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Reformed Witness Hour Newsletter - February 2024

RWH Logo 2019

News from the Reformed Witness Hour

February 2024

 

Help Us Get the Word Out!

This month we have four Christ-centered, gospel-themed messages to share. We are excited to announce messages from a new radio minister for the month of February! Professor Douglas Kuiper, a professor in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary will be delivering four messages from a series on the Ten Commandments. The first message from the series, An Overview of the Law, was delivered on January 28; if you missed it, be sure to listen to it on Sermon Audio or reformedwitnesshour.org; search for key words Overview of the Law.

Seminary Kuiper 2023

February 4
The 1st Commandment:

Worshiping the Only Good God 
Matthew 19:16-21


February 11
The 2nd Commandment:

Worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth

John 4:21-24

February 18
The 3rd Commandment:

Using God’s Holy Name Reverently
John 5:19-47


February 25
The 4th Commandment:

Keeping a Day of Rest on God’s Holy Day
Luke 13:14-16

I Am Your God

If you missed it, take time to listen to Rev. Spriensma’s message, I am Your God. This message was the most downloaded message of all of 2023 with 432 downloads during the year. In this message, Rev Spriensma expounds on Genesis 17:7 “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” This message is part of a series of messages on God’s Covenant of Grace.  

… the covenant is the goal of all of God’s work… Abram was saved in order to enjoy a covenant relationship with God. God in His covenant is saying, “You are Mine and I am yours.” It is an everlasting covenant. We are saved in order that there may be this relationship with God for ever and ever. Here on earth already and, finally, in the new heavens and the new earth…

Listen to the full message at reformedwitnesshour.org. Search for key word: I Am Your God.

2023 in Statistics Review

We continue to see exponential growth in the number of digital downloads each year. We are grateful for this opportunity to expand past the geographical reach of radio broadcasting. In 2023 we had over 3,000 more downloads than in 2022; in 2021 we had about 1,000 more downloads compared to 2020.

In 2023, 12,845 messages were played in the United States and 8,169 were played in other countries. Other than the U.S., the most plays occurred in Cambodia where messages were listened to 3,466 times. Singapore was the next highest with 816 downloads for the year.

Each month, we feature a message on the Sermon Audio Homepage. This places an advertisement of and link to one of our messages on the front page of the Sermon Audio website and app for one full day.

On average, these messages have had 310 downloads in 2023. On average, we had about 1,746 downloads each month this year.

The top 5 featured sermons in 2023:

  1. I Am Your God, Rev. Spriensma
  2. The Voice of All Creation, Rev. Bruinsma
  3. Craving Knowledge - Christian School Education, Rev. Bruinsma
  4. Nation Against Nation, Rev. Bruinsma
  5. Desiring a Better Country, Rev. Bruinsma

Sponsor a Month of Reformed Witness Hour

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Covenant Reformed News - January 2024

Covenant Reformed News
January 2024  •  Volume XIX, Issue 21


 

The Answer to Nehemiah’s Ejaculatory Prayer

After the question of Artaxerxes, “For what dost thou make request?” Nehemiah famously makes his ejaculatory prayer in the royal palace: “So I prayed to the God of heaven” (Neh. 2:4).

Then, and only then, does the cupbearer present his humble request to the Medo-Persian emperor: “If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it” (5).

Clearly, Nehemiah is not one of those people who sit around cleverly planning projects so that other people do the work and they do nothing. Nehemiah believed in hard work and costly sacrifice first of all for himself. The man who was soon to be appointed as the governor of Judah was certainly not an “armchair general”! This is crucial for all leadership, especially for leadership in the church of Jesus Christ.

Being an office-bearer in a faithful church is not merely or even chiefly about telling other people what they should do. It requires sacrificing one’s own time, increasing one’s own efforts and denying oneself in the advancement of the kingdom of God.

But it is a supremely worthy cause! Remember the labours and hardships of the head of the universal church. Merely thinking of the willing obedience and agonizing sufferings of our Lord Jesus, laying down His life for the salvation of His elect sheep (John 10:11, 15), means that pastors, elders and deacons can hardly think of their service to Him in terms of bossing others around or putting their feet up.

After the emperor approves of Nehemiah’s request, with the queen also being in attendance (Neh. 2:6), the two men begin to work out the details. First, they arrange the length of Nehemiah’s leave of absence (6). His first governorship ended up lasting 12 years (5:14; 13:6) but maybe, in this scene in the royal palace, Nehemiah was given a year or two to build the wall, with Artaxerxes only later granting him an extension or extensions. (Nehemiah also had a second stint as ruler in Jerusalem; 13:6ff.)

