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The center of the Traditional Anglican Communion; adhering to the Holy Bible (KJV) in all matters of Faith and Doctrine, a strict reliance on the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, The two Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the Two Creeds, and the Homilies and formularies of the Reformation Church of England.

Verse of the Day

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sermon Notes - Second Sunday after The Epiphany - 20 January 2019, Anno Domini (in the Year of Our Lord)

HEbeginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Jud├Ža, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; and preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him: and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  (Mark 1:1-11)

The Second Sunday after The Epiphany.
The Collect.

LMIGHTYand everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

            Our God is the God of Time, past, present and future. He holds Sovereignty over all of that vast landscape of TIME. He has predestined events of both small and great measure for His purposes. He called Abraham for His purpose long before Abraham breathed his first breath in Ur of the Chaldees. He called Moses to free His people long before Moses was launched forth by his mother in a small ark made of straw and reeds on the great Nile River. He called David forth long before the stones were created with which he slay the giant, Goliath. And God called John the Baptist to be His messenger long before Jordan River ever flowed forth from the heights of Mount Hermon. 

            John the Baptist was the greatest of all preachers, and the poorest for worldly possessions. He did not wear a Brioni suit, or dwell in the exclusive district of a city, or feast on luxurious foods daily. No, John the Baptist wore a coat made of camel hair (one in which even the camel is not altogether comfortable), he dwelt in the Wilderness, and feasted on insects (locusts) and honey. Many who were thirsty for spiritual water and bread traveled to that Wilderness place to hear John preach and to be baptized in the turbid waters of the little river which flowed to the east of Jerusalem – the Jordan. He walked everywhere he went without benefit of chariot or horse.  He was the ideal preacher. How does he compare with your preacher today, friends? Does he not put us all to shame for seeking more than we need, and delivering less than that of which we are capable?

            It is unlikely that anyone hearing this sermon can remember the day they were born. With what words could you have remembered, since you had no words in your mind at the moment of your birth? But we all remember the day Christ was born in Bethlehem – and that was even before our own birth. How is that we know? Because God has provided His Word for us to know and to understand. But even having God’s Word, and knowing it intellectually, does not mean that we truly KNOW His Word and, furthermore, know Him! If you believe that you came into being the day of your birth, you would be wrong. You were conceived some months earlier; and if you believe that you came into being at the moment of conception, you would be wrong again because God knew you and conceived of you in the great eternities past. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will . (Eph 1:4-5) So what does St. Mark the apostle mean in his opening remarks in verse 1 of our text: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

First of all, Mark does not mean this account to be the Gospel of St Mark (though for simplicity, we call it that). He means the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ insofar as we can know it. It is the revelation of beautiful truths that have existed forever, but revealed to us in the time of God’s own choosing. It does not mean, for example, the beginning of Jesus Christ, for He has eternally existed with the Father, and the Holy Ghost. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God! (John 1:1) In fulfillment of the promise of God to Abraham and His spiritual Seed, Christ came in the fullness of time to fulfill all things spoken of Him by the prophets. He came to settle our sin-debt (death) by paying it Himself on the cross. 

            When traveling to a new land, every great sovereign is preceded by emissaries who prepare the way for his visit, make all arrangements for his reception by the host people, and send out news (such as the Gospel news) of his coming. Police motorcycles and cars precede his entourage. The emissary sent should reflect, though imperfectly, the nature of the Sovereign who comes. If the Sovereign takes particular interest in the poor and downcast, so should the emissary in selecting his schedule of events, insure that the Way is made ready so that those, especially, will have opportunity to be introduced to Him. The old prophets spoke profusely of this coming Sovereign, but they also spoke uncommonly often of His emissary. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God(Isaiah 40:3) and, Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.(Mal 3:1)Truth is unquenchable and it resounds, not only across great distances, but also across the ages of time. So it is meet and right that Mark should echo and remind us of the great prophecies of one called John the Baptist: The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

            I have always been struck by this clear and precise description of John the Baptist.  He is one who cries, not among the false lights of the city, but in the Wilderness. If men will come to hear a voice crying in the wilderness then they must have a serious reason to leave the comfort of Jerusalem and come. Perhaps there coming was described by the prophet Amos: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.(Amos 8:11-12) Maybe, but I believe Amos describes our day better than theirs of old.

