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Tuesday, September 27, 2016
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 22 It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lam 3:21-23)
The author of this precious old hymn is Rev John Keble, an Anglican cleric of two centuries ago whose legacy was tarnished by his affiliation with the Oxford Movement. It appears first as a poem in his extensive and informative book of poetry entitled, The Christian Year, published in 1827. The poem was put to a musical score (Melcombe) composed earlier (1782) by Samuel Webbe. The tune may have first been played to another hymn at the Foundling Hospital in London under the patronage of George Frederick Handel.
The overriding component of God’s mercy is His unconditional and unsurpassed Love which He bears for His elect Children. That is the focus of the hymn written at a time in history when love burned more brightly in the hearts of men in general society.
New Every Morning Is The Love
New every morning is the love
our wakening and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life and power and thought.
New mercies, each returning day,
hover around us while we pray;
new perils past, new sins forgiven,
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.
If on our daily course our mind
be set to hallow all we find,
new treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.
Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
as more of heaven in each we see;
some softening gleam of love and prayer
shall dawn on every cross and care.
The trivial round, the common task,
will furnish all we ought to ask:
room to deny ourselves; a road
to bring us daily nearer God.
Only, O Lord, in thy dear love,
fit us for perfect rest above;
and help us, this and every day,
to live more nearly as we pray.
The joy that comes in the morning dews and damps as the sun, with majestic colors of art and beauty, appears on the distant horizon, is herald of the love of God for man and beast in preparing such beauty and daily renewal before us. His Table is full of love, mercy, and compassion for His creatures. “New every morning is the love our wakening and uprising prove; through sleep and darkness safely brought, restored to life and power and thought.” The very fact that our mind, body, and soul is refreshed with sleep that is a function of a free and unburdened conscience is ample proof of our Maker’s love for us. The awakening from our natural sleep is akin to our soon awakening from our spiritual sleep in Christ at the moment of His Coming. We are watched over by the Angels of the Lord in both until our souls are brought to a full reconciliation with that perfect and glorified body with which He will embue each of His saints in Glory.
“New mercies, each returning day, hover around us while we pray; new perils past, new sins forgiven, new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.” This verse could very easily have been inspired by the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, had it been available to the composer. When we think of something being renewed, we may consider that the former has ‘worn out’ and become useless; but that would not be true for the love of God is a continual renewal of itself so that the whole is never diminished. The mercies that hover around us in our sleep go unnoticed, but are there nonetheless throughout the long night of earth and that long night of life as well. But our awakening moments, in acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God, draw us to the altar of prayer and into a closer Communion with the Lord our God. It is a consciously growing closer in praying His will - and not our own, be done – for His will shall always benefit us more than our own feeble wills. The mountains we imagined yesterday have settled into valleys, and the sins that our wayward souls committed are forgiven anew when repentance is exercised. Our thoughts again are stayed on God, and our hopes of Heaven grow more vivid.
“If on our daily course our mind be set to hallow all we find, new treasures still, of countless price, God will provide for sacrifice.” Indeed, God has already provided the One Sacrifice that annuls all others. It is the greatest Sacrifice every made, or ever could have been made; and it was made out of a Heart that new no limits on provision of love and mercy. We hallow each day as if our last for the day is destined when it will veritably be our last in this mortal body of clay. That Sacrifice of God looms over us as the Balm of Gilead when we live holy and committed lives to God.
The heart is most merry in the gentle balm of morning. Things common just a few hours earlier are suddenly graced with a magnificent beauty and wonder. Old friends are friendlier and more joyful to behold. “Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be, as more of heaven in each we see; some softening gleam of love and prayer shall dawn on every cross and care.” Man is made in the image of God, and the morning hours reveal more of God’s imprint on the visage of His Creation. God has given us pets to love, creatures of labor to care for, and a Garden in which to renew our labors lost in Adam’s race. Even labors of sweat and tears will be etched with the sweet love and prayerful contemplation. HOW BLEST WE ARE!