Second, letters were written, both for safe conduct and for the main building material that was not available on site in Jerusalem. We note that Nehemiah’s appeal mentions the name of the imperial forester and as many as three projects needing wood: “If it please the king, [1] let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; and [2] a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber [a] to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and [b] for the wall of the city, and [c] for the house that I shall enter into” (2:7-8).

Here we learn that Nehemiah had formulated a plan. He had not only been praying—closet prayer (1:4-11) and ejaculatory prayer (2:4)—but he had also been preparing. He had thought it all through and he knew what he was about. Thus Nehemiah was not only a man who sought the welfare of the children of Israel at God’s throne of grace, but he was also a godly and capable leader.

Our heavenly Father always had a plan! He answered Nehemiah’s prayers by moving Artaxerxes heart, out of His favour to His faithful servant and church in Jesus Christ, so that “the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me” (8). All of this was the realization of His determinate counsel and gracious will for the salvation of His beloved people (Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11).

Not only was there a man among the Jews who sought “the welfare of the children of Israel” (Neh. 2:10), but there is a God in heaven who seeks, and always obtains, the welfare of all His regenerated and adopted children in Jesus Christ. Behold the Saviour in His state of humiliation obtaining our redemption on the cross 2,000 years ago, and behold Him now in His state of exaltation ruling over all things at God’s right hand in heaven. This is all to the glory of the Triune God, and for the wonderful benefit of the catholic or universal church and each faithful local church.

The wonder is, beloved, that He also includes us and our prayers, even our short, silent and spontaneous ejaculatory prayers, in His eternal and gracious purpose in Christ! Rev. Angus Stewart


C. H. Spurgeon on Nehemiah 2:4: “It was a prayer of a remarkable kind. I know it was so, because Nehemiah never forgot that he did pray it. I have prayed hundreds of times, and thousands of times, and not recollected any minute particular afterwards either as to the occasion that prompted or the emotions that excited me; but there are one or two prayers in my life that I never can forget. I have not jotted them down in a diary, but I remember when I prayed, because the time was so special and the prayer was so intense, and the answer to it was so remarkable. Now, Nehemiah’s prayer was never, never erased from his memory; and when these words of history were written down he wrote that down, ‘So I prayed to the God of heaven’ — a little bit of a prayer pushed in edgeways between a question and an answer— a mere fragment of devotion, as it seemed, and yet so important that it is put down in an historical document as a part of the history of the restitution and rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, and a link in the circumstances which led up to that event of the most important character. Nehemiah felt it to be so, and therefore he makes the record — ‘So I prayed to the God of heaven.’”

Matthew Henry on Nehemiah 2:1-8: “Those that would find favour with kings must secure the favour of the King of kings. He prayed to the God of heaven as infinitely above even this mighty monarch … Wherever we are we have a way open heaven-ward. This will not hinder any business, but further it rather; therefore let no business hinder this, but give rise to it rather.”

 

The Sword: Advice for Christians Today

I wish to encourage members, ministers, elders and deacons in the churches to hold fast to “the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) in a day of compromise and lack of love for the truth. I will bring out some spiritual comparisons and parallels from a striking incident in nineteenth-century military history.

During the Crimean War (1853-1856), in which the United Kingdom, France, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia-Piedmont fought against the Russian Empire, there was an epic cavalry attack in the Battle of Balaclava immortalized in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1854). The poem records a stirring exhibition of valour and daring. Yet I will not focus on the battle itself but rather on an incident that took place within it.

At the end of the attack, a British lancer was found dead, killed in the battle. This was not unusual, for the British cavalry suffered very heavy casualties in this charge. Nevertheless, there was something unique about this lancer and his circumstances.

He was found alone with no fellow lancers with him, though his corpse was surrounded by dozens of enemy dead whom he had slain. He had evidently lost his horse, which had probably been shot from under him, and had charged at the nearest enemy position to engage them with his sword.

Now what was it that enabled this lancer to slay so many of the enemy? Was it his greater strength and longer reach than the Russians? Was it that he was armed with a sword and they were not? No, this lancer was as were all in the light brigade: light. He was not tall or muscular. Instead, it was the Russian artillery troops who were big and strong. They had to be in order to lug the heavy artillery pieces around the battlefield. They would have had the longer reach and they too were armed with swords.

