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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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  • Recommended Reading

Engaging Our Neighbors About Truth

Quoting Chuck Colson:

[A]s my colleague T.M. Moore writes in his weekly ViewPoint column at the Colson Center, our culture, our civilization, many of our friends, family and neighbors, and even many within the church are in the grip of the lie.

And what is the lie? T.M. says “The lie insists that God either does not exist or is not really relevant to human happiness … [that] every human being must decide for himself” where to find happiness. “This is the way that seems right” to so many people these days, but, as Proverbs 14:12 says, “in the end, it is the way of death.”

The most obvious manifestation of the lie afflicting modern culture is relativism — the idea that there is no absolute truth. Relativists, T.M. points out, “insist that truth is what people understand it to be, depending on their circumstances. … A relativist cannot say definitively that this or that idea … is true; the most he can say is that it may be true for me, for now.”

It’s not hard to see how moral relativism lies at the heart of so many of our cultural pathologies: greed, abortion, the breakdown of the family, so-called “gay marriage,” and on and on.

But “those who know the truth in Jesus Christ,” T.M. writes, “cannot simply stand by while the lie ravages churches, communities, families, and individuals.” We need to engage the culture, engage those who disagree with us. And engaging others means, first of all, listening patiently to what they have to say.

And then when we speak our turn, we must respect them as men and women made in the image of God, realizing that because they are made in God’s image, they are always “susceptible to the in-breaking of truth when it is offered in a firm, gracious, and clear manner.”

You may read more here. . . . 

In The Midst Of The Flames

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

“When thou pass through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walks through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:2).

Bridge there is none: we must go through the waters and feel the rush of the rivers. The presence of God in the flood is better than a ferryboat. Tried we must be, but triumphant we shall be; for Jehovah Himself, who is mightier than many waters, shall be with us. Whenever else He may be away from His people, the LORD will surely be with them in difficulties and dangers. The sorrows of life may rise to an extraordinary height, but the LORD is equal to every occasion. The enemies of God can put in our way dangers of their own making, namely, persecutions and cruel mocking, which are like a burning, fiery furnace. What then? We shall walk through the fires. God being with us, we shall not be burned; nay, not even the smell of fire shall remain upon us. Oh, the wonderful security of the heaven-born and heaven-bound pilgrim! Floods cannot drown him, nor fires burn him. Thy presence, O LORD, is the protection of Thy saints from the varied perils of the road. Be-hold, in faith I commit myself unto Thee, and my spirit enters into rest.

Because Of Your Unbelief

John Henry Jowett

In this article, John Henry Jowett (1863-1923) shares his thoughts on faith, belief, and unbelief:

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:19-20 ESV)

And this great and optimistic evangel was spoken, not to men who were marching with swinging jubilant stride in the paths of victory, but to men who were temporarily disheartened under the experience of defeat.” Nothing succeeds like success”; it is easy to be an optimist, and optimistic counsel is congenial, when one has the “open sesame,” when the iron gate swings back at one’s approach, and the obstructive mountains sink into a plain. In such conditions it is easy to engage in the winning shout. But is there anything more pathetic and depressing than the spectacle of men baffled in a noble enterprise and retiring beaten from the field? What can be more pathetic than to have watched some chivalrous knight, riding forth in the promising dawn, with waving plume and glittering lance, returning, in the melancholy evening, torn, bespattered, and ashamed, leaving the flippant enemy triumphant on the field? And the tragedy of the home-coming is all the deeper and darker when the way winds through ranks of contemptuous crowds, who assail the beaten knight with ribaldry and jeers. Such was the pitiable condition of this little company of the first knights of the Lord’s Kingdom. They had gone forth with flying banners, gazed at by sullen and silent crowds: they crept back with drooping banners, to the laughing accompaniment of the crowd’s contempt. They had met the enemy, and they had been overwhelmed in the fight. They had gone forth to battle, and they had been driven from the field. “I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him!”

Let us get the scene into the imagination. Here is a man devil-possessed, writhing in the torment of his awful bondage. And here are the expulsive knights of the Kingdom. And around them is a great crowd, the majority of them hostile, many of them cynical, and all of them curious, watching this mysterious encounter with devouring interest. And the knights of the Kingdom get to work. They command, but they are not obeyed! One after another tries his power, but his power is proved to be weakness. The knights become more vehement, their imperative rises to a scream, but the devil remains enthroned! Time after time is the attempt repeated amid the muttered comments of the suspicious crowed, and time after time are they repulsed, until at last these much-claiming knights have to confess their failure, and, to the accompaniment of laughter, they retire angrily or silently from the field, leaving the devil in possession. “I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”

The victim was possessed of a devil. I will only pause to say I accept the explanation of his bondage. Some malign presence was making this man’s life chaotic, and was driving him according to its own malicious whim. There are phenomena in human life which cannot be otherwise explained. I cannot explain mysterious emergencies in my own mind and soul except on the theory of subtle and active presences, who seek by illicit snare and fascination to entice me into degrading bondage. The glamour of the world does not account for them. The gravitation of the flesh is an insufficient explanation. They are only interpreted in the Scriptural suggestion that “our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” But it is not necessary for my present purpose to win your assent to any particular theory: it is sufficient to insist that here was an evil in possession, exercising horrible control, paralyzing its pitiable victim, and the knights of the Lord’s Kingdom were incompetent to its expulsion. The evil was left on the field!

Now, our modern experiences very readily lead us to place ourselves in the depressed ranks of the defeated knights. Who is there who has not set out to evict an established evil, and who has not encountered bitter and ultimate defeat? It may be the evil possession was in your own body, or in your mind, or soul, or, maybe, it was housed in the life of your child, or in the life of your friend, or perhaps it was lodged in the corporate body in the shape of some social tyranny, some industrial disease, some national vice, whatever it be, and wherever its home, you have faced the intruder with the purpose of expulsion, and you have signally and utterly failed.

And now it is high time we hear our Master’s explanation of the failure. “Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast it out? And He said unto them, “Because of your unbelief!” There is no uncertainty in the diagnosis. The cause is not complicated. It is single and simple. “Unbelief!” There had been a want of confidence. There was doubt at the very heart of the disciple’s effort. There was a cold fear at the very core of his enterprise. He went out with a waving banner, but the flag in his heart was drooping! “Because of your unbelief!” Our Lord is not referring to unbelief in any particular doctrine, but rather to the general attitude and outlook of the soul. There was no strong, definite confidence in the disciple, and such unbelief always ensures paralysis and defeat. . . .

What is the range and quality of our confidence? What amount of faith is there at the heart of our crusade? The answer to these questions will give the measure of our strength, and will reveal to us our possibilities in the ministry. . . . (“The Energy of Faith”)

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