“The trivial round, the common task, will furnish all we ought to ask: room to deny ourselves; a road to bring us daily nearer God.” Ah, yes! The denial of self is not so easy as we often aver. We may believe we deny self, but do we truly deny self to the extreme of considering the needs of others of greater import than our own? Our labors under the sun will provide for our physical needs if not our fleshly wants. In fact, honest labor bears within itself the seeds of contentment and honest living. We are never so poor that we cannot share in the poverty of others in lifting their hearts with a generous gift of food, water, or sunshine. This is the Bright and Heavenly Way!
“Only, O Lord, in thy dear love, fit us for perfect rest above; and help us, this and every day, to live more nearly as we pray.” The words of this verse make me hope that my prayers match the meaning of that prayer the Lord taught us to pray (The Lord’s Prayer). Obedience and reverence for His Word prepares us for that perfect rest above. And if we prayer in accordance with His express will, we will be blest to live more nearly as we pray. We ask not for pearls and rubies, but only for this day and for our daily bread. We pray earnestly for His will to be done and for OUR wills to be surrendered to His. We ask for the same measure of forgiveness that we practice against others. We further ask that the Lord will bar Satan’s approach in tempting us; and if Satan lurks in the shadows about us, that we shall be delivered from his cunning and treacherous ways.
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matt 6:9-13)
Please observe a prayer full of the Will of God and devoid of the will of self is actually quite brief. God already KNOWS our needs and petitions. If His Will be done, what else is needful?
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Sermon Notes - Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - Enterprise, Alabama (USA) - 25 September 2016, Anno Domini
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The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity.
ORD, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
hen the Pharisees had heard that Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. (Matt 22:34-46)
The Pharisees did not argue the merits of Christ’s victory in the exchange with the Sadducees for they cared not for the righteousness of His cause, only they sought a means by which they might destroy Him. Though they may have neglected assembling for the purpose of worship, they certainly gathered themselves together for the sake of conspiracy against the God whom they presumed to serve. They, and their representatives, asked what they hoped would be a hard question for Christ, but when He answered with Scriptural Truth, Jesus asked them a question which baffled them and they were vanquished from the field of debate by One they loathed and considered a mere carpenter. Their view was the greatest miscalculation of their lives.
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. They gathered, not as eagles which never congregate in groups but soar individually, but as buzzards which instinctively gather where they believe death will provide a meal.
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying. The lawyer is not so in the sense of one who litigates civil or criminal suits, but a teacher of the Law of Moses. This lawyer is even more malicious than those who chase ambulances on our modern scene. He proposes a question which is not out of curiosity to know the truth but out of malicious intent to tempt and entangle Christ in His words. Master, which is the great commandment in the law? The answer to this inquiry is not a single, canned answer. The Law of Moses is based upon obedience and constraint, but the Commandments – all of them – of God are rooted in love. Even those indiscretions which violate the law may be covered by a sufficiency of love in the heart. ……love covereth all sins. (Pro 10:12b) Men love laws and rules, but God loves the things of the heart.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There are those of the heretical antinomian party who advance these two commandments as proof that the Ten Commandments of God are ancillary to obedience to God in this first great Commandment, but they are not. The Ten Commandments facilitate obedience to these two great Commandments repeated by Christ. Christ does not institute a new Commandment here, but re-emphasizes those already given: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deut 6:5) The second part of the great Commandment is also recorded in Old Testament law: Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. (Lev 19:18) Here we have the purpose and intent of the Law – love! The Law was written on tables of stone at Sinai, but in the fullness of time, God has written them in the hearts of His people. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:33) The Law was never intended as a burden, but as a blessing to us. We have made the constraints of the Law of God a burden. We have made perfect obedience a precondition to salvation itself, and we have erred gravely thereby. There is no sin that is beyond the reach of God to forgive. It is by grace whereby we are saved, and never by the works of the Law! For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10) It was through the reading of this passage, and many others that opened the eyes of the great Reformer, Martin Luther, to the blessed truths of the Gospel and to the errors of Rome.