On investigation, those who found the dead lancer discovered that on his body were over fifty strike marks made by Russian swords, twenty of which were on his head. Yet they had failed in most cases to draw blood. He was more bruised than cut. In contrast, the enemies had life-ending wounds inflicted upon them. Thus it became apparent that the lancer’s main advantage was that, whereas the enemies’ swords were blunt and ineffective, his sabre was sharp and clinically efficient.

Many times the lancer was told during training, “Your sword is the means of your staying alive and you must let it do its work. Keep your sword sharp and do not rely on your own strength. If you rely on your own strength, your weakness will let you down. Trust your sword!” He would have been taught to sharpen the sword using a whetstone, a leather strop and chamois leather until it was honed to perfection. The scabbard was to protect the sword’s edge, not to protect the user from cutting himself, as it is commonly thought today.

The lancer’s second advantage was the experience of his predecessors written down in a manual detailing how to use the sword skilfully. A sharp sword without the necessary skill to use it is of little use. Our lancer would have been warned not to lean on his own understanding but rather to follow what had been handed down in the manual, reinforced by practice, practice, practice!

We read in Hebrews 4:12 that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword.” The comparison here is highly significant. Unlike a physical sword, Scripture is already sharp, as well as being powerful and even living! Let the Word of God do its work! Put your trust in it as Jehovah’s own mighty weapon. However, if you lack the skills to use it, it will be wielded as if it were blunt and ineffective.

Over the years, through assiduous study, tough experience, doctrinal controversies, much prayer and faithful councils, assemblies and synods, something akin to spiritual swordsmanship manuals has been written: the great catechisms, creeds and confessions of the churches! Here the theological professor, pastor, elder, deacon, seminarian and church member learn how to use the sword skilfully.

Those churches which have ignored and forsaken the creeds have forgotten how to wield the sword, so that for them it is now rusty and blunt. In the day of battle, they will be ineffective and will be defeated easily.

I humbly urge all God’s people to remain steadfast, when a great falling away is blatantly obvious in the vast majority of churches in the British Isles and across the world. Do not try to make the blade of “the sword of the Spirit” “smooth” (Eph. 6:17; Isa. 30:10). Maintain the ecumenical and Reformed creeds faithfully. Do not weaken the teaching and training of Christian adults, covenant children or future ministers, but rather be diligent to be even sharper than ever before. Let the sword do its work!

After the charge of the light brigade was over, the surviving Protestants from the island of Ireland held a worship service in a cave to praise their sovereign God. They also recalled a Dutchman, William of Orange, who brought them the liberty to worship free from Roman Catholic tyranny at the Glorious Revolution (1688) and through the Battle of the Boyne (1690) in their homeland.

As Christians, we recall with honour the worthies in Old Testament (cf. Heb. 11) and New Testament days, as well as the great saints whom God has raised up since, like Athanasius, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Francis Turretin and Herman Hoeksema, to teach and defend the beloved truth of which we witness.

Most importantly, we remember and worship our glorious Saviour who brought spiritual freedom to His beloved people through His atoning sacrifice, the Christ from whose mouth proceeds “a sharp twoedged sword” (Rev. 1:16; cf. Isa. 49:2; Rev. 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21). Remember, “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (II Tim. 2:19). Elder Brian Crossett

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. • www.youtube.com/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Covenant Reformed News - December 2023

Covenant Reformed News
December 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 20


 

The Background of Nehemiah’s Ejaculatory Prayer

We are not to think that Nehemiah’s ejaculatory prayer in the palace (Neh. 2:4) had no background or that it came completely out of the blue. It was preceded by four months (1:1; 2:1) of prayer with fasting (1:4) “day and night” (6). Before his spontaneous, short and silent ejaculatory prayer (2:4), Nehemiah engaged in closet prayers that were deliberate, lengthy and (probably) vocal (1:4-11). These closet prayers were also fervent and persevering—for four months!

In fact, Nehemiah’s conversation with Artaxerxes had even been prayed for earlier that very day! “O Lord, I beseech thee,” the cupbearer cried, “let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man [i.e., the Medo-Persian emperor]” (11).

In other words, Nehemiah did not “wing it,” as the saying is, thinking that an ejaculatory prayer in the palace would do and that he did not need closet prayer. Nor did Nehemiah reckon, “I have already prayed for four months so I do not need ejaculatory prayer.” For Nehemiah, it was both closet prayer (1:4-11) and ejaculatory prayer (2:4). In this too, beloved, Nehemiah shows himself as a man who sought the welfare of God’s people (10) and our worthy example.

