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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 SUPREME JOY

Samuel A CainFor the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17 ESV)

Joy is a gift from God, but it also a gift for which we must take responsibility for cultivating on a daily basis. When we receive salvation, the Holy Spirit also imparts joy into our lives. The great blessing of such joy is in learning to live life according to God’s Will. Our joy grows as we increasingly realize that Jesus Christ is our greatest treasure. The Westminster Shorter Catechism affirms this by saying, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

The essence of true Christianity is to know peace with God through Jesus Christ. Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit are produced in a relationship with Jesus Christ where we submit to Him as our Lord and Savior. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one may approach God except through Jesus. (John 14:6 ESV) Continue reading

ONE THING I DO

One ThingIndeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8 ESV)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)

If you happened to see the movie “City Slickers,” you may remember this discussion between the characters Mitch (unhappy city boy) and Curly (hard-nosed, grizzled cowboy):

Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is?” [Holds up one finger]
Curly: “This.”
Mitch: “Your finger?”
Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean [crude expletive].”
Mitch: “But, what is the ‘one thing?’”
Curly: [smiles] “That’s what *you* have to find out.”

Curly’s speech has the ring of conviction to it. For myself, I believe that knowing your purpose in life gives you a powerful advantage.  So, what is your “one thing”? Continue reading

Christianity and the Mind

The Christian MindFor those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6 ESV)

According to Harry Blamires, “The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking, and Christian thinking is the prerequisite for Christian action.” (The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?) It does not require awe-inspiring intelligence to become a Christian. Nevertheless, we are called to use our minds to the glory of God in His service. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Most Christians have stopped thinking in a Christian way outside the church. We think one way in the church and another as we navigate daily through the problems of life. However, it was not planned to be this way. Paul declared to the Roman Christians, “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) C. S. Lewis said, “If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.” Renewing the mind requires the grace of God, reading, careful study, and listening to God’s Word. Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit teaches us to think in a Christian manner. God is glorified through us when we use our minds to make sound Christian decisions. Therefore, we should develop an informed Christ-centered worldview.

We live today in a world whose pattern of thinking is anchored in Post-modern philosophy. Relativism, “personal truth”, and the subversion of moral norms holds sway over our media addicted culture. Ignoring that such a philosophy is self-destructive, most Christians are intellectually unwilling to oppose this secular worldview in the public forum. Perhaps, this is because too many Christians accept the secular premise of a vast divide existing between faith and reason.

Ordinary Christian faith actually sharpens the intelligence; such faith does not make the mind a dull instrument. Christianity enhances reasoning skills. Augustine wrote, “A Christian is a person who thinks in believing and believes in thinking.” True Christianity requires the Christian to think systematically about the revelation of Jesus Christ and its application to us in our world, culture, and time. Jesus told his disciples, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) It is important to love God with your entire mind. As Christians, we must not confine our faith to the inside of a church. We are to use our minds to glorify God in every area of reason and life.

Samuel at Gilgal

The Rest of Your Life

Kingdom of GodBut seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

I believe you are never too old to learn something new. However, I have also observed the truth of the old oriental saying, “Too soon old; too late wise!” Whatever your age, it is a good idea to ask yourself “How can I make the rest of my life the best of my life?”

I think one truth the Bible teaches us is an important key to living: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If your priorities are not in line with God’s Will, then your life will not be all it could be. If you wish to seek the kingdom of God, you must first know God. God has promised, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13 ESV)

When you seek the kingdom of God, you must want the rule and reign of God over your entire life. The Scriptures teach us: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV) The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” How do we know what glorifies God? The answer to the second question of the Shorter Catechism tells us: “The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.” There is no higher calling than to obey God.

We are also told to seek God’s righteousness. We are actually to desire the formation of God’s character within us. A man’s character is simply the outward expression of whom or what sits on the throne of his heart. Character is always seen in the way a man conducts himself. If God is ruling over you, then people should see God’s righteousness in your actions. A true Christian makes it easier, by his actions, for others to believe in God.

Whatever your age, you can make the rest of your life the best part of your life. You can be part of life’s greatest adventure. Simply, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

Samuel at Gilgal

The Path of Pain

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2 ESV)

I think you have probably heard the proverb, “Time heals all wounds.” It appears to me that most people say this because there really are many afflictions that heal over time.