In the Gospel of Saint Luke, we learn more about this exchange: And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. (Mark 12:32-34)
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them. Christ employs an excellent military rule here: while the targets are in one field, and in close formation, economy of fire will save much time and expense. While He has these culprits together in one space, He will return the favor of their question. What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? The whole effort of the Pharisees has been to expose Christ in the eyes of the people as someone less than whom He claims to be. So He will return the fire and see if they can stand the heat. This question is one which they did not expect, and one which they would prefer not to answer. In attempting to cause Christ to answer wrongly, and having been disappointed in the effort, they now face an embarrassment which will reveal their own dishonest and treacherous hearts before the people. They wanted to pick the field of battle, but Christ has outmaneuvered them and now brings the battle to their own front door! They say unto him, The Son of David. Always preferring law over grace and mercy, these scoundrels are consistent in answering, even rightly, according to the law, for Christ is truly considered under the law of generations to have been the Son of David. No Jew today can trace his genealogical record back more than three or four generations, but at Christ’s coming, God used even the secular power to reveal the generations of Christ through the line of David on both the royal and the priestly side. This is the ‘legal’ record of Christ’s descent, but the descent of Christ is through no earthly father, but of God the Father.
He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Psalm 110:1) This prophetic utterance of David was issued through the inspiration of God. It cannot be understood by a heart that is darkened by hate and devoid of inspiration. These Pharisees, therefore, could not discern either a spiritual, or a politically acceptable, answer to this question.
And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. So Christ, with the simple weapon of Truth, has vanquished His four different sets of enemies in one sitting whose weapons are intrigue, deceit, and treachery – the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Scribes. The world hates innocence and truth because it is a conflict and a challenge to all that the world adores. But truth ALWAYS wins out in the long run. No one remembers the Roman pontiff who disputed with Luther, but all remember Luther. No one remembers the Archbishop who sent Cranmer and others to the stake, but all remember Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley. We may not recall the names of the men who sat on the Sanhedrin in condemnation of Christ, but we remember Christ and His Apostles. True silver is silver all the way through. If silver-plated, the spoon will wear through in time to expose the cheaper metal beneath, but a sterling spoon will always prove to be silver. Are you a sterling Christian, or do you wear the plating and covering of a Christian and are an imposter underneath?
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Rev Hap Arnold - Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, CA
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When we come into this world, it is with but one condition, we must leave. There is an old saw, “There are only two things that are inevitable, Death and Taxes.” That is, of course, not true. There is only one thing which is, on one level, inevitable, that is Death. At the same time, be aware that not paying your taxes may hasten your earthly death.
As Christians, our Lord gave His earthly Life that we might have life eternal. You must understand eternal life starts the moment you accept it, not after the demise of your earthly body. From that time on you must live your life accordingly. It is all not over when you leave this earthly existence, you continue on. So live as if you will be accountable for your actions for eternity, for that is part of the gift.
Consider this brief letter from Jack Lewis, the Anglican writer, author of the well-known Chronicles of Narnia to his friend Mary who is nearing her departure from earth:
To Mary Willis Shelburne: On how to rehearse for death and how to diminish fear.
17 June 1963
Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well? Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you: like taking off a hair- shirt or getting out of a dungeon. What is there to be afraid of? You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life. Your sins are confessed and absolved. Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.
Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round—we get afraid be- cause we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’
Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.
Yours (and like you a tired traveler near the journey’s end) Jack
The Collected Letters of CS Lewis, Volume III
Jack Lewis is telling his friend she has nothing to worry about, there is nothing to fear in death. He often alluded to what we will find in heaven by referring to the earth as the Shadowlands. Just as Paul wrote in Chapter 13 of his first letter to the people of Corinth, For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. This earth is merely a shadow of the real world that we call by the term Heaven.
