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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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Science – Atheism – Christianity

John Lennox is Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, and Pastoral Adviser at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He is also an adjunct Lecturer at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University and at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and is a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum. His most recent book, on the interface between science, philosophy and theology, is God’s Undertaker – Has Science Buried God?, Oxford, Lion-Hudson 2009. He has lectured extensively in North America, Eastern and Western Europe on mathematics, the philosophy of science and the intellectual defense of Christianity.

He debated Richard Dawkins on “The God Delusion” in the University of Alabama (2007) and on “Has Science buried God?” in the Oxford Museum of Natural History (2008). He has also debated Christopher Hitchens on the “New Atheism” (Edinburgh Festival 2008) and in Samford University, Alabama on the question: “Is God Great?”

Below are videos of Lennox’s lectures on “Has Science Buried God?” They are well worth the time to watch:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEcGKIQLTo4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Sav9fp5swE&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEu-P475dPs&feature=related

The Preservation Of Civil Government

Quoting Fisher Ames:

The happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend on piety, religion, and morality.

THE PATH OF SOLOMON

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 ESV)

In one respect, Ecclesiastes is the diary of a man of God who on many occasions finds himself desiring to experiment and experience (Ecclesiastes 1:17) the false happiness of the secular world. Each time he finds the experience unfulfilling. Why? The man of God can only find true happiness in doing everything to the glory of God. Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) shares his thoughts on the verses above:

Wisdom, the many things he knew, brought him not to the house of abiding happiness…brought him not that joy which is ever rich and abiding. Wine turned out to be a mocker, as it always does-mocking him with the shadow instead of the substance of good things, mocking him with the desert where it promised an oasis.

And wealth had no power to satisfy. Amid all his abundance there was a lack? Something that rested not and was not still, something that hungered and was not fed, something that was thirsty and found no satisfaction… Solomon built palaces. Solomon established great public works. Solomon increased the size and magnificence of his city. Solomon transported forests.

He did mighty things in the matter of building cities and other great public works. He accomplished such things as multitudes have expected to provide satisfaction for life’s labors. But when he had finished all his great works he looked out upon them and cried, “Vanity of vanities!”

“And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men…and his fame was in all nations round about.” (I Kings 4:30,31)

“But Solomon was building…He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon…And he made …Then he made…Solomon made…” (I Kings 7)

“And Solomon built Gezer, and Beth-horon the nether, and Baalath, and Tadmor in the wilderness, in the land, And all the cities of store that Solomon had, and cities for his chariots, and cities for his horsemen, and that which Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion.” (I Kings 9:17-19)

Which, moreover, brings us the willingness to obey the exhortation given in I Cor. 15:58, namely:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (“Paths of Disappointment”)

Making Christianity Illegal?

Dr. Benjamin Wiker writes the following article on Church/State relations:

While we are not asked to worship the president, congress, or the courts, we are, step by step, being compelled to bow to their moral agenda.

Consider Bill H. R. 1913, the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.” Allegedly, it only dealt with so-called “hate crimes,” that is, violent crimes against someone “motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim.”

So, it would seem that preaching against homosexuality, having in your possession a Bible that contains passages that clearly state that homosexuality is a sin, or belonging to a church that has a well-defined moral rejection of homosexuality would not land you in jail.

Or would it? The problem, as critics pointed out, is that under current U.S. law, any action that “abets, counsels, commands, [or] induces” a perceived “hate crime” shares in the guilt of that crime, and is therefore punishable.

Consider another angle, and another moral issue. Will it soon be illegal to oppose abortion? If an abortion clinic is bombed, then isn’t any opposition to abortion, however peaceful and reasonable, aiding and abetting the perpetrator? Or, who would ever have thought that the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), that was fashioned to combat organized crime, would be used against peaceful protestors outside of abortion clinics?

If you think things won’t go too far, look northward, to Canada. In 1998 a pair of abortion protestors were arrested outside a clinic, one with a sign that said, straight from the Bible, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” The result: jail in a maximum security prison.

Another Canadian Christian, a nurse, was fined by the nurses’ association for speaking out against abortion—to the tune of $15,000 Canadian dollars. A Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission nailed the same nurse for speaking out against homosexuality. The fine? $20,000.

The list goes on. In 2002 a Canadian Catholic high school was forced by the Ontario Supreme Court to allow a male student to take his boyfriend to the prom. A Lesbian pair is suing Vancouver’s Knights of Columbus to allow them to rent a hall for their wedding, seeking the state power of the British Columbia Human Rights Council to bring the hammer down on the heads of the Catholic Knights. A homosexual choir is suing a Mennonite church who won’t allow them to use their camp retreat premises for a weekend retreat, asking the friendly folk at the Manitoba Human Rights Commission to compel the Christians to open their doors.

