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

 

Living in Light of Two Ages

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Sunday
Jun142015

This Week's White Horse Inn

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.

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Thursday
Jun112015

Rarely Does a Book Make Me Angry -- This One Did

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.

Tuesday
Jun092015

"I Am the Resurrection and the Life" -- John 11:17-27

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

Monday
Jun082015

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (June 8-14)

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

Sunday
Jun072015

"O Lord, the God of Israel, You Are Just" -- Ezra 9:1-15

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

Sunday
Jun072015

This Week's White Horse Inn

The Embassy of Grace

On this edition of the White Horse Inn we’re talking about the embassy of grace as Paul lays that out in 2 Corinthians 5.

Like worn coins that have lost their embossing with much handling, key words in the Christian grammar have lost their original meaning. “Gospel” has become a modifier like “gospel-music.” It means basically anything that is good or true or at least that we like a lot. It used to be that the “gospel” meant “the good news concerning Jesus Christ,” now we talk about “living the gospel” or even “being the gospel” ourselves.

“Grace” has increasingly come to mean little more than divine indulgence, like you know, your dad winking as he sees you take an extra piece of candy after your mom said “no.” “Grace” is basically God saying, “You’re okay.... I’m okay... Okay?”

And now, gold standard words like “redeem” and “reconcile” are no longer defined by the biblical drama. In the biblical story the triune God is the redeemer who has reconciled sinners to himself through the life, death, resurrection of the incarnate Son. Redemption and reconciliation are done by Jesus, and they are completed events, as in Jesus’ last words on the cross – “It is finished.”

But today, we hear a lot of calls for us to participate with God in the work of redeeming and reconciling the world. Tony Jones explains, “Our calling as a church is to partner with God in the work that God is already doing in the world, to cooperate in the building of God’s kingdom.” He cites Anabaptist theologian, John Howard Yoder: “the visible church is not to be the bearer of Christ’s message, but to be the message.”

Similarly, Jones’ own church transforms the traditional service into a conversation. He says, “The point is to jettison the magisterial sermon which has ruled over much of Protestantism for five hundred years. Here, the sermon is deconstructed, turned on its head. The Bible is referred to as the member of the community with whom we are in conversation, and the communal interpretation of the text bubbles up from the life of the community.”

Just as the definition of the gospel widens to include our person and work, God’s reconciling action in Christ, not only motivates, but includes in its very definition our own acts of social justice. Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright, expresses this view. “The church,” he says, “is called to do the work of Christ, to be the means of his action in and for the world. Mission in its widest, as well as its more focused senses, is what the church is there for. God intends to put the world to rights. He has dramatically launched this project through Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus are called, here and now, in the power of the Spirit, to be agents of that putting to rights purpose.”

Though still central, and even essential, Jesus seems to be more like the person who gets the ball rolling, than the unique person whose saving work in his first and second advents is unrepeatable and inimitable. Jesus dramatically launches the project, so the kingdom of glory is present, unfolding by degrees. Elsewhere he writes, “God is rescuing us from the shipwreck of the world, not so that we can sit back and put our feet up in his company, but so we can be part of his plan to remake the world.” However, it’s one thing to say that we’re partners with God in bringing the good news to the world, and loving our neighbors in our callings, and quite another to say that we’re partners with God in redeeming and reconciling the world.

Brian McLaren writes, “To say that Jesus is savior is to say in Jesus God is intervening as savior in all of these ways: judging, that is naming evil as evil; forgiving, breaking the vicious cycle of cause and effect making reconciliation possible; and teaching, showing how to set chain reactions of good in motion. Then, because we are so often ignorantly wrong and stupid, Jesus comes in saving teaching, profound, yet amazingly compact. What is this saving teaching? ‘Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,’ Jesus says, ‘and love your neighbor as yourself.’ And that is enough. That,” says McLaren, “is what it means to say that Jesus is saving the world.” Although Jesus called this the summary of the law, for McLaren it becomes the summary of the gospel.

When the vertical relationship, that is our relationship to God, is eclipsed by the horizontal effects, that is our relationship to fellow human beings and creation, an opposite reduction occurs. Sin is not so much a transgression of God’s covenant that brings God’s judgment, as it is brokenness in our own interpersonal relationships. “On Good Friday, Christ’s crucifixion became the impetus for healed and healing relationships in a world that desperately needs them,” and “the concentration on correct doctrine is a reflection of an earlier time.”

