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Sunday, February 19, 2017
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel toforewords above.
Consider these words from the Collect:
…put not our trust in any thing that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity …
In the Collect, we tell God we put our trust for eternal life not in our actions, but in His Power. If we do this, then we must do as He asks us. For, to make trust in His Power rational, we must follow His Direction. We cannot trust our own sense of direction for spiritual matters, but must look to Our Heavenly Father for guidance. If we do not follow His Direction then we are surely going be just as lost as before we accepted Him into our hearts. It would be foolish to think that we could guide ourselves, when in fact we need Him to guide us. The problem is that often, at least in my case, pride gets in the way of seeing that I/we need to rely on Him for guidance. We need Him as our navigator to guide us along the rocky paths of life, so we don’t crash into the rocks of Sin and Death! We need His directions if we are to proceed upon the path to Heaven.
The Collect also goes on to explain His Power will give us defense in adversity. His Power is the only real power which can help us in times of trouble and sorrow. It is the only power which will give us comfort in times of adversity and give us the strength to get through those times.
We may think we can get ourselves through trouble, but that is only us deceiving ourselves. Thinking this way can lead us digging ourselves a bigger hole so to speak. We need to stop digging and look to the One who can help us and let Him into our hearts to guide us. We need to recognize God has the power to help us overcome adversity.
All the goodness and greatness we have within us, is not sourced from us, but from the Holy Spirit and God. It comes from God and He fills our hearts with the goodness we ourselves cannot generate on our own. In order to have that goodness within us, we need to be following His Directions to the very best of our abilities. It may be hard at times and we might make mistakes and fall down from time to time, but we need to get back up on the horse so to speak and re set our course anew.
This squares with what Paul tells us, salvation, honor and glory come not from what we do or have done, but rather from God. It is not our deeds which procure our salvation, but God and His Son’s deeds. Our deeds next to His are not comparable and are not worthy of the honor and glory that His are. We must recognize this fact and we should turn to Him, not ourselves, for guidance. Following His Word is where the salvation, honor and glory come from. And that is also to whom we should give credit and not us. We haven't earned the credit; so we should give it to whom it is due, that is to God our Father.
Nothing that we have done as far as anything good or significant is not from us on our own volition, but from God. He will guide us through all of our life’s trials, if we let him. That is one of the problems with many people today, and not only today but in the past, the present and the future, is that they believe that they have made their own goodness and own deeds. They do not realize they are not the source of their good deeds, but God is. They do not recognize the role God has in guiding good actions and instead lay claim to the glory that isn’t theirs to claim. In essence, they are stealing God’s glory and not giving credit to whom credit is due. Paul, who as Saul, had been a super star on his way to being the number one rabbi in the Hebrew nation, was more learned, more vigorous in following the law, more vocal in all things. When he “saw the light” and converted, he took that same approach to Christianity. No one was more in anything than he. He had been the worst of the worst and was the best of the best. Yet, through God, now he was keenly aware of how short he himself fell. But even more importantly, he was keenly aware of the saving perfection of Christ.
From his early days as the chief persecutor of the Church, to the main missionary of Christ’s Church, from this timeline he could tell us of the experience of the power of God first hand, using his life as an example. He told us these things not to glory himself, but to show the glory and honor that comes from on high, from following His Word. He wanted to show us how God’s Grace and mercy changed His life and got Him through some pretty awful times. And also, He can get us through both the good and bad times and that in both we should never stop praising and honoring Him. He wanted to highlight God’s saving power and Grace, which had helped him, and show us how it can help us as well. He wanted us, other Christians to learn from his example and to do their best to follow Him. Thus, he counseled all to take comfort and pride in God, not themselves. Do your best and look towards God.
This brings us right in to the well known Parable of the Sower, which might be better referred to as the Parable of the Four Soils, for the seeds were all alike.
Like the seed sown by the sower, The Word is spread throughout the world for all to hear and act on:
While we are on the subject, consider the issue of weeding. Is this not part of the reason for the Church, that is to say the body of believers, to exist? Often we cannot pull our own weeds, but we can help others and they can help us. We cannot pull our weeds alone, but with help, we can remove them one by one. Christianity is not a religion of hermits; it is a social religion where we can help each other. This is why it is best that believers attend a Bible believing Church, where they can get valuable friendship and from that friendship, spiritual mentoring for their day to day lives.
So, think about this, we need to understand eternal life and indeed on a shorter term, happiness in our life here, comes not from our self-directed actions, but those of God and our action following His direction. If we follow our self-directed actions, we will find death and misery awaiting us. However, if we put our trust in Him and follow His commands, we will “live long and prosper” to quote Spock. Do your best and look towards God for the Light to illuminate your path. If you prepare your heart, as the farmer prepares the field, root out the forces of this world as the farmer roots out weeds, cultivate the good given by God, water your heart with His Water, your life will be manifold.
