• 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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  • September 2008
    M T W T F S S
  • Recommended Reading

Why Our Economic House Of Cards Tumbled

An insightful look into the cause of our current economic crisis. . . .

Christianity And The Superstitious

As I noted in a previous article (What Do Atheism, Education, And Superstition Have In Common?), even atheists can be superstitious. Therefore, it is not surprising to me that from time to time I meet a superstitious Christian. The Bible opposes superstition in every form. Yet, you may come upon Christians who, for various reasons, have adopted an extra-Biblical superstition as part of their daily religious practice.

Ichabod Spencer was called to serve as colleague-pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton, MA in 1828, the church made famous by Jonathan Edwards. Spencer’s ministry at Northampton from 1828-1832 was remarkably blessed with conversions. In the article below, Spencer shares his concern over the hindrance of superstition to true Christianity:

I was sent for by a woman who was in great distress in respect to her preparation for death. She was fully convinced that she should not live long, though now able to ride out daily, and seldom confined to her bed by her infirmity. She was a member of a neighboring church; but she said, “I have no peace at mind, and no witness that God has given me a new heart.”

I had not been acquainted with her before. She appeared to be an unimaginative, amiable woman, who loved her husband and her children; but she had not a very discriminating mind. Her wealthy, moral, but irreligious parents had done little for her, except to indulge her, and train her in the love of money and the enjoyments it can furnish.

I strove to instruct her in the way of life. I visited her almost every week for long time. She gained little or nothing in hope. There was something strange about her, which I could not understand. Her mind would be drawn off from the very things which I would be most anxious to fasten upon it.

One day she mentioned to me what a “bright witness,” as she called it one of her acquaintances had. She told me what it was. “It was a great light that appeared to her, and filled the room where she was.” The silly girl who told her this silly story some years before, had sometimes included her to attend religious meetings with her, among a class of people more apt to see such visions, and more fond of them than I am; and now, the poor woman’s mind was constantly on the look-out for “great lights.” With this expectation her mind was occupied; it was called off from the truth, and bewildered and confused by this superstition.

Again and again I explained to her the unscriptural nature of all such notions, and taught her that such “great lights,” existed only in the imaginations of people who were very nervous or very silly, or both. I thought I had succeeded in dissipating her superstitious notions, and for some months, during the lapse of which I often saw her, I had hoped that she was led to put faith before fancy, and look to Christ, and not to visions, for comfort and salvation.

But after all this, she sent for me. I went. She brought up the same story of a “great lights”, and asked me, – “Why don’t I see such witness”, “For three reasons,” said I: “first, you are not nervous enough; second, you are not imaginative enough; third you are not quite fool enough.”

Then I went over all the explanations of biblical religion again, and all the arguments to demonstrate the superstitions she had about some external witness, and expel it from her mind. She appeared to be convinced, and for some weeks enjoyed a rational hope in Christ. I had hope for her.

A few days before death she sent for me again. She was in great distress, in despair. She asked me if I thought she should “not have some bright witness before she died.” She died without it.

Superstition is mischievous. It hinders the exercise of faith, where faith exists; it prevents faith where it does not exist. Superstitious people are foolish. The sights they see, the strange sounds they hear, the voices whispering some words or some texts of scripture in their ears, are nothing but fancies, not facts; and if they were facts, they would be no evidence at all that these persons had become the children of God. Biblical evidences of religion are entirely different.

From: A Pastor’s Sketches, (1850)

Congress Says “No” To Bailout Plan

From: The Desk Of Gary Bauer

This afternoon, the House of Representatives voted down the administration’s economic rescue plan 205-to-228. At one point, the stock market plunged seven hundred points.

Over the weekend, House Republicans succeeded in forcing major improvements in the bill. President Bush made a brief statement shortly after 7:30 A.M. this morning to calm nervous markets and to rally members of Congress for the anticipated vote. In spite of his plea, and in spite of support from the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, a majority of House members voted “no.”

Consider this: Republicans voted against it because there were not enough protections for the taxpayer. The Democrats who voted “no” did so because they wanted more of what got us into this mess to begin with – more loans to people who couldn’t pay them back.

On the verge of this vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to the House floor and launched into a vitriolic attack against President Bush and the GOP. She continued the week-long liberal assault of blaming John McCain and the free market philosophy for this crisis.