The background of Nehemiah’s ejaculatory prayer in the imperial palace, however, goes back even further than the previous four months of prayers. Remember that he asked the men of Judah who had recently returned from Jerusalem about the situation of the Jews there (1:2-3). Why? Because Nehemiah loved God’s church. He was a man who trusted in the covenant God through the coming Messiah, and so knew the forgiveness of sins. As a thankful saint, he was leading a new and upright life.

All of this, of course, was vital as regards his testimony before Artaxerxes. Nehemiah informs us, “Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence” (2:1). This prompted the Medo-Persian emperor’s response: “Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart” (2).

Nehemiah was a man who rejoiced in his Saviour (Ps. 33:1; Phil. 4:4) and realized that “the joy of the Lord [was his] strength” (Neh. 8:10). He manifested “the fruit of the Spirit” namely, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Artaxerxes recognized Nehemiah’s qualities. Otherwise, he would never have asked his cupbearer why his heart was sorrowful (Neh. 2:2). This gave Nehemiah the opportunity to explain: “why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?” (3). Whereupon the emperor asked, “For what dost thou make request?” (4). This led to Nehemiah’s ejaculatory prayer: “So I prayed to the God of heaven” (4), which set up the conversation that resulted in his being commissioned to rebuild Jerusalem’s perimeter walls (5-8), the work with which he is forever associated! Rev. Stewart

 

Jesus’  Weeping

This month’s questions is: “Why did Jesus weep at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35)? Some say that His tears here teach us not only His humanity, but also that there was a human desire in Jesus for something that was contrary or different to the Father’s will of decree. His Father in heaven had eternally determined this event—and Jesus, being God, would have known this. But He wept. Could not this indicate that He nevertheless compassionately willed, wished or desired that these things be not so? That things would have been otherwise? The humanity or human heart of Christ desiring, willing or wishing something different to the divine determination? Even if it is small? If so, why could this not also imply that He could have elsewhere a different or contrary wish regarding the destiny of the non-elect? A desire or wish that they would be saved?”

Before I answer this question, let me thank all the readers who continue to submit their questions. I am amazed at the number of questions, at their variety and at their quality. I have not had a question that was not worth answering, though I have not yet gotten to all of them.

“Jesus wept.” This is the shortest verse in the Bible, but one of the most profound and heart-breaking. That my Saviour wept at the tomb of Lazarus makes me weep for my sins and for all that He endured on my behalf, unworthy sinner that I am, for death has come into the world as the punishment of sin.

The question is, Why did He weep? Was He weeping for a friend? Weeping over death as the punishment of sin? Was He wishing that Lazarus had not died, though He knew it to be the will of God? Was He weeping for all those who die in unbelief, wishing they could be saved?

There are important theological arguments against the view of Jesus’ weeping presented by our questioner. If His weeping reveals a will or desire contrary to the will of God regarding the death of Lazarus or the destiny of the non-elect, then Christ’s will is not in harmony with the will of God. If He did not mean what He said, “I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:9), then we can never be sure that what He did do was all the necessary will of God for our salvation.

If weeping Jesus desires the salvation of all and somehow that is also God’s desire, then the God of election is not in harmony with Himself, is not one in His will and desires. Then, in relation to God’s love, we are like a little girl pulling the petals off a daisy and saying, “He loves me … He loves me not.”

Some say that this desire of Jesus is only His humanity showing through. If as God He willed the death of Lazarus, as well as the damnation of the non-elect, while as man He willed otherwise, then the two natures of Christ are not in harmony with each other. Then He is not God come in the flesh, God and man in one divine Person. Then we have two Christs, the old error of Nestorianism. As one Person in two natures, He cannot want one thing as man and something else as God.

Thus the view presented by our questioner either compromises the doctrine of election (one will of God in election and another in God’s revelation of Himself in Christ) or it compromises the doctrine of God’s simplicity, that He is one in all His works and ways, always in perfect harmony with Himself, or it compromises the doctrine of the hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, that He is God and man united in one Person. These are the devastating theological consequences of that erroneous view.