They either are drawn by the promptings of the Holy Spirit (for those hearts whose soils are rich to bear fruit), or by the spirit of anti-Christ who sends out his spies to learn of ways to stem the rising hopes of the people in a Redeemer. We have the same among us today in both kinds – and they are IN the Church more than OUTSIDE it. The dress of John the Baptist would have met with serious disdain from the First churches of today. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey(Matt 3:4)There certainly was nothing special about John’s appearance, but there certainly was something of an overriding importance in his message! He was a burden on none that he taught, unlike many modern seekers of filthy lucre. No one brought him steak and wine – he ate locusts and honey. He wore neither Armani, nor Gucci, suits but, rather, a robe of camel’s hair and a leather girdle about his loins. The Pharisees and Jewish rulers must have been in a pickle to understand John. He appeared so very low and common, but what of these wondrous words that he spoke which so completely enthralled the crowds who flocked to hear him in the Wilderness? They simply could not lower their dignity from the dunghill of religious sophistry to the pinnacle of simple righteousness and truth found in John’s preaching. 

John did not simply speak in even tones when he preached – he roared the message of the coming Savior as one crying in the Wilderness. Spiritual deafness is not limited to tones and decibels, but an emptiness of heart upon which truth finds no fertile ground. The message was to ALL who believed – not the ones who failed of faith and good will. The dark chambers of the heart were opened in the bosoms of many men and women to a new Voice – a new Truth (to them) of hope and wonder. Yet, it was not in the polished halls of the Temple at Jerusalem that they first learned of this hope – it was in the lonely Wilderness. Have you ever considered how much more clearly one can hear the Voice of God in a quiet place as opposed to the hustle and bustle of the city? 

            The point of John’s preaching in the Wilderness that most touches my heart is the fact that all who ever preached the Gospel before, or after, were as a Voice crying in the Wilderness – not in cathedrals of stone, but byways of flesh and bones.  Perchance, one is easily enticed to go to the city square to hear a speaker; but they will not travel into the Wilderness to hear the words of a man dressed in camel’s hair and a leather girdle unless there is something mighty special about his message. Did I say HIS message? I should have said the Gospel of Jesus Christ. THAT message is worth travelling into the Wilderness to hear. If you are a minister of God, or a devoted witness, you, too, will be as a Voice crying in the Wilderness, calling men and women to the HIGHWAY – not the BROAD and DESCENDING Way – of the Lord. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt 7:13-14)

            If a man preaches the whole counsel of God, even with great love, the city crowds will not flock to his audience. Therefore, I hope that the ministers of God will cultivate the ground, and plant the seed, without expecting great success in the eyes of the world. The world has never known the meaning of truth and joy in Christ. If the numbers of Wilderness travelers remains few, be happy for the FEW! We sow the seeds of the Gospel – their germination and sprouting to the sun is the responsibility of the Holy Ghost. He works in the darkness of the soil, unseen by human eye, in creating and germinating the new life in the heart of the convert.

            I love John the Baptist as my true brother! He surely is! What does one see in John that would discourage love? He speaks the truth, as any real friend would do, even when it hurts the water of our face. He is dedicated and earnest. Finally, he is HUMBLE! We are often lifted up with pride at our tiny successes, or even a presumed superior knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. Why should we be if the Word we have learned is not ours, but God’s? And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. 8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. It was, in the time of John, the responsibility of the lowest servant in a household to unloose the shoe latchets of guests, and to wash their feet. But John, by contrast with Christ, was not even worthy to SERVE Him – and, friend, neither are you or me.  If He calls us to the duty, He will MAKE us worthy through His own imputed righteousness. 

It is the duty of every believer to be publicly baptized. That is the means by which, like circumcision, we come into the covenant relationship with Christ and His Church.  Faith, too, must be the work of the Holy Ghost in the heart. When, by the grace of God, faith is confirmed in the broken and contrite heartthe Holy Ghost has baptized that heart in the heavenlies.

8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. It is not the outward form of baptism that is efficacious to us before God, but the inward and spiritual grace attaining thereto – else it is only a work of man’s hands. It is much like the calling to the ministry and its recognition by the Church in the following ordination. If the head is ordained to preach, and the heart is not, there is no authority granted to preach. 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(Eph 4:4-6)Must we be baptized twice? Certainly not! There is one baptism for the remission of sins. The Holy Ghost attends the believing heart in baptism just as we see that it presents Itself at the baptism of our Lord. 

