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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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In Evil Long I Took Delight!

By John Newton:

In evil long I took delight,

Unawed by shame or fear,

Till a new object struck my sight,

And stopp’d my wild career:

 

I saw One hanging on a Tree

In agonies and blood,

Who fix’d His languid eyes on me.

As near His Cross I stood.

 

Sure never till my latest breath,

Can I forget that look:

It seem’d to charge me with His death,

Though not a word He spoke:

 

My conscience felt and own’d the guilt,

And plunged me in despair:

I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,

And help’d to nail Him there.

 

Alas! I knew not what I did!

But now my tears are vain:

Where shall my trembling soul be hid?

For I the Lord have slain!

 

–A second look He gave, which said,

“I freely all forgive;

This blood is for thy ransom paid;

I die that thou may’st live.”

 

Thus, while His death my sin displays

In all its blackest hue,

Such is the mystery of grace,

It seals my pardon too.

 

With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,

My spirit now is fill’d,

That I should such a life destroy,

Yet live by Him I kill’d!

When Hard Times Come

The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure. (Isaiah 33:5-6 ESV)

For many of us, these times are hard; food prices are high, gasoline prices continue to skyrocket, clothes cost more and more, jobs are harder to find and keep, unemployment is at record highs, inflation is ever present, and serious crime is an everyday occurrence. Then there are always many families dealing with sickness, death, and perhaps natural disasters.

Many react to these problems with anxiety and fear. Many become depressed. Even Christians murmur and complain. On the other hand, others experience these hard times with emotional stability and confidence in surfacing on the other side of these dark waters.

What is the difference between these people and others? They recognize that the LORD is the stability of our times. They understand that their relationship with God is solid and secure. They are confident that the LORD will provide them with wisdom and confidence to face the trials ahead.

One key to living in this manner, which is difficult for many of us to understand, is “the fear of the LORD”! Isaiah 33:6 says, “the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure.” The Bible constantly reminds us of this in such verses as: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7 ESV) “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10 ESV) “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’” (Acts 10:34-35 ESV)

Is it really necessary to fear the LORD? Yes, because “by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6 ESV) “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.” (Proverbs 8:13 ESV) “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” (Psalm 25:14 ESV) “And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:28 ESV)

Many of us lack stability in these hard times because we have no confidence in the salvation of the LORD or experience of His wisdom and knowledge. We are lacking because we have no fear of God. An appropriate fear of God would turn us from focusing on the hard circumstances of the world to trusting in God for the outcome. “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” (Psalm 125:1 ESV) Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. writes:

“Yes, we can believe God with all of our heart and yet have our heart broken by the loss of a child or the treachery of a spouse or the menace of a fatal disease. We know this is true — everyone in the church knows it. And yet, generation after generation of bruised saints have known something else and spoken of it. In the mystery of faith, we find a hand on us in the darkness, a voice that calls our name, and the sheer certainty that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God — not for this life and not for the life to come. We may be scarred and shaken, but as Lewis Smedes says in one of his sermons, we come to know that it’s all right, even when everything is all wrong.”

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