• 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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  • February 2009
    M T W T F S S
  • Recommended Reading

Our Worship Is Poor Because Our Knowledge Is Poor

John Stott

John Stott

From: The Desk of John Stott

The ‘message’ is God’s own Word. For the people have not gathered to hear a human being, but to meet with God. They desire like Mary of Bethany to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teaching. They are spiritually hungry. The bread they desire is the Word of God.

What, then, are the code and channel of communication? Obviously the code is words and the channel speech. Yet the communication is to be understood neither in physical terms (from pulpit to pew), nor even in human terms (one mouth speaking, many ears listening), but in divine terms (God speaking through his minister to his people).

It is this total context which makes preaching unique. For here are God’s people assembled in God’s presence to hear God’s Word from God’s minister.

That is what I mean when I claim that, even in this age that is saturated with the most elaborate media of communication, preaching remains sui generis. No film or play, no drama or dialogue, no seminar or lecture, no Sunday School or discussion group has all these elements in combination. What is unique is not an ideal or an atmosphere, but a reality. The living God is present, according to his covenant pledge, in the midst of his worshipping people, and has promised to make himself known to them through his Word and sacrament. Nothing could ever replace this.

Although in the rather flowery language of a century ago, Matthew Simpson gave an admirable summary of the uniqueness of the sermon event. He wrote of the preacher:

“His throne is the pulpit; he stands in Christ’s stead; his message is the word of God; around him are immortal souls; the Saviour, unseen, is beside him; the Holy Spirit broods over the congregation; angels gaze upon the scene, and heaven and hell await the issue. What associations, and what vast responsibility!”

Thus Word and worship belong indissolubly to each other. All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God, because it is the adoration of his Name. Therefore acceptable worship is impossible without preaching. For preaching is making known the Name of the Lord, and worship is praising the name of the Lord made known. Far from being an alien intrusion into worship, the reading and preaching of the Word are actually indispensable to it. The two cannot be divorced. Indeed, it is their unnatural divorce which accounts for the low level of so much contemporary worship. Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor, and our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor. But when the Word of God is expounded in its fulness, and the congregation begin to glimpse the glory of the living God, they bow down in solemn awe and joyful wonder before his throne. It is preaching which accomplishes this, the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. That is why preaching is unique and irreplaceable.

John Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century, Eerdmans, 1982, p. 81-82. (This book was originally published under the title I Believe in Preaching). The Simpson quote is from his Lectures on Preaching, 1879.

One King Will Reign By Charles Spurgeon

spurgeon1God’s good pleasure is, that this world will one day be totally redeemed from sin; God’s good pleasure is, that this poor planet, so long covered in darkness, will soon shine out in brightness, like a new-born sun. Christ’s death has done it. The stream that flowed from His side on Calvary will cleanse the world from all its wickedness. That hour of mid-day darkness was the rising of a new sun of righteousness, which will never cease to shine upon the earth. Yes, the hour is coming, when guns and cannons will be forgotten things, when the harness of war and the pageantry of pomp will all be laid aside as food for the worm or the contemplation of the curious. The hour approaches when old Rome will shake on Her seven hills, when Mohammed’s crescent will no longer increase on the earth, when all the gods of the heathens will lose their thrones and be cast out to the moles and to the bats; and then, from the equator to the poles Christ will be honored, the Lord paramount on earth, when from land to land, from the river even to the ends of the earth, one King, will reign, one shout will be heard, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, the Lord God Omnipotent reigns.”

Quoting Governor Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal

Who amongst us would ask our children for a loan so we could spend money we do not have on things we do — we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It’s irresponsible. And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children. . . .

We need to bring transparency to Washington, D.C., so we can rid our capital of corruption and ensure that we never see the passage of another trillion-dollar spending bill that Congress hasn’t even read and the American people haven’t even seen.

As we take these steps, we must remember, for all of our troubles at home, dangerous enemies still seek our destruction. Now is no time to dismantle the defenses that have protected this country for hundreds of years or to make deep cuts in funding for our troops.

America’s fighting men and women can do anything. If we give them the resources they need, they will stay on the offensive, defeat our enemies, and protect us from harm.

In all these areas, Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope, but sometimes it seems like we look for hope in different places.

Democratic leaders in Washington, they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people.

In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the national Democratic view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, to empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs. . . .

Read the entire article here. . . .

A Contented Man Is Thankful

Quoting Arthur W. Pink:

Instead of complaining at his lot, a contented man is thankful that his condition and circumstances are no worse than they are. Instead of greedily desiring something more than the supply of his present need, he rejoices that God still cares for him. Such an one is “content” with such as he has (Heb. 13:5).

Not Rich – But Stupid!