 9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And it came to pass….. I love the casual manner in which God speaks of momentous events! Sure it came to pass, but it didn’t simply come to pass as a matter of happenstance – it was foreordained from all time and eternity! When all of the stars of Heaven were drawn in perfect alignment; when all the words of the prophets had been met with fulfillment of time and purpose; when Christ had been incarnated and made a man after our physical likeness; when the approval of God the Father thundered down the halls of time – Christ was baptized by John in the unseemly little waters of Jordan. How seemingly inappropriate in the eyes of man, but altogether appropriate in the eyes of God! There was a time fixed for your coming to Christ. Do you feel that coming was accidental, or ON PURPOSE!

Notice the presence of the Divine Trinity at the baptism of Christ….Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. The Holy Spirit descended at the moment of baptism – not a long delay of months or years afterward; and the Voice of a joyful Father thundered out of Heaven! Did you feel the love and comfort of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost at your baptism, or in your confirmation? Though you may not have felt it in the first, it was nonetheless, present; and certainly the Trinity was present at your confirming faith in your baptism. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance(Luke 15:7)

Friday, January 18, 2019

God of the Wilderness – 18 January 2019, Anno Domini

NDAbraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. 15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. 16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. 19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.  (Gen 21:14-19)

            So far as we know, God never spoke to Hagar in the company of others in Abraham’s camp; or even on her journey of exile away from Abraham while on the trail to the Wilderness of Beersheba. The best time for God to communicate with us is when hope is forlorn, and provisions run out. The two men on the Road to Emmaus were despondent and never felt more alone than when they believed the Savior had been finally taken from them  by the Grim Reaper of Death. But in the presence of the Lord, one is never alone! You will remember the happy fellowship of one woman left alone with only Christ: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and JESUS WAS LEFT ALONE, and the woman standing in the midst.” (John 8:7-9)Perhaps the Lonely Wilderness is the very best place to meet the Lord – not the noisy fleshpots of modern society! 

            There are many kinds of Wilderness areas in this world, in fact, the world itself is a vast wilderness that offers no hope for those who place their trust in the meager offerings of the world. The world is a wilderness of deprivation, doubt, immorality and sin. Coincidentally, the first place of encampment following that by the Red Sea for the Children of Israel was a place called the Wilderness of Sin. “And they removed from the Red sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin.” Num 33:11 (KJV) In this case, Sin is a proper name, however, its connotation is significant in my view. It lies just before Mount Sinai at which the Commandments of God were given defining sin.

            Loneliness is often God’s greatest gift if we use it to listen to the Voice of God. Consider the woman whose sins had made her so lonely that she deigned to come to Jacob’s Well at a time when there would be no one present but the Lord. It was not what was expected, but what, by the grace of God, was given. Alone she heard the Voice of the Lord speaking the Words of Living Water. Emboldened by faith, she returned to the village and so convincingly shared her testimony that all believed. She was never lonely again after that encounter by the Well of Living Waters. 

            Perhaps the loneliest persons to encounter Christ were the lepers. They were the despised outcast of society. They were considered filthy by society, and indeed, they were just that. Their disease was deadly and incurable. Its onset was insidious, slowly devouring the bodies outward appearance by rotting away the nose, fingers, feet, ears, etc. It also slowly killed the inner body until death was finally measured out in mercy. These men and women were not allowed to mingle in public, or even private, with uninfected people. They wore distinctive rags to warn others of their identity, and were forced to shout “Unclean” at any approach of a stranger. They were separated from family, friends, and neighbors. Moreover, their rotting flesh emitted a terribly foul odor. Often these poor creatures were stoned if they tried to pass through a village. Yet, the leper is still a fellow human being as are you and I.  There is an account in the Gospel of St. Mark of one such leper, though such accounts appear elsewhere as well:

            “And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.” (Mark 1:40-42)We often read such accounts with unmeasured nonchalance and thereby deprive our souls of the beauty of our Lord’s heart. When we fail to realize that the men of the Emmaus Road were you and I, we miss the blessing. The Woman at Jacob’s Well was also us, as well as the woman taken in adultery. We all deserve the cruel death intended for that lady, but have found redemption in Christ.

            We are lepers as well. We have the blood disease of sin (very much like the blood disease of leprosy) flowing through our veins. We inherited that sin disease from our father, Adam. There is no cure in this world for the sin disease; but there is a cure that is offered from that Divine Fountain of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ. Sin has made us lonely. It separates us from God and loved ones. It is insidious in onset, and it unfailingly leads to death.

            Now, you, my friend, were the leper on the Galilean dirt road who came to Christ. You violated the law in approaching Christ for healing, but our Lord Jesus Christ supersedes the law of man. He does today as well. If Caesar issues laws and rulings that conflict with the Law of God, we are bound, as Christians, to obey the Higher Law and not the law of man or mammon. 