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?
Action, not diction. It is by our actions we are known!
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
Friday, February 17, 2017
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Just outside the limits of Tombstone, Arizona, is the Tombstone Graveyard, most often referred to as Boot Hill. Perhaps the reason for the name is that most of the ‘inhabitants’ of Boot Hill died with their boots on, either victims of violent death, or engaged in violent actions. But not all died with their boots on. Three men, part of the Clanton-McLaury Clan who died at the OK Corral compliments of Doc Holiday and Bat Masterson and company, did die with their boots on, but there are others who died victims of the brutal the brutal atmosphere prevailing in Tombstone. There were many who died of other causes such as three year old Eva Waters who died of Scarlet Fever, and one year old Thomas Cowan who died of diphtheria. And, of course, a respectable number of the graves belong to men who were hanged in execution of a jury’s verdict, or by a lynch mob – a fairly balanced set of books. One Frank Bowles died after having been thrown from his horse causing his rifle to accidentally discharge hitting his leg. He lingered unattended in a mining camp until the leg was infected with gangrene – a condition from which he died. His tombstone bears this inscription:
In memory of Frank Bowles,
born Aug. 5, 1828,
died Aug. 26, 1880.
As you pass by, remember that
as you are, so once was I, and
as I am, you soon will be.
It should be noted each grave-stone faces west, and over the wilderness scene the crucifixion thorn broods in silent and solemn loneliness.
Some of the dead at Boot Hill were wanted “dead or alive.” Whether they were taken dead or alive no longer matters, for all are certainly dead insofar as the law is concerned today. That holds true for every human inhabiting the planet today. In the eyes of the law, every man, woman, and child is already dead for the verdict of the law is always death. “23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23) You may aver these verses apply only to sin, not law-breaking, in which case you would be mistaken: 4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4) The law is a multiple purpose teacher to instruct us in righteousness, of that which is wicked, and the hopelessness of man to satisfy that law without a Redeemer. In fact, we were saved under the terms of the law. Jesus Christ satisfied the penalty for our salvation if we have sought and received mercy and grace.
We are all sons and daughters of someone, are we not, on this earth? But in eternity, we also must lay claim to a father, or a FATHER! 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3) The Sons and Daughters of the Heavenly Father do not mingle and mix with the sons and daughters of the wicked: 14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:14-18)
Our countenance shall be changed when we are glorified in our Lord. But more than appearance marks the sons and daughters of men – so the sons and daughters of God. The son or daughter takes on the resemblance to the features of the Parent, but also the NATURE. In God, that nature is one of righteousness and compassion.
Our death certificates are executed at our birth. We are as good as dead as we grow into adulthood. 1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved; (Eph 2:1-5) Please look carefully at these five verses. To be quickened means to be “made alive!” Something that is already alive cannot be made alive. We must already be dead in order to be made alive. Were you ever dead in trespasses and sins? Certainly you were, and so is every man born of woman. We all walked in the way of the world until we received that grace and mercy made available in the calling and election of God. Lazarus was dead as a door knell in that stone vault of a tomb. He could not come to Jesus of his own volition. HE WAS DEAD! But when our Lord called, “Lazarus, Come Forth!” Lazarus had no choice. He immediately came forth bound tightly in grave clothes. Jesus then said to those around him, “Loose him and let him go.” It is when the Son sets us free that we are free indeed.
There is more revealed in Hebrews 11 than the natural eye and understanding can discern.
Even accomplished scholars of the Word fail to fathom the depths of its meaning; however, there is simplicity to God’s Word that allows even rude scholars such as you and me to comprehend the vital points. 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Heb 11:8-16)
That ONE which sprang from Abraham’s advanced age was Isaac, but spiritually, the Redeemer to come. Isaac, like Jesus, was born through a miracle of birth. He was the fullness of Israel as are all who have believed the Promise made unto Abraham. 16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Gal 3:16) And Christ is our Ark into which we are formed at salvation as One with Christ and, therefore, One with the Father. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:26-29)
If one simply reads the Holy Scriptures in their absolute simplicity, I cannot see how any would believe that God has chosen a special race, nation, or tribe as His Chosen People other than those who have placed their trust, faith, and hope in the beloved Son of God – our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you have a lonely grave reserved at Boot Hill, or in a lonely tomb of Moab? Or have you received the Promise of the eternal life made available in Jesus Christ our Lord?
Thursday, February 16, 2017
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1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. . . . . 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-4,14)
In the rural parts of Tennessee and North Georgia, the Bible is often referred to as “the Good Book;” but, though that misnomer was applied with honorable intentions, it falls too far short of the Holiness that should define the Bible. One of the greatest Russian writers Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy wrote many literary works that are considered masterpieces of all time. These were good and great works of authorship. But all of his works combined could not lead a soul one single inch toward God and away from the gaping jaws of Hell. A good book can save no one, and neither can the good works of morally just men. The Holy Bible is certainly a good book, but far more. The Kohinoor Diamond (the largest) is surely a good diamond; but no one would define it that way because it is far more valuable than simply a ‘good’ diamond.
