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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

PRESSING FORWARD

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 ESV)

Life is often about moving forward. If we stop moving forward, our lives frequently become stagnant and pointless. Even our spiritual lives often suffer from failing to move forward. I’m not talking about embracing every new idea or popular fad that comes along; this article is about God’s calling upon your life and not stopping short of the goal.

In the verse above, we find Paul describing his own efforts to move forward in the Christian life. He is certainly not the man he was but he is not yet the man he should like to be either. Doesn’t he sound very human – just like us? Paul recognizes his shortcomings and yet he presses on striving to become more like Jesus.

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FROM THIRST TO LIVING WATERS

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

In the verses above, on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus announces the source of true satisfaction for spiritual thirst. The crowd around Him are like the woman of Samaria who was standing by the side of the true well of living water and did not know it. Jesus invited all who were in need of spiritual comfort to come to Him by faith and receive living water. This flowing, living water represents new life and the comforting graces of the Holy Spirit.

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CELEBRATING THE LIGHT

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)

lightI love light because it makes vision possible and generally makes me feel better. Have you ever heard of seasonal affective disorder? It may be caused by the reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter. This decrease in sunlight disrupts the body’s internal clock and leads to feelings of depression. December, January, and February are my usual months for dealing with this problem. When the sun does come out during these months, you can bet I surely want to get outside to soak it up if possible.

The apostle John describes Jesus in terms of light:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)

In this context, Jesus is described as light. Light and darkness symbolize good and evil; godly wisdom and worldly wisdom; the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man (devil). We were all once enslaved to the darkness, but Christians are now able to walk in the light. On the road to Damascus, Jesus told Paul that He was sending him to the gentiles to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God; to receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Him. (Acts 26:18 ESV)

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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.

THE VOICE OF CHRISTMAS

christmas angelOn this Christmas morning, I pray that your thoughts are overwhelmed with the love of Jesus Christ. I am sharing with you this morning the following hymn by Charles Wesley in which the Gospel and evangelical theology are put to lyrics and music. Wesley took advantage of poetic license when he wrote about the angels singing. Actually, Luke 2:13 says: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,” (Luke 2:13 ESV) However, the fact that the angels were “saying” and not “singing” does not diminish the beauty or truth found in this Christmas favorite. By the way, George Whitefield helped Wesley rewrite his original lyrics into the final version we have today.

Hark the herald angels sing [say]
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing [say]
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christian+Christmas(“Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” by Charles Wesley, music by Felix Mendelssohn)

HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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FINDING THE PEACE OF CHRISTMAS

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)

ShepherdsChristmasThe natural man is born into this world with an inclination to rebel against God and God’s commandments. Isaiah points out that we are like stray sheep wanting our own way. Therefore, we cannot be at peace with God because we love and worship ourselves and our desires of the moment. However, Jesus came to reconcile us with God and make peace by the blood of His cross. (Colossians 1:20 ESV)

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DOUBTING CHRISTMAS?

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)

Modern culture has created a society in which skepticism and cynicism thrive. We especially see a lot of this during the Christmas season. Atheist ads tell us there is no God – “so just be good for goodness’ christmassake.” Others remind us each year that Jesus was not born on the 25th of December and that it was a pagan holiday. They don’t understand that when the early Church saw the work of Satan in the customs of the people, they aggressively set out to change and sanctify it to the glory of Jesus Christ. How many people do you know today who celebrate the holiday of Saturnalia or the festival of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun? See my point? They were not compromising with the world; they were taking the world for Christ.

In our present time, people still want to celebrate Christmas, but many do not seriously make Christmas a time to advance the cause of Christ. Too often, the impulse behind our modern Christmas is unashamed materialism. Santa, decorations and the spirit of self-indulgence have replaced the Spirit of Christ in this Christian celebration. The world continues to seduce the children of God to return to paganism. Will Christmas succumb to the darkness and become only a cultural holiday? Continue reading

THINKING ABOUT JESUS

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

Christmas-ChurchI’ve been thinking about Jesus. Many people do this time of year. Deeply touched by the sentiments of the season, they resolve to get to know Him better. However, the emotions that spark this resolve may soon pass as time moves beyond Christmas Day.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus. Isn’t there danger in broken promises to Him? People say they desire to be close to Christ, but their devotion is often hollow. A shallow desire for fellowship with Him leads to a cold heart. Commitment requires self-discipline and it is more than some can humanly muster.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus during this Christmas season. He has come that we might have life. (John 10:10 ESV) We are saved through faith which is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) His Spirit gives us the ability to keep our vows to Him. His divine power gives us all things that relate to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3 ESV) Isn’t it time to put on the new self which is after the likeness of Christ? (Ephesians 4:24 ESV) Continue reading

HE CAME FOR US

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

Christ and ChristmasOn the first Christmas night a Savior was born. The One born that night would change the course of history. At Bethlehem we find an event of cosmic significance. God became man that we might be redeemed from sin.

