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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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War on Christmas

Nativity Scene

Are Christians being paranoid and silly concerning the prohibition of nativity scenes in many places throughout this country? Dr. Benjamin Wiker thinks that Christians have cause to be concerned. He explains below:

The popular comedian Jon Stewart recently lampooned the notion that there’s a war on Christmas. Mocking Christians offended by prohibitions against nativity scenes, Stewart claimed that, on the contrary, Christmas is doing all too well. . . .

Stewart is wrong. Christmas is under attack, and his evidence against there being such a war, is actually evidence for it.

The nativity scene, or crèche, was originated by none other than St. Francis of Assisi. He created the first live reenactment of the birth of Christ in a stable in a cave in Greccio, Italy in 1223. His goal was to focus the attentions of Christians on the deep worship of Christ, rather than on worldliness and revelry. Such reenactments became popular all over Europe.

What St. Francis intended can be discerned from his own life. St. Francis has been, unfortunately, turned into a sentimentalized garden-fairy statue making happy with the birds, a saint of niceness. The real St. Francis was, like the real first Christmas, terribly holy, for he took Christ’s call to follow him in complete poverty with a terrible seriousness. The rich son of a wealthy cloth merchant given to high living, he was suddenly struck by God, gave up the life of party and glitter, and embraced a life of such severe austerity as few have ever experienced. So much did he identify with the poverty and suffering of Christ, that in literal imitation, he bore the stigmata, the actual bleeding wounds on his hands, feet, and side.

That same St. Francis was, again, the man who invented the nativity scene. I imagine that, were he to show up now, he would defend the nativity scene with his very life, as the stubborn sign of what Christmas really is.

TO READ THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE. . . .

 

Chance Happenings?

Loraine Boettner in 1917 at the age of 16Loraine Boettner D.D.:

If God had not foreordained the course of events but waited until some undetermined condition was or was not fulfilled, His decrees could be neither eternal nor immutable. We know, however, that He is incapable of mistake, and that He cannot be surprised by any unforeseen inconveniences. His kingdom is in the heavens and He rules over all. His plan must, therefore, include every event in the entire sweep of history. That even the small events have their place in this plan and that they must be as they are, is easily seen.

All of us know of certain “chance happenings” which have actually changed the course of our lives. The effects of these extend throughout all succeeding history in ever widening influences, causing other “chance happenings.” It is said that the quacking of some geese once saved Rome. Whether historically true or not, it will serve as a good illustration. Had not the geese awakened the guards who gave the alarm and aroused the defending army, Rome would have fallen and the course of history from that time on would have been radically different. Had those geese remained silent who can imagine what empires might have been in existence today, or where the centers of culture might have been? During a battle a bullet misses the general by only an inch. His life is spared, he goes on commanding his troops, wins a decisive victory, and is made the chief ruler of his country for many years,—as was the case with George Washington. Yet what a different course history would have taken had the soldier on the other side aimed the slightest trifle higher or lower! The great Chicago fire of 1871, which destroyed more than I half of the city, was started, we are told, when a cow kicked over a lantern. How different would have been the history of Chicago if that one motion had been slightly different! “The control of the greatest must include the control of the less, for not only are great things made up of little things, but history shows how the veriest trifles are continually proving the pivots on which momentous events revolve. The persistence of a spider nerved a despairing man to fresh exertions which shaped a nation’s future. The God who predestinated the course of Scotch history must have planned and presided over the movements of that tiny insect that saved Robert Bruce from despair.”

Examples of this kind could be multiplied indefinitely. The Pelagian denies that God has a plan; the Arminian says that God has a general but not a specific plan; but the Calvinist says that God has a specific plan which embraces all events in all ages. In recognizing that the eternal God has an eternal plan in which is predetermined every event that comes to pass, the Calvinist simply recognizes that God is God, and frees Him from all human limitations. The Scriptures represent God as a person, like other persons in that His acts are purposeful, but unlike other persons in that He is all-wise in His planning and all-powerful in His performing. They see the universe as the product of His creative power, and as the theater in which are displayed His glorious perfections, and which must in all its form and all its history, down to the least detail, correspond with His purpose in making it. (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)

Blind Faith

Mortimer J. AdlerMortimer J. Adler:

I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers that impose upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.

Today He is Thine

The Gracious and Merciful ChristThink about this: You have lost yesterday, you may choose to lose today; and tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone. The spark of repentance may be dead in the morning. You must hear His voice today and answer His call to follow Him immediately. According to Thomas Adams:

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

His mercy is everlasting; his truth endures from generation to generation. The same gracious Savior that he was yesterday to our fathers is he today to us, if we be today faithful to him. All catch at this comfort, but in vain without the hand of faith. There is no deficiency in him; but is there none in thee? Whatsoever Christ is, what art thou? He forgave Mary Magdalene many grievous sins; so he will forgive thee, if thou can shed Mary Magdalene’s tears. He took the malefactor from the cross to Paradise; thither he will receive thee if thou have the same faith. He was merciful to a denying apostle; challenge thou the like mercy, if thou have the like repentance. If we will be like these, Christ, assuredly, will be ever like himself. When any man shall prove to be such a sinner, he will not fail to be such a Savior.

Today he is thine, if today thou will be his: thine tomorrow, if yet tomorrow thou will be his. But how if dark death prevent the morrow’s light? He was yesterday, so were thou: he is to-day, so art thou: he is tomorrow, so perhaps may thou not be. Time may change thee, though it cannot change him. He is not (but thou are) subject to mutation. This I dare boldly say: he that repents but one day before he dies shall find Christ the same in mercy and forgiveness. Wickedness itself is glad to hear this; but let the sinner be faithful on his part, as God is merciful on his part: let him be sure that he repent one day before he dies, whereof he cannot be sure, except he repent every day; for no man knows his last day. ‘Today, therefore, hear his voice,’ Psalm 95:7. (“The Immutable Mercy of Jesus Christ”)

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