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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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God

John PiperQuotes from John Piper:

“All that looks like reality to us is dependent on God. There is creation and Creator, nothing more. And creation gets all its meaning and purpose from God.”

“If you alter or obscure the Biblical portrait of God in order to attract converts, you don’t get converts to God, you get converts to an illusion. This is not evangelism, but deception.”

“Christians believe in a sovereign God who never says “Oops”. We believe that all our days … are divine strokes on the canvas of our lives by the Master Artist who certified his skill, his power, and his love in the Masterpiece of Calvary. If you doubt His skill in painting your life – look at Calvary”

A Covenant New Year

2014He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, (Psalm 105:8 ESV)

As we approach the year 2014, many of us wonder what this year will bring. We all have concerns for our jobs, families, health, and security. But, as Christians, how should we manage all these sources of worry?

Often, the primary foundation of our anxiety is spiritual. We have little confidence in our standing and relationship with God. Therefore, we lose hope. Christians often forget or misunderstand the fact that we have a covenant with God.

Let us take a moment to consider our covenant making God. From the beginning, it was God’s plan to create for Himself a people. We see this clearly in God’s relationship with Abraham. God goes to Abraham and establishes a relationship with him; He establishes a covenant.

A covenant is not just a mutual agreement or contract. It is a binding agreement between two parties that can never be broken on pain of death. God’s covenant promise was to redeem His people and to be their shield and great reward.

The Holy Child, whose birth we celebrated last week, brought the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise. God came to redeem His people and fulfill His covenant with Abraham. Therefore our standing with God is established forever through Jesus Christ.

Even in our rebellion and sinfulness, God pursues man. God is not content to simply exist in some corner of the kingdom of heaven; He has not wound the world up like a clock and then walked away. Our God is intensely personal. Paul writes to Timothy, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV)

God’s covenant with Abraham was singularly one-sided. During the time of Abraham, the practice of making a covenant was to take a few animals and cut them in half from head to tail. The halves were then positioned to form a path between them. The two people making the covenant would walk the path between the severed pieces; saying in effect, “If I break this covenant, may my flesh be ripped apart like these animals.”

When God made covenant with Abraham, however, only God walked the path between the split animals. The Bible tells us, “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.” (Genesis 15:17 ESV) Abraham did not walk between the pieces because Abraham was not capable of keeping the terms of the covenant. God made a unilateral covenant. Even if Abraham and his descendants could not keep their side of the covenant, God would keep His.

Christian, this is God’s eternal covenant with you. God is working out His purpose for each of us. Your life has meaning and God rules over it. The Scriptures teach us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)

God will make good His promises and fulfill His covenant with us. We should meditate on this throughout the coming year. We serve a God who saved Abraham’s son and, yet, did not save His own Son from the sacrifice of the cross. God has given us an incredible gift and an amazing future through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Samuel at Gilgal

Preaching to the Heart

Sinclair B. FergusonSinclair B. Ferguson:

Preaching to the heart addresses the understanding first, in order to instruct it; but in doing so it also reaches through the mind to inform, rebuke, and cleanse the conscience. It then touches the will in order to reform and transform life and equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12).

In the last analysis, this is what preaching to the heart is intended to produce: inner prostration of the hearts of our listeners through a consciousness of the presence and the glory of God. This distinguishes authentic biblical, expository preaching from any cheap substitute for it; it marks the difference between preaching about the Word of God and preaching the Word of God. (Feed My Sheep, Don Kistler, Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, 2002)

Peace and Rest

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

My people shall dwell in quiet resting places. (Isaiah 32:18)

Peace and rest belong not to the unregenerate, they are the peculiar possession of the Lord’s people, and of them only. The God of Peace gives perfect peace to those whose hearts are stayed upon Him. When man was unfallen, his God gave him the flowery bowers of Eden as his quiet resting places; alas! how soon sin blighted the fair abode of innocence. In the day of universal wrath when the flood swept away a guilty race, the chosen family were quietly secured in the resting-place of the ark, which floated them from the old condemned world into the new earth of the rainbow and the covenant, herein typifying Jesus, the ark of our salvation. Israel rested safely beneath the blood-besprinkled habitations of Egypt when the destroying angel smote the first-born; and in the wilderness the shadow of the pillar of cloud, and the flowing rock, gave the weary pilgrims sweet repose. At this hour we rest in the promises of our faithful God, knowing that His words are full of truth and power; we rest in the doctrines of His word, which are consolation itself; we rest in the covenant of His grace, which is a haven of delight. More highly favoured are we than David in Adullam, or Jonah beneath his gourd, for none can invade or destroy our shelter. The person of Jesus is the quiet resting-place of His people, and when we draw near to Him in the breaking of the bread, in the hearing of the word, the searching of the Scriptures, prayer, or praise, we find any form of approach to Him to be the return of peace to our spirits.

“I hear the words of love, I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice, and I have peace with God.
‘Tis everlasting peace, sure as Jehovah‘s name,
‘Tis stable as His steadfast throne, for evermore the same:
The clouds may go and come, and storms may sweep my sky,
This blood-sealed friendship changes not, the cross is ever nigh.”

