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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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“It Was My Hands that Stretched Out the Heavens”

 

Science and the Bible:

I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. (Isaiah 45:12 ESV)

The expression “stretched out” is used over and over again in the scriptures to explain the process by which God created the universe. There are many other words or expressions that could have been used, but God inspired men to use this expression. Why? Well, it is certainly consistent with our present understanding of an expanding universe. Our present ability to observe the cosmos has confirmed that the universe is, indeed, expanding. The distance between the stars is ‘stretching’, just as the writers of scripture first indicated, even when their contemporaries were completely silent or mistaken on this issue.

(What did the first galaxies look like? To help answer this question, the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), the deepest image of the universe ever taken in visible light. Pictured above, the HUDF shows a sampling of the oldest galaxies ever seen.)

 

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.

Why Does God Defer to Answer Prayers?

Prayer has the power to achieve the impossible. Yet, many do not use it regularly, or don’t believe in its efficiency as our Christian fathers certainly did. This is certainly a primary reason why our churches are so cold and, when we do pray, we feel as if our prayers are not penetrating the floor of heaven. John Knox continues this line of thought:

[S]ometimes God defers or prolongs to grant our petitions, for the exercise and trial of our faith, and not that he sleeps or is absent from us at any time, but that with more gladness we might receive that which, with long expectation, we have abidden [awaited]; that thereby we, assured of his eternal providence (so far as the infirmity of our corrupt and most weak nature will permit), doubt not but that his merciful hand shall relieve us in most urgent necessity and extreme tribulation. Therefore, such men as teach us that it is not necessarily required that we understand what we pray, because God knows what we need, would also teach us that we neither honor God, nor yet refer or give unto him thanks for benefits received. For how shall we honor and praise him, whose goodness and liberality we know not? And how shall we know, unless we receive and sometimes have experience? And how shall we know that we have received, unless we know verily what we have asked?

The second thing to be observed in perfect prayer is, that standing in the presence of God, we are found such as bear reverence to his holy law; earnestly repenting [of] our past iniquities, and intending to lead a new life; for otherwise all our prayers are in vain, as it is written, “Whoso withdraweth his ear that he may not hear the law of God, his prayer shall be abominable” (Prov. 28:9). Likewise Isaiah and Jeremiah says thus: “You shall multiply your prayers, and I shall not hear, because your hands are full of blood:” that is, of all cruelty and mischievous works (Isa. 1:15; cf. Jer. 11:14; 14:12). Also the Spirit of God appears by the mouth of the blind (whom Jesus Christ illuminated), by these words, “We know that God heareth not sinners” (John 9:31): that is, such as do glory and continue in iniquity. So that of necessity, true repentance must needs be had, and go before perfect prayer, or sincere invocation of God’s name. (“A Treatise on Prayer, or, a Confession, and Declaration of Prayers”)

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.

Traditions And God’s Word

John Calvin

How many people are there in this world who have continued to sit at the feet of ignorance when the Word of God was close at hand? Satan has so captured the minds of men with sinful lusts that they have become blind to the Gospel. They have replaced God’s Word with the traditions of men and have ignored the true and living God. Therefore, they have created and worshiped idols and traditions which continuously spring from the darkened mind. The following is an excerpt from a sermon of John Calvin:

Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him: being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:15-16)

It has been the case in all ages that men have despised God’s law for the sake of their own traditions. Our Lord Jesus Christ upbraided the Pharisees, when He saith, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition” (Mat. 15:3). Thus it was in former times, in the days of the prophets. Isaiah crieth out, “Wherefore the Lord said, forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work and wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (chap. 25:13). While men occupy themselves about traditions, they pass over the things that God hath commanded in His Word.

This it is that caused Isaiah to cry out against such as set forth men’s traditions; telling them plainly that God threatened to blind the wisest of them, because they turned away from the pure rule of His Word to follow their own foolish inventions. St. Paul likewise alludes to the same thing, when he saith they have no fear of God before their eyes. Let us not deceive ourselves; for we know that God requires men to live uprightly, and to abstain from all violence, cruelty, malice, and deceit; that none of these things should appear in our life. But those that have no fear of God before their eyes, it is apparent that they are out of order, and that there is nothing but uncleanness in their whole life.

If we wish to know how our life should be regulated, let us examine the contents of the Word of God; for we cannot be sanctified by outward show and pomp, although they are so highly esteemed among men. We must call upon God in sincerity, and put our whole trust in Him; we must give up pride and presumption, and resort to Him with true lowliness of mind that we be not given to fleshly affections. We must endeavor to hold ourselves in awe, under subjection to God, and flee from gluttony, whoredom, excess, robbery, blasphemy, and other evils. Thus we see what God would have us do, in order to have our life well regulated. (“The Word our Only Rule”)

