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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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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

SINCERITY

George WhitefieldGeorge Whitefield:

“People want to recommend themselves to God by their sincerity; they think, ‘If we do all we can, if we are but sincere, Jesus Christ will have mercy on us.’ But pray what is there in our sincerity to recommend us to God? … therefore, if you depend on your sincerity for your salvation, your sincerity will damn you.”

 

PRESS FORWARD

George WhitefieldGeorge Whitefield:

Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you. Fight the good fight of faith, and God will give you spiritual mercies.

FACING OPPOSING FORCES

Samuel A Cain“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12 ESV)

There are times in life when we face opposition. This opposition may consist of personal antagonism or even hostility. People may disagree with us and try to obstruct our plans. They may challenge our character in order to raise disapproval toward us and our motives. Take up God’s cause on any issue and our old adversary, the devil, will raise his head in resistance.

The great English evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770) experienced this many times in his life. Whitefield sought to honor God even when he was falsely accused by his enemies. On one occasion, Whitefield received a malicious letter accusing him of wrongdoing. He replied, “I thank you heartily for your letter. As for what you and my other enemies are saying against me, I know worse things about myself than you will ever say about me. With love in Christ, George Whitefield.” He offered no defense because he was seeking to please God – not men.

Jesus Christ faced continuous opposition during His ministry on earth. He taught His followers to expect opposition as well. Jesus said: Continue reading

FAMILY

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“There is a great deal in the way in which a man walks in his house. It will not do to be a saint abroad and a devil at home! There are some of that kind. They are wonderfully sweet at a Prayer Meeting, but they are dreadfully sour to their wives and children. This will never do! Every genuine Believer should say, and mean it, ‘I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.’ It is in the home that we get the truest proof of godliness. ‘What sort of a man is he?’ said one to George Whitefield, and Whitefield answered, ‘I cannot say, for I never lived with him.’ That is the way to test a man—to live with him.” (1894,Sermon #2362)

“Family prayer and the pulpit are the bulwarks of Protestantism! Depend upon it, when family piety goes down, the life of godliness will become very low. In Europe, at any rate, seeing that the Christian faith began with a converted household, we ought to seek after the conversion of all our families and to maintain within our houses the good and holy practice of family worship.” (1891, Sermon #2222)

The Preacher and Preaching

PreachingIn the following excerpts, Al Martin describes how we may begin to distinguish great preaching from poor:

A thing is judged to be good or bad in terms of its proximity to an absolute standard. Of course, in the realm of what is effective or good preaching, there is no single, comprehensive standard. However, I believe we can glean from the Scriptures an accurate standard as to what good preaching is by examining the preaching of the prophets, of the apostles, and of our Lord Jesus Christ. Another basis of comparison is to be found in the lives, ministries, and sermons of the great preachers of past ages. When I use the term ‘great preachers’, I am not thinking of men who are renowned primarily for their ability to embellish the truth of God with great rhetorical effects, or who are known for their proficiency in the art of elocution. Rather, I am thinking of men who were instruments of God in moving other men Godward. Into this particular category I would place such men as Whitefield, M’Cheyne  Spurgeon, Edwards, Baxter and Bunyan. . . .

Let us consider together this matter of what is wrong with preaching in terms of the man who preaches. I wish to state a principle, illustrated from the Scriptures, and then to apply it in several specific areas. The principle is this: that unless we would degrade preaching to a mere elocutionary art, we must never forget that the soil out of which powerful preaching grows is the preacher’s own life. This is what makes the art of preaching different from all other arts of communication. A well-known actress may be famous for her ‘moral’ escapades. She may live like a common harlot. Yet she can enter the theatre at eight o’clock on a Wednesday night and play the role of Joan of Arc in such a way as to move the entire audience to tears. The way in which she lives may have no direct relationship with the exercising of her professional art. . . .

It is readily admitted that the Scriptures teach that there are times when men appear on the scene who have great ministerial gifts, but who are devoid of sanctifying grace [See Matthew 7:21-23]. The history of the church also records the deeds of men who were used sovereignly by God in the exercise of ministerial gifts who proved ultimately to be devoid of sanctifying grace. I believe, however, that this particular problem of deception would primarily apply to those engaged in the kind of ministry where they are not domiciled among their hearers long enough for their lives either to add or detract from the impact of their ministry. Therefore, limiting this principle to the context of pastoral preaching, I believe it is a valid rule [with some few exceptions] that powerful preaching is rooted in the soil of the preacher’s life. It has been said, ‘A minister’s life is the life of his ministry.’ If preaching is the communication of truth through a human instrument, then the particular truth thus communicated is either augmented or reduced in its effect by the life through which it comes.

The secret of the preaching power of Whitefield, M’Cheyne  and the other men I have already mentioned, is found not primarily in the content of their sermons or in the manner of their delivery. Rather, it is found in their lives. Their lives were so clothed with power, and they lived in such vital communion with God that the truth became a living principle when it came through such vessels. Their anointed lives became the soil of their anointed ministries. This principle is particularly true in the life of a resident pastor. The more you and I are known by our people; our influence will increase or diminish according to the tenor of our lives. (“What’s Wrong with Preaching”)

Fire in the Preacher’s Heart

George Whitefield once wrote, “The reason why congregations have been so dead is because they have dead men preaching to them. How can dead men beget living children?” G. Campbell Morgan writes:

In the true sermon there must always be passion. Our Lord’s testimony concerning John, His forerunner, was this: “He was a burning and a shining light” (John 5:35). It is one thing to shine; it is quite another to burn as well.

Half the sermons today – may I be forgiven if I am cruel – are failing because they lack the note of passion.

There is a tale told of that great English actor, Macready. An eminent preacher once said to him: “I wish you would explain something to me.”

“What is it? I don’t know if I can explain anything to a preacher.”

“What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all.”

Macready’s answer was this: “That is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present the fiction as though it were fact; you present the fact as though it were fiction.”

I leave that story right at this point. Of course the question comes, whether a man can preach these things without passion if they are truth to him. I don’t know; I must not sit in judgment on other men. But our theme as preachers of the Word has to do with the glory of life – with the tragedy of sin, and its remedy; I cannot see how anyone can really handle these things until he is handled by them.

A man was formerly said to “handle his text.” If he handles his text he cannot preach at all. But when his text handles him, when it grips and masters and possesses him, and in experience he is responsive to the thing he is declaring, having conviction of the supremacy of truth and experience of the power of truth, I think that must create passion.

I am not arguing for mere excitement. Painted fire never burns, and an imitated enthusiasm is the most empty thing that can possibly exist in a preacher. Given the preacher with a message from the whole Bible, seeing its bearing on life at any point, I cannot personally understand that man not being swept sometimes right out of himself by the fire and the force and the fervor of his work. (“Preaching With Passion”)

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