We know we cannot get into Heaven unless we are accounted as perfect in the final judgment. Yet, we can never be perfect. We are imperfect creatures with free will, a combination which clearly precludes perfection. Yet, through Jesus’ one sacrifice, made one time, for all time, for all mankind, we are accounted as perfect. His sacrifice is the only possible way for us to enter into Heaven. Nothing else will make it happen. No other way than by the sacrifice of the Son will you get into Heaven. Has God made arrangements for other religions? Consider once again the explanation of Jack Lewis:
I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain a least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic—there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others. (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, page 43)
But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. But in the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is remain outside yourself. (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, page 65)
The real point of all this is that we do not know what arrangements, if any, God has made for other people. We know what arrangements He made for us when He sent His Son to give His life that we might live. We don’t want to take any chances, look at what Jesus himself said:
et not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (BCP 331)
So, once you die, how long until you show up in Heaven? Again, look to the source, Jesus on the Cross speaking to the thief, as related by Luke in Chapter 23, Verse 43:
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
When the time is near, have no fear. Our Lord has gone before us and a place is ready for each of us. What will it be like? The only one hundred percent certain answer is, You won’t be disappointed. I think Jack Lewis hit it right on the money when he referred to earth as The Shadowlands.
Trust in God and dread nought!
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Sermon Notes - Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 18 September 2016, Anno Domini
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The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity.
ORD, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Acts of the Apostles
Chapter 20 Verses 17-38
17And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. 18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, 19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: 20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, 21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. 36 And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. 37 And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, 38 Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
The Apostle Paul has been preaching the Gospel to the strangers of Asia Minor (or once-strangers). He now will return to Jerusalem to preach among his own people (the Jews). As was true of Jesus, a prophet is not without honor save among his own people.
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews. The Greek word used here for elder (ἐπίσκοπος, or episkopos) is equivalent to bishop (an overseer or presbyter) in Acts. 20:28 below. The numerous mentions in the New Testament of bishops, or presbyters, provide certain credibility to the Anglican Ordinal.
And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Please note, especially the clergy among us, how Paul ministered without reservation or fear as to how the truth might affect the ears of his listeners OR his enemies, and neither did he refrain from PRIVATE as well as public ministry. He was not as proud of his office as an Apostle that he deigned the private home of too little profit in ministry. Perhaps the greater churches of the time were in private homes. I believe we shall see the same repeat in history in our latter days for it already exists in China and other parts of the world. Please note also that the center-point of Paul’s ministry was the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance before God. Are we afraid to tell our charges that they need to repent (along with us)? Do we repeat the General Confession in mere formality or in full impact of meaning?
And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. Paul sets the standard for purposeful action in ministry. Regardless the danger and personal cost, he will go where the Holy Spirit leads. Paul is extraordinarily aware of the process God has often used in his own life to carry the Gospel to those who have sat in darkness seemingly by random (but actually providential) travels.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Well did Shakespeare write when he says in his work ‘Julius Caesar’ – “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” Shakespeare means, of course, that the valiant is so certain of the righteousness of his motive and actions that he will never draw back as a result of inordinate fear. The coward, au contraire, lives in constant fear and remorse of that fear which overcomes his better angels in life. The coward’s life is a constant death. When we, as Paul, are valiant for truth, we may hang our swords of honor on the cedars by the Jordan Waters when we depart from here. He has received his warrant from Christ to preach the Gospel of Grace and certainly not of the good works of man which are as filthy rags.
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. This may have been an inspired premonition on the part of Paul, or simply a reasonable expectation in view of the dangers he might face in Jerusalem. Of cause Paul was incomplete in his prediction for many of these dear souls were of the faith and would again see Paul’s face when they met beyond Jordan’s Waters.
Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Paul, in his departure from among them, is preaching a main point in ministry. He has never been reluctant to share the Gospel even with the most obstinate of listeners. Whether men of like culture, or diverse, he tried to draw them back from the abyss of hell. His character as an Apostle is much like that of the Good Samaritan in not caring that the wounded man by the road was a natural enemy as a Jew.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. His words are a counsel to those who would serve as bishop, priest, or deacon. We may get a fuller understanding by comparing those counsels Paul gives in 1 Timothy.
The first is for the bishop, presbyter, or priest to take inventory of his own soul and reputation long before seeking to serve in Holy Orders. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Tim 3:2-7)
The second counsel is handle the Word of God rightly by knowing , not only the Words of God, but also the correct Doctrine provided therein and by making your life and example thereof: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Tim 4:16)
And, finally, the third counsel given by Paul is to avoid temptation as much as in you lieth: But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (1 Tim 6:11-12) These words of Paul are not only a caution, but also an encouragement and a reminder to all who presume to minister of Christ.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Based on Paul’s past experiences and awareness of prophecy, he realizes that it is very probable that, even among these here gathered (bishops and presbyters), wicked and evil motives shall arise which will pervert the Gospel itself and drawing men away from the Words of Christ and toward the mere words of men. Please do not be surprised at this for it is abundantly clear that such perversion of the Word has occurred to a very high degree today through the perverse teachings of many so-called ministers.
Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Now that Paul has apprised them of his faith and continuity in preaching the Word, he instructs these leaders to remember that the warning against error and heresy was accompanied both day and night by the tears of sincerity of Paul. There will, for each of us, always come a time of permanent earthly parting. After having done all that is within our power to teach, preach, counsel, warn, and correct, we must take our leave and commend the dear souls of our fond memories to God and the protection, alone, of His Word. We must bid them a final adieu even when we may know that it is final. We pray that their faith will sustain them in power of truth and, therefore, result in an inheritance that will allow of a joyful reunion at the Last Trump.
I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. These two sentences are pregnant with meaningful application to our own time. How many clergymen today are following a calling instead of an occupation? How many seek ways to continually increase their salaries and incomes? How many will lift their hands to do physical labors to relieve the sacrifices of the people whom they serve?
I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Paul has preached from the abundance of his heart. He has preached ALL things. He invokes their support (not Rome’s) of the weak and to remember, not simply at the point of the Prayer Book Offertory, but in general living as given to us in the Book of James: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship” I wish to place my own knee with the others on the shores of Anatolia with the company of Paul. What a poignant moment but a glorious parting as well. They could well have sung the old gospel song, “If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven; we shall meet on that Glorious Shore!” As Juliet said to Romeo, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” But how much sweeter is the parting for those who are One in the love of Christ! We may board the ship with our dearly departed, but we may not always be privileged to make the voyage. The only vessel we must be certain of sharing with them is that of the Ark of Christ!
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Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.
Consider the words of the Collect, “… thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works …”
The first thing to consider when you look at today’s Collect is a word: prevent. Prevent is a word that has many uses, and at least one has fallen out of general usage as time has gone on. This is one of them. In this case the word prevent means to go before. Before you object to archaic words, consider this is a current word, it just has a use you may not have been aware of and now you are! What a bonus for this week!
So, we ask God that His Grace, His Love, His Power, His Help may go before and after us to protect us and guide us that we might desire to do what He wants us to do. Pretty much a re-wording of a lot of the Collects. Why would that be? Pretty simple, our biggest failing is we are wont to do what we want! This is a very common theme in the collects and lessons in the lectionary, for a very good reason. It is our sinful nature we have which causes us to want to do what we want. As we are creatures that have free will and are not wont to exercise it for God or good. That is a very dangerous combination, as my father says often. That is not the same as doing what will provide us with the best result.
The difference is God truly knows what is best for us. If we follow what He wants for us, we are guaranteed to have good results in the long run. It does not mean that we will not suffer in the short term, however it means that if we follow God's will for us, then we will come out ahead in the end, when we have eternal life. If we follow our natural inclination, we will not like the end result, that is eternal separation from God. In the end will it be our will that is followed or God’s will? The people that desire eternity with God and follow that desire by doing their best to follow him will get that eternity with God, but the people that want to be separated from God for all eternity with their actions and desire not to follow His Commandments will be separated for all eternity. The latter choice is if we follow our natural inclination, the former is if we fight our natural inclination with the help of the Holy Ghost.
We are like disobedient children, and God is the ever patient Father. But, from time to time, we will make mischief and or trouble, some of us more than others. God has to gently warn us and allow us to experience the consequences of our inclination to sin, in order to learn not to do it. This is His form of discipline in a way. When bad things happen as a result of our doing, it is not His fault that's it happened, but our fault for not having done what we were supposed to be doing because it was “too difficult.”
The other part of the collect talks about asking God to make us be continually given to do good works. This means to put His Will into our heart and give us a desire to continually do good works for others, by given, the collect means to put a desire into our hearts to do God’s Will here on Earth and part of doing His Will on Earth is performing good actions or otherwise known as good works. If we are to be followers of Christ, we need to show that we do believe on Him by performing these good works. However, we cannot perform these good works of our own accord; we need His guiding spirit, so we ask Him to shine and come into our hearts and help us have the mindset to do those good works for Him.
