• 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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  • May 2010
    M T W T F S S
  • Recommended Reading

The Trivialization Of “Old Glory”

This article, by Neil Brian Goldberg, expresses the growing concerns which have led to the establishment and popularity of the Tea Party movement in our country. Neil offers a rational defense of the Americans involved in the Tea Party movement and reminds all Americans of the vision of our Founding Fathers and our patriotic duty to uphold the Constitution:

Our American flag is the symbol of freedom. It stands for all that is great and noble about our nation. The American flag recalls victory over tyranny and great deeds of charity, rescue, courage, and devotion.

Those who wave it in celebration, or in protest against injustice or encroachment of the God-given rights and liberties this great flag represents, do so with these very feelings and fierce convictions in their hearts and minds.

When the flag waves high, the Spirit of America rises in every soul who knows what it is meant to stand for and what has been sacrificed so it may continue to freely wave.

Today, unfortunately, we have new leaders with a different attitude — operating with disdain and an intellectual snobbery toward all we cherish and revere.

Continue reading. . . .

To Be A Christian

Quoting J. R. Miller:

Instead, then, of yielding to discouragement when trials multiply and it becomes hard to live right, or of being satisfied with a broken peace and a very faulty life—it should be the settled purpose of each one to live, through the grace of God—a patient, gentle and unspotted life—in the place and amid the circumstances He allots to us. The true victory is not found in escaping or evading trials—but in rightly meeting and enduring them. The questions should not be, “How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the distractions that continually harass me?” There is nothing noble in such living. The soldier who flies to the rear when he smells the battle is no hero; he is a coward.

The questions should rather be, “How can I pass through these trying experiences, and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles, and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these reproaches and testings of my temper, and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?” This is the true problem of Christian living.

Jefferson On Government Power

Quoting Thomas Jefferson:

“In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

A Memorial Day Sermon By John Sayers

Today we look backwards upon our history with wonder and with gratitude to God. We look forward to a destiny that will bring the kingdoms of this earth and the kingdom of heaven into closer communion. Our tongues break into song and our souls into thanksgiving as we contemplate the mercies which have been our lot. When dangers threatened relief was always near. When discouragement came to our people, the heavens opened in brightness above us and the bow of promise spanned the continent. . . .

The War of the Revolution determined and settled our political status among the peoples of the earth. The confederacy, which followed the Declaration of Independence, demonstrated the weakness of the foundation upon which we expected to build. The Constitution of 1789 welded the states together into an unbroken and unending chain of common interest. The War of 1812 strengthened our national bond, unified the people, and proved to the world our ability to maintain our rights. . . . Step by step we have ascended the heights which no other nation has reached. . . .

Today in this memorial service, we remember our beloved died for their part in the solution of the great problems of humanity. Not only did they freely offer themselves upon their country’s altar – a sacrifice for the great interests of the present – but by their blood they became the oracle and prophet of the future. . . . So we come on this Memorial Day to record our indebtedness to the patriotic soldiers, pay our homage for their bravery, express our sympathy with their sufferings, and our admiration for their achievements, pledging ourselves to stand loyally by the institutions for which they nobly died.

As we gather on this day – to us a day of sad and pleasant memories, a day of instructive retrospect and of profitable anticipation for a glorious future – we meet with our dead here in this quiet God’s acre, there in National Cemeteries, or perhaps far away in lonely and forgotten spots where friendly hands have never strewn flowers. From all these hallowed places- yea, even from the depths of the sea – our dead comrades keep watch over the nation’s honor. We are here today, a grateful multitude, to pay such a tribute as we can to the heroes who did so much for us. We strew flowers of beauty upon their grassy mounds and speak words of love and kindly remembrance; we shed tears of sorrow for the departed and express words of sympathy for the bereaved as though but yesterday they had passed out of our sight. We seem today to live over again the eventful past. We hear again the bugle call echoing over the hills; we see the sad partings and the long farewells; victory and defeat, bereavement and earth, all pass before us in review. Our spirits hold communication with the comrades of long ago. We know that in the body they will not again answer roll call this side of the Pearly Gates, but their influence will live until the reveille of the resurrection morning shall bid them rise for the great review. . . .

It has been said that the particular genius of this memorial season is that while other holidays praise institutions, this glorifies men, honors the private citizens and the seemingly obscure soldier. Walter Scott described Old Mortality as going through the cemeteries of Scotland, chiseling anew upon the tombstones the names that time had well nigh obliterated [from Sir Walter Scott’s “Old Morality,” in Tales of My Landlord (Edinburgh: 1816), Vols. II-IV]. Asked to explain his zeal for the memory of these worthies, the old man replied that he wished to see the heroes of yesterday march forward side by side with the youth of today. That nation suffers a great calamity whose children and youth have separated themselves from yesterday’s battlefields and victories and have forgotten to honor the memories of their fathers – the sages and statesmen from whom they have received a priceless heritage. . . .

To the Christian people of this country, the broad and humanizing advantages of republicanism ought to be incentives to more virtuous activity and stimulants to higher patriotic requirements in our politics – they should be to the goodness and intelligence of the country an earnest pledge for the redemption of the ballot from unholy contamination. Let absolute truth (and that embraces all that is righteous in governments and in men) be the grand ideal that this nation shall hold up before the world. . . .

