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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

The New “Rights”

Quoting columnist Larry Elder:

“Once a nation under a Constitution that restricted government intrusion, we now want government to provide for our ‘needs’ by calling them ‘rights.’ We now ask government to prop up failing businesses, make student loans, guarantee mortgages, build and maintain public housing, financially support state education from preschool though graduate school, fund private research, provide disaster relief and aid, pay ‘volunteers’ and on and on. Many in our nation happily submit to this bargain. They consider the Big Three entitlements — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — ‘rights,’ their absence unimaginable in a modern ‘caring’ society. It is out of the question to expect people, families and communities to plan for retirement. It is beyond reason to expect medical care, like any other commodity, to follow the laws of supply and demand — for prices and choices to allocate resources and for competition to drive down prices and improve quality. It is simply too much to expect the compassion, morality and spirituality of humankind to aid those unable to care for themselves.”

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The Gospel Must Be Preached To Sinners

John Bunyan

Quoting John Bunyan (17th Century English Independent Preacher and author of Pilgrim’s Progress):

“The gospel must be preached to sinners, as they are sinners, without distinction of elect and reprobate, because neither the one nor yet the other (as considered under these simple acts) are fit subjects to embrace the Gospel – for neither the one act nor yet the other doth make either of them sinners – but the Gospel is to be tendered to men as they are sinners and personally under the curse of God for sin; wherefore to proffer grace to the elect because they are elect, it is the proffer grace and mercy to them not considering them as sinners…Thus you see the gospel is to be tendered to all in general, as well to the reprobate as to the elect, to sinners as sinners: and so are they to receive it and close with the tenders thereof.” (Reprobation Asserted Chapter 9 Treasury of Bunyan p.709-710 Baker House)

Thomas Jefferson On Debt And Independence

Thomas Jefferson

Quoting Thomas Jefferson:

“To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses, and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account, but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers.”

Calvinism In Today’s Church

John Calvin

From the pen of Josh Burek:

Five centuries ago, John Calvin’s teachings reconceived Christianity; midwifed Western ideas about capitalism, democracy, and religious liberty; and nursed the Puritan values that later cast the character of America.

Today, his theology is making a surprising comeback, challenging the me-centered prosperity gospel of much of modern evangelicalism with a God-first immersion in Scripture. In an age of materialism and made-to-order religion, Calvinism’s unmalleable doctrines and view of God as an all-powerful potentate who decides everything is winning over many Christians – especially the young.

Twenty-something followers in the Presbyterian, Anglican, and independent evangelical churches are rallying around Calvinist, or Reformed, teaching. In the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant body, at least 10 percent of its pastors identify as Calvinist, while more than one-third of recent seminary graduates do.

New Calvinism draws legions to the sermons of preachers like John Piper of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Here at CHBC, the pews and even rooms in the basement are filled each Sunday, mostly with young professionals. Since senior pastor Mark Dever brought Calvinist preaching here 16 years ago, the church has grown sevenfold. Today it is bursting at the stained-glass windows. . . .

By most logic, the stern system of Calvinism shouldn’t be popular today. Much of modern Christianity preaches a comforting Home Depot theology: You can do it. We can help. Epitomized by popular titles like Joel Osteen’s “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” this message of self-fulfillment through Christian commitment attracts followers in huge numbers, turning big churches into megachurches. . . .

“The resurgence of Calvinism indicates that America hasn’t changed so much as some might suppose,” says Collin Hansen, author of “Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists.” “American Christianity has splintered in myriad directions since the Puritans settled New England. But the God they worshiped – attested in the Bible, sovereign in all things, and merciful toward sinners through the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ – still captivates believers today.”

Read more here. . . .

Betrayal: The Death Of Trust And Loyalty

V for VENDETTA

Have you ever been betrayed by someone you thought you could completely trust? Perhaps it was a spouse, a relative, a friend, or a group of friends, or people you respected. How is it that we can live in a world that is referred to as “civilized”, yet where human beings have no sense of honor, and loyalty has become a fiction of the imagination? Seneca, the great Roman statesman and historian, spoke to this dilemma when he commented: “It’s a vice to trust all, and equally a vice to trust none.”

A very common response to a broken trust is anger and disgust at the lack of integrity demonstrated by the other person. Even if the relationship is mended and the incident forgiven, can the same level of trust that once existed be restored? Trust is very fragile and can be lost instantly. Playwright Tennessee Williams once said, “We have to distrust each other. It’s our only defense against betrayal.” Is this the answer?

Persons who feel betrayed may sometimes seek some form of vengeance (which they consider justice) to make right for them what they feel has been the injustice committed against them. They honestly believe that this response will make them feel better about themselves.

