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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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  • Recommended Reading

John Adams: A Christian President

John Adams

John Adams

A study of President John Adams’ private and public statements show that he believed that Christianity must be rooted within the nation’s culture in order for the nation to survive. Adams expressed his religious views on numerous occasions, but his call for a National Fast Day on March 6, 1799, is the most expressive:

As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the growing providence of a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributer of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness of individuals and to the well-being of communities…. I have thought proper to recommend, and I hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the twenty-fifth day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain, as far as may be, from their secular occupation, and devote the time to the sacred duties of religion, in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the most high God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore his pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to his righteous requisitions in time to come; that He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that He would make us deeply sensible that “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” [Prov. 14:34]. The “Great Mediator and Redeemer” is Jesus Christ.

On another occasion, John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson stating, “The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were … the general principles of Christianity.” A few years later Adams wrote a letter to Jefferson in which he stated that “Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite society, I mean hell.” (Gary DeMar, America’s 200 Year War Against Terror, pp. 11-13)

Liberty

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Quoting President Woodrow Wilson:

“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.”

Health Care Lost In Bureaucratic Nightmare

Are You Standing In The Shadows?

From: The Desk of Eric Rauch

In a parable about stewardship in Luke 19, Jesus tells His hearers to “occupy until I come.” The New American Standard translates the verse this way: “Do business until I come.” The verse prior to the parable gives the context: “While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they [His listeners] supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately” (Luke 19:11). Since this parable immediately follows the story of Zaccheus’ conversion, we have no reason to assume that Jesus is speaking to a different audience. In this parable, Jesus actually speaks of three groups of people: (1) faithful and productive stewards, (2) unfaithful and unproductive stewards, and (3) His enemies. The rewards doled out to the first group and the punishment given to the third seem to be fair enough to our 21st century sensibilities, but the parable is really directed at the second group—the most populated of the three—the unfaithful and unproductive stewards.

If we were really honest with ourselves, we would be quick to admit that we do in fact belong to the second group. Each of us have been given talents and abilities that are seldom used to their maximum effectiveness. Far too often, we are more than willing to stand in the shadows and allow our gifts to go unnoticed. And when this happens on an individual level with alarming regularity, we should not be too surprised when it begins to happen to the church as a whole. The Church in America has an astounding physical presence—a church can be found on nearly every corner in every town—yet the shadows loom large enough so that even these buildings can remain hidden to the culture. Rather than being the central point of contact in the community, the church has become just another building on the landscape—visible yet invisible.

Continue reading. . . .

No Man Can Come

charles-haddon-spurgeon123In The Words of Charles H. Spurgeon:

My brethren, when man fell in the garden, manhood fell entirely; there was not one single pillar in the temple of manhood that stood erect. It is true, conscience was not destroyed. The pillar was not shattered; it fell, and it fell in one piece, and there it lies along, the mightiest remnant of God’s once perfect work in man. But that conscience is fallen, I am sure. Look at men. Who among them is the possessor of a “good conscience toward God,” but the regenerated man? Do you imagine that if men’s consciences always spoke loudly and clearly to them, they would live in the daily commission of acts, which are as opposed to the right as darkness to light? No, beloved; conscience can tell me that I am a sinner, but conscience cannot make me feel that I am one. Conscience may tell me that such-and-such a thing is wrong, but how wrong it is conscience itself does not know. Did any man s conscience, unenlightened by the Spirit, ever tell him that his sins deserved damnation? Or if conscience did do that, did it ever lead any man to feel an abhorrence of sin as sin? In fact, did conscience ever bring a man to such a self-renunciation, that he did totally abhor himself and all his works and come to Christ? No, conscience, although it is not dead, is ruined, its power is impaired, it hath not that clearness of eye and that strength of hand, and that thunder of voice, which it had before the fall; but hath ceased to a great degree, to exert its supremacy in the town of Mansoul. Then, beloved, it becomes necessary for this very reason, because conscience is depraved, that the Holy Spirit should step in, to show us our need of a Savior, and draw us to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Still,” says one, “as far as you have hitherto gone, it appears to me that you consider that the reason why men do not come to Christ is that they will not, rather than they cannot.” True, most true. I believe the greatest reason of man’s inability is the obstinacy of his will. That once overcome, I think the great stone is rolled away from the sepulcher, and the hardest part of the battle is already won. But allow me to go a little further. My text does not say, “No man will come,” but it says, “No man can come.” Now, many interpreters believe that the can here, is but a strong expression conveying no more meaning than the word will. I feel assured that this is not correct. There is in man, not only unwillingness to be saved, but there is a spiritual powerlessness to come to Christ; and this I will prove to every Christian at any rate. Beloved, I speak to you who have already been quickened by the divine grace, does not your experience teach you that there are times when you have a will to serve God, and yet have not the power? Have you not sometimes been obliged to say that you have wished to believe? But you have had to pray, Lord, help mine unbelief?” Because, although willing enough to receive God’s testimony, your own carnal nature was too strong for you, and you felt you needed supernatural help. Are you able to go into your room at any hour you choose, and to fall upon your knees and say, “Now, it is my will that I should be very earnest in prayer, and that I should draw near unto God?” I ask, do you find your power equal to your will? You could say, even at the bar of God himself, that you are sure you are not mistaken in your willingness; you are willing to be wrapped up in devotion, it is your will that your soul should not wander from a pure contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ, but you find that you cannot do that, even when you are willing, without the help of the Spirit. Now, if the quickened child of God finds a spiritual inability, how much more the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sin? If even the advanced Christian, after thirty or forty years, finds himself sometimes willing and yet powerless—if such be his experience,—does it not seem more than likely that the poor sinner who has not yet believed, should find a need of strength as well as a want of will? (Sermon No. 182)

From Ruler Of Earth To An Ingredient In Someone’s Soup

aliens-3From: The Pen of Gary DeMar

For several months I have been working on an extended project that explores the relationship of pop-culture to societal norms and worldview shifts. In addition to comic books, film, and music, I’ve been looking at science fiction and the search for extraterrestrial life. Science and science-fiction have converged on the subject for quite some time. “Nicholas of Cusa (Kues, German, 1401–1464) was a theologian who in De docta ignorantia endorsed the idea of other inhabited worlds in the mid-fifteenth century. Remarkably, Nicholas even affirmed that the inhabitants of the planets were superior to Earth’s human residents.”[2] It’s surprising how much interest and writing there has been on the subject for more than 500 years! It was surprising.

Extraterrestrial superiority is the norm for modern-day space-travel theorists. Evolution is the driving force behind most of it. It’s the belief of these writers and theorists that space exploration is the hope of mankind. In Star Maker (1937), Olaf Stapledon (1886–1950) “placed humanity on a cosmic evolutionary journey that ends in near divinity. . . . [He] believed we needed a new mythology for the dawning of the technological age.” The claim is made that the inherent principles of evolution will make space a utopia because science and scientists will lead the way.

C.S. Lewis was one of the first modern writers to spot the obvious flaw in space-utopia thinking. In a letter to Arthur C. Clarke dated December 7, 1943, Lewis wrote: “Technology is per se neutral: a race devoted to the increase of its own power by technology with complete indifference to ethics does seem to me a cancer in the universe. . . .

Given the evolutionary overtones of so many scientists and science fiction writers, how is it possible to make any moral assessments? Who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys? How do we know what’s good or bad? Evolution on earth is a history of “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” Why is it now wrong to be equally misanthropic in the pursuit of greater evolutionary development? Philosopher Richard Rorty (1931–2007) provided a thought-provoking moral experiment for naturalistic philosophy to grapple with. Rorty challenges atheists to offer a compelling satisfactory naturalistic answer to the following:

“Aliens from another planet, with vastly superior intelligence to humans, land on earth in order to consume humans as food. What argument could you make to convince the aliens not to eat us that would not also apply to our consumption of beef?”

Read this entire article. . . .