Those who see in Jesus’ weeping a compassion for all men, perhaps especially for those who are unsaved, claim to magnify His mercy and pity, but they end up doing the opposite. If Christ’s weeping was for those who go lost, then His pity and mercy are no different from, and no more useful than, my own. I need a Saviour whose pity saves, whose mercy lifts me out of my misery, whose compassion delivers, whose tears were shed for my redemption. A saviour whose pity and compassion are helpless is of no more use to me than any other person who sympathizes with me. How shallow and unsatisfactory, then, to see in Jesus’ weeping an unfulfilled desire for the salvation of those whom the Father had not given Him or a helpless pity for the lost.

I need a Saviour who, in perfect harmony with the will of God, not only knows the hour of my death but brings it about in His sovereign government of all things, a Saviour who is ready to come for me in order to receive me to Himself at death (John 14:3). I need a Saviour who is waiting till precisely the divinely appointed moment of my death, just as I am waiting for Him.

There is, however, another side to Jesus’ weeping. His weeping is not just an emotional response to suffering and death, like our weeping at the graveside of a family member. It is not only sorrow over the breaking of earthly bonds and relationships. It is that but not only that. Lazarus was Jesus’ friend, and the thought of Lazarus rotting and stinking in his tomb must have moved Him deeply. Christ knew that He would raise Lazarus, just as we know a departed believer is in heavenly glory waiting the final resurrection, but that does not make death any less horrible.

Also He must have wept at the knowledge that death was the consequence of sin. Who would have realized that more than the Son of God? We are so inured to sin and its horrors that we seldom think of sin at the graveside, but Jesus, the holy Son of God, would have seen that in a way that we can not.

Certainly Christ also wept because the death of Lazarus reminded Him of His own impending death at Calvary. Just as He groaned and sweated blood in the garden of Gethsemane, with knowledge of what His own death would be under the just wrath of God against sin, so He must have wept at the tomb of Lazarus.

Nevertheless, the most important things about Jesus’ tears at the tomb of Lazarus is that they are part of His atoning suffering, every tear more precious than diamonds. Hebrews 5:7-9 tells us this, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

Weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, Christ was learning obedience in suffering, the obedience that would bring Him to the horrors of His own death on the cross. That same obedience would bring Him through death to the perfection promised. Thus He brought salvation. His tears, therefore, are described as “strong” or powerful. They accomplished what no other tears would do. “Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.”

Instead of the theological speculation and wishful thinking involved in this month’s question, all should understand that, as Christians, we must think biblically (Isa. 8:20). John 11 states three times that Jesus loved Lazarus (3, 5, 36), as both his two sisters (3) and the Jews recognized (36). Out of His love for Lazarus, Christ prayed for him (11:41-42; 17:9) and died for his sins (and those of all His elect) just a few days later (John 13:1; Rom. 5:8; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 25).

John 11 states that Lazarus was Jesus’ “friend” (11). On the night of His arrest, our Lord averred, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” before adding, “Ye are my friends” (John 15:13-14), a term of endearment which includes not only the eleven disciples but also Lazarus, as well as all God’s true children.

In the chapter before the account of Christ’s weeping at the tomb of His beloved friend Lazarus—a sheep if ever there was one!—Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15). Later He added, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (27-30). These words are true not only regarding Christ’s beloved friend Lazarus but also for all who trust in Him alone as the mighty Redeemer.

A saviour who wept helplessly at the tomb of Lazarus is not the Saviour I need. I need One whose tears are strong to save and of atoning value, for nothing else can pay for my sins. Unable even to weep for my sins apart from His saving grace, I find in my Saviour’s tears the power to weep for my sins, the hope of eternal joy and the reason why all my tears will be wiped away in the future. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Reformed Witness Hour Newsletter - January 2024

RWH Logo 2019

News from the Reformed Witness Hour

January 2024

 

Help Us Get the Word Out!

This month we have four Christ-centered, gospel-themed messages to share!

W Bruinsma RWH

In January we will complete Rev. W. Bruinsma’s series and begin a new series on the 10 commandments by a new radio pastor, Professor Douglas Kuiper of the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary.

 

January 7, 2024
The Lord Revealed from Heaven 
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10


January 14, 2024
Ehud: Deliverer of the Covenant
Judges 3:12-30


January 21, 2024
Learning Contentment
Philippians 4:11

 

January 28 - Prof. D. Kuiper
An Overview of the Law
Matthew 5:17-20

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Reformed Witness Hour Newsletter - December 2023

RWH Logo 2019

News from the Reformed Witness Hour

December 2023

 

Help Us Get the Word Out!