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn

Quoting Columnist Mark Steyn:

“2008: We’re rich enough that we can afford to be stupid. 2009: We’re not so rich so let’s be even more stupid. The Obama narrative as packaged by the American media (another all-but-bankrupt industry, not coincidentally) is very appealing. Wouldn’t it be so much nicer if a benign paternalist sovereign could take care of all the beastly grown-up stuff like mortgages and health care, like he’s gonna do for Henrietta Hughes, while simultaneously blowing gazillions on ‘green’ initiatives and other touchy-feely things? America has a choice: It can reacquaint itself with socioeconomic reality. Or it can buckle its mandatory seat belt for the same decline most of the rest of the West embraced a couple of generations back. In 1897, troops from the greatest empire the world had ever seen marched down London’s Mall for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Seventy years later, Britain had government health care, a government-owned car industry, massive government housing, and it was a shriveled high-unemployment socialist basket-case living off the dwindling cultural capital of its glorious past. In 1945, America emerged from the Second World War as the preeminent power on Earth. Seventy years later… Let’s not go there.”

Always Obey The Impulse To Pray

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

From: The Desk of Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Always respond to every impulse to pray. The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this – always obey such an impulse. Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is a part of the meaning of ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil 2:12-13). This often leads to some of the most remarkable experiences in the life of the minister. So never resist, never postpone it, never push it aside because you are busy. Give yourself to it, yield to it; and you will find not only that you have not been wasting time with respect to the matter with which you are dealing but that actually it has helped you greatly in that respect. You will experience an ease and a facility in understanding what you were reading, in thinking, in ordering matter for a sermon, in writing, in everything which is quite astonishing. Such a call to prayer must never be regarded as a distraction; always respond to it immediately, and thank God if it happens to you frequently.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Zondervan, 1972), p. 170-171; from Chapter 9, “The Preparation of the Preacher.”

Washington’s War On God

Spurgeon On Imitating Christ

c_h_spurgeon12Quoting Charles Spurgeon:

My brethren, let me say, be like Christ at all times. Imitate him in “public.” Most of us live in some sort of public capacity-many of us are called to work before our fellow-men every day. We are watched; our words are caught; our lives are examined-taken to pieces. The eagle-eyed, argus-eyed world observes everything we do, and sharp critics are upon us. Let us live the life of Christ in public. Let us take care that we exhibit our Master, and not ourselves-so that we can say, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.”

False Conversions By Ronald Reagan

“Bitter as it is to accept the results of the November election, we should have reason for some optimism. For many years now we have preached ‘the gospel,’ in opposition to the philosophy of so-called liberalism, which was, in truth, a call to collectivism. Now, it is possible we have been persuasive to a greater degree than we had ever realized. Few, if any, Democratic Party candidates in the last election ran as liberals. Listening to them I had the eerie feeling we were hearing reruns of Goldwater speeches. I even thought I heard a few of my own. Bureaucracy was assailed and fiscal responsibility hailed. … But let’s not be so naive as to think we are witnessing a mass conversion to the principles of conservatism. Once sworn into office, the victors reverted to type. In their view, apparently, the ends justified the means.”

Finding The Power To Live

EagleDo you grow impatient with God sometimes? I know I do. After all, no one wishes to wait when they believe they have “important matters” that need to be taken care of. We live in an “instant answer” culture. What we expect, we expect immediately. We live by our own self-centered priorities.

Waiting requires submission to God’s Word, God’s Will, and God’s Ways. Murmuring, complaining, and impatience are contrary to this process. Our obsession with pleasing self results in weariness. Waiting on God, however, results in a prosperous spirit – “renewed strength.” Divine power overshadows our weakness as we “wait for the Lord.”

“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31, ESV)

Waiting on the Lord requires self-discipline and dependence. Patience is difficult but our own powers are insufficient to carry out God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Paul writes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV) We need to be strong enough to cast aside our own self-sufficiency in order to receive overcoming strength by our dependence on the Lord. This is the only way to the real power we all need for living. This strength comes only by waiting for the Lord.

Nurse Suspended From Job After Offering To Pray For Patient’s Recovery

nurseThe Telegraph.co.uk reports that Caroline Petrie, a Christian, is accused by her employers of failing to demonstrate a “personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity.” She could lose her job over the incident.

Mrs Petrie, a married mother of two, says she has been left shocked and upset by the action taken against her.

She insists she has never forced her own religious beliefs on anyone but politely inquired if the elderly patient wanted her to pray for her – either in the woman’s presence or after the nurse had left the patient’s home.

“I simply couldn’t believe that I have been suspended over this. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. All I am trying to do is help my patients, many of whom want me to pray for them,” she said.

Mrs Petrie, 45, is a community nurse employed by North Somerset Primary Care Trust to carry out home visits to sick and elderly patients.