Samuel Davies: The Necessity Of Divine Influence On Man

Samuel Davies

Divine influence is necessary for the gospel to be effectual in saving sinners. Consider the success of the Gospel: A minister may preach two times on Sunday in the same church, using the same sermon for two practically identical groups of people. Yet, in one service a large number of the congregation prayed for the personal forgiveness of their sins and some even gained assurance of their personal salvation. In the second service, using the same message, the congregation seemed to be totally unconcerned with the state of their souls. Samuel Davies provides us with an explanation of such events:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7 – Preached in Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

The necessity of divine influences is asserted in the plainest terms in scripture. No man, says Christ, can come unto me, except the Father draw him, John 6:44. He that hath heard and learned of the Father, and he only, will come to him, verse 45, and this influence is not purchased by our endeavors, but it is the free gift of grace. Hence Christ varies his former declarations into this form; no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of my Father, verse 65, and the agency of divine grace is necessary, not only to draw sinners to Christ at first, but also to make them fruitful afterwards. Hence Christ represents even the apostles as dependent upon him as the branch upon the vine; and tells them plainly, that “without him they can do nothing,” John 15:4-5. Through all the stages of the Christian life, we depend entirely upon him; and without his influences, we should wither and die like a blasted flower, however blooming and fruitful we were before. Hence, says God to his people, in me is thy fruit found, Hosea 14:8. Since then this is the case, it will follow, that when God is pleased to withhold his influences, all the means of grace will be unsuccessful.

The unsuccessfulness of the gospel is often resolved into the withholding or withdrawing of the influences of grace, as one cause of it. Thus Moses resolves the obstinacy of the Israelites under all the profusion of wonders that had attended them, into this, as one cause of it: The Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day, Deuteronomy 29:2-4. If none believe the report of the gospel, it is because the arm of the Lord is not revealed, Isaiah 53:1. “If the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are hidden from the wise and prudent, while they are revealed to babes; it is because God in his righteous judgment and sovereign pleasure, hides them from the one, and reveals them to the other,” Matthew 11:25-26. Nay, the evangelist speaks in yet more forcible terms, when speaking of the unbelief of the Jews, who were witnesses of Christ’s convictive miracles and discourses; therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said, he hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, John 12:39-40, and in the same strain Paul speaks: He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy, Romans 9:18, etc.

These passages are so opposite to the prevailing theology of this age, that they are dangerous weapons to meddle with; and it is well they are the very words of scripture, otherwise we should be charged with blasphemy for mentioning the truth contained in them. We must indeed be cautious that we do not infer from these scriptures any such horrid doctrine as this, that men are compelled to sin, or that, though they were disposed to turn to God they are judicially kept back and hindered by the divine hand. This would be contrary to the whole current of scripture, which charges the sin and ruin of sinners upon themselves; but these passages mean, that God denies to obstinate sinners those influences of his grace which are necessary to convert them, and which, if communicated, would have subdued their utmost obstinacy; and that in consequence of this denial, they will rush on in sin and irreclaimable impenitence, and perish; but yet that God, in denying them his grace, does not act merely as an arbitrary sovereign, but as a just judge, punishing them for their sin in abusing the blessings he has bestowed upon them, by judicially withdrawing the aids of his grace, and withholding farther influences. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

Prayer And The Ear Of The King By Charles Spurgeon

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

“It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, l will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

Quick work this! The LORD hears us before we call and often answers us in the same speedy manner. Foreseeing our needs and our prayers, He so arranges providence that before the need actually arises He has supplied it, before the trial assails us He has armed us against it. This is the promptitude of omniscience, and we have often seen it exercised. Before we dreamed of the affliction which was coming, the strong consolation which was to sustain us under it had arrived. What a prayer-answering God we have! The second clause suggests the telephone. Though God be in heaven and we upon earth, yet He makes our word, like His own word, to travel very swiftly. When we pray aright we speak into the ear of God. Our gracious Mediator presents our petitions at once, and the great Father hears them and smiles upon them. Grand praying this! Who would not be much in prayer when he knows that he has the ear of the King of kings? This day I will pray in faith, not only believing that I shall be heard, but that I am heard; not only that I shall be answered, but that I have the answer already. Holy Spirit, help me in this! (Faith’s Checkbook)

The Beauty Of Christ

Who or what can compare to the loveliness of Christ; the fountain of grace and of our salvation? He is the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), the Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16), the true Light (John 1:9), the Day Star (2Peter 1:19), the Desire of all nations (Haggai 2:7), the Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), the Truth (John 14:6), the Wisdom of God (1Corinthians 1:24), the everlasting Light (Isaiah 60:20), and the Word of Life (1John 1:1). Charles H. Spurgeon writes here of His beauty:

“Oh love the Lord all his saints.” (Psalm 31:23)

If you want beauty, look into the face of Jesus–that marred visage has more loveliness in it than in all the smiles of Cleopatra or of the fabled maidens of days of yore.

There is no beauty anywhere but in Christ! O sun, you are not fair, when once compared with him. You stars, you are not bright, if you are set side-by-side with his eyes, that burn like lamps of fire. O fair world, and grand creation of a glorious God, you are but a dim and dusky blot compared with the splendors of his face.