Continuing reading this issue of tothesource. . . .

The Spirit Of Religion And Freedom

From the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville:

The character of Anglo-American civilization…is the product…of two perfectly distinct elements that elsewhere have often made war with each other, but which, in America, they have succeeded in incorporating somehow into one another and combining marvelously. I mean to speak of the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom. (Democracy in America)

Faith

John Henry Jowett (1863-1923) writes about “faith”:

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:19-20 ESV)

Faith is energy! Always and everywhere faith is force. Take an advocate at the Bar. His duty to his client will endow him with a certain force and persuasiveness of speech, even though he has no confidence in the inherent justice of the cause he advocates. But let it be further assumed that he believes his own brief, that he has a deep, unshaken confidence in the rectitude of his cause, that he has entire and absolute assurance in his client, and what tremendous heritage of power attaches itself to his attack or defence! It is faith that tells. It is not otherwise in the Senate. Let a politician support a measure for the removal of some injustice, let him do it, not because of his conviction in its inherent right, but with his eyes fixed upon votes and popular distinction, and his support is altogether unimpressive and futile. But let a man speak with faith, with a solid core of definite confidence burning in his soul, and the glowing energy of his soul will get into his words, and his ministers will be a flaming fire. It is faith that tells. I need not elaborate the matter. On familiar planes the principle is evident. Faith is energy. “Lord, what shall we do that we may work the works of God?” This is the work of God that ye believe! Energy for all work is there.

But there are different degrees and qualities of faith. There is faith in oneself, and such faith is by no means unaccompanied with power. No one can read the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, from his obscure early days in Corsica to the brilliant days when he strode across Europe like a Colossus, without being impressed with the amazing energy which attached to an audacious self-confidence. He fought for no principle, he had no ideals, he was allured by no constant and noble ambition. His confidence was not in a cause, but in himself, and his confidence generated a marvelous strength. But there is a faith and confidence higher than this and endowed with a corresponding larger dynamic and resource. There is a faith in principles, in causes, in the tenacity of truth, in the indestructibility of virtue, in the invincibility of the righteous order of the world. Such faith is uninfluenced by bribes, undismayed by majorities, untroubled by threats and frowns: it tightly holds to the truth, and confidently waits its day. But still higher is the plane to which we can rise in the ascending gradient of faith. There is a faith in the living God, a faith in His love and good will, a confidence in His blessed Presence and companionship, an assurance that we are one with Him in the sacred inheritance, and that in Him we are partakers of all the mighty ministries of grace. That is the sublimest of all faiths, and it carries with it the most tremendous of all energies, for it has behind it the omnipotence of God. (“The Energy of Faith”)

Robert Murray McCheyne: Do Not Doubt His Love

In the words of Robert Murray McCheyne:

God’s children should not doubt His love when He afflicts. Christ loved Lazarus peculiarly, and yet He afflicted Him very sore. A surgeon never bends his eye so tenderly upon his patient, as when he is putting in the lancet, or probing the wound to the very bottom. And so with Christ – He bends His eye most tenderly over His own at the time He is afflicting them… A goldsmith when he casts gold into the furnace looks after it. (“Comfort in Sorrow”)

Education And God

From the pen of Gouverneur Morris:

Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God. (Notes on the Form of a Constitution for France, 1791)

The Careless Life

The ordinary worldly man does not really and seriously think on death, and the judgment that will follow. We would all do well to remember, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. . . . (Hebrews 9:27 ESV) John Bunyan (1628-1688) adds more to this line of reasoning:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