Graduating Class Defies ACLU

The graduating class of 2009 at Florida’s Pace High School expressed their objections to ACLU restrictions on statements of religious faith at their school by rising up en masse at their ceremony and reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The incident has been virtually ignored by media outlets throughout the region.

Nearly 400 graduating seniors stood up at the graduation. Family and friends joined in the recitation, and applauded the students when they were finished. Some students also painted crosses on their graduation caps to make a statement of faith.

Ignoring The Constitution

constitution_quill_penQuoting political analyst Rich Galen:

“At some point someone is going to file a suit in Federal court asking for clarity as to just where in the U.S. Constitution it is provided that the Executive Branch can buy a bankrupt car company.”

The Death Panel

death panelWritten by Andrew Klavan:

The people behind the long table do not know what they’ve become. The drug of power has been sugared over in their mouths with a flavoring of righteousness. Someone has to make these decisions, they tell their friends at dinner parties. It’s all very difficult for us. But you can see it in their eyes: It isn’t really difficult at all. It feels good to them to be the ones who decide.

“Well, we have your doctor’s recommendation,” says the chairwoman in a friendly tone. She peers over the top of her glasses as she pages through your file.

You have to clear your throat before you can answer. “He says the operation is my only chance.”

“But not really very much of a chance, is it?” she says sympathetically. Over time, she’s become expert at sounding sympathetic.

“Seventy percent!” you object.

“Seventy percent chance of survival for five years—five years at the outside—and even that only amounts to about 18 months in QALYs: quality-adjusted life years.”

“But without this procedure, I’ll be dead before Christmas.”

You try to keep the anger out of your voice. The last thing you want to do is offend them. But the politicians promised you—they promised everyone—there would never be panels like this. They made fun of anyone who said there would. “What do they think we’re going to do? Pull the plug on grandma?” they chuckled. The media ran news stories calling all rumors of such things “false” or “misleading.” But of course by then the media had become apologists for the state rather than watchdogs for the people.

In fact, the logic of this moment was inevitable. Once government got its fingers on the health-care system, it was only a matter of time before it took it over completely. . . .

Continue reading. . . .

Diminishing Worship

Narcissus

Narcissus

A popular church question is to ask “How can we make worship meaningful?” The problem with this question is that the true worship of God is not found by asking how the average person feels about a variety of worship strategies. The individual must have a committed relationship with Jesus Christ and a serious concern for personal holiness. If these qualities are missing from a person’s life, he will never know the meaning and experience of the true worship of God.

Imposing our current culture’s mindset on the practice of worshiping a holy God will bring nothing but disappointment and failure. God can never be brought down to our level. When we impose our cultural on the worship of God, we are also imposing many characteristics of the fallen culture that God is calling us to abandon. We live in the world, but we are not to be of this world. We separate ourselves from worldliness because we hunger for truth and righteousness. If we base our worship practices on popularity instead of Scripture, we cheapen our worship and the glory of God is diminished by our faithlessness.

When you enter the presence of God to worship, do you experience the burning away of self, pride, and love of the world? Are you worshiping and glorifying God or are you thinking about whether you like the music and sermon or not? Are you thinking about what moves your emotions or how you can better serve God? These attitudes matter much more than what you consider to be the motivational or entertainment value of what takes place at church.

God is holy and we should tread carefully into our attitude of worship. We must pursue holiness in our own lives. We must avoid seeking to manufacture the sensual in our churches. “Getting high on Jesus” is simply a corruption of the Spirit of Holiness. Jesus has said we are to worship God in spirit and in truth. The result of such worship will be the pursuit of a holy life. This is Biblical worship.

The Throne In Heaven Is Filled

throne of GodWritten by Joel McDurmon:

The New Testament quotes from Psalm 110 more than from any other Old Testament passage. This apostolic emphasis deserves more attention than it has so far received. In the New Testament references to this passage we find the determinant keys to Eschatology, or the doctrine of the future. The resulting ideas we glean from how Peter, Paul, and others apply Psalm 110 overturn much of the popular understanding of prophecy and “end times” teaching. A more consistent understanding will help modern Christians see through popular doom and gloom, through maniacal apocalyptic hysteria, and instead apprehend an optimism and goal-oriented Christian life many have not even yet considered.