This month we have five Christ-centered, Gospel-themed messages to share!

W Bruinsma RWH

In December, we will hear five new messages from Rev. Bruinsma, Pastor at Pittsburgh Protestant Reformed Church in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

December 3
God’s Promise to His Church Confirmed (1) 
Acts 2:39


December 10
God’s Promise to His Church Confirmed (2)
Acts 2:39


December 17
The Song of Angels
Luke 2:13-14


December 24
God’s Faithfulness
1 Thessalonians 5:24

December 31
The Lord Revealed from Heaven
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10

 

The Voice of All Creation

If you missed it, take time to listen to The Voice of All Creation. This message was the most downloaded message of October, with 360 downloads during the month. Rev Bruinsma expounds on Hebrews 11:3 “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” This message is a wonderful reminder of the rich truths found in creation.

The creation of this world stands as evidence to us of certain truths that are invisible to the eye… God’s Word in creation is a testimony of the hidden wisdom of God that He has ordained before the world unto our glory. It reveals hidden truths that God reveals only to those who have been given the eyes of faith… The six-day creation is a matter of faith versus unbelief... we learn of a truth that has always been accepted by the church of Jesus Christ… Belief in the creation account is a true test of one’s… faith.

Are we convicted in our hearts of the blessed truth of creation? Listen to the full message at reformedwitnesshour.org, search for key words: Voice of all Creation.

 

Radio Station Update

This year was a busy year for RWH! We started broadcasting on three new stations including Greenville, South Carolina, Detroit, Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Two of these stations were chosen in partnership with the Domestic Mission Committee with a long-term goal of possible mission work in areas where we broadcast. In God’s providence, the South Carolina station has since closed so we have begun the work of seeking another station. We are currently also working on contracts with several stations in Washington state for more blanket coverage in that area.

We covet your support and prayers as we look ahead to how we can continue to utilize radio and internet ministry to proclaim the truth of God’s sovereign grace in the new year. 

 

Digital Media Update

We are grateful for technology that allows us to bring our messages beyond the geographical reach of our radio broadcasting. Throughout 2023 we have seen more and more listeners engage with our content digitally. So far this year, RWH has reached 98 countries (ten more than in 2022) and all fifty states via internet and podcasts.

Cambodia has been our second highest country in digital downloads consistently for all of 2022 and 2023; second only to the United States. The number of downloads from Cambodia increased from 1,794 downloads in 2022 to 3,010 downloads in 2023! 

In 2020, we began broadcasting our messages via podcast. Since then, this medium has become more and more popular. This year, 40% of our digital downloads have been via podcast apps. In 2021 and 2022, podcasts accounted for 30% and 34% of downloads respectively.  

Join us by subscribing to RWH on one of these podcast apps: iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, PlayerFM, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, the Podcast App, and Himalaya.

In addition to podcasts, listeners can access RWH messages via our RWH website (www.ReformedWitnessHour.org) and Sermon Audio (www.sermonaudio.com/rwh).

Top countries reached so far in 2023

Downloads

Top states reached so far in 2023

Downloads

United States

11,332

Michigan

2,656

Cambodia

3,010

Colorado

911

Singapore

809

South Carolina

863

United Kingdom

638

Ohio

627

Canada

376

North Carolina

524

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Covenant Reformed News - November 2023

Covenant Reformed News
November 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 19


 

Nehemiah’s Ejaculatory Prayer in the Palace

There are various types of prayer, including public prayer, private prayer and fervent prayer (James 5:16-17). In persevering prayer, the believer does not give up, even if, after some time, he or she has not received an answer. Instead, the saint keeps on asking, seeking and knocking. Our Saviour commends this sort of praying many times (e.g., Luke 18:1-8), so let us not give up!

Ejaculatory prayer has especially three features, all of which begin with the letter “s.” First, ejaculatory prayer is spontaneous. This is praying that is informal, unplanned, on the spot. It does not involve bowing one’s head or closing one’s eyes or folding one’s hands or falling to one’s knees. Ejaculatory prayer is offered not at specific times of the day in the closet (Matt. 6:6) but at any time anywhere. Second, ejaculatory prayer is silent. It is not spoken out loud, usually because there are other people around so it would be inappropriate. Third, ejaculatory prayer is short. It is a prayer quickly darted to heaven, a brief petition hurled upwards like a javelin. In fact, the Latin word for a dart or javelin is the source of our English word “ejaculatory.”