Now if this one truth, that men must die and depart this world, and either enter into joy or else into prison, to be reserved to the day of judgment, were believed, we should not have so many wantons walk up and down the streets as there do, at least it would put a mighty check to their filthy carriages, so that they would not, could not walk so basely and sinfully as they do. Belshazzar, notwithstanding he was so far from the fear of God as he was, yet when he did but see that God was offended and threatened him for his wickedness, it made him hang down his head and knock his knees together (Dan 5:5,6). If you read the verses before you will find he was careless, and satisfying his lusts in drinking and playing the wanton with his concubines. But so soon as he did perceive the finger of a hand-writing, ‘then,’ saith the scripture, ‘the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.’ And when Paul told Felix of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, it makes him tremble. And let me tell thee, soul, whosoever thou art, that if thou didst but verily believe that thou must die and come into the judgment, it would make thee turn over a new leaf. But this is the misery, the devil doth labor by all means as to keep out other things that are good, so to keep out of the heart, as much as in him lies, the thoughts of passing from this life into another world; for he knows, if he can but keep them from the serious thoughts of death, he shall the more easily keep them in their sins, and so from closing with Jesus Christ; as Job saith, ‘Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.’ Which makes them say to God; ‘Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways’ (Job 21:14). Because there is no fear of death and judgment to come, therefore they do put off God and his ways, and spend their days in their sins, and in a moment, that is, before they are aware, go down to the grave (Job 21:17). And thus it fared also with the man spoken of in Luke 12:20. The man, instead of thinking of death, he thought how he might make his barns bigger. But, in the midst of his business in the world, he lost his soul before he was aware, supposing that death had been many years off. But God said unto him, ‘Thou fool,’ thou troublest thyself about things of this life, thou puttest off the thoughts of departing this world, when this night thy soul shall be taken from thee; or, this night, they, that is, the devil, will fetch away thy soul from thee. And here it comes to pass, men’s not being exercised with the thoughts of departing this life, that they are, so unexpectedly to themselves and their neighbors, taken away from the pleasures and profits, yea, and all the enjoyments they busy themselves withal while they live in this world. And hence it is again, that you have some in your towns and cities that are so suddenly taken away, some from haunting the ale- houses, others from haunting the whore-houses, others from playing and gaming, others from the cares and covetous desires after this world, unlooked for as by themselves or their companions. Hence it is also that men do so wonder at such tidings as this.

There is such a one dead, such a one is departed; it is because they do so little consider both the transitoriness [transitory nature] of themselves and their neighbors. For had they but their thoughts well exercised about the shortness of this life, and the danger that will befall such as do miss of the Lord Jesus Christ, it would make them more wary and sober, and spend more time in the service of God, and be more delighted and diligent in inquiring after the Lord Jesus, who is the deliverer ‘from the wrath to come’ (1 Thess 1:10). (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

Take Comfort, Afflicted Christian!

Quoting George MacDonald:

No words can express how much the world owes to sorrow. Most of the Psalms were born in the wilderness. Most of the Epistles were written in a prison. The greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers have all passed through fire. The greatest poets have “learned in suffering what they taught in song.” In bonds Bunyan lived the allegory that he afterwards wrote, and we may thank Bedford Jail for the Pilgrim’s Progress. Take comfort, afflicted Christian! When God is about to make pre-eminent use of a person, He put them in the fire.

The Spiritual Experience

From the pen of John MacArthur:

In an authentic spiritual experience, emotion, feelings, and the senses often become intense, transcending the normal. These may include strong feelings of remorse over sin, a mighty sense of trust that surpasses the pain of a traumatic situation, an overpowering peace in the midst of trouble, the overwhelming sense of joy related to confidence and hope in God, intense sorrow over the lost, the exhilarating praise in understanding the glory of God, or a heightened zeal for ministry. Spiritual experience by definition is an internal awareness that involves strong emotion in response to the truth of God’s Word, amplified by the Holy Spirit and applied by Him to us personally.

The Presence Of Spiritual Thirst

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1 ESV)

Here is my favorite psalm of the many I love. The beauty of it is obvious. We may think of a deer that is being hunted and has almost come to the end of his strength. He sees before him a vast dry land but knows that beyond it is a cool flowing river of clear water. He agonizes in every movement of his muscles to reach that land and satisfy his thirst by drinking from its waters.

The Christian, spiritually speaking, finds himself in a world which is dry and weary; the carnal pleasures of worldliness leave him empty and so he seeks something more to satiate his thirst. However, it is not to be found in the world’s way of doing things. He needs the “water of life”.

The Christian thirsts after the Lord’s presence. He thirsts for His love and mercy. He thirsts to know God through His Word in a land that is made barren by the lack of it. He knows he would faint and die without God. The word “earnestly” expresses the seriousness of the Christian’s search to always be with God. It is an intense desire which only God can fulfill.

The Christian desires to be counted among the people of God. He does, however, realize that there are, in the Christian life, droughts in which it may seem that God’s Presence no longer abides with us. Yet, God is not absent and the Christian understands that in these barren times, God is still near. Thus he knows that the Lord is still his salvation and will apply peace to his heart at “just the right time”.