Shame

ShameEdward T. Welch:

God extends his compassion and his mighty, rescuing arm to take away shame. Jesus both experienced shame and took our shame on himself, so shame no longer defines us. In fact, by grace through faith, it is no longer part of us. Then, in an act that seems inconceivable, God goes a step further: he marries and exalts those who once were shamed. (Isa. 54:4-5) (When People are Big and God is Small)

A Story without End

J. C. RyleBishop J. C. Ryle:

I have heard of a book entitled “The Story without an End.” I know no story deserving that title so well as the everlasting Gospel: this is indeed and in truth the story without an end. There is an infinite “fullness” in Christ; there are in Him “unsearchable riches;” there is in Him a “love which passeth knowledge;” He is an “unspeakable gift.” (Coloss. i. 19; Ephes. iii. 8; iii. 19; 2 Cor. ix. 15.) There is no end to all the riches that are treasured up in Him,–in His person, in His work, in His offices, in His words, in His deeds, in His life, in His death, in His resurrection. . . .

True Christians come unto God. They are not as many, who turn their backs upon Him; who “go into a far country,” like the prodigal son; “who go out,” like Cain, “from the presence of the Lord”; who are “alienated, strangers and enemies in their mind by wicked works.” (Coloss. i. 21.) They are reconciled to God and friends of God. They are not as many, who dislike everything that belongs to God,–His Word, His day, His ordinances, His people, His house. They love all that belongs to their Master. The very footprints of His steps are dear unto them. His name is as ointment poured forth.–They are not as many, who are content with coming to church, or with coming to chapel, or with coming to the Lord’s Table. They go further than that. They “come unto God,” and in communion with God they live.

But, more than this, true Christians come unto God in a certain peculiar way. They come unto God by Christ; pleading no other plea, mentioning no other name, trusting in no other righteousness, resting on no other foundation than this,–that Jesus hath lived, Jesus hath died, Jesus hath risen again for their souls. (“Able to Save”)

A Celebration of Christ

Christian+Christmas

George Whitefield:

 “And she shall bring forth a Son, and then shalt call his Name Jesus: For he shall save his People from their Sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

The celebration of the birth of Christ hath been esteemed a duty by most who profess Christianity. When we consider the condescension and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, in submitting to be born of a virgin, a poor sinful creature; and especially as he knew how he was to be treated in this world; that he was to be despised, scoffed at, and at last to die a painful, shameful, and ignominious death; that he should be treated as though he was the off-scouring of all mankind; used, not like the son of man, and, therefore, not at all like the Son of God; the consideration of these things should make us to admire the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was so willing to offer himself as a ransom for the sins of the people, that when the fullness of time was come, Christ came, made of a woman, made under the law: he came according to the eternal counsel of the Father; he came, not in glory or in splendor, not like him who brought all salvation with him: no, he was born in a stable, and laid in a manger; oxen were his companions. … What love is this, what great and wonderful love was here, that the Son of God should come into our world in so mean a condition, to deliver us from the sin and misery in which we were involved by our fall in our first parents!

Therefore, if we do but consider into what state, and at how great a distance from God we are fallen; how vile our natures were; what a depravity, and how incapable to restore that image of God to our souls, which we lost in our first parents: when I consider these things, my brethren, and that the Lord Jesus Christ came to restore us to that favor with God which we had lost, and that Christ not only came down with an intent to do it, but actually accomplished all that was in his heart towards us; that he raised and brought us into favor with God, that we might find kindness and mercy in his sight; surely this calls for some return of thanks on our part to our dear Redeemer, for this love and kindness to our souls. … [L]et us celebrate and keep this festival of our church, with joy in our hearts: let the birth of a Redeemer, which redeemed us from sin, from wrath, from death, from hell, be always remembered; may this Savior’s love never be forgotten! But may we sing forth all his love and glory as long as life shall last here, and through an endless eternity in the world above! May we chant forth the wonders of redeeming love, and the riches of free grace, amidst angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, without intermission, for ever and ever! And as, my brethren, the time for keeping this festival is approaching, let us consider our duty in the true observation thereof, of the right way for the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls, to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; an event which ought to be had in eternal remembrance. (“The Observation of the Birth of Christ, the Duty of all Christians; or the True Way of Keeping Christmas”)

Christmas Faith

windowslivewritermerrychristmas2006-d1e9journey-of-the-magi2J.C. Ryle:

“The conduct of the wise men is a striking example of faith. They believed in Christ when they had never seen Him – but that was not all. They believed in Him when the Scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving – but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him a little infant on Mary’s knee, and worshiped Him as a king. This was the crowning point of their faith. They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They beheld no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a new-born infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any one of ourselves. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world. ‘They fell down and worshiped Him.’

