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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 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)

WHAT IS MY NEXT STEP IN LIFE?

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 ESV)

providenceHave you ever wondered what the next step in your life should be? Should I get married? Should we have children? Should I take just any job to get by since I’m unemployed? Should I start looking for a new job because I’m dissatisfied with the one I have now? What should be my major in college? I’m unhappy in my marriage; should I divorce? Should we spend Christmas at her parents or mine?

Christian – whatever your next step is, it should honor and glorify God. As a matter of fact, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV) God desires to be the highest priority in our lives. Sometimes we become frustrated because we haven’t heard what we want to hear from God. Our prayers for guidance seem to go unanswered. In many areas, His will for us may belong to the secret things of God. We must learn to trust in God’s providential care. If God’s glory is the greatest purpose of our lives, then we will be useful servants to Him. Trust God, acknowledge His Word, seek His Wisdom, and His Sovereignty by obeying Him and being thankful for His providential care. (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV) Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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)

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)

HOPE

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4 ESV)

Reading The BibleSeek for His Wisdom and you will also find hope for the future.

TURNING AWAY FROM TRUTH

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)

Wolf in Sheep's ClothingMany in our churches are often deceived by some new teaching that promises shortcuts to the victorious Christian life. These teachings seem to always focus on success, prosperity, and health as being the primary ideals of this victorious life. Most of these teachings simply rehash the “word-of-faith” movement mixed with the heresy of the month. They offer rituals for increasing faith and prayer formulas which are guaranteed to get results – if you have enough faith. We are deceived by our own sinful passions and the lust for “effortless success”.

How quickly we accept a little heresy mixed with the strong drink of true Christian doctrine to make religion more suitable to our current frame of mind and desires. Immature Christians are easy prey for the deceitful doctrines of false teachers and thus make themselves useless for proper service to God. In this way, they pervert the grace of our God (Jude 1:4 ESV) and the way of truth is blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV) Be ready for ravenous wolves whether they come in the form of cunning people or devious books. “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11 ESV)

THE CHURCH ENGULFED BY THE WORLD

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)

PreacherThere are some who would accuse people like me of trying to make the church irrelevant in this culture because we advocate the preaching of the pure Gospel message. It is not that I think we should ignore the culture or times in which we live, I am simply concerned with the mindset that says “We must make the Gospel relevant to our times.” This is dangerous thinking. Forgetting that the absolute truth of Scripture is relevant to all times and places, people hurry forward to remodel it in the likeness of the society around them. Where this is practiced, we find the church becoming more like the culture rather than the culture conformed to the Christian model. This school of thought has become much too influential to the injury of Christian preaching.

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?

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.

GOD FOR SALE?

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. (Acts 8:9 ESV))

In the region of Samaria, there once lived a man called Simon the Sorcerer. He astonished the people of this province with his magic. As a matter of fact, the people called him the “great power of God. Simon loved power and the ability to manipulate others.

Simon trying to buy the gift of GodOne day a man by the name of Philip arrives. He was a Christian from Jerusalem. Philip preached the good news about the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. Seeing the many amazing miracles which were done, many proclaimed their faith in Jesus and were baptized. Simon also claimed to believe and was baptized as well.

Hearing of the work being done by Philip, the church in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to Samaria. Peter and John laid hands on the new converts and the Holy Spirit fell upon them in power (A second Pentecost?) Simon was amazed.

Simon was envious and wanted to control the Holy Spirit to use as he desired. Simon coveted this ability of the Apostles and offered them money to share this ability with him. He desired spiritual authority for his own ends. Peter responded:

“May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” (Acts 8:20-23 ESV)

It is evident that Simon was not a true convert. His heart was not right before God. Neither are the hearts of many in our churches today. The warning is clear. If you believe you are a Christian simply because you have said the right words and gone through the motions, your heart may still not be right with God. Too often, belief in God consists of the attitude that He is like Santa Claus. This is not the God of the Bible. Many people see God as the key to material prosperity. This is not the God of the Bible. Some attempt to remake God in their own image. This is not the God of the Bible. Others believe they can manipulate God for their own ends. This is not the God of the Bible. How often have you seen the bumper sticker, “GOD IS MY COPILOT”? This too, is not the God of the Bible. God alone is in absolute control and does not need our advice or permission. He rules absolutely.

Like so many in our churches today, Simon wanted a very large cup of God’s blessings and power with only a very small teaspoon of God. Which do you want?

LIVING IN THE ABSENCE OF MORAL LAW

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18 ESV)

I-love-this-grace-thingThere are too many in our time who claim salvation by grace and live as if there is no moral law. They live lives of irresponsible deviancy from the truth of God. In practice, they do not honor God in their hearts or minds. They are blasphemous because their lives are no different from their non-Christian friends who deny the gospel. Do you profess to know God but deny Him by your works?

Life is not an experiment in relativism; it is the pursuit of the true nature of reality. It is the gravest error to think you can live in contradiction to the truth. Jesus said, “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) As Christians, we are to hold forth this light in the Danger-antinomianiamdark places of the world. As Jesus said, “… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 ESV) Therefore, we live to open the eyes of the morally blind in order that “… they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.” (Acts 26:18 ESV) We pray that they receive forgiveness for their sins and sanctification through faith in Jesus Christ.

YOU CAN HAVE HOPE

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:5 ESV)

HopeHope is a genuine enduring wellspring. Yet, it is difficult to conclude why one Christian is more serene and confident in hope than another. Many Christians, at their conversion, brought with them a despondent disposition that habitually expects the dark clouds of hopelessness. Naturally glum and pessimistic because of birth, circumstances and sin, they struggle with that nature throughout the process of Christian sanctification. They genuinely grow in holiness, but are not fully confident in the hope that awaits them. By grace, they will eventually mature in hope by the working of the Holy Spirit. Feelings often come and go, but our God is eternal. He is a God of hope and by the power of the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ – all may abound in His everlasting hope. (Romans 15:13 ESV)

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