My wife and I have gone through something of a drought over the last two years. We have been physically, emotionally, and spiritually shaken by several turns of events in our lives that we did not see coming. I think, however, that these events, through the providence of God, have given us the opportunity to learn many things about ourselves. I, for one, still have a long way to go in growing to be a godly person. My soul thirsts continuously to feel the touch of His hand upon my shoulder which I know by faith is already there to bring guidance and peace. In closing, please note that we must put faith over our feelings in such times:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:1-6 ESV)

Loving Others

Quoting Jerry Bridges:

Love is very much a matter of actions rather than emotions. However, although this emphasis on acts of love is certainly necessary, we can sometimes give the impression that love doesn’t involve any emotion – that it is entirely an act of the will, of one’s duty, regardless of how one feels. We can even promote the “I can love him but I can’t like him” type of attitude. The Bible does not support such an unbalanced concept of love…fervently, fondly, and affectionately (are used in the Bible) to describe the love Christians ought to have for one another… Obviously such a fervency of spirit cannot substitute for loving actions, but surely it should accompany them. We dare not settle for less. (The Practice of Godliness, NavPress, 1996, p. 209-210)

The Importance Of Zeal For Christ

The great sins of our age are impure doctrine, and sloppiness of faith. You know that on Sunday mornings there are many churches who teach that, practically speaking, it does not matter what you believe as long as you act the part and say religious words. Such places actually believe in salvation by death, because the understated theme of many pastors’ sermons are that the gates of heaven are wide enough to receive all men, all religions, sects, denominations, and doctrines. They believe that doctrines are unimportant. C. H. SPURGEON responded to the ministers and laity of his time in the message below:

My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words. (Psalm 119:139 ESV)

We have an abundance of cold, calculating Christians, multitudes of professors; but where are the zealous ones? Where are the leaders of the children of God? Where are your heroes who stand in the day of battle? Where are your men who “count not their lives dear unto them,” that they might win Christ, and be found in him? Where are those who have an impassioned love for souls? How many of our pulpits are filled by earnest, enthusiastic preachers? Alas! Look, at the church. She has built herself fine palaces, imitating popery; she hath girded herself with vestments; she has gone astray from her simplicity; but she has lost the fire and the life which she once had. We go into our chapels now, and we see everything in good taste: we hear the organ play; the psalmody is in keeping with the most correct ear; the gown and the noble vestments are there, and everything is grand and goodly, and we think that God is honored. Oh for the days when Whitfields would preach on tubs once more, when their pulpits should be on Kennington Common and their roofs the ceiling of God’s sky. Oh for the time when we might preach in barns again, or in catacombs either, if we might but have the life of God that once they had in such places. What is the use of garnishing the shell when you have lost the kernel? Go and whitewash, for the life is gone. Garnish the outside of your cups and platters; but ye have lost the pure word of God. Ye have it not for a piece of bread; they flinch to speak the whole truth, or if they seem to speak it, it is with cold, meaningless, passionless words, as if it were nothing whether souls were damned or saved, whether heaven were filled or heaven depopulated, or whether Christ should see of the travail of his would and be satisfied. Do I speak fierce things? I can say as Irving once did, I might deserve to be broken on the wheel if I did not believe what I say to be the truth; for the utterance of such things I might deserve the stake; but God is my witness, I have endeavored to judge and to speak impartially. With all that universal cant of charity now so prevalent I am at arm’s length; I care not for it. Let us speak of things as we find them. WE do believe that the church has lost her zeal and her energy. But what do men say of us? “Oh! you are too excited.” Good God! Excited! When men are being damned; Excited! When we have the mission of heaven to preach to dying souls. EXCITED! Preaching too much when souls are lost? Why should it come to pass that one man should be perpetually laboring all the week, while others are lolling upon their couches, and preach only upon the Sabbath-day? Can I bear to see the laziness, the slothfulness, the indifference of ministers, and of churches, without speaking? No! There must be a protest entered, and we enter it now. Oh! Church of God, thou has a name to live, and art dead; thou art not watchful. Awake! awake! arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (“A Solemn Warning for All Churches”, February 24, 1856)

Ravi Zacharias On The Antitheist

Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias was born in India in 1946 and immigrated to Canada with his family twenty years later. While pursuing a career in business management, his interest in theology grew; subsequently, he pursued this study during his undergraduate education. He received his Masters of Divinity from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. Well-versed in the disciplines of comparative religions, cults, and philosophy, he held the chair of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought at Alliance Theological Seminary for three and a half years. He has multiple other doctorates and degrees from a variety of colleges and seminaries.

Quoting Ravi Zacharias:

The antitheist is quick to excoriate all religious belief by generically laying the blame at the door of all who claim to be religious, without distinction. By the same measure, why is there not an equal enthusiasm to distribute blame for violence engendered by some of the irreligious?

To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, “I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.”

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