Reflections from NEHEMIAH 5-8: THE NEED FOR A RIGHTEOUS GOVERNOR

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            In a day when just (righteous) rulers are needed, our land in America is in a deep drought and famine.  The truth of God is twisted, it is suppressed in unrighteousness and the prevailing “wisdom” calls “right” wrong and what’s “wrong” right.  We are at the cliff’s edge and don’t realize the peril that awaits our steps.  This is difficult to bear.

Israel, God’s people who rebelled, went into exile and now returned to their home land, but they needed to get their lives in order.  This occurs by doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly before Almighty God.  To do this, they had to secure their borders first and make sure that they treated their Jewish brothers as covenant people and not strangers of their common wealth (5:1-13)

Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. For there were those who said, “We, our sons and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain that we may eat and live.” There were others who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine.” Also there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is like the flesh of our brothers, our children like their children. Yet behold, we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters are forced into bondage already, and we are helpless because our fields and vineyards belong to others.”  Then I was very angry when I had heard their outcry and these words.I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, “You are exacting usury, each from his brother!” Therefore, I held a great assembly against them. I said to them, “We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?” Then they were silent and could not find a word to say. Again I said, “The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? 10 And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury.11 Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them.” 12 Then they said, “We will give it back and will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say.” So I called the priests and took an oath from them that they would do according to this promise. 13 I also shook out the front of my garment and said, “Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” And they praised the Lord. Then the people did according to this promise.

There’s also the need for a governor like Nehemiah whose heart fears God (5:14-19), so that when men threaten the people’s welfare, it is God who these rulers seek for victory, not mere creatures (6:1-14).  This event is not a myth, but written in space time history demonstrated in the census where the names of the sons of men are counted (7:1-73).  Then there’s the need for the Law to be read, explained and understood so that the people may worship the One True God.  This was a radically God centered event in the history of wayward Israel (8:1-12)

And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand. Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place.They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.

Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.

So, what do I perceive?  I perceive that the hearts of men are hopelessly broken and in need of the Great Physician to restore them to health.  I can see that Godly leadership is essential for this healing to occur and that a nation is always better off with these than with self-absorbed rulers.  I also recognize that part of what it means to get our lives in order includes performing our civic and religious duties from a Word, Scripture centered point.  Neglect these and the tapestry begins to come apart at the fray.  God, help us your people be like Nehemiah in word and in deed.  (SDG)

Reflections From Acts 4: PERSECUTION BECAUSE OF THE NAME—Part One

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The healing of this lame man who was more than forty caused a raucous among the authorities in Jerusalem.  The priests, temple guard and the Sadducees opposed the apostles because they preached Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and thus jailed them (vv.1-3).

Here, the first account of persecution because of the name of Jesus (c.f., Mt.5:9-16) and assuredly the apostles demonstrate what it means to be salt and light in the world.  Noteworthy are the following observations:

First, as already mentioned persecution breaks out because of the word—of Jesus Christ.  It’s this word that accounts for the power to heal the lame man.

Second, the word that’s preached is the resurrection of Christ from the dead and this miracle performed is what gets the apostles incarcerated.

Third, Peter preaches his fourth sermon to the elite of Jerusalem which is an apologetic sermon based on the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—“whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead…”  The name is what healed the lame man (v.10).  The name reveals the attributes of the person.  In this case, Jesus is both the Lord of Life—because the grave was conquered—and thus he is also the Lord our healer—Jehovah Raphe.  Moreover, because of the above, he is also the Lord our Savior—there is salvation in no one else, for there’s no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”

By the way, in this section Peter refers to more fulfilled prophecy the fifth time by my count where Christ being rejected is actually the chief cornerstone.  There’s so much Bible in Peter that it’s overwhelming.

Fourth, the rulers note because of Peter and John’s confidence that they had been with Jesus even though they lacked education and training (v.13).  Something happens when we immerse ourselves in the word of the WORD and commune with him.  Too often seminarians be astute but not in the word of life and while I believe in the value of Biblical education and all it entails (E.g., Biblical Languages, Church History, Logic, etc.), it’s no substitute for individual immersion in the Scriptures bathed in a life of prayer.  It’s what Jesus modeled and certainly habits the apostles practiced.

