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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

ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP

The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture. (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21)

GOD IS THE HIGHEST GOOD

God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean. (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733)

LIGHT

There is no light, no knowledge, no wisdom, apart from God. All existence and all knowledge depend on God. If we have life, we live by Him. (Acts 17:28) If we have any knowledge, we know by Him. (Romans 11:36) We do not shed light on Him by the light we see. He is the origin, the source. If we have any measure of light, it is He who is shedding light on what we see, not we.

(John Piper, A Peculiar Glory, Crossway, 2016, p.160)

MEANINGFUL WORSHIP

Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! (Psalms 150:1-2 ESV)

How much attention do you give to your personal and corporate worship of God? If your worship is to glorify God, have you examined yourself to make certain that glorifying God is actually what you are doing? According to Jesus:

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24 ESV)

Without true worship, we cannot continue to grow in the blessing of His grace. Our consciousness of God’s presence in our lives begins to fade. Worship is not simply an outward act; it is the demonstration of a heart on fire for God. Have you experienced the joy of His pleasure in your worship? We need to reflect on our worship because it should be done according to God’s will, not ours.

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LOVING THE LORD YOUR GOD

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30 ESV)

Many say they love God but offer Him only a divided heart. They believe they can love the Lord and seek to please their selfish desires in the same moment. However, God lays claim to the whole heart.

We are to love God with all our soul (spirit). The spirit is where our loftiest sacred practices begin. The spirit is vital to the life of faith and communicates the love or lack of love we have for God. There are lots of people who do Christian things on the outside but inwardly they have not changed. Loving God with all your soul is loving Him with all your inner being. Continue reading

GOD IS NOT A MAN THAT HE SHOULD LIE

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 ESV)

In a moment of pressure and fear, have you ever lied or broken your word to another person? Mix in a little anxiety over personal accountability and lies seem to blossom. This is the curse of the natural man to always look out first for No. 1. (Romans 3:23 ESV) A little white lie here and a broken promise there will not cause any real problems, right? Such things are useful tools when we do not want to be inconvenienced by the truth but are they really? A half-truth is a whole lie.

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ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! (Psalm 95:1-6 ESV)

… Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, (Hebrews 12:28 ESV)

The MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY defines “worship” as 1) “the act of showing respect and love for … God especially by praying with other people who believe in the same God: the act of worshipping God;” 2) “reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence;” 3) “to take part in worship or an act of worship.” Such definitions, however, fall short in their accuracy because worship is both an attitude and an act. Worship must connect the mind and heart with the truth of God and His marvelous grace as made known in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible.

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UNDERSTANDING THE END FOR WHICH WE WERE MADE

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 ESV)

There are many people, including Christians, who do not  godhave a clear understanding of the purpose for which God made them.The Westminster Shorter Catechism states this doctrine by way of a question and answer:

Q: “What is the chief end of man?”

A: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

The ultimate end or chief purpose of man is to glorify and enjoy God. Too few people have any concern for the glory of God and therefore, certainly cannot enjoy Him.

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FEELING RIGHT WHEN WE ARE SO WRONG

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)

Narcissus

Narcissus

Christian men and women are human and therefore often pray, worship, and read the Bible without consideration of the personal prejudices which influence their thinking about these practices. We allow our feelings to become the unassailable doctrines of our belief without the Berean’s objectivity and careful study of the Word of God. This is a self-centered theology driven by our emotions and personal whims. The basis upon which we decide what the Scriptures actually mean is driven by how it makes us feel. To any thinking Christian, this system is unacceptable.

God requires that we seek Him as He has presented Himself in the Bible. As Jesus said:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)

Christians must learn to depend on the Scriptures which offer truth and reason to guide our prayer, worship, and Bible study. Although these practices may give rise to emotions, they must not be guided by selfish emotionalism. Seek instead to become a Bible-saturated and Holy Spirit filled Christian. Jesus reminds us that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24 ESV)

DOUBTING HEARTS

And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (Luke 24:38 ESV)

Billy GrahamDo you have doubts about the Bible being the real Word of God? Do you have doubts about Jesus Christ? Perhaps you believe there must be a God, but you doubt that He personally cares anything about you. James spoke rightly when he said, “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6 ESV) The unsettled soul has many doubts which result from a lack of communion with Christ. Do you doubt? Run to Christ and with every step nearer, you will grow in confidence and overcome discouragement. Faith is strengthened by communion with Christ. Charles Spurgeon asks the question, “Where do you live? Many a believer lives in the ‘cottage of doubt,’ when he might live in the ‘mansion of faith.’” We must continually be on guard against the doubt which destroys faith. Therefore, guard your faith through regular communion (prayer and reading God’s Word) with Christ.

THANKSGIVING

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5 ESV)

Pilgrims giving ThanksIt is proper that we should have a day when all the Christians in our nation give thanks to God for His many blessings. At Thanksgiving each year I am reminded of the instructions God gave the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6, “… when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Indeed, we too, have been brought out of the house of slavery to sin.

We have every reason to bless the Lord and remember all His benefits. He forgives our iniquity, heals our diseases, redeems us from the pit, and crowns us with unwavering love and mercy. (Psalm 103:2-4) Yes, it is good to praise Him. How will you keep Thanksgiving Day?

KNOWING GOD

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)

FindingDoingWillOfGodA primary desire of every Christian should be to know God and His Will. Without this knowledge it is impossible to live a holy life. Nevertheless, too few of us actually give the attention we should to knowing God intimately. Many tend to rely on some ethereal feeling as a reliable indicator of God’s Will, but bumps and chills running down the back of your neck and arms are a poor substitute for the Word of God.

The true knowledge of God transforms us into the image of Christ. We must discipline our minds to read, study, meditate on, and pray for our understanding of the Word of God. God has called us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. How are we to do this without knowing Him?

THE GLORY OF GOD

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. (Shorter Catechism)

God is not glorified unless we make it our aim to glorify Him. Through our joy in God, we are able to glorify Him in everything we do.

gloryYet, this is not achieved when men carelessly begin to worship Him without the respectful fear and reverence due Him. If we are truly to glorify God with our lives and enjoy the unspeakable magnificence of His character and graciousness, we must be God fearers as well. (Psalm 111:10 ESV)

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36 ESV)

STANDING IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. (Acts 5:19-21 ESV)

Apostles in jailThe High Priest envied the popularity of the Apostles and resented them for teaching in the temple. Therefore, he ordered them to be arrested and locked up in the public jail. However, an angel came during the night and set them free. Some of the Apostles may have wanted to run and hide at this point. After all, they were human like us.

The angel spoke to them and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Despite whatever fears they may have had, they risked the possibility of punishment and even death by deciding to enter the temple at daybreak and teach the words of life. These men were convinced in their hearts that it is better to obey God than men. They trusted in Jesus Christ. Do you?

MISERIES

Charles H. Spurgeon:

Charles H. SpurgeonOften in this present world, the most wicked men are the most prosperous, while the most holy are the most afflicted. This present world is not the place where the Judge of all usually punishes sin. He ordinarily reserves his wrath for the Day of Judgment, and the world to come. This is not the land of punishment, and your having more afflictions than others, may be because God loves you; certainly it is not because he hates you.

Some of God’s people are chastened every morning, and vexed every evening and the Lord’s hand lies heavy on them. Yet there is God’s goodness in that heavy hand, and infinite loving kindness in their tribulations. God only gives the wicked prosperity as we give husks to swine– he gives them this world’s transient things because he loves them not. I beg you then, do not misconstrue your sufferings of body and mind– they may be tokens of mercy; they certainly are not indicators of any special wrath.

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