Republicans have been biting their tongues in recent weeks – not playing the blame game, trying to find a workable solution to this crisis – when in fact liberal policies and politicians, as we and others have documented, deserve virtually all of the blame for the mortgage meltdown. But Speaker Pelosi just couldn’t restrain herself. When bi-partisanship was desperately needed to do the right thing for America, Pelosi put partisanship first.

House Republican Leader John Boehner just concluded a press conference where he made it clear that votes existed to pass this plan, but Pelosi’s vile assault on the GOP blew it. As I write, Barack Obama is at a campaign event blaming Republicans and capitalist greed for this crisis.

Republicans tried to be responsible. Republicans tried to act in a bi-partisan spirit for the good of the country – from President Bush taking the lead on this plan to John McCain suspending his campaign to return to Washington. Yet, at every juncture, they have been “kicked in the groin” for their efforts to reach out to Democrats.

My friends, I don’t think it is possible to overstate just how critically important this election will be for the future of our country. We are in a battle for the heart and soul of this nation. The freedoms we cherish hang in the balance. I have been saying for months that the Democrats and their radical leftwing allies intend to destroy the conservative movement. Deliberately taking down our economy in order to “change” it with something that resembles Big Government European-style socialism now appears to be part of their plan.

Cartoon Mocks Sarah Palin’s Christian Roots

Assemblies of God’s chief executive officer George O Wood is the leader of the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination. Recently, he denounced a cartoon in the Washington Post that mocks Sarah Palin, Pentecostalism, and Christianity.

The Christian Post reports that, “In the cartoon Palin is illustrated talking on the phone at a podium in an incomprehensible language. Republican presidential nominee John McCain stands near Palin and says with a grin, ‘She’s a Pentecostal and speaks in tongues, and only God can understand what she’s saying. But it gives my campaign a direct line to the Almighty.'”

Wood said that to his knowledge Palin has never said she prays in tongues. Palin was raised in a Pentecostal church but currently attends a non-denominational evangelical church. The media tries to portray Christian Pentecostalism as a cult, but the WashingtonPost.com has received many complaints about the cartoon’s offensiveness to Christians.

The cartoon may be viewed here. . . .

If Washington Had Listened To John McCain – There Would Be No Need Of A Bailout

Mark Alexander, in his article “Bailout Basics,” traces Presidential Nominee John McCain’s opposition to the government policies that have caused our current economic crisis. Below is a portion of Alexander’s article:

“For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac … and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. … If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.” –John McCain arguing for passage of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act (S. 190) which he co-sponsored in 2005.

While Sen. McCain is being pilloried by his opponent, Barack Hussein Obama, for asserting (correctly) last week that the fundamentals of most U.S. economic sectors are sound, clearly, Sen. McCain has understood for years that irresponsible lending practices for U.S. housing posed “enormous risk … to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.”

While Obama was out politicking this week, ostensibly itching for a debate that he’d been avoiding all summer, McCain suspended his campaign to work with Republicans in Congress, outlining conditions for an agreement that would both protect the American taxpayer and thwart a meltdown of the U.S. economy. So, “Country First” is not just a campaign slogan…

The enormous risk that Sen. McCain warned of in 2005 has now become a financial crisis of staggering proportions. That crisis can trace its roots to Bill Clinton’s signature on legislation making it easier for minority constituents with bad credit to obtain mortgages. In 1995, he had his Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, rewrite the lending rules for the Community Reinvestment Act, opening the flood gates of mortgage lending to unqualified borrowers.

Does The Truth Really Matter In Issues Of Faith?

There are certainly many “cultural” Christians today who believe it’s politically correct to hold that truth is a matter of personal opinion. Charles H. Spurgeon wrote that “The glorious charity of the present day is such, that it believes lies to be as good as truth; and lies and truth have met together and kissed each other; and he that telleth truth is called a bigot, and truth has ceased to be honorable in the world!”

It is important for Christians to protect themselves in this culture where truth is relative and words have no meaning. We must carefully research those ideas which are brought into the church in the name of tolerance. These concepts are often presented in vague and unclear language. Scripture, on the other hand, consistently makes definitive statements about good and evil; truth and lies. It is becoming more difficult for Christians to know when they are being taught false doctrine. This is why it is so extremely important for Christians to study the truth of Scriptures.

Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24) Later, Jesus states in John 8:31-32 “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Only absolute truth will guide you to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) This excludes personal opinion as the final arbiter of truth.

Are Republicans Backing Away From Sarah Palin?

Kathleen Parker’s article, “The Palin Problem,” seems to represent the turning of some Republicans’ heads – away from Sarah Palin, that is. A few Republicans have recently been more critical of Palin’s qualifications. Parker writes:

“No one hates saying [this] more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted. . . .

“Only Palin can save McCain, her party and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

“Do it for your country.”

Parker, a conservative, may be very sincere in her beliefs about Sarah Palin, but her view of the Republican candidate for Vice-President is seriously flawed.

First of all, considering the hostility of the media toward the candidate, Palin has handled their “gotcha” questions as well as can be expected. It is like a game of Trivial Pursuit with questions Obama and Biden could not answer and would never be asked.

Second, if she quits or is asked to step aside from the VP – McCain will lose the conservative vote and lose the election. Many people are only voting for John McCain because he put her on the ticket.

Pressure from Washington insiders is mounting against the McCain-Palin ticket because they are afraid of Palin’s reputation of being a “whistle blower.” She took on the Republican Party in Alaska and pointed out corruption where she found it. There are Democrats and Republicans in Washington who are afraid that she might influence a McCain Presidency to go after Washington corruption. Many in Washington, who are hoping for personal benefits from the economic bailout, certainly do not want a Washington “outsider” following the money trail.

The McCain campaign has been somewhat protective of Palin because of the viciousness of media and left-wing attacks against her and her family. Sarah, however, has more grit than they are giving her credit for. The best move the campaign could make is to turn her loose to make her own case to the American people.

Do You Want To Understand The Scriptures?

The Puritans believed that no discipline was so exacting, and no labor so rewarding as the interpretation of the scriptures. Their methods were very sound. Modern Christians would do well to walk in their steps when seeking to understand Scripture. J. I. Packer lists six questions the Puritans asked of each passage or text that they sought to understand:

1. What do these words actually mean?

2. What light do other scriptures throw on this text? Where and how does it fit into the total biblical revelation?

3. What truths does it teach about God, and man in relation to God?

4. How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?

5. What experiences do these truths delineate, or explain, or seek to create or cure? For what principal purpose do they stand in scripture?

6. How do they apply to myself or others in our actual situation? To what present human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do?

From: A Quest For Godliness, Puritan’s Vision of the Christian Life

Democrats Want Bailout Bill To Help Fund Political Left-Wing Group

According to The Politico, one objection of the House Republican leadership to the bailout bill is that it includes forcing tax payers “to bankroll a slush fund” for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). ACORN is considered to be a left-wing group that is an ally of the Democratic Party. It is controversial and has been involved in scandals – including “fraudulent voter registration activities on behalf of Democratic candidates.”

Why would an emergency economic bailout bill, which we are told is for the relief of the current business crisis, contain a provision giving money to a political group of community organizations? The Democrats appear to be only interested in how they can use the economic crisis to write a bailout bill that is focused on helping the Democrats rather than the nation.

This is another reason why I support term limits for US Senators and Congressmen. The American people are hurting and the people in Washington are more interested in the next election than developing an economic plan that would really work.

The Entertainment-Oriented Preacher

John Piper believes as did John Calvin and many others that sound preaching is “tethered” to the Bible. In the following excerpt, Piper distinguishes between entertainment-oriented preachers and Bible-oriented preachers:

For Calvin, preaching was tethered to the Bible. That is why he preached through books of the Bible so relentlessly. In honor of tethered preaching, I would like to suggest the difference I hear between preaching tethered to the word of God and preaching that ranges free and leans toward entertainment.

The difference between an entertainment-oriented preacher and a Bible-oriented preacher is the manifest connection of the preacher’s words to the Bible as what authorizes what he says.

The entertainment-oriented preacher gives the impression that he is not tethered to an authoritative book in what he says. What he says doesn’t seem to be shaped and constrained by an authority outside himself. He gives the impression that what he says has significance for reasons other than that it manifestly expresses the meaning and significance of the Bible. So he seems untethered to objective authority.

The entertainment-oriented preacher seems to be at ease talking about many things that are not drawn out of the Bible. In his message, he seems to enjoy more talking about other things than what the Bible teaches. His words seem to have a self-standing worth as interesting or fun. They are entertaining. But they don’t give the impression that this man stands as the representative of God before God’s people to deliver God’s message.

