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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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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

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)

CHILDREN AND THE CHRIST OF CHRISTMAS

Samuel A CainFor 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)

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 ESV)

Christmas is a good time to share the Word of God with your children. Of course, as we see in Deuteronomy 11, every day and every moment is, in general, a good time to do this. So, what are your children learning about the Christ of Christmas this year? What are you teaching them? Is there more talk in your home about Santa Claus than Jesus? Continue reading

God Comes To Bethlehem

The first Christmas morning may be hard for us to imagine in our 21st century culture. It does deserve our attention, however, because it is a miraculous day. It is the day that God entered our world. Leonard J. Vander Zee approaches this event from the perspective of the Apostle John in the following excerpts from a Christmas sermon:

We don’t know what Mary did that morning in the cave-like stable at Bethlehem. Was she cold? Was she afraid? Did she weep with worries about what they were going to do, this homeless couple, so far from family? The bible tells us just one thing about Mary on that morning of that birth that changed the world. All that the Bible tells us is that “she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart”. . . .

This morning we read John’s version of the Christmas story, if you can call it that. It’s not much of a story. At first glance it seems more like a heavy theological treatise. But if you read it well, it sings along with the Christmas angels. It begins; well it begins in the beginning; in the vast reaches of eternity, where God is all that exists. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

Already John confronts us with the mystery that stands at the heart of the church’s doctrine and worship, the plurality of God, the community of divine persons that is before all things, the Trinity. The splendid loving isolation of this divine community was not enough. God created a creation that was an extension of the love that is God’s very being. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5)

But then, a few verses later, John moves us from the splendid far reaches of eternity to the soil of this planet, the flesh and bones of our mortal bodies. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

At Bethlehem the Word, the logos, the origin and destiny of the whole creation came to us encased in our flesh. God comes to us as a baby. God comes into the world he created just the way we all come into the world. . . .

So we must truly say that God was born at Bethlehem. The Godhead crowned as Mary labored, and one of the divine persons was expelled into the cold night air of the stable. God was lifted lovingly by human hands, cleaned and wrapped in rags. God was laid at Mary’s breast to suck with hunger and contentment. God slept while angels sang to shepherds in the field. God joined the human race. . . .

This is the staggering uniqueness of the Christian faith. This is the good news. The word became flesh, God became human. . . .

As Mary pondered that morning, as she fondled her newborn baby, she could hardly imagine all this. But as we ponder the same event this Christmas morning so many centuries later, we begin to touch the fringes of the mystery. It’s the mystery of God’s love come down to us, the mystery of the Word made flesh. It all began on that cold night in a stable at Bethlehem. . . .

A Christmas Eve Prayer

A prayer by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild:

Eternal God, this holy night is radiant with the brilliance of your one true light. May that light illuminate our hearts and shine in our words and deeds. May the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love represented by the birth in Bethlehem this night fill our lives and become part of all that we say and do. May we share the divine life of your son Jesus Christ, even as he humbled himself to share our humanity. Amen.

The Spark Of Desire After God

Quoting William Law:

When therefore the first spark of a desire after God arises in thy soul, cherish it with all thy care, give all thy heart into it; it is nothing less than a touch of the divine loadstone, that is to draw thee out of the vanity of time, into the riches of eternity. Get up therefore, and follow it as gladly as the wise men of the east followed the star from heaven that appeared to them. It will do for thee as the star did for them, it will lead thee to the birth of Jesus, not in a stable at Bethlehem in Judea, but to the birth of Jesus in the dark centre of thine own soul.

A Christmas Prayer

Quoting Rev. Richard J. Fairchild:

Eternal God, this holy night is radiant with the brilliance of your one true light. May that light illuminate our hearts and shine in our words and deeds. May the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love represented by the birth in Bethlehem this night fill our lives and become part of all that we say and do. May we share the divine life of your son Jesus Christ, even as he humbled himself to share our humanity. Amen.

GOD REST YE MERRY, GENTLEMEN

 

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

 

This is one of my favorite songs during the Christmas season.  It is a happy reminder that true comfort and joy come only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and King.

 

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,

Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;

To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.

 

Refrain

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;

O tidings of comfort and joy.

 

In Bethlehem, in Israel, this blessèd Babe was born,

And laid within a manger upon this blessèd morn;

The which His mother Mary did nothing take in scorn.