“We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible. It is a faith that deserves to be placed side by side with that of the penitent thief. The thief saw one dying the death of a criminal, and yet prayed to Him and ‘called Him Lord.’ The wise men saw a new-born babe on the lap of a poor woman, and yet worshiped Him and confessed that He was Christ. Blessed indeed are those that can believe in this fashion!” (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew, 12, 13)

God With Us

John MacArthurJohn MacArthur:

“If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: ‘God with us.’ We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”

The Hope of Christmas

Christ and ChristmasI am writing today about the hope of Christmas. Hope is something we need all year-long, but maybe you especially need it just now. Perhaps, you are allowing the stress and turmoil of the world’s secular Christmas expectations to get you down. The Bible tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV) We must all remember that God is working in our circumstances in ways we cannot see and He can make good come out of what is seemingly hopeless.

We need to see that Christmas is part of God’s eternal plan. We may not understand it, but God is working out His purpose for each of us. Christianity teaches that history is headed somewhere and that it is “His-story”. Life has meaning and God rules over it. God is not asleep somewhere, He is watching over us. The Bible says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV)

Hope invaded our world over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. But, like the shepherds so long ago, we must go and humble ourselves in faith before the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do – “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2 ESV) There is great hope in what the future holds for the children of God. Hope means better days are coming. Christmas is a declaration of God’s faithfulness. Paul writes to Timothy, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV)

Jesus was actually a very common Jewish name often given in memory of Joshua (Hebrew form of the name Jesus). Jesus (Joshua) means “God is Savior”. Jesus would save people from their sins.

He saves from the guilt of sin by offering His blood as the atonement for sins. (Romans 5:8-9) Jesus also saves us from the power of sin by sending the Holy Spirit to break sin’s dominion through sanctification. (Romans 8:1-2 and 12-14) Only Jesus can save us from the wrath of God to come. This is the hope of Christmas.

The name of Jesus should, therefore, fill us with hope. We may have salvation through this name. Through Jesus we find mercy as He intercedes on our behalf. For us, the name of Jesus is the very hope of Christmas.

Many people think about Jesus during this time of year and are often deeply moved. However, the season passes and soon they are caught up again in the secular pressures of this world. It is sad to see people come so close to the manger only to be distracted and lured away by the things of this passing world. I pray that God will someday place in their hearts the true hope of Christmas.

Christmas is a Time for Telling

“Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.”  (Mark 5:19)

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“Go home and tell your friends what the Lord hath done for your souls, and how he hath had compassion on you.” For my part, I wish there were twenty Christmas days in the year. It is seldom that young men can meet with their friends; it is rarely they can all be united as happy families; and though I have no respect to the religious observance of the day, yet I love it as a family institution, as one of England’s brightest days, the great Sabbath of the year, when the plough rests in its furrow, when the din of business is hushed, when the mechanic and the working man go out to refresh themselves upon the green award of the glad earth. . . .

Come, then; I will try and argue with you, to induce you to do so, that I may send you home this Christmas-day, to be missionaries in the localities to which you belong, and to be real preachers, though you are not so by name. . . .

When you are at home on Christmas-day, let no one see your face till God has seen it. Be up in the morning, wrestle with God; and if you friends are not converted, wrestle with God for them; and then you will find it easy work to wrestle with them for God. (“Going Home” — A Christmas Sermon)

Holiness by Grace

HolinessByGraceBryan Chapell:

If we have become bogged down in a guilty depression, have begun to equate religious piety with endless despondency over our shame, or have identified holiness with unrelenting sadness, then we have not grasped the grace that marks the gospel. Grace distinguishes its possessors by their joy. The good news proclaimed in the Bible neither slights the seriousness of sin nor shades the wonders of the pardon and power God provides his people. This full gospel message must also characterize the attitudes of God’s people, because those with whom we share Christ’s living water will be affected by the springs from which we drink. If we are guilt-driven, then so will be our spouses, children, and coworkers. If we pretend to be guiltless, then we will encourage shameless behavior. However, if we exhibit joyful gratitude for the grace of God that pardons our guilt, then we will reproduce grateful spouses, children, and fellow believers who are zealous for God’s purposes. (Holiness by Grace)

Send Me No Visions

Martin LutherMartin Luther:

I have made a covenant with my God that He send me neither visions, dreams, nor even angels. I am well satisfied with the gift of the Holy Scriptures, which give me abundant instruction and all that I need to know both for this life and for the life which is to come. Martin Luther

Prayer

The Five Dilemmas of CalvinismCraig R. Brown:

The Bible gives us many great examples of prayer, … First, there is the Lord’s Prayer, which teaches us to pray “`your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”‘ (Matt. 6:10). We are instructed here to pray as if we understand that God reigns in this world. By doing so, we are agreeing with the Calvinistic doctrine that God’s will is supreme. But we are still praying. God uses our prayers to bring about those things He already has determined. How can that be? Is not God so much greater than we ever imagined? (The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism)

Existence

Trusting GodJerry Bridges:

All things are indebted for their existence to the continuous sustaining action of God exercised through His Son. Nothing exists of its own inherent power of being. Nothing in all creation stands or acts independently of the Lord’s will. The so-called laws of nature are nothing more than the physical expression of the steady will of Christ. The law of gravity operates with unceasing certainty because Christ continuously wills it to operate. The chair I am sitting on while I write these words holds together because the atoms and molecules in the wood are held in place by His active will. (Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts)

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