Through consequences of our sinful actions, we know that we shouldn’t do it again. We know, often very clearly, what we want. For example, while I was studying for my WGU degrees, I found if I didn’t read the textbooks and study, I did not do as well on the tests as if I did read the texts and study for the test passed. Like the rubrics, God knows, always very clearly, what we need. But we do not often know what God wants for us, so we have to first pray to Him to find out what He wants, then the most critical step of the communications is that we have to listen to what He says. He is there, like the rubrics to guide us along our paths in our daily life. So, we need to ask God every day, every time, for help to do our duty. And every day, every time, He will answer our questions, we just need to open our hearts, souls, minds and ears to Him, and after hearing His Answer, then acting upon it.
So, what does Paul tell us in his letter to us? Once again, he calls us to a new life, different from our old life. We shed our old clothes, as it were, like reptiles shedding their old skin and put on the brand new armor of light, new helmet, new boots and new everything. A life in which we act in a manner worthy of the better life to which we have been called by Christ and for which He gave His life. We are to act in accordance with the new way in which life, to desist from sinning and to do good things for people and for Him. The part about cease and desisting from sin is one of the most difficult aspects of putting aside one’s old life. But it can be done. Paul, formerly Saul, did it and went on to become one of the greatest apostles that served the Lord. So if he can do it, so can we.
This is made possible by the Holy Ghost, who is our lifeline to God our Father. Paul, of all people, knows the importance of setting aside your old life, as Saul did; as Paul he asks us to put God first in our lives, to put ourselves last. He even changed his name to reflect his state as a new man under Our Lord’s leadership. He reminds us, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” The key to a successful life is to put the important things at the top of your To Do List. And, notice it is a To Do List, not a To Think About or To Wait a While List. It is not a I’ll Get a Round To It List, or What I Don’t Want to Do List. What is more important than God? It is all about prioritization, putting God ahead of your wants and desires. We have to make it so that serving God is our want and desire, then and only then are our desires aligned with His. We have to accept the Holy Ghost into our lives to do this, then when we truly have faith, it will show in our actions. Action and not diction is what truly counts in the end. It is a phase that shows up in the sermons a lot, but that is only because it is very true.
When Luke relates the parable of the feast, it is more than just a seating diagram. I liken it to the tale of the publican and the Pharisee. When Christ talks about the man who exalts himself and sits too high at the wedding and thus must be abased. That would be the Pharisee. When Christ then talks about the man who sits low, and is raised to the higher station, I think of the publican, who smote his breast and would not even look up his eyes to heaven. We have to be the publican in our dealings with God, rather than our natural tendency of being the Pharisee. We should not be one of those selfish individuals who always causes grief for others because he is blind to his own faults and only thinks of himself. Again as with the ceasing from sin, this is one of the hardest things we have to do. But it must be done, no matter how we feel about it. So let us turn to our Lord to help with it, because He alone can help us. He can truly help us, if we are truly willing with our hearts, souls and minds. We have to be willing to act and do actions, and not just say it. No other expert can help us, no “theologian” or prosperity preacher can truly provide for our needs better than Our Lord. If we do what God asks, we will not become like those people. If we put God’s will before ours, the welfare of those we encounter before ours, if we hold open the door as gentlepersons are wont to do for others, we will find we are doing what God would have us do and enjoying it. And that is the best gift of all, the joy one gets from serving others is true happiness.
It is very possible to do the good deeds and have fun doing them. The time we spent in worship with the other ministers and their wives at the AOC Convention proves this. Doing good things for other people and being with other believers gives me some of the greatest happiness I have ever felt. This comes from the Holy Ghost, from being inspired by Him, around other believers. Wherever two or three or gathered, Christ is there also. It is a wonderful feeling wherever He is.
Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail. The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.
The time is now, not tomorrow. The time has come, indeed. How will you ACT?
It is by our actions we are known.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God