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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

Targeting Christians In Muslim Lands

As the world continues to grow smaller, the Muslim world’s indigenous Christians are being identified with free Christians in the West. Muslim perceptions of the West affect the treatment of Christians in Muslim lands. Race or geography is not important; shared religion makes them all liable for one another. This practice of actually attacking one set of Christians or non-Muslims in general, in response to another — has roots in Islamic law. The Pact of Omar, a foundational text for Islam’s treatment of Dhimmis (i.e., non-Muslims who refused to convert after their lands were seized by Islam) makes this clear. The consequences of breaking any conditions that Christians were made to accept in order to be granted a degree of security by the Muslim state were severe. A rule broken by a single individual Dhimmis could result in jihad being enacted against the whole community. Raymond Ibrahim, the associate director of the Middle East Forum and the author of The Al Qaeda Reader, puts this ancient practice into a modern perspective:

In 2006, when Pope Benedict quoted history deemed unflattering to Islam, Christians around the Muslim world paid the price: anti-Christian riots ensued, churches were burned, and a nun was murdered in Somalia. That was then. Days ago, when a Christian in Egypt was accused of dating a Muslim woman, twenty-two Christian homes were set ablaze, to cries of “Allah Akbar.” Countless other examples of one group of Christians in the Muslim world being “punished” in response to other Christians exist.

In fact, the recent carnage in Baghdad, wherein Islamists stormed a church during mass, killing over fifty Christian worshippers, was a “response” to Egypt’s Coptic Christian church, which Islamists accuse of kidnapping and torturing Muslim women to convert to Christianity. (Ironically, the well documented reality in Egypt is that Muslims regularly kidnap and force Christian women to convert to Islam: these accusations are part of a new trend whereby Islamists project their own crimes onto the Copts.) And the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists who perpetrated the Baghdad church massacre have further threatened Christians around the world. . . .

Continue reading. . . .

The Honor Of His Name

Quoting Herman Bavinck:

Religion, the fear of God, must therefore be the element which inspires and animates all theological investigation. That must be the pulse beat of the science. A theologian is a person who makes bold to speak about God because he speaks out of God and through God. To profess theology is to do holy work. It is a priestly ministration in the house of the Lord. It is itself a service of worship, a consecration of mind and heart to the honor of His name.

Guided By Values

Quoting radio talk show host Dennis Prager:

“The liberal world came up with the idea of giving trophies to kids who lose; they don’t want their children feeling bad. Conservatives, on the other hand, teach their kids how to lose well. They are less worried about their children feeling bad. A couple of years ago, I gave a speech on happiness to the students and faculty of a prestigious high school in the Los Angeles area. The subject was the need to act happy even when one isn’t feeling happy — because it is unfair to others to inflict our bad moods on them and because we will never be happy if we allow our feelings to dictate our happiness. From what I experienced that day and learned later, liberal students and faculty generally loathed my speech; conservative students generally loved it (there was no conservative faculty to speak of). Why? Because conservatives are far more likely to be comfortable with the idea that feelings are not as important as behavior. Those who know that feelings must not govern us, but that we must govern our feelings, are far more likely to be happy people. The upshot of all this? There is an amazingly simple way to defeat the left: Raise children who are grateful to be American, who don’t complain, who can handle losing and who are guided by values, not feelings.”

Christmas Is About Grace

The story of the birth of Jesus Christ upon which, I hope, we all meditate to a greater degree during this time of year is particularly a story of grace. Unfortunately, not everyone reads it this way. There are those people who think of it as a pleasant fantasy similar in meaning to the legend of Santa Claus. Then there are those who see it as symbolic of a business contract in which two parties are bound by oaths and laws to keep the conditions of an agreement.

Fortunately for us, however, God is not balancing our failures against His standard of righteousness if the babe born in Bethlehem is our Savior. This is the wonderful meaning and message of Christmas. Christmas is all about grace; a grace that allows us to have a relationship with God.

The utterly amazing thing about this relationship is that God was the initiator who sought out this relationship with human beings. Christmas is the point of grace where we discover the object of God’s desire – a redeemed people He will call His own. Without Christmas and finally the cross, we would never have known the depth of God’s love and the magnitude of His grace.

Grace was given while we were sinning against God. Grace was given while we rebelled against God. Grace was given even as we hated God. God gave us grace in the condition he found us. There was nothing to commend us to Him, yet his grace was freely given through Jesus Christ. At the time, very few understood the meaning of that first Christmas but an angel proclaimed to the lowly shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

On this first Christmas night a Savior was born into our world who embodied the fullness of God’s grace towards us. God came to earth as the son of man in the person of Jesus Christ to complete His divine plan. The One born this night would change the course of the world by extending God’s love and grace to thousands upon thousands down through the course of history. At Bethlehem we find an intersection between God and man which is of cosmic significance.

During this Christmas season, we, who are Christians, will gather in small groups, by the hundreds, and by the thousands in churches across America. We will celebrate the communion of the saints, the eternal embrace of Christ’s love, and God’s never ending grace that seals our citizenship forever in the kingdom of Heaven. If you do not know the loving grace of the Christ child this Christmas, please visit a local Christian Church and ask the pastor to guide you in coming to know the forgiveness and grace of God.

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