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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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Family Worship

From the pen of Jerry Marcellino:

The lifelessness experienced in so many churches in our day can be traced directly to the multitudes of families in those churches which contain Sunday-morning Christians only. It is plain to see the cause for such deadness when such individuals are not consistently worshiping God in private. Statistics reveal that only 11 percent of all professing Christians in America read their Bible or some portion of it once a day. If so few professing Christians are spending time alone with God, it should not be surprising that family worship as a practice among professing Christian families is practically nonexistent.

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Seek And Find God

In the words of John Piper:

Brothers and sisters, we must be more earnest in seeking God in worship. We must be less flippant and less frivolous and thoughtless and casual and disrespectful as we approach the chamber of God in the assembly of the faithful. Have you ever thought through the implications of Jeremiah 29:13 where God says, “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me WITH ALL YOUR HEART.” There is only one reason to come to this service – to seek and find GOD! And the Lord God says to you straight from his Word every Sunday, “You will find me when you seek me with ALL YOUR HEART!”

The Worship Service

From the pen of John MacArthur:

In the process of striving to fulfill our needs and satisfy our desires, the church has slipped into a philosophy of “Christian humanism” that is flawed with self-love, self-esteem, self-fulfillment, and self-glory. There appears to be scant concern about worshiping our glorious God on His terms. So-called worship seems little more than some liturgy (high or low) equated with stained-glass windows, organ music, or emotion-filled songs and prayers. If the bulletin didn’t say “Worship Service,” maybe we wouldn’t know what we were supposed to be doing. And that reflects the absence of a worshiping life – of which a Sunday service is to be only a corporate overflow.

Who Is Your King?

Quoting Charles Henrickson:

“Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” So the psalmist writes, and then he adds this question, calling for our reflection: “Who is this King of glory?” That is our question this morning, on this Day of the Palms, when we also look ahead to the Day of the Passion. Today we look upon this man Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, and we ask, “Who Is This King of Glory?”

Well, on Sunday, Palm Sunday, he certainly looks like a king of glory. Cheering crowds, palm branches, cloaks spread on the road–a triumphal entry into the royal city, Jerusalem. What a scene of joy and triumph it is, fulfilling the ancient prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

But by the end of the week, that Holy Week, instead of a triumphal entry, there is a tearful exit. The daughters of Jerusalem who were rejoicing on Sunday are weeping on Friday, as the King of glory is led out of town in shame and sorrow. Who is this King of glory?

On Sunday Jesus is acclaimed as the messianic king: ““Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” On Friday he is accused of claiming to be that king: “We found this man misleading our nation . . . saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Jesus doesn’t deny it: “Are you the King of the Jews?” “You have said so.” Who is this King of glory? Soldiers array him in splendid clothing, only to beat him up and mock him. Who is this King of glory?

Glory? Glory, you say? Where is the glory in being nailed to a cross, and having a sign placed over your head, “This is the King of the Jews”? No garments strewn before him, now his own garments are stripped from him.

Strange king, indeed. On Sunday he rides in triumph on the Way of Glory. On Friday he staggers, condemned, on the Way of Sorrows, the way of the cross and darkness and degradation. Who is this King of glory?

The world today would just as soon forget about this king, this puzzling man, Jesus. They want to put him on the shelf, push him out of sight, out of mind, and get on with their lives–their busy, distracted, no-need-for-God lives. Instead of cheering crowds–or hostile crowds, either, for that matter–now there are just busy crowds, bustling crowds, too-busy-to-be-bothered and too-bored-to-care crowds. What a vacuous lot we have become! Overloaded with information, but starved for wisdom. All too busy, and yet filling our lives with nothing. Junk food for the mind. Junk food for the soul. No time or need for this man Jesus. Who is this King of glory?

Continue reading here. . . .