Psalm 110, simply, teaches that the Lord (Adonai) shall sit at the right hand of the Almighty (Yaweh), and while the Lord holds that enthroned position, the Almighty shall vanquish all His enemies (v. 1). This vanquishing occurs through the power of the Lord’s strength applied in the midst his enemies (in other words, the enthronement of the Lord does not mean that He sits aloft and disconnected from worldly affairs, but just the opposite) (v.2) This point receives clarification and re-emphasis in v. 5. During the time of this enthroned rule, God’s people shall willingly rally to join and serve him (v. 3). The Lord does not rule as any ordinary ruler, but as an eternal priest-King like Melchizedek (Melchi-Zedek is Hebrew for “My King is Righteous”)—a point strongly emphasized of Christ in the book of Hebrews (v. 4). The Lord-Priest-King engages in the subduing of his enemies from his enthroned seat, and thus jointly with the Almighty (v. 5). His rule extends over unbelieving nations and over the heads of nations; He is truly a King of kings (v. 6). He shall not stop to rest or turn aside from the way of battle, signifying his dedication to constancy of his mission until the completion and of the task (v. 7). This is the simple reading of the text.

The New Testament writers picked up and applied this simple message as Christ Jesus fulfilled it. Peter announces that this mission—this enthronement—began when Christ ascended to the father (Acts. 2:31–36). Thus, Christ sits on that throne now; the kingdom of God awaits no future “coming” or “appearance” in order to inaugurate its leader: He has taken his throne once and for all. Christ clearly had this passage in mind for Himself: He referred to its divine nature in order to confute the Pharisees (Mt. 22:41–45), and to His immediate session at God’s right hand in order to announce the coming judgment on the Jerusalem leaders (Mt. 26:64). These two passages (among many) suffice to show how Christ fulfilled the enthronement prophecy at His ascension and session. (The writer of Hebrews makes this clear also—Heb. 1:1–3, 13).

We must, then, expect the rest of the prophecy to flow out from Christ’s very present rule as logically and consistently as the Almighty says in the Psalm. . . .

Continue reading. . . .

All The President’s Men

Good And Evil In Outer Space

forbidden_planet_posterWritten by Gary DeMar:

Michael G. Zey of Montclair State University in New Jersey writes: “People want to believe that there is superior life in the universe, and that these aliens will be able to upgrade our own lives. This is a form of wish fulfillment.” This is especially true since, as the late Michael Crichton made clear, “the belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief.” Similar to the way the “evidence” for evolution is designed to rid God from the cosmos, space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life (SETI) are designed to make man the next best thing to a god.

There are at least two problems with space optimism: (1) Evolution can go in any direction. You could get Kanamits, Terminator-like Aliens, or space vampires. There is no guarantee that you’ll meet E.T. or the child-like aliens that showed up at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Here’s how one commentator put it: “we are no more likely to find other planets inhabited by benign vegetarian philosophers than the Americas were.” (2) If humans ever explore other planets in earth-like solar systems (an unlikely prospect in the near or even far future given what we know about the distance of stars and the length of time it takes to travel to the nearest one), they will take their fallen natures with them.

One of the best films to make the second point is Forbidden Planet (1956). It takes place on a distant planet in the early part of the 23rd century. The storyline is based loosely on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. “Of all Shakespeare’s plays, The Tempest sets forth most fully and delightfully the biblical story of humankind: the tempestuous nature and thorny way of fallen man. . . .”

Continue reading. . . .

Handel Quote

G. F. Handel

G. F. Handel

In The Words of Handel:

“I should be sorry, my lord, if I have only succeeded in entertaining them; I wished to make them better.” (G.F. Handel to Lord Kinnoull after the first London performance of Messiah)

America’s Economic Armageddon: 2012?

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