What makes me angriest perhaps, is that much of American foreign policy since continues to demonstrate that our politicians and diplomats have not learned these lessons, and far too often we read of our foreign policy folks continuing with the arrogant "we know better" attitude which create and fuel many of the conflicts they are now attempting to resolve! If we don't know our own history, we are doomed to fail.
I began this review with my own experience of protesting Jane Fonda during my college days, precisely because Andelman recounts the story of a young man (a waiter and sous-chef) from French Indo-China. The young man witnessed first-hand the behind the scenes events at Versailles, and was glibly turned away by staffers, when he tried to get a hearing with the participants about how his own people ought to be delivered from French Colonial rule. Disillusioned by what he saw and thoroughly exasperated, the young man made the journey to St. Petersburg to learn what he thought might be a better way. He would sit at the feet of Lenin and Trotsky. That young man was Nguyen Ai Quoc. We know him today as Ho Chi Minh. Versailles' long shadow extends all the way to the Vietnam War.
Sadly, A Shattered Peace is marred by typos, the presence of computer code, and editor's symbols.
Read it, and weep. It is a sad and tragic story, but of vital importance.
The Thirty-Sixth in a Series on the Gospel of John
There is nothing worse than getting the horrible news that someone we know or love has died. First comes the initial sense of shock and grief as we try to process the news. Then come the intermittent and alternating waves of grief and reflection. When someone dies, preparations must be made, family and friends begin to assemble, and then comes one of the worst times of all of human existence, the funeral. Although Christians grieve just like non-Christians grieve, one thing separates us from non-Christians. Christians grieve as people with great hope because we know that Jesus Christ has conquered death and the grave, because he is the resurrection and the life. We also know that those whom we bury are in the presence of the Lord, awaiting that glorious moment when the last trumpet sounds, and the dead in Christ are raised bodily from the dead. In John chapter 11, we witness Jesus deal with the death of his dear friend Lazarus, and we learn that the thing we dread most–death and the tomb–is no match for the power of Jesus, who turns Lazarus’ funeral into a magnificent glimpse of what is yet to come for all those who trust in him as savior from sin. But before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, we read of a remarkable encounter between Jesus and Lazarus’ sister Martha, in which Martha makes a profound profession of faith–a profession grounded in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the body at the end of the age, an event which is our ultimate hope as well.
As we make our way into John 11, we come to that passage which is read at the beginning of most Christian funerals. When Jesus says in verses 25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” our Lord offers words which are a wonderful comfort to those who are grieving. But these words present a very difficult challenge to Martha to whom the words are originally addressed. The reason these words are a comfort to us is that we know how the account of Jesus and his friend Lazarus turns out in the end. Jesus walks up to the tomb and commands “Lazarus, come out,” and the dead man does. We know that when Jesus dies on a Roman cross, he will be raised by the power of God before he ascends into heaven. But when Jesus spoke these words to Martha, Lazarus is still in his tomb–in fact, he has been dead for four days, and as we learn in verse 39, the surest sign of the curse stemming from Adam’s sin, decomposition, has already begun. What can Jesus mean when he says he is “the resurrection and the life” when the man he loved lies buried but a short distance away?
These words from Jesus are difficult for Martha to accept because of the circumstances set out in the first sixteen verses of the chapter. Jesus was still east of the Jordan river–having left Jerusalem for the wilderness, because the Jews were plotting to arrest Jesus if he remained in Jerusalem. While still in the wilderness, word came to Jesus from Mary and Martha of Bethany–a small village two miles to the east of Jerusalem–that Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, is quite ill. The family requests that Jesus come as soon as possible, although Bethany is more than a full day’s walk from the area where Jesus was staying. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha are well-known to Jesus. Jesus is said to love them, and they regard Jesus as a close friend. It is likely that Jesus visited their home often (and perhaps even stayed with this family) during his trips to Jerusalem.
To read the rest of this sermon: Click Here
Sunday Morning (June 14): We are wrapping up our time in the book of Ezra as part of our series on Ezra-Nehemiah. Our text this Sunday is Ezra 10 and Israel's repentance. Our Lord's Day worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.
Sunday Afternoon: This week we will consider Lord's Day 21 (Q & A 54-56) and the holy "catholic" church. Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.
Wednesday Night Bible Study (June 10): We are continuing our "Run Through the Letters of Paul," and we are working our way through Galatians 5 and Paul's discussion of Christian liberty.
The Academy: On Hiatus until Fall.
For more information and directions, check out the Christ Reformed website: Christ Reformed Church