The prayer of Nehemiah 2:4 is clearly ejaculatory. First, it is spontaneous. After Artaxerxes asks, “For what dost thou make request?” Nehemiah tells us, “So I prayed to the God of heaven” (4). Second, it is silent. The Medo-Persian emperor did not hear Nehemiah say anything out loud to God (for that would have been weird). Nor did he see any movement of his cupbearer’s lips, unlike Eli who saw Hannah’s lips move in silent prayer (I Sam. 1:12-13). Third, Nehemiah’s prayer was short. Evidently King Artaxerxes did not even notice any pause before Nehemiah responded to his question.

I take it that you, beloved, are not strangers to ejaculatory prayer, that you too speed off brief darts of prayers to your heavenly Father amidst your many daily activities and that you do it often!

Let us consider some very basic points regarding this ejaculatory prayer of Nehemiah, including, first, when he made it. Nehemiah was working, engaged in his gainful employment as an imperial cupbearer. Ejaculatory prayer, unlike closet prayer, is possible while at our jobs, whether we are teaching a class or driving a car, serving customers or trading shares, engaged in computer programming or metalworking, etc.

Second, where was Nehemiah when he offered this ejaculatory prayer? In an imperial palace! If he can dart a prayer to Jehovah from there, so can we, by God’s grace, whether we are at school, in a hospital, at the office, in an aeroplane or at home.

Third, before whom did Nehemiah make this ejaculatory prayer? In the presence of an idolater who was probably the most powerful man on the planet! Yet, even then, who was this earthly monarch compared to the sovereign ruler over all! “Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven” (Neh. 2:4). We too can shoot our prayers to our covenant God in Jesus Christ our Redeemer before our bank manager, teacher, mother-in-law, employer or persecutor.

Notice that, by God’s grace, Nehemiah did not let his emotions stop him from making an ejaculatory prayer. First, he was “very sore afraid” (2) yet he prayed. David declared, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” (Ps. 56:3). Similarly, we could say, “What time I am afraid, I will pray to Thee, even in ejaculatory prayers, in situations where it is impossible to pray out loud or at length.” We must not panic or get flustered or alarmed such that we give way to terror and forget to trust or pray.

Second, Nehemiah’s eagerness did not keep him from ejaculatory prayer. He earnestly wanted to go to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls. But when Artaxerxes asks, “For what dost thou make request?” (Neh. 2:4), Nehemiah does not blurt out, “Please send me to Judah to repair its capital’s perimeter defences.” Instead, we read, “So I prayed to the God of heaven” (4) and then he petitions the emperor (5). Neither fear nor eagerness should keep us back from making our ejaculatory prayers!

Nehemiah 2:4 is striking in that, first, it contains the most famous ejaculatory prayer in all of Scripture, though it occurs in a relatively obscure biblical book. Second, surprisingly, the content of this ejaculatory prayer is not given. Though it is the most famous ejaculatory prayer in God’s Word, its words are not recorded! From its context, however, we can deduce that it was a petition along these lines: “Lord, help me to speak to Artaxerxes so that he sends me to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls!” Third, Nehemiah remembered this ejaculatory prayer years later. He must have darted many thousands of requests to God, but it is this key one that he has recorded here in inspired Scripture.

Brethren, none of our ejaculatory prayers are likely to be famous. We ourselves remember few of them, never mind their precise words. But let Nehemiah 2:4 encourage us to dart more prayers to the Lord of heaven, especially in times of temptation or trial, or when contending with enemies or difficulties, even if it is even merely, “Father, give me patience,” when our children are acting up, or “Lord, help me,” when we are weak and distressed. Remember that ejaculatory prayers are the most versatile of all prayers, and can be made at any time, anywhere and in any situation.

Beloved, “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,” whether in public prayer or closet prayer or ejaculatory prayer, “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16)! Rev. Stewart

 

The Covenant of Redemption (3)

In our discussion of the covenant of redemption, we have emphasized the truth that God’s covenant is never an agreement but a relationship. It is first and foremost the relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity. God is, in and with Himself, a covenant God. This truth is very humbling since it means that He does not need us to be a covenant God. He is all-sufficient to Himself.

