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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.”

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)

Jefferson On Government Waste

Quoting Thomas Jefferson:

“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.”

When Church Culture Hinders Revival

One pastor says that revival is not about a large crowd but it is about broken people who want to get right with God. Michael Catt is the senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia whose church made the hit films “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof.” According to Catt, all revivals share a few common elements: repentance, confession, restoration and brokenness. The following is taken from an article by Michelle A. Vu:

“If we’re hungry and thirsty after God, if there is a desire for more, if there is a holy dissatisfaction with the way things are, believing that surely God died for more than what we are seeing in our typical church today – we start 11 o’clock sharp and end at 12 noon – those are the elements for a revival,” said Catt in an interview for his new book The Power of Surrender: Breaking Through to Revival, released in March.

Catt plainly stated that revival is not about church growth. Rather it is about church “pruning and purifying.”

“[T]aking the things that we swept under the rug and ignored and excused and bringing it out in the open and saying, ‘Lord, we have sinned against you and we ask your forgiveness for what we’ve done,’” said the pastor and film producer.

The prosperity gospel movement and its teachings, however, present a problem to revival because it confuses people, he noted.

Prosperity gospel, as defined by the Lausanne Theology Working Group, is the teaching that “believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the ‘sowing of seeds’ through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings. . . .

“Sometimes the prosperity gospel and the feel-good gospel tell people what they want to hear,” Catt said. “[But] when you lay that by the side of Jesus’ teaching [to] take up the cross – the only reason for the cross in the first century is to die – and to die daily, to crucify your flesh then you have to think how does this fit?”

The Baptist pastor said that for him if the sermon does not work in a “mud hut, third-world” country then it’s probably not true.

Read more here. . . .

Prayer And Christianity In American History, Part III

Pilgrim Thanksgiving

In 1789, on the same day that Congress finished drafting the First Amendment, it requested President Washington to declare a National day of prayer and thanksgiving, resulting in the first Federal official Thanksgiving proclamation that declared “it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor”.

In 1800, Congress enacted naval regulations requiring that Divine service be performed twice every day aboard “all ships and vessels in the navy,” with a sermon preached each Sunday.

In 1800, Congress approved the use of the just-completed Capitol structure as a church building, with Divine services to be held each Sunday in the Hall of the House, alternately administered by the House and Senate chaplains.

In 1853 Congress declared that congressional chaplains have a “duty … to conduct religious services weekly in the Hall of the House of Representatives”.

By 1867, the church at the Capitol was the largest church in Washington, DC, with up to 2,000 people a week attending Sunday service in the Hall of the House.

By 1815, over 2,000 official governmental calls to prayer had been issued at both the State and the Federal levels, with thousands more issued since 1815.

In 1853 the United States Senate declared that the Founding Fathers “had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people … they did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy”.

In 1854 the United States House of Representatives declared “It [religion] must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests … Christianity; in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions”.

In 1864, by law Congress added `In God We Trust’ to American coinage.

In 1870, the Federal government made Christmas (a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U.S. Supreme Court as “acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for 2 centuries”) and Thanksgiving as official holidays. (110th CONGRESS, 1st Session, H. RES. 888)

Part I

Part II

Go To The Savior

Horatious Bonar

Quoting Horatious Bonar (19th Century Scottish Presbyterian. Pastor, author and hymn writer):

“Yet we honestly subscribe the Westminster Confession. We believe in Christ’s redemption of His chosen Church; in the efficacy of His blood and the perfection of His righteousness. We believe in human impotence, in the bondage of the human will, in the enmity of the human heart to God. We believe in the sovereignty of Jehovah, and His eternal purpose. We believe in the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit’s work, alike before and after conversion. At the same time we preach a free and world wide gospel; we proclaim a free and world-wide invitation to sinners; we present to every sinner a gracious welcome to Christ, without any preliminary qualification whatsoever. We bid no man wait till he has ascertained his own election, or can produce evidence of regeneration, or sufficient repentance, or deep conviction. We tell every man, as he is, to go to the Savior this moment, assured that he will not be cast out or sent away.” (The Old Gospel booklet, reproduced in: Evangelism: A Reformed Debate reprinted by the James Begg Society p.56)

Why Is Children’s Ministry Important In the church?