The Bible-oriented preacher, on the other hand, does see himself that way-“I am God’s representative sent to God’s people to deliver a message from God.” He knows that the only way a man can dare to assume such a position is with a trembling sense of unworthy servanthood under the authority of the Bible. He knows that the only way he can deliver God’s message to God’s people is by rooting it in and saturating it with God’s own revelation in the Bible.

The Bible-oriented preacher wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with God’s words. He wants this to be obvious to them. That is part of his humility and his authority. Therefore, he constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible. He is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible.

His stories and illustrations are constrained and reined in by his hesitancy to lead the consciousness of his hearers away from the sense that this message is based on and expressive of what the Bible says. A sense of submission to the Bible and a sense that the Bible alone has words of true and lasting significance for our people mark the Bible-oriented preacher, but not the entertainment-oriented preacher.

People leave the preaching of the Bible-oriented preacher with a sense that the Bible is supremely authoritative and important and wonderfully good news. They feel less entertained than struck at the greatness of God and the weighty power of his word.

Read the complete article “In Honor of Tethered Preaching” here. . . .

HT: Son of Westminster

Are You Altering The Word Of God? By Charles H. Spurgeon

There have always been self-appointed prophets who believe they can do a better job of writing Scripture than the Holy Spirit accomplished through the apostles and prophets of the Bible. Quite often we, ourselves, fall into this sin by choosing to emphasize some particular portion of Scripture out of the context in which it was written. We may also be guilty of overemphasizing some verses of Scripture that we personally perceive as more positive and ignoring the verses we do not like. Charles Spurgeon warned his congregation about such practices:

Take care my dear friends, how any of you meddle with God’s Word. I have heard of folks altering passages they did not like. It will not do, you know, you cannot alter them; they are really just the same. Our only power with the Word of God is simply to let it stand as it is, and to endeavor by God’s grace to accommodate ourselves to that. We must never try to make the Bible bow to us; in fact we cannot, for the truths of divine revelation are as sure and fast as the throne of God.

If a man wants to enjoy a delightful prospect, and a mighty mountain lies in his path, does he commence cutting away at its base, in the vain hope that ultimately it will become a level plain before him? No, on the contrary, he diligently uses it for the accomplishment of his purpose by ascending it, well knowing this to be the only means of obtaining the end in view. So must we do; we cannot bring down the truths of God to our poor finite understandings; the mountain will never fall before us, but we can seek strength to rise higher and higher in our perception of divine things, and in this way only may we hope to obtain the blessing. (Sermon 241)

The Greatest Nation on Earth

Peter J. Leithart is Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature at New St. Andrew’s College, Moscow, Idaho, and author of a number of books on theology and literature. In a book written in 1993 against the backdrop of the U.S. “culture wars,” he acknowledges the many-sided attack on Christian values in contemporary society. He then reminds American Christians that they have much to be thankful for: they inhabit the greatest nation on earth, the hope of the world. But there is a twist in his encouragement.

“Truly we face a vicious attack from powerful enemies in high places. And yet in the midst of the battle, we are very blessed. Despite the war, we can give thanks. We constitute the greatest nation on the face of the earth. She is in fact the greatest empire that has ever existed, truly the “last great hope of mankind.” We enjoy a degree of justice and liberty, prosperity and peace beyond the imagination of any other people. We have an unsurpassed heritage, boasting many of the greatest thinkers, artists, and leaders in all of human history.

“Indeed, despite the present conflict and turmoil, we will overcome our adversaries and endure forever. No matter how powerful our enemies, no matter how vicious their attacks, we will rise up to advance across the globe, and other nations will, like birds seeking refuge in a spreading tree, find security in the shade of our branches. We will defeat any and all enemies, within and without, in our cosmic warfare.

“Do these last statements surprise you? Have I lapsed into the overheated rhetoric of an extremist patriot? I assure you that I am completely serious, and I believe every word that I have written.

