Here's the audio from this morning's sermon: Click Here
Living in Light of Two Ages
The Family of God
In the last program we focused on the message, ministry, and marks of the church. Instead of branding themselves according to specialties, every church was and is expected to be committed to preaching and teaching, fellowship, the sacraments, the prayers, and evangelism. We can’t say “Well, other churches are great at evangelism and fellowship but we focus on doctrine and the sacraments.” Or “Our church isn’t that big on doctrine but we’re really committed to outreach.”
In his Great Commission Jesus gave us his marching orders. “Go into all the world and make disciples.” How? “By preaching the gospel, baptizing them in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded.”
In this program we want to focus on the emphasis in the new covenant on the family of God. It’s hard to imagine our local church as our first family. We usually start with the nuclear family, then our extended family, and only then do we think of our church family as a “family” in a metaphorical sense. It’s not metaphorical. In Ephesians 5 Paul says that marriage is an analogy of our relationship to Christ and his body, not the other way around. Our next of kin are actually our brothers and sisters with whom we are baptized, hear the Word, pray, receive the Supper, and serve.
Jesus provoked blank stares when he redefined family and even neighbors. In Matthew 10 he says, “Do not think I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.”
Joining us once again to discuss this topic are the same panelists from the last program Sam Allberry and Jeff Mallinson. Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the church as the family of God.
To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here
From the website of the National Day of Prayer . . .
The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Our Task Force is a privately funded organization whose purpose is to encourage participation on the National Day of Prayer. It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.
The National Day of Prayer has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people. The unanimous passage of the bill establishing the National Day of Prayer as an annual event, signifies that prayer is as important to our nation today as it was in the beginning.
All true Christian prayer is offered to the Father, in the name and through the intercession of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Failing to recognize this, an event such as the National Day of Prayer is nothing more than civil religion on parade. It strikes me that the exhortation from Thomas Jefferson exhorting people to pray is featured prominently on the website, while one person is strangely absent from all of this discussion--Jesus, the only mediator between sinners and the holy God (1 Timothy 2:4).
Of course, all Christians should pray for their nation (1 Timothy 2:1 ff). At Christ Reformed Church, for example, we pray every week during our Lord's Day worship, "for those who serve our common welfare in temporal affairs, especially those who govern us, that they may do so with wisdom, integrity, and the knowledge that their councils stand under your final judgment. Dear Father, who sends rain upon the just and the unjust alike, give to us also, we pray, such humility of conduct and faithfulness in our worldly callings, that we may contribute to the good of our neighbors. We ask that you would restrain wickedness and vice in society, promote justice and the common good, and cause us to be salt and light in this evil age." We then pray for our president, the congress and our courts, our governor, and all local officials (mayors and city councils). We give thanks that we live in a land of freedom and liberty, we seek God's protection from acts of terror, and we ask that God protect all those who work so diligently to keep us safe.
But we do this as the assembled people of God, confessing the same faith and in submission to the word of God. It is our duty to pray for our nation by praying to the Father, in the name of Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit. But we cannot do as the ancient Athenians did (and as many of America's deistic founding fathers insisted)--seek the blessing of the unknown God because getting the people of "all faiths" to pray together, supposedly, is far more important than praying as Jesus and the apostles commanded us to pray.
The Thirty-First in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
The Feast of Booths is over. The feast of Dedication is still several months off in the future, and the Passover is now less than six months away. Although Jesus’ hour has not yet come, it is drawing near. This is why we also see a new sense of urgency in Jesus’ teaching. When Jesus performs his sixth miraculous sign–the healing of a man who has been blind from birth–Jesus uses the occasion to continue to instruct his disciples about the meaning and nature of his messianic mission as he prepares them for that hour of which he has been speaking–when he must depart and go to that place where no one else (including his disciples) may follow.
We resume our series on the Gospel of John, and we now move into John chapter 9–although we are still in the so-called “conflict phase” of Jesus’ ministry. John does not tell us where or when the events recorded in chapter 9 take place, but it is reasonable to assume that when Jesus speaks again of being the light of the world, the events recorded here occur at some point shortly after the events in John 8, yet before the Feast of the Dedication, which is mentioned in John 10 (and which occurs about three months after the Feast of Booths). However, an important change becomes noticeable in chapter 9. The pace of John’s account of Jesus’ messianic mission quickens, and the events John recounts are bringing us ever closer to the coming Passover, and to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
The account of the healing of the man blind from birth, as well as Jesus’ proclamation that he is the good (and true) shepherd of Israel (in John 10), takes up the entirety of each of the next two chapters. Since these are seamless episodes it is best to preach through John 9 and 10 in one sermon. Unfortunately, time does not permit us to do justice to either passage if we go through them in one week (we could but survey them), so I have divided each of the next two chapters into two parts–that will bring us to my sabbatical.