So, in addition to phrases, such as “living the gospel,” and calls to continue Christ’s incarnation and saving work, we often hear these appeals to participate in Christ’s reconciling work. Often these calls to cooperate with God in the redemption and reconciliation of the world, draw these points from Paul’s reference to the ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5. What does Paul actually say there and does it support or contradict this idea of our being co-redeemers and co-reconcilers? That’s our subject in this edition of the White Horse Inn. (Originally Aired Aug 21, 2011)

Click Here

Saturday
Jun062015

Seventy-One Years Ago Today

The citizen soldiers punched through Hitler's Atlantic wall and freed a continent.

Friday
Jun052015

Friday Feature -- The Most Heroic Thing I've Ever Seen

Twenty-six years ago today this man stood up to government tyranny while the world watched.  To this day, no one knows who this man is, or what happened to him.  Reportedly, he told the tank driver to turn around and go back because the tanks would ruin the city (Beijing).  Notice too, he keeps hanging on to his groceries.

Thursday
Jun042015

So Long Overdue and Well Deserved

A great injustice has been corrected.  Japan has officially granted Godzilla Japanese citizenship.  Godzilla Now a Citizen

Although the creature entered the country illegally, and has destroyed Tokyo several times, this poor misunderstood animal's rights finally have finally recognized.

One injustice remains, however.  Godzilla must be given free veterinary care under Japan's national health care system--provided he/she/it, as the case may be, is spayed and/or neutered.

If Godzilla is trans or multi-gendered, then, of course, gender reassignment will be provided at tax-payer expense.

Godzilla has rights!

Tuesday
Jun022015

"Lazarus has Died" -- John 11:1-16

The Thirty-Fifth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John

Even Jesus could not keep his friend Lazarus from dying–or so it seemed.  All of Jesus’ disciples eventually died, as have all Christians since the time of Jesus down to the present day (including Lazarus, a second time).  This raises the question as to whether or not the curse has the final word and whether death ultimately wins in the end.  At times it sure looks that way.  If Jesus truly is the resurrection and the life, as he claims, then he must decisively defeat death and the grave.  When Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead, we see the unmistakable proof that death does not win in the end.   Although his body has been in the tomb four days, when Jesus steps up to Lazarus’ tomb and commands “Lazarus, come out!” (and the dead man does) we get a brief glimpse of what will happen on the last day, when Jesus returns to judge the world, raise the dead, and make all things new.  The story of Lazarus is not only a critical turning point in the Gospel of John, this is proof that Jesus is who he claims to be, and the events surrounding the raising of Lazarus set the stage for Jesus’ own death and resurrection, soon to come.

We return to our series on the Gospel of John, and we come to the next section of John’s Gospel–the literary bridge between Jesus’ messianic mission to Israel, and the events which occurred during the Passover and Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem.  This literary bridge includes the materials in John 11 (the account of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead) and chapter 12 (Mary anointing Jesus at Bethany, before Jesus speaks of the necessity of his being “lifted up”–a reference to his suffering upon the cross).  This two-chapter bridge prepares the way for the extended Upper Room Discourse in chapters 13-17, in which Jesus instructs his disciples about his soon-coming death, resurrection, and ascension, and when he promises to send the blessed comforter, the Holy Spirit.  

Then, in chapters 18-20, we come to John’s Passion narrative, in which we read of Jesus’ death for our sins, and his bodily resurrection from the dead.  Unlike the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) the first half of John’s Gospel is devoted to his messianic mission, while the entire second half is devoted to the Passover and the final week of our Lord’s earthly ministry.  We are entering that last half of John’s account of the word made flesh, and we will spend much of our time covering events which occurred during the last week of Jesus’ messianic mission, shortly before his death as the true Passover Lamb and his resurrection from the dead–the guarantee of our final victory over death.

Every preacher faces the same dilemma when preaching through John’s Gospel.  Throughout this gospel, there are long teaching discourses, like the 44 verses in John 11 dealing with the resurrection of Lazarus.  These discourses are best covered in one sitting because one event is being recounted.  Yet, these discourses (like that the “Bread of Life” discourse of John 6, and the “Good Shepherd” discourse of John 10) are so rich in content, that if we are to do John justice, we would spend about two hours covering chapter 11.  Given the shortness of the human attention span, the rhetorical skills of your preacher, the weakness of the human gluteus maximus, and the nature of our pews, unfortunately, we must divide John 11 into a number of sub-sections which we will treat over a four week period.  You will help me out, and you will get far more out of these next few sermons on John 11, if you read through this entire chapter several times in the coming weeks so as not to lose the forest for the trees.

To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here

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