Since Christians have many supports that non-believers lack, I would anticipate that Christians handle tragedy better than non-Christians. In many cases they do. Nevertheless, many other believers do not seem to heal over time.

Many Christians do not have a clear and practical understanding of the doctrine of the chief end of man. Christians, who do know this doctrine, may not have made it a guiding principle for their lives. They may be able to recite it, but they have not learned how to apply it. What does this doctrine have to do with wounds and healing? Without a practical understanding of this doctrine, the Christian will not be prepared to face the inevitable losses he will experience in life.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states this doctrine by way of a question: “What is the chief end of man?” “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

What is meant by the “end of man”? To speak of the “end of man” is to speak of his goals and the things he wants to accomplish. In the course of daily living, we have many ends. Some ends, however, are more important than others. Look around you. Most people have very little concern for the glory of God. Very few people have the glory of God as the underlying motivation for how they should pursue their ends. This one end, the glory of God, should guide our actions.

How s it that we glorify God? God is glorious already. Our purpose should be to affirm His glory. We must acknowledge the glory that is already there. First, we recognize His glory, and then, we respond to it.

We glorify God in our hearts by bringing every thought and every attitude under the guiding light of the glory of God. We glorify God in our actions. We glorify God every time we choose to obey Him. Even when God deals with us in ways that are mysterious, if we trust in Him, we glorify Him.

Part of our chief end is to enjoy God. We enjoy God by being at peace with Him and taking pleasure in His blessings. We enjoy God as He has revealed Himself in His word. God blesses us with His wisdom. The Holy Spirit teaches us while we read our Bibles. He convicts our hearts when we sin. He leads us in the ways of righteousness. He comforts us when we hurt. The Holy Spirit gave life to our souls; it is His work that keeps us faithful; and it is His guiding work that leads us through the troubles encountered in this life and assures us of the life to come.

This is easier to understand when we consider that we were created not for ourselves but for God. We find in Colossians 1:16-17 ESV, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

We have a glorious motive to persevere through trials and circumstances, if the glory of God is the underlying motivation for all we do. As long as we have a mind to think with, we have the ability to glorify God. We glorify God when we read His word, for when we do this, we affirm that the Word of God is true and reliable. We glorify God when we pray to Him, for when we do this, we acknowledge Who He is and His right to govern us.

Is there anything you would withhold from God: your spouse, your children, your home, your income, and your possessions? All of it belongs to God, and all of it is subject to being taken away by God at any time. It is part of our fallen condition that when trials come, it is easy to look around and wonder whether God is dealing harder with you than with someone else. Well, there is good news and bad news. Some life journeys are harder than others. If you are on a harder journey, I’m sure you see it as bad news. The good news is that the path you are on is the journey God has chosen for you. As you continue down this path, God will be with you to help you through it and His glory shall be magnified through you.

The True Penitent

Can an unsaved man truly repent? Does repentance come before or after salvation? Archibald Alexander to explain:

The word should be preached in season and out of season, and the truth should be inculcated on the minds of children from their earliest years. Here is work in which all may engage and be useful. Hence also we learn how precious the book of God is which contains his holy word, and how desirable it is to have it faithfully translated into all languages, and circulated round the earth, until every family shall be in possession of the oracles of God. For not only in the preaching of the word of God, but also the reading of the Holy Scriptures, an effectual means of salvation. Agreeably to that in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation.” Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”

That usually a conviction of sin takes place previously to a change of heart, is a fact of common experience: and there seems to be a solid reason for this, that the sinful moral agent may be sensible of his miserable condition before he is delivered from it. As man naturally seeks to justify himself by his own righteousness, it is necessary that he should be cut off from this dependence on a broken law, which is now ‘weak through the flesh,’ and cannot bring him to life; and that he should see and feel that he is already justly condemned, and must despair of relief from the law. God permits the awakened sinner to try what he can do towards saving himself, until wearied with his own ineffectual efforts, he is brought to feel that he is indeed a lost sinner, and that there is no hope for him but in the sovereign mercy of God, on which he has no claim. It is suitable that when so great a benefit as pardon and eternal life is bestowed, it should be so conferred, as that the unworthy recipient should be fully convinced that it is a free gift, and an undeserved favor which might be most justly withheld. Otherwise the saved sinner would not feel a deep sense of his obligations; and his gratitude for free grace through eternity would not be so ardent.