            He could have been stoned for coming openly to Christ and not maintaining a safe distance. But like you and me, he was desperate in his soul before coming to Christ. That is when Christ can reach us best. His electing grace will reach us regardless of the depths to which we have sunk. It may be the case that the Lord will place us in a place of desperation in drawing us to Himself. We dare not reject the calling and election of the Holy Ghost for the benefit of our eternal souls. 

            You came with the sores of sin covering your face in whitened, rotting tissue. Your hands were covered in blood-soaked linen of crippling sin rendering them incapable of doing any good deed. The odor of your rotting soul was foul and unpleasant; yet, out of desperation, you came and braved the severe and worldly strictures against your coming. Perhaps you came to the Throne of Grace, drawn there by the Holy Spirit, in fear and trembling. But what had you to lose – your filthy rags? So you came kneeling in plaintive and beggarly reverence before the King of Glory. “Will He receive one who is completely without worth of reception?’ you may have asked yourself. You pled your case in faith, knowing that He could heal you if He was so inclined. “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” How will the Lord respond to such a humble request? How has He ALWAYS responded? What would motivate our Lord to heal such a one as you or me? “Jesus, moved with compassion.” Ah, yes, it was compassion, facilitated by a depth of unimaginable love that moved in the heart of our Lord. Compassion always results in action, not idle sympathy. 

            “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” A human touch to the lonely and outcast can work wonders for joy; but consider the degree of joy that is invoked by the touch of our Lord. Jesus reached forth His hand and touched one who was covered with filthy sores  - one whom no one else would not even get near much less touch, and the Leper (and you and me) was healed. There is no loneliness, sickness or disease in the presence of the Lord. Death, too, will faint before Him. 

            Now let us return to poor Hagar in the Wilderness of Beersheba (and of loneliness). Let us first consider Hagar as a young woman innocent of the illegitimacy of the child she had borne for Abraham – Ishmael. Even so, she was a mother who loved her only son. Wandering alone in the midst of the wilderness, the water bottle Abraham had given her gave out. “ . . . . and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.” What else was there to do but weep. Her situation appeared hopeless. “And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar?” God loves the little children. God heard the voice of the lad and called out to Hagar with a question the answer to which the Lord was well aware. Poor Hagar was weeping bitter tears – not for herself, who was also about to perish, but more for her young son.

            Just as always at the appearance of an Angel of the Lord, the Angel put Hagar at ease: “ . . . . fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.” God always hears us wherever we find ourselves in the Wilderness of Sin – even when surrounded by a multitude of lost souls. The profuse tears of Hagar, like Mary Magdalene without the Open Tomb, blinded her so that she needed to be healed of her blindness. “And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.” He opens the eyes of His elect who may have been spiritually blind to see the Fountain of Living Waters in our deserts of sin. Can you see the blessings He has prepared before you?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Voice in the Wilderness – 17 January 2019, Anno Domini

NDthis is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.  (John 1:19-23)

            John was a prophet of all prophets – the one set aside and called in the predestined knowledge of God to herald the coming of the Son of God and to prepare our hearts to receive Him. Like every true preacher of truth, the world did no roll out a red carpet to receive him. He did not fit the mold of those Jewish rabbi’s, leaders, Scribes, and Pharisees that lived their lives in moderate, or even opulent, comfort at the expense of the Temple treasury. He wore no fancy vestments, but rather a coat of camel hair. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. (Matt 3:4)He had no expense account with which to purchase food or luxuries. He had not Temple at Jerusalem as his forum, but the Wilderness of Jordan Banks.

            God had foretold through the prophets the coming of this greatest of all prophets. A veiled reference was made to John by Moses: The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken(Deut 18:15)And the prophet Isaiah proclaimed his coming 700 years prior to his birth: 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever   (Isaiah 40:3-8)

            I began today’s devotion with a reference to John the Baptist for the purpose of demonstrating that nothing has changed remarkably since the time of John insofar as preaching is concerned.  John was called to minister even before his conception in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth. I believe every minister of God is called by the foreordination and predestined will of God. The call is of such overwhelming power that the minister can never escape answering that call. He may run from hill, mountain and dale, but the Hound of Heaven will follow hard on until the object of his pursuit capitulates to the Heavenly Call.

            The life of a minister whose heart is set on satisfying that sacred call from God cannot set his heart upon the riches of this world, or on its other carnal offerings. His heart must burn with passion to preach the Word of God without compromise or error. Social mores, political considerations, or manmade laws cannot impede the preaching of such a man. Even if threatened with prison or death, he must persevere in his call and suffer whatever consequences by which his Lord is glorified. 