Jesus Christ was the best gift mankind could possibly receive. We were sinners. Yet, He came for us. We were in rebellion against God. Yet, He came for us. We were bound to Satan. Yet, He came for us. We were lawless. Yet, He came for us. God gave us grace through Jesus Christ in the condition He found us. Through grace we may now become children of God.

This event was sufficient for an angel to declare:

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 ESV)

WHEN WILL JESUS RETURN?

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:10 ESV)

DatesPeople have predicted the end of the earth for thousands of years. Since the beginning of Christianity many Christians have also attempted this same “game” by pointing to various verses in the Bible (usually out of context) to decide when the return of Jesus will occur.

In early October of this year, Chris McCann of eBible Fellowship announced that October 7th would be the last day. Yet, on October 8th, things continued as usual.

The second coming of our Lord is greatly anticipated by Christians. However, I continue to wonder why so many overlook what Jesus said on this subject in the following verse:

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. (Matthew 24:36 ESV)

When will Jesus return? NO ONE KNOWS “but the Father only”. Only God knows! It is futile to try to discover what God does not choose to reveal. In context, this verse is also a warning to be ready at any moment for the Second Coming. It may take place in the next minute, day, year, or ten thousand years from now. “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42 ESV)

Finally, I appeal to all Christians to give up this “guessing game” concerning the Lord’s return. When the predicted day goes by and nothing happens, it gives the world cause to mock our Lord and the Christian Faith. We then bring disgrace upon ourselves and the name of Jesus – which is a sin.

LAW AND GOSPEL

David Clarkson:

David ClarksonThe righteousness of Christ turns the law into gospel to a believer, and of a doctrine full of dread and terror, renders it the most acceptable message that ever was brought to the world. The law, which stands as the angel with a flaming sword, to bar all flesh out of paradise, when the righteousness of Christ is applied, it becomes an angel to carry every believer into Abraham’s bosom; Christ’s righteousness added, it loses its name, and we call it gospel. The way in both seems to be the same for substance; perfect obedience is requisite in both. They differ in the circumstances of the person performing this obedience. In the law it was to be personal, in the gospel his surety’s performance is sufficient.

However, if there be any terror, dread in the law, Christ’s righteousness removes it; if any grace, comfort in the gospel, Christ’s righteousness is the rise of it. Take away Christ’s righteousness, and the gospel can give no life; take it away, and the law speaks nothing but death; no life, no hope of life without it, either in law or gospel. (Works, 1:315)

A CHRISTIAN’S LIFE

Charles Hodge:

Charles HodgeTo be in Christ is the source of the Christian’s life; to be like Christ is the sum of His excellence; to be with Christ is the fullness of His joy.

A Christian is one who recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, as God manifested in the flesh, loving us and dying for our redemption; and who is so affected by a sense of the love of this incarnate God as to be constrained to make the will of Christ the rule of his obedience, and the glory of Christ the great end for which He lives.

AMUSING OURSELVES

J. R. Miller:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

J. R. Miller

J. R. Miller

Amusements are proper, both as to kind and degree—just so far as they make us better Christians. Whenever they become hindrances to us in our Christian living or in our holy walk – they are harmful, however innocent they may be in themselves.

How do your amusements influence your spiritual life? They may be very pleasing to you. They may afford great gratification. But what is their effect on you, as a Christian? Are they hindering your love for Christ, and your growth in grace? We ought to be honest enough with ourselves, to answer these questions truthfully, and then act accordingly. (“In Green Pastures”)

CHRIST’S SALVATION

A. W. Pink:

A. W. Pink“The nature of Christ’s salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day evangelist. He announces a Savior from hell rather than a Savior from sin. And that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness.”

GOD WITH US

Octavius WinslowOctavius Winslow:

And, O beloved! What an assuring and comforting truth is this – God with us! Now we feel equal to every service, prepared for every trial, armed for every assault. Deity is our shield, Deity is our arm, Deity is our Father and our Friend. We deal with the Divine. Deity has died for us, has atoned for us, has saved us, and will bring us safely to the realms of bliss. This God is our God, forever and ever, and will be our Father even unto death. Oh, see, my reader, that your hope is built upon nothing more and upon nothing less than Christ. The Rock of Ages must be your only foundation if saved. If you stand not in the righteousness of God when you appear in His presence, He will say to you, “How did you get in here, not having on the wedding garment?” Speechless will then be the tongue now so fluent and ingenious in its many and vain excuses, Continue reading

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