Refrain

From God our heavenly Father a blessèd angel came;

And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;

How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.

Refrain

“Fear not, then,” said the angel, “Let nothing you afright

This day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin bright,

To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.”

Refrain

The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,

And left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind,

And went to Bethl’em straightaway this blessèd Babe to find.

Refrain

But when to Bethlehem they came where our dear Savior lay,

They found Him in a manger where oxen feed on hay;

His mother Mary kneeling unto the Lord did pray.

Refrain

Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,

And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;

This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.

Refrain

God bless the ruler of this house, and send him long to reign,

And many a merry Christmas may live to see again;

Among your friends and kindred that live both far and near—

That God send you a happy new year, happy new year,

And God send you a happy new year.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (Soundtrack)

A Christmas Creed

Author Unknown:

  • I believe in Jesus Christ and in the beauty of the gospel begun in Bethlehem.
  • I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a little town; and whose spirit still brings music to persons all over the world, in towns both large and small.
  • I believe in the one for whom the crowded inn could find no room, and I confess that my heart still sometimes wants to exclude Christ from my life today.
  • I believe in the one who the rulers of the earth ignored and the proud could never understand; whose life was among common people, whose welcome came from persons of hungry hearts.
  • I believe in the one who proclaimed the love of God to be invincible:
  • I believe in the one whose cradle was a mother’s arms, whose modest home in Nazareth had love for its only wealth, who looked at persons and made them see what God’s love saw in them, who by love brought sinners back to purity, and lifted human weakness up to meet the strength of God.
  • I confess my ever-lasting need of God: The need of forgiveness for our selfishness and greed, the need of new life for empty souls, the need of love for hearts grown cold.
  • I believe in God who gives us the best of himself. I believe in Jesus, the son of the living God, born in Bethlehem this night, for me and for the world.

Is Christ Born To You?

Charles Spurgeon

6 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)

The chief motive of the sinner is to live to self, but once we are born again we live to God. The unregenerate will seek his own pleasure; but the man of God has a far different purpose. Nevertheless, despite these signs, many are far too easily assured that they are members of the family of Christ while others too easily doubt their salvation. Charles H. Spurgeon shares with us his wisdom concerning this dilemma.

It is a very observable fact, that the very best of men are sometimes troubled with questions with regard to their own interest in Christ, while men who never are troubled at all about the matter are very frequently presumptuous deceivers, who have no part in this matter. I have often observed that some of the people about whom I felt most sure, were the very persons who were the least sure of themselves. . . .

So does it happen, that the best of men will question while the worst of men will presume. Ay, I have seen the men about whose eternal destiny I had serious questioning, whose inconsistencies in life were palpable and glaring, who have prated concerning their sure portion in Israel, and their infallible hope, as though they believed others to be as easily duped as themselves. . . . It is, then, I say, really a matter of serious questioning with all men who would be right at last, as to whether this child is born to us, and this Son given to us?

If this child who now lies before the eyes of your faith, wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem‘s manger, is born to you, my hearer, then you are born again! For this child is not born to you unless you are born to this child. All who have an interest in Christ are, in the fullness of time, by grace converted, quickened, and renewed. All the redeemed are not yet converted, but they will be. Before the hour of death arrives their nature shall be changed, their sins shall be washed away, they shall pass from death unto life. If any man tells me that Christ is his Redeemer, although he has never experienced regeneration, that man utters what he does not know; his religion is vain, and his hope is a delusion. Only men who are born again can claim the babe in Bethlehem as being theirs. “But” saith one, “how am I to know whether I am born again or not?” Answer this question also by another: Has there been a change effected by divine grace within you? Are your loves the very opposite of what they were? Do you now hate the vain things you once admired, and do you seek after that precious pearl which you at one time despised? Is your heart thoroughly renewed in its object? Can you say that the bent of your desire is changed? that your face is Zionward, and your feet set upon the path of grace? that whereas your heart once longed for deep draughts of sin, it now longs to be holy? and whereas you once loved the pleasures of the world, they have now become as draff and dross to you, for you only love the pleasures of heavenly things, and are longing to enjoy more of them on earth, that you may be prepared to enjoy a fullness of them hereafter? Are you renewed within? For mark, my hearer, the new birth does not consist in washing the outside of the cup and platter, but in cleansing the inner man. It is all in vain to put up the stone upon the sepulcher, wash it extremely white, and garnish it with the flowers of the season; the sepulcher itself must be cleansed. The dead man’s bones that lie in that charnel-house of the human heart must be cleansed away. Nay, they must be made to live. The heart must no longer be a tomb of death, but a temple of life. Is it so with you, my hearer? For recollect, you may be very different in the outward, but if you are not changed in the inward, this child is not born to you. (“A Christmas Question”)

