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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

OF FLAGS, STATUES, AND FOOLISHNESS

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)

Ignore history at your own peril. Banning flags and tearing down statues will not hide sin; make us more righteous; or prevent hate. All this is simply the outside of the cup. Americans must change within. This is the true change that Christ promised. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) There is salvation in no other name. It is the gift of God confirming the love of God and those who are loved by God love one another.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13)

NO DIFFERENCE IN RELIGIONS?

alistair beggAlistair Begg:

The idea that there are really no substantive differences between religions needs to be held up to careful scrutiny and declared fraudulent. For example, Islam says that Jesus was not crucified. Christianity says He was. Only one of us can be right. Judaism says Jesus was not the Messiah. Christianity says He was. Only one of us can be right. Hinduism says God has often been incarnate. Christianity says God was incarnate only in Jesus. We cannot both be right. Buddhism says that the world’s miseries will end when we do what is right. Christianity says we cannot do what is right. The world’s miseries will end when we believe what is right. (Made for His Pleasure, 126).

JESUS OR HEROD?

Samuel A CainNow after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, (Matthew 2:1-5 ESV)

In Matthew’s second chapter, we see that Jesus’ birth creates a conflict about who is King. It was in the time period of the reign of Herod the Great. Herod endowed his realm with massive fortresses and splendid cities, as well as a new Temple.

Herod the Great also used his office to glorify himself. He considered himself to be the protector of Israel from the gentiles. He believed the key to saving Israel was through politics and absolute rule. Many people today still believe in the government as savior. The true savior, however, willingly dies upon the cross to reconcile us to God. Herod gives glory to himself. Jesus gives all the glory to God. Continue reading

MITHRAIC PAGANISM VS. CHRISTIANITY

350px-Mithras_slaying_the_BullDuring my undergraduate years, I was assigned to write a paper on Mithraism for a course in ancient religions. The topic included the “similarities” Mithraism seemed to have, (information greatly exaggerated) with Christianity. Attempts continue to be made to build a false connection between Mithra and Jesus. Such assertions abound from various sources critical of Christianity. I hope the following information will aid you if you are ever confronted with these false claims.

Those who claim there is a connection between Mithraism and Christianity are really restructuring Mithraism according to preconceived ideas. In fact, there are no existing texts from the pagan followers of this belief system. Some artifacts found in caves, however, and references from ancient historians do prove that it existed. These artifacts have been dated to 70 years after the beginning of Christianity and many believe they are from the middle of the second century A.D.

Historians tell us there were two forms of Mithraism: Roman Mithraism and Iranian Mithraism. They are connected by little more than the name. Roman Mithraism was a new creation (influenced by the Greeks) which was very popular among the military. Its followers adopted some Christian ideas along the way. Continue reading

Biblical Giants

R.C. SproulR.C. Sproul:

God has given great men and women to the church. The biblical giants serve as valuable models—despite their imperfections. Were we to elevate Paul, Abraham, or David above Christ, we would be guilty of idolatry. The same would be true if we exalted Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, and others above Christ. We respect these saints, but only insofar as they are faithful to Christ and point beyond themselves to Christ. This was certainly the style of the apostle Paul, who labored tirelessly for the cause of Christ. We love and honor him for that labor. Likewise, we honor the giants of church history. But even the theological “giants” are sub-apostolic, never speaking or writing with an authority equal to an apostle.

At the same time, we recognize that a vast gulf separates Augustine from Jim Jones. People like Augustine and Luther have contributed theological insights of such magnitude that their names are representative of key thoughts. Few in church history are worthy of such recognition. The suffixes “ian,” “ist,” or “ite,” (e.g., “Calvinist”) are valuable to identify truth but have little positive and much negative value when applied to personalities. We know that Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were not crucified for us.

Thank God for role models who have influenced your life; then thank Him for the Supreme Model who died for you.

Read more by R.C. Sproul here. . . .

The Great Division

R.C. Sproul“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided; three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

R.C. Sproul:

In Luke 12:49-57 Jesus told His disciples that He had not come to bring peace, but division. He told them that He was bringing a baptism of fire to the earth, warning the crowd to flee the wrath to come.

This was the great moment of crisis in history. It was a time of urgency that swept the earth with the appearance of Jesus. Jesus’ coming to this planet in the fullness of time was a time of division, judgment, and separation.