Probably the most convincing argument is the probability of people accepting Jesus Christ as their savior for a lifetime relationship. According to Barna’s research, ministry to children has 5 to 8 times the impact compared to older children or adults. Barna’s research on faith development and discipleship also found that the moral development of children is complete by age 9.

Non-religious oriented research on children’s moral and values development substantiates that the foundation for lifelong values and morals are formed at the earliest years.

Church attendance by children also has a lifelong impact. The majority (61%) of adults who attended church as children still attend regularly, while only 22% of those who were not churchgoers as children attend church today. For parents who were churched as children, 63% take their own children to church. That’s double the proportion among adults who were not churched and now have children of their own (33%).

“The first seven years [of life] constitute the period for laying the foundations of religion. This is the most important period in the whole of a person’s life in determining his later religious attitudes.” (R. S. Lee)

Children’s ministry teaches children about their Savior. It gives them both facts and experiences that help them to follow Jesus. The existence of a children’s ministry helps to validate the importance of children within the church. As a result, children feel welcomed and loved at church.

There are many reasons why children’s Sunday-school is neglected in many modern churches. Many adults do not want to minister to children. It takes far more effort and manpower to run children’s ministry programs than adult ones. Also, children’s ministries often do not produce visible fruit till much later.

It is important to teach children because they learn things far more readily than adults. (Adults are usually too proud to learn and hardened by sin.) Furthermore, what is learned by a child is seldom forgotten (Proverbs 22:6). A child, who is saved early in life, wastes fewer years pursuing the worthless things of this world and has more years to serve God.

What Others Have Said. . . .

“It is vitally important that our children be led to a personal relationship with Christ and instructed in His Word when they are young. If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God.” (D.L. Moody, American Evangelist)

Charles Hadden Spurgeon hoped that God would revive His church and restore her to her ancient faith by “ …a gracious work among the children.”

“No other form of Christian effort brings such immediate, such large, and such lasting results as work for the conversion of children. It has many advantages over other forms of work. First of all, children are more easily led to Christ than adults. In the second place, they are more likely to stay converted than those apparently converted at a later period of life. They also make better Christians, as they do not have as much to unlearn as those who have grown old in sin. They have more years of service before them. A man converted at sixty is a soul saved plus ten years of service; a child saved at ten is a soul saved plus sixty years of service.” (Dr. R. A. Torrey said this referring to Rev. E. P. Hammond’s children’s crusades)

Madison On Ultimate Authority

James Madison

Quoting James Madison:

“The ultimate authority … resides in the people alone. … The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition.”

J.I. Packer on Calvinism and Arminianism

J. I. Packer

“One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God who enables man to save himself.

One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly.

The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them.

The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms.

One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.

Plainly these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.” (J.I. Packer in his introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ)

The Holy Spirit Will Enlighten Your Understanding

From a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon:

Think of [Jesus], now, at His Father’s right hand, adored of all the heavenly host, and then let your mind fly forward to the glory of His Second Advent, with its endless and unparalleled splendor! If these things are shown to you by the Holy Spirit, the beatific visions will, indeed, glorify Christ, and you will sit down and sing with the blessed Virgin, “My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God, my Savior.” Thus you see that the things which glorify Christ are all in Christ—the Holy Spirit fetches nothing from abroad, but He takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us. The glory of kings lies in their silver and their gold, their silk and their gems, but the Glory of Christ lies in Himself! If we want to glorify a man, we bring him presents. If we wish to glorify Christ, we must accept presents from Him. Thus we take the cup of salvation, calling upon the name of the Lord, and in so doing we glorify Christ!

Notice, next, that these things of Christ are too bright for us to see till the Spirit shows them to us. We cannot see them because of their excessive Glory, until the Holy Spirit tenderly reveals them to us, until He takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us. What does this mean? Does it not mean, first, that He enlightens our understandings? It is wonderful how the Holy Spirit can take a fool and make him know the wonders of Christ’s dying love. And He does make him know it very quickly when He begins to teach him. Some of us have been very slow learners, yet the Holy Spirit has been able to teach something, even, to us! He opens the Scriptures and He also opens our minds—and when there are these two openings, together, what a wonderful opening it is! It becomes like a new revelation—the first is the revelation of the letter, which we have in the Book—the second is the revelation of the Spirit, which we get in our own spirit. O my dear Friend, if the Holy Spirit has ever enlightened your understanding, you know what it is for Him to show the things of Christ to you! (Sermon 2382)

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