A Christmas Birth At Bethlehem

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2)

When we speak of Jesus, we’re not simply dealing with a man, nor just a great man, we’re talking about the creator and sustainer of the whole universe. Whatever is, it’s all created by Him. Jesus is before all of it and in Him all of it hangs together. He is the creator. He is God born as man. John MacArthur points out:

The humble birth of Jesus Christ that we read . . . from Luke’s gospel in the manger, which is a feed trough in a stable, the humble garment that wrapped His little body was never intended to be a quiet facade to hide the reality that God was being born. Although the world has tried to make it that, it was really a demonstration of condescension, servanthood, humiliation. And frankly, those people who have tried to find in the accoutrements of Christmas a simplicity and a humility that covers up reality have a hard time explaining how an event so humble could be the most widely known event on the face of the earth. If Jesus wasn’t so unique, how in the world do we set the calendars of history by His birth? It seems to me that all the protesting about Jesus, all the trivializing of His birth is like the confession of which Shakespeare commented when he had one of his characters say, “Me thinks you protest too much.” The betrayal of a wicked motive.

The truth is that as the angel said, “This is Jesus who will save His people from their sins,” and as the prophet said, “His name shall be called Emanuel which is God with us,” the truth is what you have in the birth of Christ is a Savior who is God in human form. God entered our sin-polluted world. Without being tainted by it, He took our guilt, He bore our griefs, He carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. He was raised for our justification. He ascended to intercede for us, to prepare us a place and will return to take us to be with Him forever. This is Emanuel, this is God with us. To slight the child of Christmas is to blaspheme the God of heaven. He is unique. No one has ever been like Him. No one ever will be. (“The Child Who Was God”)

The Son Is Given

Charles H. Spurgeon

From a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”—Isaiah 9:6.

Pon other occasions I have explained the main part of this verse—”the government shall be upon his shoulders, his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God.” If God shall spare me, on some future occasion I hope to take the other titles, “The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” But now this morning the portion which will engage our attention is this, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The sentence is a double one, but it has in it no tautology. The careful reader will soon discover a distinction; and it is not a distinction without a difference. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” As Jesus Christ is a child in his human nature, he is born, begotten of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. He is as truly-born, as certainly a child, as any other man that ever lived upon the face of the earth. He is thus in his humanity a child born. But as Jesus Christ is God’s Son, he is not born; but given, begotten of his Father from before all worlds, begotten—not made, being of the same substance with the Father. The doctrine of the eternal affiliation of Christ is to be received as an undoubted truth of our holy religion. But as to any explanation of it, no man should venture thereon, for it remained among the deep things of God—one of those solemn mysteries indeed, into which the angels dare not look, nor do they desire to pry into it—a mystery which we must not attempt to fathom, for it is utterly beyond the grasp of any finite being. As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the Eternal God. A God whom we could understand would be no God. If we could grasp him he could not be infinite: if we could understand him, then was he not divine. Jesus Christ then, I say, as a Son, is not born to us, but given. He is a boon bestowed on us, “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son into the world.” He was not born in this world as God’s Son, but he was sent, or was given, so that you clearly perceive that the distinction is a suggestive one, and conveys much good truth to us. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.”

Is it true that unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given? It is a fact that a child is born. Upon that I use no argument. We receive it as a fact, more fully established than any other fact in history, that the Son of God became man, was born at Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. It is a fact, too, that a Son is given. About that we have no question. The infidel may dispute, but we, professing to be believers in Scripture, receive it as an undeniable truth, that God has given his only begotten Son to be the Savior of men. But the matter of question is this: Is this child born to us? Is he given to us? This is the matter of anxious enquiry. Have we a personal interest in the child that was born at Bethlehem? Do we know that he is our Savior?—that he has brought glad tidings to us?—that to us he belongs? And that we belong to him? (“A Christmas Question,” No. 291)

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