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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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SUNDAY SCHOOLS

Charles SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“Your Sunday schools are admirable, but what is their purpose if you do not teach the Gospel in them? You get children together and keep them quiet for an hour-and-a-half, and then send them home—but what is the good of it?” (1887, Sermon #1987)

CHILDREN OF GOD

Christ ChildrenCharles H. Spurgeon:

“Children need to learn the doctrine of the Cross that they may find immediate salvation. I thank God that in our Sunday school we believe in the salvation of children as children! How very many has it been my joy to see of boys and girls who have come forward to confess their faith in Christ! And I again wish to say that the best converts, the clearest converts, the most intelligent converts we have ever had have been the young ones! And, instead of there being any deficiency in their Charles H. Spurgeonknowledge of the Word of God and the Doctrines of Grace, we have usually found them to have a very delightful acquaintance with the great cardinal Truths of Christ.

Many of these dear children have been able to speak of the things of God with great pleasure of heart and force of understanding. Go on, dear teachers, and believe that God will save your children! Be not content to sow principles in their minds which may possibly develop in later years, but be working for immediate conversion! Expect fruit in your children while they are children! Pray for them that they may not run into the world and fall into the evils of outward sin—and then come back with broken bones to the Good Shepherd. But that they may, by God’s rich Grace, be kept from the paths of the Wicked One and grow up in the fold of Christ—first as lambs of His flock—and then as sheep of His hand.” (1887, Sermon #1988)

“The Time for Playing Games is Past!”

William Lane Craig:

In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian worldview coupled with an overwhelming relativism. If parents are not intellectually engaged with their faith and do not have sound arguments for Christian theism and good answers to their children’s questions, then we are in real danger of losing our youth. It’s no longer enough to teach our children simply Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics. It’s hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.

Unfortunately, our churches have also largely dropped the ball in this area. It’s insufficient for youth groups and Sunday school classes to focus on entertainment and simpering devotional thoughts. We’ve got to train our kids for war. We dare not send them out to public high school and university armed with rubber swords and plastic armor. The time for playing games is past.

What Are You Building Your Life On?

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well-built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49 ESV)

Above is one of the more sobering quotes from Jesus. I believe Jesus is saying here that there are people who think they are Christians but are not. They are counterfeit or perhaps “cultural” Christians.

They may say “Lord! Lord!” and even teach Sunday School and preach sermons, however, they are not real Christians. Jesus will someday say to them “I never knew you.” We see in the verses above that obedience is greater than just words. Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here. It might sound like I am saying good works are more important than grace and faith, but to say that would be to contradict the Scriptures by taking these verses out of context.

There is only one way to be saved from sin; it is through personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) These two verses make it absolutely clear that there is nothing we can do to earn, somehow deserve, or add to our salvation. Jesus has done everything.

Christians are not perfect and still sin, but they make every effort to conduct themselves like Christians. If you are really a Christian, there will be evidence of your continuing growth in sanctification. A true Christian does not consistently behave like an unbeliever. This does not mean that doing good makes a person a Christian, but living righteously is a good sign of whether someone really is a Christian. The Bible teaches: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17 ESV) We are saved by faith alone, but it is a faith that is accompanied by changes in the way we live and worship.

Imagine two men looking for locations to build their homes. They both narrow their search down to two choices. One place is on rocky ground that is higher up, but it will take a lot of time and work to prepare a foundation there. However, lower down is a second site where the ground is sandy and soft. Building a home in this location would require less time, work, and money.

The two men make their choices. One chooses the solid rocky ground and the other chooses the soft sand. It is then that we find there are storms in the locations where these men built their homes. Indeed, we also have storms in our lives that hit us suddenly, unexpectedly, and sometimes overwhelmingly.

However, the point of the story is Jesus’ description of people who come to Him and hear His words and then obey them. They are like the man who built his foundation and home on rock. When the storm struck that house, it could not be shaken because it had been well-built. This is a description of those who live in obedience to Christ. When Jesus is your rock and the storms of life come, you will not be overwhelmed. Another point is that the time to obey the words of Jesus is before the storms of life actually come. If you build your life on anything else but faith in Jesus Christ, it will eventually collapse.

Let us look at our lives for any signs that we may be counterfeit Christians. Lord, help us to believe and obey. Help us to become Christians who are solidly standing on the rock of Jesus Christ. Let us say with the psalmist; “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2 ESV)

What Will They Say About You?

Our family recently attended the memorial service for my mom’s sister, Aunt Madge. Aunt Madge was a widow whose husband, Austin died many years ago. She reared one daughter and three sons.

Aunt Madge was an elementary school teacher who taught in both public and Christian schools. She also sang in the choir, taught Sunday School and Disciple Training. She served on the Board of Trustees at Campbell University for four years, as well, and the General Board of the Baptist State Convention.

Aunt Madge not only reared her own four children in her small home, but also invited in many others over the years for various periods of time. If you needed comfort, encouragement, or help, Aunt Madge was the person to see. “Mom”, as she was called by her young visitors, encouraged many young men to become Ministers of the Gospel in that small home.

I laughed heartedly as one of those young men, who is now a minister, told the story of how he and some other boys plotted to get “mom” to say something bad about someone in the church. They bet each other five dollars to make sure their commitment to this effort was sincere. Each boy offered up his true story about the misdeeds of someone in their church. Aunt Madge would agree that the people were wrong in what they did, but then she would go on to explain that person’s situation and how the love of Christ should be ministered to him or her. Obviously, none of the boys won that bet and left with the profound feeling that they should have prayed for these people all along.