Choosing To Be Miserable

miseryQuoting Robert Leighton:

“The Christian and the carnal man are most wonderful to each other. The one wonders to see the other walk so strictly, and deny himself to those carnal liberties that the most take…. And the Christian thinks it strange that men should be so bewitched, and still remain children in the vanity of their turmoil, wearying and humoring themselves from morning to night, running after stories and fancies, and ever busy doing nothing; wonders that the delights of earth and sin can so long entertain and please men, and persuade them to give Jesus Christ so many refusals-to turn from their life and happiness, and choose to be miserable, yea, and take much pains to make themselves miserable.”

The Answers Are Simple But Not Easy By Ronald Reagan

“For many years now, you and I have been shushed like children and told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond our comprehension. Well, the truth is, there are simple answers — they just are not easy ones. The time has come for us to decide whether collectively we can afford everything and anything we think of simply because we think of it. The time has come to run a check to see if all the services government provides were in answer to demands or were just goodies dreamed up for our supposed betterment. The time has come to match outgo to income, instead of always doing it the other way around.”

Who Will Tell The People?

jpiperFrom: The Desk of John Piper

Christian preachers, more than all others, should know that people are starving for God. If anyone in all the world should be able to say, “I have looked upon thee in the sanctuary, beholding thy power and glory,” it is the herald of God. Who but preachers will look out over the wasteland of secular culture and say, “Behold your God!”? Who will tell the people that God is great and greatly to be praised? Who will paint for them the landscape of God’s grandeur? Who will remind them with tales of wonder that God has triumphed over every foe? Who will cry out above every crisis, “Your God reigns!”? Who will labor to find words that can carry the “gospel of the glory of the blessed God”?

If God is not supreme in our preaching, where in this world will the people hear about the supremacy of God? If we do not spread a banquet of God’s beauty on Sunday morning, will not our people seek in vain to satisfy their inconsolable longing with the cotton candy pleasures of pastimes and religious hype? If the fountain of living water does not flow from the mountain of God’s sovereign grace on Sunday morning, will not the people hew for themselves cisterns on Monday, broken cisterns that can hold no water . . .?

We are called to be “stewards of the mysteries of God.” . . . And the great mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” . . . And that glory is the glory of God. And “it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” – faithful in magnifying the supreme glory of the one eternal God, not magnifying as a microscope that makes small things look bigger; but as a telescope that makes unimaginably great galaxies of glory visible to the human eye.

John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Baker, 1990), p. 108-109.

Hypocrisy And Big Government Spending

flyingmoneyFrom: The Desk of Gary Bauer

President Obama had some harsh words [recently] over a reported $18 billion in corporate bonuses paid out last year. His populist rhetoric may have even gotten a few conservatives to nod approvingly, but don’t fall for it, my friends. It was nothing more than the typical liberal appeal to class warfare, and an invitation to Big Government control over the economy that all of us will regret. Railing against corporate bonuses in an economic downturn makes for great sound bites, but it ignores reality. Here are a few facts the media won’t tell you.

• A lot of people on Wall Street receive modest salaries, but get most of their annual income through year-end bonuses. That is true for employees from the boardroom to the mailroom. Did you know that the $18 billion covered over 165,000 people or were you left with the impression that just a handful of “Wall Street fat cats” laughed all the way to the bank?

• It is the height of hypocrisy for this president to rail against $18 billion in corporate bonuses while he is pitching an $800 billion bailout of Big Government and billions in “bonuses” to leftwing special interest groups.

• President Obama complains about excess and extravagance on Wall Street. This is coming from the man whose inaugural celebrations were the most expensive in our nation’s history, costing taxpayers well over $100 million in the middle of an economic downturn.

• President Obama says there will be a time for profits and bonuses, but this is not it. Really? Now would be a great time for profits. How does he think the economy is going to turn around without corporate profits? I guess companies will now have to wait for his permission before they can earn a profit.

• The salary structures of private companies are none of the government’s business. That’s up to the shareholders. Do we really want the government policing and dictating salaries in the private sector? It already impacts your standard of living enough when it comes to the amount of withholding in your paycheck. Wait until some bureaucrat knocks on your door and says, “Sorry, but we think you’re paid too much.”

Speaking of “shameful bonuses,” try this: Congress is going to give itself a $4,700 pay raise this year AND that’s in addition to a whopping $90,000 increase in the budgets for each congressional office! According to the Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, “In recent years, the have increased each year by about $25,000-$30,000 per office, several sources said, making this year’s increase remarkable.” There are no layoffs, cutbacks or belt-tightening for Big Government, but there are plenty of harsh words for Corporate America, which actually creates jobs. A wise man once said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Liberals have it backwards.

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