            When the called minister takes up his cross daily to follow Christ, he does not stop at the paddock of Pontius Pilate, or in the court of the Sanhedrin. Nor will he balk at carrying his heavy cross along that same Via Dolorosa upon which our Lord, drained and hurting, carried His rude cross. Even so, when Golgotha’s ugly shadow looms ominous in his path, shall he drop the cross and flee to hiding? No, he will carry that cross all the way to the Mount, and there will he lay it down as his bed of dying. We sometime misinterpret what our Lord counseled when He commanded, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels(Luke 9:23-26)

            That counsel above is found almost verbatim in the first three Gospels, and in principle throughout the New Testament. But this counsel is not limited to the man called of God to preach the Gospel, but rather to every man, woman and child so called by the Holy Ghost to come to that Mercy Seat of God where salvation is made available in the Redemption of the Son of God. If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward. (Matt 16:24-27)

           In the ministry of God there are days of disappointment and loneliness. The minister of God, above all others, realizes that he is, like the prophet John the Baptist, the Voice of one Crying in the Wilderness. This is particularly true in our day in which most of our children are raised without ever hearing the Word of the Lord even once. Society has conditioned itself to instant gratification in all things. Study of the Word is too tiresome and time consuming for most, and they will not hear strong truth which inevitably conflicts with their licentious desires of the modern day. Truth itself is denied, not only concerning the higher calling of God, but even factual principles of history, geography, and true science.

            An old friend of mine who serves as Chaplain to the local post of the VFW recently wrote a letter of invitation in the post periodical for any who knew not the Lord to contact him and he would come to them and reveal from Scripture the beauty of Christ to them and the imperative for their knowing. He was disappointed when there was not a single response. He has a heart driven by a Scriptural desire to proclaim the Word and share it; however, he should not be disappointed. He is also a Voice Crying in the Wilderness after the example of John the Baptist. In fact, all ministers of God are voices of one crying in the wilderness unless they are corrupted by politics, immoral social values, or greed. The world will never flock to hearing the Word of God preached. If they hear and believe, they realize they will need to change their lifestyles which they covet. It is not the responsibility of the minister to deliver souls to God. It is his responsibility to sow the seeds of that Word, and allow the Holy Ghost to nourish and germinate the seed in the hearts of the hearers. Size of a church is not the measure of the worth of God’s ministers.

            I have a small church in southern Alabama. Most of my members are either elementary or high school children. Some are college graduates who have been raised up in our little church. Naturally, among children, there is no means of raising money to provide for facilities, so my wife and I have taken it as a calling of God to provide facilities and expenses of operation. It has been a joy, but, at times, I get despondent and disappointed that we must make do with far less resources than larger churches. When I am so unjustifiably sorrowful, my wife tells me, Well, at least we have not lost an arm or a leg. This counsel brings me back to solid ground. We have not, as Paul proclaims,  . . . . resisted unto blood, striving against sin(Heb 12:4)

            A true minister, called of God, will not hesitate to take up the sword and shield in following hard upon that calling. He will not inquire about benefits, wages, or provisions for housing if his heart is fervently set upon serving the Lord. He will know that God will provide all things essential for his living if he is committed to serving Him in the ministry. I am reminded of the courageous Dr. David Livingston who sat in a gathering at which the missionary, Robert Moffat, was speaking of his missionary experiences in the dark continent of Africa. Livingston had already answered God’s call to devote his medical services to the ministry of God and His people. His hope had been to serve in China, but God had closed the door to that opportunity; so he decided to go to Africa. He charted that continent in areas where civilized man had never ventured. He loved Africa and her people. The people themselves adored him, and many were saved through his teaching and services. 

            In advanced age, David Livingston was found dead in his hut, kneeling by his bedside as was his custom for morning prayer. 

            The natives carried his body all the way across the vast continent of Africa so that his body could be returned to Scotland; but there was a part of Livingston that did not accompany his body – that was the Heart of Livingston which the African people buried in his beloved Africa. Livingston died in Chitambo village on 1 May, 1873. His followers removed his heart and buried it at the foot of the Mupundu tree before carrying his body all the way back to Dar es Salaam, from where his body was shipped back to England and buried in Westminster Abbey.