Fifth, persecution came because of the word but so did civil disobedience.  Peter’s response to the threats breathed against him and John were God-centered and rested on being eyewitnesses of Christ’s life and deeds (Vv.17-23).  And while they were bold they were also mindful of god’s sovereignty in creation and again recall fulfilled prophecy the sixth one where God’s predestined purposes prevailed, even though they felt intimidated (vv.24-28).

When they were threatened they did not cower, but cried out to the God of heaven for boldness to speak faithfully Christ’s message (vv.28-31).  What an amazing example of God-focused devotion in the midst of the pressure to comply to cultural norms at odds with the gospel.

Lastly, these events continued to catapult the churches growth through acts of power which attested to the resurrection of Christ from the tomb and an amazing outpouring of grace manifested in the community.

Conclusion: the word of God brings the mixed bag of blessing and persecution, his ministers require boldness to walk in this way, his Word provides the power of the resurrection to see us through any circumstances.

(SDG)

The Marriage Decision of the Supreme Court

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In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage, there will be mixed emotions and thoughts—based on your worldview.  I’m glad we live in a country where we can talk, debate, and even agree to disagree—hopefully agreeably, and not with incivility (I.e. name calling, etc.).

I know many in the gay community are elated with the court’s decision but there are those within the community that are not[1].  I know many think this issue can only be viewed through scripture and tradition, but reason[2] and experience can also be good tutors.[3]  I also know that historically Christians have been swayed by the culture, rather than impacting it.  Many are the reasons, but two in particular are huge. There’s the unfortunate ignorance of the historic Christian faith and abandoning the life of the mind as a way to love God.   These two reasons produce souls without conviction who often reject Christianity’s truth claims (whether conscious or not).

Provided are two links that can help remedy the malady.  The first one is by Philosopher Douglas Groothuis’.  In his article, he challenges Christians in favor of same sex marriage to logically argue their case.  Among the values of this exercise is to replace the “parroting” of what’s in vogue with the presentation of a reasoned position.  Link http://douglasgroothuis.com/2015/06/27/a-challenge-to-christians-who-support-same-sex-marriage/

Secondly, Stand to Reason has helpful links to help our understanding of the issue(s) which also provide strategies for civil discussion regarding the marriage decision.  Link http://www.str.org/blog/more-resources-for-understanding-and-discussing-the-marriage-decision#.VZAf_flViko

ATTQ encourages the reader to consider these sites, and welcomes dialogue in the comment section concerning your thoughts, worries or even doubts about this issue.

[1] (Accessed 6/28/2015):  http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22758434 “The gay people against gay marriage” by Tom Geoghegan, BBC News, Washington http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/03/9432/  “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage” by Doug Mainwaring

[2] By reason I mean “unaided reason” which comes under the rubric of general revelation—knowledge all people possess concerning God and moralsIt’s this ability to reason that makes it possible for humans created in God’s image to make proper, true distinctions—judgments of reality.

[3] (Accessed 6/28/2015) http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/03/9432/ “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage” by Doug Mainwaring.  Scripture teaches that God has spoken through two books: The book of nature (Ps.19:1-6; Rom.1:18-21) known as general revelation and the book of redemption called particular revelation (Ps.19:7-14)The former gives the general knowledge of God, the latter the requisite redemptive/salvific knowledge of God.  Too often Christians neglect the latter book to make their case and actually miss out on a good opportunity for dialogue and persuasion contra Paul (Acts 17).  This issue calls for both “books” to be considered at least by professing Christians.

Our Darwin, Design & Origin Seminar Notes are Now Online!

attq Darwin Series header colorIn response to the social climate of our day and the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, Answers to Tough Questions is making these notes available to the body of Christ.  These are the notes we utilize in our one day seminar called Darwin, Design & Origins. This one day seminar  Continue reading “Our Darwin, Design & Origin Seminar Notes are Now Online!”