So far in John’s Gospel, there have been five miraculous signs which Jesus performed to confirm the truth of his preaching, and which serve as his messianic credentials. If Jesus merely claimed to be the “I AM” who spoke to Moses through the burning bush (as he did in John 8:58) without anything to back up that claim, then the Jews would have every reason to doubt Jesus’ assertion. As we have seen, Jesus’ words are backed-up by a number of miraculous signs–many more than the five John has emphasized. So far Jesus has turned water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11). He cleansed the temple (John 2:13-22), and declared it his Father’s house. He healed a nobleman’s son in John 4:46-54. In John 5, Jesus healed a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years. In John 6, Jesus fed over 5000 people from two dried fish and five barley loaves. Here, in John 9, the sixth of these miraculous signs, Jesus will heal a man who had been blind from birth. The seventh of these signs will come in John 11, when Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead. As difficult as Jesus’ words have been for the people to understand and accept, his words are proven to have come from God because of the nature of his miracles.
There are several other instances recorded in the synoptic gospels in which Jesus heals the blind. In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus healed a blind man in Bethsaida. According to Matthew 9:27-31, Jesus healed two blind men in the Galilee, and in Matthew 12:22-23 he healed a demon-possessed man who was also blind and deaf. And, as recorded in all three synoptic gospels, Jesus healed two blind men near Jericho, one of them being named–Bartimaeus. Why such emphasis in Jesus’ messianic mission upon healing blindness, lameness, deafness, or diseases like leprosy and others which rendered people ceremonially unclean?
To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here
Sunday Morning (May 10): We will be considering Ezra 5, and how God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage his people after work on the temple had ceased. Our Lord's Day worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.
Sunday Afternoon: We are wrapping up our series on the Canons of Dort. We will be considering the "conclusion" to the Canons of Dort, a portion of the Canons which are often overlooked. Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.
Wednesday Night Bible Study (May 6): We are continuing our "Run Through the Letters of Paul," and we are working our way through Galatians 3:15-29.
The Academy: No Academy Friday, May 8
Our new Academy series, "The Great and Holy War" will resume on May 15, with a lecture entitled, "One Hundred Years Later" How the consequences of the "Great War" still impact the world in which we live."
Throughout this series, we have been considering the legacy of World War One, including the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine (Israel), the roots of ISIS (the end of the Caliphate/Ottoman Empire), the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of Marxist-Leninism. Our text for this series is Philip Jenkin's book, The Great and Holy War
For more information and directions, check out the Christ Reformed website: Christ Reformed Church
Here's the audio from Friday's Academy lecture:
1). The Treaty of Versailles (1919)
2). The Balfour Declaration (1917)
The Ministry & Marks of the Church
Finding a church is often compared these days to shopping. That should not surprise us. Many churches, today, market themselves to a particular niche demographic. It’s all about branding. People who shop at Restoration Hardware aren’t the same folks who shop regularly at Walmart.
Some churches say, at least implicitly, we’re all about teaching doctrine, while others brand themselves as the home-base for evangelism, or a place for warm fellowship. Others are known for service and political engagement, whether conservative or liberal. If you are into liturgy, there are plenty of options out there for you too. But according to Acts 2, the first Christians gathered regularly for the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. As a result, the Lord was adding daily to the church, those being saved.
The Spirit creates the church through the Word, so the apostles’ teaching, particularly the good news of Christ’s saving work, was central. But it was the apostles’ teaching AND fellowship, submitting to each other in both doctrine and life. Believers shared their temporal goods with each other as well. Yet, the regular service also included the breaking of bread. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were central alongside the preached Word as means of grace. In fact, in response to Peter’s proclamation of Christ, those who believed were baptized and the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that they partake of communion whenever they come together as the church. The Lord’s Supper wasn’t an optional extra, but a regular means of grace. They gathered also for “the prayers.” Like a trellis, scripturally rooted liturgies train hearts to grow in the right direction together. These public prayers of the whole church in praise, confession, and petition aren’t just for people who go for high church stuff but shape the community’s response to the Lord’s work. And finally, we see the effect of this ministry was to attract unbelievers. The Lord was adding to the church daily, those who were being saved. As Peter said in his sermon, the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are a far off, as many the Lord our God calls to himself. Knowing what they believed and why, believers were able to witness to their neighbors.