It was Livingston’s love for the people that compelled him to decades of deprivation and loving service to his fellow brethren and sisters of Africa. That love compels all who are called of God – love toward God, and love toward His people created in His image.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Calling and Election – 16 January 2019, Anno Domini

NDbeside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:5-11)

            Simply believing is not sufficient to make our election in Christ sure; for “devils also believe and tremble.” Churches are filled Sunday after Sunday with “believing” Christians who live the life of the lost. They hear the Word preached, they believe the Word preached; but they fail to LIVE the Word preached. Saving faith requires action based on the love of God shed abroad in our hearts.

            The early hours of evening seem to be an opportune time for computer calls in America. I receive so many of them (even though I am on the proscribed list) that I simply do not answer if I do not recognize the number calling. Yet, the call was made whether it is answered it or not. Judas, the betrayer, was called but not finally chosen. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt 22:14)  There is a general calling, or outward calling that in God’s justice, goes out to all mankind. But there is an inward calling to which those who are the elect of God from before the foundation of the world will respond by both faith and life. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16)God knows who His chosen are and who will finally respond in full faith and action to His Call.

            All whom the Father hath given to the Son will come to Him, and will rest in the security of his salvation. Our Lord will not lose a single soul placed into His hand by the Father. The elect of God have an assurance of their salvation that is not subject to exception: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:11-1)

            There is also a firm claim in Scripture that none are saved by good works. This is absolutely true. Our salvation is not subject to any merit on our part, but the effectual calling of the Holy Ghost. What is the ‘effectual calling of the Holy Spirit? “29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)Here are the parts of the Call in Christ: 

1.    God knew us before the worlds were made – a fact that should be of joyous reception; 
2.    He predestined His elect to be conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ; 
3.    Those who were predestined to receive it were CALLED; 
4.    those elect whom He called, He also justified (accounted them righteous, not by their own merits, but that imputed righteousness of His Son); 
5.    those elect whom God justified He also has glorified. 

These are accomplished facts! Even our failures will work together for our good. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28)

            There are far too many evidences to support the above texts quoted to list here; however, we could observe examples thereof. Remember the Great Supper of the King prepared for His Son. Many invited (called) did no appear. So many were gathered from the highways and byways (Gentiles). These were gathered, not by their own volition, but that of the King. Even so, one man appeared without a marriage garment – he was not chosen but rejected. He is very much like the Sunday-only Christian who appears righteous, but is only involved in Church for political, social or mercantile reasons – invited, called, but not chosen at last.

            It should be pointed out again that salvation is not by works “lest any man should boast” but all of grace. But the Holy Spirit which draws the elect of God (with a jaw hook if necessary) will respond in a faith that is virile and active. “17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect(James 2:17-22)

            The subject is far too broad to cover in a short devotion other than a summary one; I will give a very strong example of calling and election in the Old Testament.

There was a man who lived in Ur of the Chaldees who had little understanding of the true God. His name was Abram (later Abraham). He lived in good fashion there since he owned many cattle and other possessions. One day God called Abram personally: “1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed
(Gen 12:1-3)

            The above circumstances might give the common man of any success cause for pause, but not Abram, for he immediately obeyed. “So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.”(Gen 12:4)But even the chosen of God are not faultless, and neither was Abram. Notice that God had told Abram to leave his father’s house and kindred behind, but Abram took Lot. The result of that seemingly small disobedience resulted in great sorrow for Abram when the judgment of Sodom was enacted by fire and brimstone.

God had told Abram to abandon all of his former life:

1.      Leave his native country.
2.      Leave his relatives.
3.      Go to a strange land.

Abram obeyed these strange commands of God. God had promised to make of him a great nation in which all the nations of the world would be blessed – and He did! Abram was a part of God’s plan of redemption long before Adam fell from grace in the Garden at Eden. God worked all things together to fulfill His foreordained plans for Abram, and later for the coming of His only Begotten Son to fulfill that promise.

God later renamed Abram (good father) to Abraham (father of many nations). Abraham believed the promise of God for a Redeemer long before that promise was fulfilled. The faith of Abraham was tried time and again, but he never forgot the promise or the God who led him. Today, we, from the facts of the fulfillment of that great event in history, believe more easily. Unfortunately, our lives would be far richer if we believed with that same strong faith of Abraham.

He was called and chosen – foreordained and predestined – and God worked His perfect will through the life of Abraham. Do you feel you are an exception?

God has prophesied the rise and fall of nations; the appearance of prophets in their epoch; and He has given us His Son in the fullness of time. Do you believe He is unable to know and Elect feeble little you when no swallow falls to the earth without His knowing?