Some, however, are inclined to the opinion that conviction of sin, which is of any real value, is subsequent to regeneration, and forms a part of that evangelical repentance which all the chosen of God experience. They suppose, that mere legal terrors, which are often felt by the reprobate here, and by all the wicked in hell, can have no necessary connection with regeneration; and that that deep sense of the turpitude and demerit of sin, which commonly precedes a sense of reconciliation, and is by many thought to precede regeneration, is really a consequence of that spiritual change, and a sure evidence that it has taken place. As the question only relates to the order of the exercises of the true penitent, it seems unnecessary to occupy time in discussing it. On both sides it is agreed that mere legal convictions, however the conscious may be awakened, and the soul agitated with terror, are no evidences of a change of heart. And it is also agreed, that all regenerate persons are brought to a deep sense of the intrinsic evil of sin, and this leads them inevitably to the conclusion, that God would be just if he should inflict upon them the condemning punishment which he has threatened in his word. Indeed, when the mind is spiritually enlightened to see something of the great evil of sin, the penitent soul cannot help taking the part of God against itself, and approving of its own condemnation. (A Practical View of Regeneration)

Christmas Is A Time To Make Christ Known

I grew up loving Christmas; maybe not for all the right reasons, but Christmas was a big deal in our family. I remember the smells of mother’s cooking, the decorations, watching “Miracle on 34th Street”, the music and the excitement of Christmas morning. There are other things that I remember about Christmas and many that I have forgotten. Is there a certain Christmas you remember more than any other? I think of one Christmas in particular when Deb and I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. on Christmas morning putting together a kitchen set for our two little daughters. They loved it, but on that Christmas I decided that I needed to invest in some battery-powered tools.

It is so easy for Christmas to slip by before we know it, because of all the things we feel obligated to do to create a truly Merry Christmas for ourselves and family. Sometimes the true Spirit of Christmas is lost in our busyness. In this article, I want us to look at Luke 2:15-20 to find counsel for celebrating the miracle of Christmas.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16 ESV)

A stable is not often thought of as a likely place to begin a celebration, but this child was no ordinary child. This baby was the “Son of David” (Matthew 15:22), the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), “Savior” (John 4:14), “Author of life” (Acts 3:15), “Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 1:8), the “Lion of Judah” (Revelation 5:5), the “Bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16), the “Word of God” (Revelation 19:13), the “Son of God” (Mark 1:1), and the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16)!

Celebrating Christmas is not about all the parties, presents, and Christmas Trees; it is about Jesus Christ and celebrating Him. Jesus is much more than what he appears to be as He lies in the manger on that first Christmas morning.

And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. (Luke 2:17 ESV)

Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to make Christ known. This is what the shepherds did. Glorifying God and Jesus Christ is the purpose for which we were made. This is where you will find true Christmas joy.

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:18 ESV)

We can see here that these basically uneducated men from a low social class made those who heard them wonder. What will be the testimony of your Christmas this year? Will men wonder about Christ because of the way you celebrate Christmas? Meditate on the true meaning and story of the first Christmas so that you may share it with others.

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19 ESV)

Mary treasured the memories of Jesus’ birth. She thought on these things with a serious mind and heart. We too should remember Christmas is about God coming into our time and our world to redeem His people. Christmas is a time of grace that should be a part of our living our lives all year-long.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:20 ESV)

What a wonderful statement! Only one visit with the newborn Christ; then sharing the “good news” with others, and returning to their flocks where they spent the rest of their watch praising God. I am reminded here of the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

How will your Christmas this year encourage you and others to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever? Christmas and every other day of the year, for that matter, should be a time of glorifying and praising God for the gift of His Son. Christmas is a wonderful time to praise God for His free gift of Grace. It is appropriate on every day and especially during the Christmas season that we share the message of His gift of grace with others.

I pray that you will have a God Glorifying Christmas this year!

Samuel

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