When you shall see Christ in glory, you will be compelled to say that you never knew what loveliness was before. When the clouds are swept away, when the curtains that hide him from your view are drawn aside, you will find that not anything you have seen will stand a moment’s comparison with him.

You will be ready to break out, “O, black sun, black moon, dark stars, as compared with my lovely Lord Jesus.”

Oh, think of the matchless character of Christ Jesus! Were there ever such perfections as meet in him? He has not the excellency of one man, but of all men, without the faults of any.

We must coin new words before we can describe the excellencies of Christ! In fact, we must be done with tongues, and go into that land where spirits utter their thoughts without the motion of lip or the expiration of breath, before we shall be able to express the surpassing beauty, the unuttered excellency of the glorious character of Christ!

Love Jesus, for there never was such beauty in the world as there is in him.

It is your privilege to love him with all the force and vehemence of your ransomed renovated nature, giving up all your spirit to be devoured by that consecrated fire of love to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Oh love the Lord all his saints.” — Psalm 31:23. (Sermon: “Constraining Love”)

The Cure For Spiritual Blindness

Think about comparing your heart to a dirty room that’s been shut up for years. Inside this room, there has been no light. Now inside the room there is dirt, dust, and cobwebs everywhere. Suddenly, someone comes in and turns a light on. The spiders and roaches run to hide. The cobwebs, dirt, and dust are now visible and it is evident that the room must be cleaned out. The human heart is in a similar condition. Our own dirty, rotten, fallen natures cannot be seen until the light of the Gospel shines in. Maurice Roberts explains:

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

[G]od says: “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not.” Now there are two kinds of blindness. One is blindness of the body and the other is blindness of the soul, spiritual blindness we call it. Now if you have blindness of the body you may not be to blame for that. I mean if you’re born blind you’re not to blame for that – it’s not your fault if you’re born blind, that’s just God’s sovereign will and nobody’s to be blamed for being born blind. But if you’re spiritually blind you are to blame for it, and sadly that’s the condition in which we’re all born. We’re all born spiritually blind. We’re all ignorant of God by nature, all ignorant of how to get to heaven by nature. Let me prove it.

Three great questions people never want to ask. Where do they come from? They don’t know – maybe ape men or some big explosion or great bang or… they don’t know, they don’t know how they came and they don’t want to enquire really. That’s the first question. The second question is: what’s life all about? Is it just getting dead drunk on a Friday night? Is that what life’s all about? They don’t know. You ask them. You ask people round about you in the street, “Why are we living in this world? What’s the point of it all?” They don’t know but they just found themselves here, like a spider that dropped from the ceiling, they don’t know why they’re here. The Bible says we’re here to glorify God. We’re here to prepare for death and eternity. Because the third great question is: where are we going? And if we don’t know the way of eternal life and the way of the gospel then we’re going to outer darkness forever.

So that’s what God means when he says, “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not.” People don’t know how to get to heaven, so, because they’re spiritually blind, God tells them, “I’m going to show them.” And the way he shows them is with this book, the Bible, the gospel, the truth concerning Christ. He’s showing us here in this inspired and infallible and blessed book how we can be saved. . . .

Years and years ago there was a very clever man called Hone, that’s his surname, Mr. Hone – a very clever man – and not a Christian, and no interest in the Bible, no interest in Christ, no interest in heaven or anything like that. He was an unbeliever, a very hard man. And this is what happened to him. One day he was walking along down a street – I think it was somewhere in the south of England, or the Midlands – and he saw a cottage, a little house, and outside the cottage was sitting a little girl. What was she doing? She was reading the Bible. And his lips curled up in scorn. So he decided he would have a little conversation with this girl reading her Bible. So he said to her, “What are you doing?” “Please sir, she said, I’m reading the Bible.” “And what would you be doing that for?” he said with scorn. And she said something like this: “Sir, because my dear mother is a believer and she gets a lot of help from this book, sir, and I love reading it too, with the sunshine, coming down and sitting in the sun, I love reading this book. It’s God’s book, sir,” she said. And this man Hone was taken aback. He’d never heard anyone talk about loving the Bible, and he thought about it. And he came out of his darkness to become a believer – very famous story that – through a little girl. And you see, that’s what God does. He brings the blind, the spiritually blind, by a way that they never knew. They come to understand the secret of God, the secret of the gospel. We don’t know it by nature. Oh you can go to university and get first degrees, second degrees, third degrees, you can get a hundred degrees, but that won’t necessarily save you. Oh yes, education’s a good thing up to a point, but more important than education is to be saved, to know God, to be sure that you have God. So it’s in the Bible we get this light. This book is God’s light in man’s darkness. But it has to be more than just reading the Bible. It has to be God giving us light on it. You see, “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not.” And this light has to shine in our hearts, and that’s the light of the Holy Spirit.

How Do You Fix Life’s Problems?

Check out this article by Os Hillman:

Are You Horizontal or Vertical? (via YOU DECIDE)

The Basis Of This Nation’s Laws

Harry Truman

Quoting President Harry S. Truman:

“The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days. If we don’t have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in the rights for anybody except the State.”

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