It is also a wonderful truth in that His covenant with us, established first of all with Christ, is His taking us into that relationship in which He is the eternal Father and Christ His Son through the Spirit. That relationship is sovereignly realized and maintained. God makes us His covenant people and, when we show ourselves unfaithful and disobedient, sovereignly maintains that covenant in Christ. He does not cast off His people whom He eternally loved (Rom. 11:2), whether elect Jew or elect Gentile. He even promises to take the children of believers into that relationship, as the God not only of His people but of their seed (Mark 10:13-16; Acts 2:39). How great are His mercies!

That He establishes His covenant first with Christ, making Christ His “firstborn” (Ps. 89:27), in order to maintain and keep His covenant with His people, is God’s wonderful way of revealing the faithfulness and the graciousness of His covenant with His people. In the last News, we looked especially at Psalm 89 in that connection, for few other passages so wonderfully show what the covenant of redemption is.

We now focus on God’s covenant relationship with us, what we call the covenant of grace, especially in Genesis 15-17. We do this because God’s covenant with Abraham shows beyond doubt that His covenant is not merely an agreement but a sovereignly established relationship. These three chapters are beautifully instructive.

Genesis 15 begins with God’s affirming to Abraham His love and friendship in the face of Lot’s departure: “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (1). In light of Genesis 17:7, this can only be taken as an affirmation of God’s covenant with Abraham. It is really the great promise of the covenant, “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”

Having spoken to Abraham of His everlasting covenant, Jehovah predicts the coming of Christ as the One through whom He would be forever the God of Abraham and Abraham’s innumerable seed. Galatians 3:16, a passage mutilated by many modern Bible translations, shows that the singular “seed” is a reference to Christ as the One in whom God would fulfil His promises and not merely to Isaac.

To show His covenant faithfulness and to assure Abraham of it, God tells him to prepare for an unusual ceremony, unusual to us, that is, though not to Abraham. Abraham had to cut several animals and birds in pieces, and lay the pieces of the animals and the birds in two rows, with a walk-way between the rows.

That ceremony was used in those days to confirm a covenant, so that the usual description of covenant making (also in Scripture) was “cutting a covenant.” When used by two men, it was a covenant in the form of an agreement, the two walking together between the pieces of the animals, consenting in some important purpose and showing that they would rather be cut in pieces than break their agreement.

In establishing His covenant with Abraham, God did not make an agreement with Abraham. Instead, Jehovah established His covenant by passing alone through the cut-up pieces of the animals and the birds, while Abraham was fast asleep (Gen. 15:12). Thus God took upon Himself all the penalties and punishments of covenant breaking. This was not, therefore, an agreement or transaction between God and Abraham, but God’s way of sovereignly taking Abraham to be His friend and sovereignly promising to remain Abraham’s friend forever.

Genesis 16 serves as a reminder of the impossibility, humanly speaking, of the establishment and keeping of the covenant by Abraham or by anyone, for Sarah was barren and Abraham’s efforts to see to the covenant by marrying Hagar were in vain. Only when Abraham’s own flesh was “dead” (Rom. 4:19) did God, by a miracle, see to the coming of the promised Seed and the fulfilment of His covenant promises. All this proves that the covenant cannot ever depend on man. It is God’s covenant and He alone is able to keep covenant with His people. The covenant cannot be an agreement.

Finally, in Genesis 17:1-8, before the birth of Isaac, God revealed to Abraham the fact that His covenant would be an everlasting relationship in which He would be Abraham’s God and the God of His seed. He speaks to Abraham of a seed that would include not only physical descendants of Abraham but people of all nations, and also hints of an everlasting inheritance of which the land where Abraham then lived was only a shadow. That seed, however, was Christ above all (Gal. 3:16)

Did Abraham understand these things? Indeed, he did. Jesus told the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). This is what Abraham believed and hoped: “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:9-10).

The sad thing is that many today do not see what Abraham saw. They see God’s covenant with Abraham as a temporal and temporary arrangement. They are so focused on the earthly land, which was only ever a picture of the heavenlies, that they still look for an earthly fulfilment of the promises, whether to the Jews or to both Jews and Gentiles. They think that the salvation of Abraham and his descendants was a matter of law-works. They do not understand that Abraham had the gospel of our Lord Jesus preached to him and that he was God’s covenant friend not by works but by faith in Christ.

Worst of all, many still think that God’s covenant is an agreement, not a sovereignly and graciously established relationship. Not only does this make the covenant a cold transaction, destroying the beauty of the covenant as a relationship with the Triune God Himself through Christ, but it also introduces into the doctrine of God’s covenant something that does not belong to any aspect of our salvation.  Rev. Ron Hanko

 

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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