It was a time of personal choosing, when eternal destinies were at stake. Everyone who encountered Jesus had to make a choice, to stand with Him or against Him. Thus, since the time of Jesus’ first appearance, the world has been gripped in a kind of crisis that will continue until the last great crisis, the last judgment.

How do men encounter Jesus today, thus facing their own crisis of history? Jesus is in heaven, but men and women encounter Him through His people, the church. The church is His body and His herald. The fiery baptism Jesus came to bring fell in one sense at Pentecost to ignite the tongues of His people so that they might bring the crisis of decision to all men.

Knowing these things should make us urgent in our proclamation of His name and make us insistent that the generation of our day be exposed to the Lord of lords.

(www.ligonier.org or call them at 800-435-4343, © R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved)

True Christians

J. C. RyleJ.C. Ryle (Commenting on Mt. 2:13-23):

True Christians should never be greatly moved by the persecution of man. Their enemies may be strong, and they may be weak; but still they ought not to be afraid. They should remember that “the triumphing of the wicked is but short.” What has become of the Pharaohs and Neros and Diocletians, who at one time fiercely persecuted the people of God? Where is the enmity of Charles the Ninth of France, and Bloody Mary of England? They did their utmost to cast the truth down to the ground. But the truth rose again from the earth, and still lives; and they are dead, and moldering in the grave. Let not the heart of any believer fail. Death is a mighty leveler, and can take any mountain out of the way of Christ’s church. “The Lord lives” forever. His enemies are only men. The truth shall always prevail. (Expository Thoughts on Matthew)

 

A Bible-Reading People

Horace GreeleyHorace Greeley (Editor and Politician):

“It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.”

The Bible Manuscript

BibleBernard Ramm:

Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved. With their massora, they kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity–scribes, lawyers, and massorettes.

In regard to the New Testament, there are about 13,000 manuscripts, complete and incomplete, in Greek and other languages that have survived from antiquity.

A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.

No other book has been so chopped, knifed, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified. What book on philosophy, religion, psychology, or belles lettres of classical or modern times has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? With such venom and skepticism? With such thoroughness and erudition? Upon every chapter, line and tenet?

The Bible is still loved by millions, read by millions, and studied by millions.

Polycarp

PolycarpThe Martyrdom of Polycarp:

“But the proconsul urged him and said, ‘Swear, and I will release thee; curse the Christ.’ And Polycarp said, ‘Eighty and six years have I served him, and he hath done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?'”

 

Strange

Bible ScholarJohn Lea:

“It seems strange that the text of Shakespeare which has been in existence less than 208 years should be far more uncertain and corrupt than that of the N.T., now over 18 centuries old, during nearly fifteen of which it existed only in manuscript…with perhaps a dozen or twenty exceptions, the text of every verse in the N.T., may be said to be so far settled by general consent of scholars, that any dispute to its readings must relate rather to interpretation of the words than to any doubts respecting the words themselves. But in every one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays there are probably a 100 headings still in dispute, a portion of which materially affect the meaning of the passages in which they occur.”

Comparing the Bible to Eastern Sacred Books

Sir Monier Monier-Williams(Former Boden Professor of Sanskrit who spent 42 years studying Eastern books) Professor Sir Monier Monier-Williams:

“Pile them, if you will, on the left side of your study table; but place your own Holy Bible on the right side–all by itself, all alone–and with a wide gap between them. For…there is a gulf between it and the so-called sacred books of the East which severs the one from the other utterly hopelessly, and a forever…a veritable gulf which cannot be bridged over by any science of religious thought.”

Endeavoring to Create Something Perfect

MichelangeloMichelangelo:

“For those who feel it, nothing makes the soul so religious and pure as the endeavor to create something perfect; for God is perfection, and whoever strives after it, is striving after something divine. True painting is only the image of the perfection of God, a shadow of the pencil with which he paints, a melody, a striving after harmony.”

The Resurrection is a Fact

Chuck ColsonCharles Colson:

I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.

Jesus and the Resurrection

Ben Witherington IIIBen Witherington III:

Any position in which claims about Jesus or the resurrection are removed from the realm of historical reality and placed in a subjective realm of personal belief or some realm that is immune to human scrutiny does Jesus and the resurrection no service and no justice. It is a ploy of desperation to suggest that the Christian faith would be little affected if Jesus was not actually raised from the dead in space and time.

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