There is no other book that can compare with the Holy Bible. It is altogether a book like no other that has ever graced the eyes of man. It is, among other things, a history book, a science book, a guide book, chart and compass book, a medical book, a health book, a geography book, and the Word of God whose words are filled with healing and mercy. It is not simply filled with Divine Words, but it is THE Word of God! Every single word is precious and Holy, and the new critics who have invented the false versions proliferating in modern church society, have impugned that Word by their false scholarship and chicanery.
I read a story taken from the World Christian Digest (entitled the Master’s Ass) many years ago that relates the practical wisdom of the Bible: “A Haifa policeman, who knew his Bible, got on the trail of a gang of smugglers. And just as he predicted from Isaiah 1:3, “the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib,” the starving animals led the police directly to the smuggler’s hide-out!”
The Science of Meteorology was revealed in the Bible long before the science came to man’s notice less than four hundred years past. God’s Word informs us that the winds have weight long before a scientist named Isaac Beekeman proposed the same to the ridicule of all society in 1618. The atmospheric column bears weight downward and is measured in barometric pressure. 24 For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; 25 To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. (Job 28:24-25) Patterns of movement of air masses and rain are also revealed: 6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. 7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. (Eccl 1:6-7) Long before man’s exploration of space was even a dream; God informed us the earth floated in space without the support of Hercules, or the four elephants superstition of the East. 7 He stretcheth out the north over the empty place (possibly a reference to the fact the North Pole has no land mass to support the ice cap), and hangeth the earth upon nothing. (Job 26:7)
Long before Matthew Fontaine Maury discovered and charted the tropical zones of the sea, God revealed to us the same: 8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:8) Once while ill with the influenza, Matthew Fontaine Maury (the first Superintendent of the US Naval Observatory, first proponent of the US Naval Academy and Pathfinder of the Seas) lay in his quarters while his son read to him from the Psalms. When his son read Psalms 8:8, Maury insisted he read that line again upon which he proclaimed, “If God says there are paths in the sea, I am going to find them!” So, he began to solicit the windage, current, and temperature charts from commercial and naval vessels upon which he based his discoveries that cut shipping times by as much as two thirds.
The Bible even tells us that all material objects that we see with the naked eye are composed of tiny particles that are invisible to our naked eyes. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Heb 11:2-3) It is a simple fact a gold coin can be readily seen by the greedy, but the millions of atoms which comprise the coin are invisible. The examples of these wonders of scripture are too abundant to cover in this devotion, but the examples given should suffice to convince. 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. 9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. (Psalm 33:6-9)
The separate and individual words of the Lord, parsed by manipulative, so-called ‘higher critics,’ are each sacred and pure. 6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. 8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted. (Psalm 12:6-8) Those who invent new versions, copyrighted for profit, are among those “vilest men (who) are exalted.”
But let us examine the essence of this Holy and Sacred Scripture called the Holy Bible. What gives it its Holiness and Sacredness? It is the Personage who is revealed on every page and in every word of that Holy Book – the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Word and the Life! 4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. 5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Rev 3:4-5)
But what is in a name, the sage of Stratford-on-Avon (Wm. Shakespeare), inquired perhaps flippantly? The Bible has the answer to that question: 1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. (Prov 22:1) I would suppose the only quality of a name that makes it good is its heritage in the Lord for none other than God is GOOD!. That seems an impossible barrier for mortal man to achieve in qualifying. But man cannot qualify! It is a work of grace of the Lord that imputes goodness and a good name. We are told that the righteous shall even be given a new name in glory – one to which no sin or disreputable memories can be associated: 17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Rev 2:17) The White Stone symbolizes the imputed innocence to the holder. That name is written down beyond the Gates of Splendor in God’s Book of Life. Is your name there? It certainly could be. Let me explain.
You may recall our Lord’s final prayer in the Garden at Gethsemane prior to His Passion. 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23) All of those names written down in the Book of Life are part of God’s Holy Word, hidden from our view, but just as real as that held in our hands. If we are One with the Word, which is Christ, and Christ is the WORD – totally and complete – then our given names written in the Book of Life are secured to us by His mercy and unmerited grace. Christ is veritably: the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) And we have become a portion with Him as One if we have received that mercy and unmerited grace. He has lost none who have been placed in His hands by the Father. If your name is recorded in that Book of Life, it cannot be erased on earth. His Word is LIFE!
I pray those who are ‘called’ Christian will become, indeed, Christian, and evidence a greater and unreserved reverence for His Word – every Word without human modification!