This minister also told us about his trip to the Philippines. He had brought along his new expensive camera to make pictures of the trip. In a short time he lost his camera and decided that someone had stolen it. When he returned home, he laid out all his theories and disappointments concerning his lost camera to Aunt Madge. To make a long story short: By the time he left Aunt Madge’s house he felt like he had ministered to the people of the Philippines by losing that camera there.

There were other stories and many wonderful things said at the service about Aunt Madge. As I listened to the sincere comments about my Aunt, I could not help but think how far behind I am in committed service to the God my Aunt loved. I thought about my own funeral sometime in the future and about what people would say about my service to God and what God had accomplished through my life.

I’m not saying Aunt Madge was perfect. None of us are until we are glorified in His kingdom. We do not all have the same calling in our lives and work. Yet, even in the small things – we have the opportunity to glorify our God. What will people say at your funeral about you and the life you lived?

Honestly, I think my Aunt would have been embarrassed by the words of praise bestowed upon her memory. She, however, sought the affirmation of only One when she entered the gates of Heaven: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21 ESV) What will God say to you?

The Good Pastor

I have no doubt that it is much easier to write about what a good pastor should be than it is to live up to the expectations. I almost attended seminary once about 25 years ago. I believed that God was creating the providential circumstances to encourage me to become a preacher/pastor. People told me that they believed they were really learning the Bible when I filled the pulpit for an absent pastor or taught an adult Sunday School class. The seminary even offered me a 75% scholarship and a part-time job working in the education department if I would attend their school. As all this was coming together, the Lord made it clear to me one day that I was not pastor material. You see, I could teach a lesson or preach a sermon, but I did not have in my nature the social skills that a pastor must possess to demonstrate how much he personally cares for and loves the members of his congregation. My ability, by God’s grace, to teach or preach and my good listening and counseling skills were simply not enough to serve God in the capacity of a pastor over a church. I began to understand that my “calling” was to be a Bible teacher working with adult classes or small groups. This was the way for me to develop personal relationships in which I could also grow in Christ.

So, when I look for a good pastor – just what am I expecting to see? You cannot give a good pastor too much credit. A pastor is a man with many tasks set before him; however, his primary task is the preaching of the Gospel. God uses him to build the church and to assist in converting sinners. The pastor is to expound and explain the truths found in the Scriptures (including doctrines) and to guide men to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. A true pastor is a man of mercy from a God Who loves us.

The Bible must be preached to the mind and heart. It must be understood as well as felt. A pastor must understand his congregation’s intellectual ability. He should know that many of his flock are weighed down with the troubles of life. All must be considered if his preaching is to be successful. All men and women want to hear preaching that will warm their hearts with the love of Christ; to be encouraged as they face their troubles; and to be armored against temptations. It is a grand mistake to preach exclusively for intellectuals or the illiterate. The object of preaching is to focus attention on the subject of the preaching; not the pastor, but Jesus Christ our Savior.

The pastor in the pulpit should not come across as a cold fish. His preaching should make the congregation feel the power of God’s Truth. The preacher must devote time to discovering the true meaning of his selected text. He must be zealous to show forth the burning truths that he has learned in his studies. The pastor must cultivate his thought and speech to the utmost, but it must all be for the glory of God.

A good pastor will read much, meditate on God’s Word and pray much for God to bless his preaching and his congregation. He will do his best every time he preaches to exalt Christ and save men’s souls. After all, he is preaching to dying men. Who knows if someone is listening to the last sermon he will ever hear! The pastor must take into account all the sudden sicknesses and accidents that may occur to prevent members from attending church again. With that in mind, his congregation must witness the love of Christ in their pastor’s conduct.

The great value of a man’s immortal soul should motivate all Christians to passion and faithfulness; especially the pastor. The salvation of one soul merits the focused attention of your life, strength, and your most faithful labors. The pastor will one day have to give an account for the souls that have been under his ministry. The author of Hebrews reminds us: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

In conclusion, I recognize that there are many more duties a Pastor performs than what has been mentioned here; but pastors I admonish you before Jesus Christ to remember that you are called to preach the truth of God. You are to preach the whole truth even if it is unpopular in your age. Your message must be absolute Bible truth. Don’t wander into the assertions of popular magazines, the trends that are in, or copying other churches because they are popular and have big crowds. If you are faithful in preaching God’s Word and ministering to your congregation, the Holy Spirit will build a Christian Church.

Where Are The Fearless Preachers?

From a sermon by Richard Owen Roberts:

Whatever happened to the fearless preachers whose fiery denunciations of sin and awesome warnings of impending doom used to grip the land? Are we too advanced a culture to be affected by the prophets of God or are the men who think themselves called of God too timid to tell the truth?

I remember that old Sunday School song: ‘Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!’

Do you dare to be a Daniel? Are you prepared to face your den of lions unafraid? Are you boldly standing, even if all alone? Are your purposes firmly set? Do all who know you know to what you are unhesitantly and uncompromisingly committed?

Do you dare to resist the clock-watchers who are vastly more committed to keeping the services short than to the prosperity of Christ’s kingdom?

Do you dare to stand against the unregenerate leaders in your church, calling them to repentance and faith, even when they are scheming your departure?

Do you dare to insist that the wealthy and prestigious must follow the same path of surrender and devotion to Jesus Christ as the poor and down-trodden?

Do you dare to preach against the favorite sins of your congregation or is your preaching fashionable and acceptable to the unrepentant Christ-haters among your people?

Do you dare to live a life of godly simplicity and open holiness before your watching world?

Does the daring of Daniel mark your daily devotions? Does the courage of Christ characterize your Christian walk? Does the fearless passion of a post-Pentecost Peter power your preaching?

Christians without courage are a strange and pathetic contradiction and a constant hindrance to revival. (“Preaching That Hinders Revival”)

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