In short, the first Christians didn’t have branding consultants. They didn’t do market research to identify their market niche demographic. You didn’t have churches dividing up these ministry emphases. They were all supposed to be places where the sheep were regularly bathed and fed, bound together by the ministry of Word and sacrament, and the prayer and praise of public worship.
Joining us on the program to talk about the importance of this ministry and the marks of the church, first of all is Jeff Mallinson, and second by Sam Allberry. Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the marks and ministry of Christ’s church.
This small hill, to the northwest of the city of Langnau-im-Emmental, in the Canton of Bern, Switzerland, was completely unknown to me as of this past Tuesday. Yet, I've been looking for it for over twenty years, even though I never knew it existed.
I know that my family history is about as exciting to you, as your home movies would be to me. But given the popularity of programs like, "Who Do You Think You Are?" and similar "find your ancestor" programs featuring sports stars, celebrities, and politicians, you may be familiar with the quest being made by many Americans to trace their family history and find their ancestral roots. I've been on mine for over twenty years.
My quest began after my mom died in 1992. I was going through her papers and found a typed funeral text for my paternal great-grandfather, Albert Riddlesbarger. The minister (in the Grace Brethren Church) preached on Philippians 1:21: "to live is Christ, to die is gain." It was a wonderful sermon focusing upon the resurrection. But I had never heard of Albert Riddlesbarger. I did not know that he was born in Illinois in 1857, or that my family had ever lived there. My dad died when I was young, so did my grandfather, so this kind of information was never passed down to me.
It bothered me so much to not know my own family history (there was a family legend that my grandfather Glenn had prepared a family tree but it was now long lost), that I started looking in earnest. I began work on a detailed history of our family for my own sons, and have posted it on-line for any long-lost cousins who might find their way to it (A History of the Riddlebarger Family)
I quickly discovered that my grandfather had started his research back in the 1930's. Along the way I made contact with grandsons of several of the Riddlebargers (in Pennsylvania) with whom my own grandfather had corresponded sixty years earlier. That was wonderful--cousins I never knew I had!
Eventually, I got back as far as "the boat." I can document how the first of my line, Christian Retelsberger, came to America, arriving in Philadelphia in 1733. He was a co-founder and an elder in a Reformed church (in South Carolina) which adhered to the Belgic Confession, the Augsburg 1540, and the First Helvetic Confession (that too was a pleseant surprise). He's also the ancestor of anyone you meet or know named "Riddlebarger," "Riddleberger," "Riddlesberger," or "Riddlespurger" (or any variants therefore). I know that the ship he arrived on--the Pink Mary--left Rotterdam earlier that same year. But there the trail goes cold--the proverbial brick wall. How do you find European ancestors from before 1730, when you are not even sure of the spelling of the surname, and have no clue as to your country of origin, except they were German-speakers?
So, I took a y-DNA test, and actually found a living European cousin from the Rotlisberger family of the Canton of Bern. He and I are an exact match, which means we share a common ancestor somewhere between twelve and fifteen generations ago. I wanted to know more, so I took a more thorough DNA text, and found a link to yet another living Rotlisberger, also in the Canton of Bern.
So, I know that my family name was anglicized from Rotlisberger to Riddlebarger, and that Christian Retelsberger's family originally had come from Bern (probably settling in the Alsace for a generation or two, before he came to America). I also know my haplogroup type is G-P303 (rare for Europeans, and originates in the Levant--maybe I had ancestors among the Ninevites!).
When the possibility arose of a speaking engagement in Europe this fall, I began making tentative plans to visit Langau-im-Emmental, just to get a sense of where my kin once lived. I thought I'd email one of these European cousins to see if he knew of any places I ought to visit. I was about to get the surprise everyone looking for ancestors hopes to get.
He replied several days later--in a matter of fact way--"oh, yeah, there's a hill near Langau named the Rotlisberg, where our family lived. If you come here, I'll take you there." There's a hill in Switzerland for which my family is named? You gotta be kidding me!
The picture above is indeed the "Rotlisberg," and with that "matter of fact" reply, I found the one thing which every American looking for their ancestral roots can only hope to find, their ancestral home. But I never even knew to look for the place because I had no idea such a place existed. I now know where my family lived (before 1500 AD), that I have living European cousins, as well as a new addition to my bucket list.
My quest is finally over. Well, no, not really. Not until, Lord willing, I stand on the Rotlisberg and see it with my own eyes. The hill might not be very big in size, but to me, it is huge!