It is clear, however, that trust defines every interaction in our relationships; it builds intimacy and it strengthens bonds. Without trust no relationship can thrive. If you have ever had your trust betrayed, then you know how hard it can be to let go, move on, and repair the damage. Many times the burned person just wants to cut his losses and end the relationship. This is because the one betrayed feels like he has been sent a message that he doesn’t matter very much.

Even when the ordinary pains of life are expected, it still makes life difficult. When pain, however, is unexpected – such as in an incident of betrayal – it is much worse. Any change in the status quo is more painful when it is unexpected.

As Christians, how are we to respond when we find ourselves on the receiving end of “betrayal”? William Temple wrote, “Only one petition in the Lord’s Prayer has any condition attached to it; it is the petition for forgiveness.”

12 “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6)

This principle is repeated many times in the Scriptures in verses such as this one:

37 “forgive, and you will be forgiven;” (Luke 6)

George Herbert put it this way: “He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven.” Peace of mind comes only with the ability to forgive.

Once you have forgiven, never keep going over the incident in your imagination or conversation. This will only stir up your anger and keep you from finding peace. Never hold it over the other person as a “trump card”.

You’re only human, so things probably won’t go back to exactly the way they once were. It is important to understand that some people simply do not value trust, honor, and loyalty to begin with. Thus, they are not likely to change in the future. Once you forgive, however, you can move on to develop a more “godly-wise” trust. You begin to realize that you didn’t put perfect people up on your pedestals. We are all sinners saved by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even Christians are still sinners as we journey through life, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and to grow in grace.

Healing and restoration are possible. Even if the person or persons responsible for your pain never apologize or ask for forgiveness, you can find peace of mind. Fanny Crosby explains this process in her hymn, “Balm in Secret Prayer”:

Pray on, pray on, O trusting heart,
Let not thy courage fail;
But take thy Savior at His word,
And know thou shalt prevail.

Tho’ the cross is hard to bear,
There is balm in secret prayer;
Go and tell thy sorrows there,
And leave it all with Jesus.

Perhaps in some desponding hour,
When hope has well nigh past,
The light will burst upon thy soul,
And joy be thine at last.

Pray on, pray on, O weary not,
Whate’er thy trial be;
But lean thy faith on Him Who said,
“It shall be well with thee.”

Prayer And Christianity In American History, Part IV

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

Beginning in 1904 and continuing for the next half-century, the Federal government printed and distributed The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for the use of Members of Congress because of the important teachings it contained.

In 1931, Congress by law adopted the Star-Spangled Banner as the official National Anthem, with its phrases such as “may the Heav’n-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation,” and “this be our motto, In God is our trust!”.

In 1954, Congress by law added the phrase “one nation under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 1954 a special Congressional Prayer Room was added to the Capitol with a kneeling bench, an altar, an open Bible, an inspiring stained-glass window with George Washington kneeling in prayer, the declaration of Psalm 16:1: “Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust,” and the phrase “This Nation Under God” displayed above the kneeling, prayerful Washington.

In 1956, Congress by law made “In God We Trust” the National Motto, and added the phrase to American currency.

The constitutions of each of the 50 states, either in the preamble or body, explicitly recognize or express gratitude to God.

America’s first Presidential Inauguration incorporated 7 specific religious activities, including–

  1. the use of the Bible to administer the oath;
  2. affirming the religious nature of the oath by the adding the prayer `So help me God!’ to the oath;
  3. inaugural prayers offered by the President;
  4. religious content in the inaugural address;
  5. civil leaders calling the people to prayer or acknowledgment of God;
  6. inaugural worship services attended en masse by Congress as an official part of congressional activities; and
  7. clergy-led inaugural prayers, activities which have been replicated in whole or part by every subsequent President.

(110th CONGRESS, 1st Session, H. RES. 888)

Part I

Part II

Part III

What Is Between You And Salvation?

Quoting James Buchanan (19th Century Scottish Presbyterian Minister and Theologian):

Of every man who reads or hears the Gospel, it may be affirmed that there is nothing betwixt him and salvation, except his own unwillingness to be saved. ‘Ye are not willing to come to me, that ye might have life,’ – that is the Savior’s charge and complaint. ‘Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,’ – that is the Savior’s call and invitation. The warrant of every sinner to believe in Christ to the saving of the soul is clear, it is written as with a sunbeam in Scripture: it lies wholly in the Word, which is the Spirit’s message and not at all in the Spirit’s witness in the heart. The warrant of the Word is ample; but if any feels that, even with this warrant in his hand, there is something within which keeps him back – a depraved heart, a rebellious will, a reluctant spirit – oh! let him acknowledge his own helplessness, and cast himself, with the simplicity of a little child, on the grace of the Spirit of God!” (The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit, p.45)

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