“But perhaps that little pronoun “we” has confused you. You may have assumed that “we” meant “we Americans” or “we conservative Americans” or “we right-thinking” Americans.” What I have been describing is in fact not the United States of America, but the church, the priestly kingdom and holy nation of God (1 Peter 2:9). Men and women find true liberty, peace, and joy only in the church. She is the original melting pot. Only citizens of heaven have access to true riches and enjoy true security. The kingdom of God is the cosmic tree in which the nations find shelter. It is the church against which even the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

Peter J. Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power: Rediscovering the Centrality of the Church (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1993),7-8.

HT: Son of Westminster

President Of Czech Republic Versus Al Gore And Environmental Madness

Susan Easton has written an interesting article titled, “Klaus Against The Greens” for Human Events. Here is a brief summary:

Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, directs much of his energy to campaigning against global warming alarmists. Klaus has been President of the Czech Republic since 1993 and holds a doctorate in economics. He is concerned about the totalitarian agenda of environmentalists. He believes there is little difference between the ideology of communism and that of climate change.

Klaus agrees with author Michael Crichton. “The greatest challenge facing mankind is distinguishing between reality and fantasy, truth from propaganda” as regards man-made global warming. Al Gore refused to debate Klaus in public when the Czech President challenged him. Klaus calls Al Gore’s claim — that Earth is headed toward “a planetary emergency” — absurd. He labels it as “scaremongering.” Klaus believes that people in the future will look back with amusement and pity the victims of this wrong-headed ideology that took hold over the minds of primitive 21st century humanity.

According to Klaus, the goal of climate change alarmists is a continuation of the socialist model of the centralization of economic control. “They invoke the image of apocalyptic imminent danger in order to trigger the need in others to have a savior — a messiah,” Klaus contends. He asserts that environmentalism is a quasi-religion that shares much in common with Marxism. It is the new recruiting strategy for the anti-capitalist and progressive socialists who want to suppress human freedom.

“Environmentalism is a movement that intends to change the world radically regardless of the consequences (at the cost of human lives and severe restrictions on individual freedom). It intends to change humankind, human behavior, the structure of society, the system of values — simply everything,” Klaus warns.

The Masters Of The Economic Universe

Gary North’s Economic Edge is a twice-weekly electronic publication of The American Vision. It offers economic insights and advice from a biblical worldview. The following excerpts are from Volume 1, Issue 22:

The public has been trained to believe that the people making the decisions at the top of the American financial system are masters of the universe. These were the best and the brightest. They had invented all of these wonderful new contractual obligations that made billions of dollars of profits for their companies. It was going to go on forever.

Then, like toppling dominoes, the masters of the universe were exposed as bunglers of the universe. They took their severance pay of tens of millions of dollars each, and went off into the oblivion that is reserved for ex-masters of the universe.

These stories kept coming before the public, beginning with the forced sale of Bear Stearns in March. One by one, the organizations that supposedly are at the heart of American financial capitalism have been exposed as barely functional operations that have been run by men who did not have any understanding of the new finance.

All of these leveraged securities had been designed by mathematical geniuses. So had Long-Term Capital Management, which went bust in 1998. The problem is, the heads of these organizations are not mathematicians. . . .

The people in charge of sorting out the mess are tenured, salaried economists who work for the Federal Reserve System and the Department of the Treasury. These are the fellows who were not good enough at mathematics to become mathematicians. Yet these are the people who are expected to produce a cure for the developing catastrophe that is threatening the capital markets of the entire world. . . .

The masters of the universe, whether in the private markets that have been subsidized by the fiat money of the Federal Reserve System, or hired by the Federal Reserve System, are now perceived as what they always were: people who did not know what was happening.

Is Spiritual Discipline Really Necessary?

There really is not much discussion of Christian discipline in the church or among Christians these days. This is one reason why the modern church, at times, seems a mile wide but only an inch deep. It was not always this way. But, as in our modern culture, discipline in the church as given way to convenience.

Jay Adams writes:

“Discipline is the secret of godliness. You must learn to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”

Spiritual discipline was an important practice in the early church and for the great men and women of God throughout history. Often we fear that the cost of such discipline is too great. If we could peer into heaven but for a moment, all such fear would evaporate in the delight of seeing God’s presence.

Most of mankind seeks a religion that causes them no pain. Those who enter fellowship with Jesus Christ, however, do not have happiness dropped in their laps, but are prepared in the crucible of this earth for the glory of heaven. The writer of Hebrews explains, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (12:11) If the disciplines of the Spirit are not present in our lives, we shall never be overcoming and victorious Christians.

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