The Waning Pulpit

Quoting J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1917):

This opinion may or may not be correct; the one who gave it evidently thinks it is, and unquestionably he represents a certain element in the Church. Whether true or not, it is the sort of criticism facing the preacher today. It is claimed that we have failed to give sufficient emphasis to the importance of prayer, and we read that this was the secret of true greatness in the pulpit of other days. It is said we have lost our power because we have not given sufficient attention to Bible study; not Bible study in the preparation of sermons, but Bible study in the development of our own spiritual life. Unquestionably the secret of Spurgeon’s power was found just here. During the days of the week we must become saturated with the Scriptures so that on Sunday the message comes flowing forth like the current of a mighty river. Men tell us we have lost this, that we preach about God’s Word, but not the Word itself.

It has been said that we have given up personal work, and depend too much upon our pulpit efforts to turn men to God. “How do you like your minister?” said one of my friends to a plain woman in the mountains of Kentucky. She hesitated a moment and replied: “We don’t like him so very well. He preaches well enough, but he has the college habit, and studies so much that we do not see him except on Sundays,” “and,” she said, “you know a minister must speak to you out of the pulpit as well as in it if he is to influence you. . . .”

[W]e must have a message to preach, not for the sake of preaching, but for the sake of convincing men of their sins, as the Spirit of God may lead us. When asked one day his opinion regarding sermons of ministers, Hon. William J. Bryan said: “I desire my minister to preach every Sabbath the simple gospel. The old, old story never wearies the average congregation, if it comes from a devout mind with preparation in the message. My ideal sermon is one which has an appeal to the unconverted and a spiritual uplift for the Christian. I want my minister to be abreast of the times on all new theological questions and research, but I do not want him to bring them into the pulpit. I have formed certain fixed views of Christ, His gospel, and the inspiration of the Bible from a careful reading of that Book of books and of the Shorter Catechism, and it will not make me a better Christian or profit my spiritual life to unsettle these views by a discussion in the pulpit of new theories of Christ and the Holy Scriptures. Finally, I want my minister to act on the belief that Christ’s gospel is the surest cure of all social and political evils, and that his best method of promoting temperance, social morality, and good citizenship, is to bring men into the Church. In a word, I want my minister to emphasize in the lifework the declaration of the most successful preacher, Paul: “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

General Orders, May 2nd, 1778

Quoting George Washington:

“The Commander in Chief directs that divine Service be performed every Sunday at 11 o’clock in those Brigades to which there are Chaplains; those which have none to attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that Officers of all Ranks will by their attendance set an Example to their men. While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian. The signal Instances of providential Goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labors with complete Success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of Gratitude and Piety to the Supreme Author of all Good.” (George Washington, General Orders, May 2nd, 1778)

J.C. Ryle On Counting The Cost

The following is an excerpt from J.C. Ryle’s book, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots. In this excerpt, Ryle warns us of desiring a cheap Christianity:

Christianity will cost a man his love of ease. He must take pains and trouble if he means to run a successful race toward heaven. He must daily watch and stand on his guard, like a soldier on enemy’s ground. He must take heed to his behavior every hour of the day, in every company and in every place, in public as well as in private, among strangers as well as at home. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace. In attending to these things, he may come far short of perfection; but there is none of those who he can safely neglect. “The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Prov. 13:4).

This also sounds hard. There is nothing we naturally dislike so much as “trouble” about our religion. We hate trouble. We secretly wish we could have a vicarious Christianity, and could be good by proxy, and have everything done for us. Anything that requires exertion and labor is entirely against the grain of our hearts. But the soul can have “no gains without pains.”

[T]rue Christianity will cost a man the favor of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, an enthusiast and a fanatic, to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad. The Master says, “Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his Lord.’ If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

I dare say this also sounds hard. We naturally dislike unjust dealing and false charges and think it very hard to be accused without cause. We should not be flesh and blood if we did not wish to have the good opinion of our neighbors. It is always unpleasant to be spoken against and forsaken and lied about and to stand alone. But there is no help for it. The cup which our Master drank must be drunk by His disciples. They must be “despised and rejected of men” (Isa. 53:3). Let us set down that item last in our account. To be a Christian, it will cost a man the favor of the world. . . .

Moreover, I grant it costs much to be a true Christian. But what sane man or woman can doubt that it is worth any cost to have the soul saved? When the ship is in danger of sinking, the crew thinks nothing of casting overboard the precious cargo. When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing! A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown.

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