Christ, the Exemplar, whilst the originator of new ideas for human conduct, was also the collection of many of the old and useful which had been abused and misapplied. For the doctrines of revenge and retaliation, He gave us that of forgiveness of injuries. For the cure of dissensions and unhappy differences, He gave us due consideration for the opinions of others. For social wrongs, He gave us purity of life. For the peace of the state, He gave us respect for magistrates and rulers and obedience to the laws. For civil progress, He gave us trust in God and brotherly kindness in our daily intercourse with men. He restrained our evil tendencies by a reiteration of the Ten Commandments. He softened our natures by the Beatitudes and enlarged our lives and increased our hopes by the new commandments that He gave us. He taught us the wondrous idea of love with the Divine assurance that it was the all-powerful principle for good – “the fulfilling of the law” [Romans 13:10]. How the cross, as the emblem of that Christianity, has been revered and loved throughout the civilized world. . . .

And so on this Memorial Day we must not forget the sources from which have come these national blessings. We go back in our history and thank God for the Puritan spirit and for that deliverance from religious oppression which brought to our shores the Mayflower and its heroic company who sought upon our soil freedom to worship God. We are thankful, too, for the prayer and song which hallowed Plymouth – a prayer whose strains still linger upon the New England air and will forever be wafted upon the winds back and forth to the utmost boundaries of our Union. . . .

[B]eloved, may the God of peace that brought from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. [Hebrews 13:21]

Read this entire sermon here. . . .

The History of Memorial Day

On May 5, 1868, Major General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (an organization made up of Union Veterans) set aside May 30th as Decoration Day to commemorate fallen soldiers by adorning their graves with flowers. General Logan’s order declared: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance….Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

That year, 5,000 gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to attend commemoration ceremonies presided over by General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant. This was the nation’s first major tribute to those who fell in the Civil War, and at that time small American flags were placed on each grave (a tradition that continues today).

However, the decoration of graves actually began before General Logan’s official order, and some two dozen locations claim to be the site of the first Memorial Day observance. The majority of these sites are in the South, where most of the casualties of the Civil War are buried.

For example, both Macon and Columbus, Georgia, as well as Richmond, Virginia, each claim to have begun Memorial Day in 1866; and Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claims that it held the first observance in 1864. However, one of the first documented sites to hold a tribute to the Civil War dead took place in Columbus, Mississippi on April 25, 1866. A group of women who were placing flowers on the graves of Confederate soldiers (casualties of the battle at Shiloh) noticed the destitute graves of the Union soldiers and also decorated their graves with flowers. The first community-wide observance occurred in Waterloo, New York, on May 5, 1866, with a ceremony to honor local Civil War veterans. (A century later in 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Congress declared Waterloo to be the “birthplace” of Memorial Day because of that earlier observance.)

By the end of the 19th century, the observance of May 30th as a day to honor the Civil War dead had become a widespread practice across the nation, but after World War I, the tribute was expanded to include all American military men and women who had died in any war. Memorial Day has been acknowledged as a national holiday since 1971, when an Act of Congress established its observance on the last Monday in May.

In 2000, Congress passed the “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” asking all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence in remembrance of all those who have died in military service to America. (Information may be found here. . . .)

Rejecting The Gospel

Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles H. Spurgeon wrote:

When the gospel was first preached, instead of being accepted and admired, one universal hiss went up to heaven; men could not bear it; its first preacher they dragged to the edge of the cliff, and would have sent Him down headlong; yes, they did more-they nailed Him to a cross, and there they let Him spend His dying life in agony such as no man has borne since. All His chosen ministers have been hated and abhorred by the worldly; instead of being listened to, they have been scoffed at; treated as if they were rubbish, and the very scum of mankind.

Look at the holy men in the early days of the church, how they were driven from city to city, persecuted, afflicted, tormented, stoned to death, wherever the enemy had power to do so. Those friends of men, those real philanthropists, who came with hearts big with love, and hands full of mercy, and lips pregnant with celestial fire, and souls burned with holy influence; those men were treated as if they were spies in the camp, as if they were deserters from the common cause of mankind; as if they were enemies, and not, as they truly were, the best of friends. Do not suppose that men like the gospel any better now than they did then. There is an idea that you are growing better; but the heart within is still the same. The human heart of today dissected, would be just like the human heart a thousand years ago; the gall of bitterness within that breast of yours, is just as bitter as the gall of bitterness of Simon of old. We have in our hearts the same inherent opposition to the truth of God; and hence we find men, just as in the past, who scorn the gospel.

Controversy And The Christian Life

Quoting John Piper:

Can controversial teachings nurture Christlikeness? Before you answer this question, ask another one: Are there any significant biblical teachings that have not been controversial? I cannot think of even one, let alone the number we all need for the daily nurture of faith. If this is true, then we have no choice but to seek our food in the markets of controversy. We need not stay there. We can go home and feast if the day has been well spent. But we must buy there. As much as we would like it, we do not have the luxury of living in a world where the most nourishing truths are unopposed. If we think we can suspend judgment on all that is controversial and feed our souls only on what is left, we are living in a dreamworld. There is nothing left. The reason any of us thinks that we can stand alone on truths that are noncontroversial is because we do not know our history or the diversity of the professing church. Besides that, would we really want to give to the devil the right to determine our spiritual menu by refusing to eat any teaching over which he can cause controversy? (The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God, Revised and Expanded Edition, Multnomah, 2000, p. 121-22)

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