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Who are we?

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

Friday, December 4, 2020

The People who walked in Darkness – 4 December 2020, Anno Domini



 

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HE people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.  (Isaiah 9:2)

 

            There is an important distinction made in this verse that may, at first, escape notice. It involves the grammatical nuance of tense. Those who walked in darkness “HAVE SEEN”. It does not say, saw, or did see, but have seen. This tense can apply to all of faith both living and dead, yesterday and today!

 

            There is another nuance of verbiage quoted in Matthew that reflects on the above verse: 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.  (Matthew 4:16) 

 

During the interim period from the last utterance of the prophets, there was silence and darkness from Heaven for a time of four hundred years. Perhaps those who walked in darkness had become accustomed too much to it and decided to sit down in it.

 

The ancient prophecies foretold the coming of Christ in the place and manner in which He was actually born hundreds of years after the prophets had died. Abraham looked forward, by faith, to his redemption in Christ in the same way we look back to the historical and accomplished fact. His coming was Providential and decided in the Council of Heaven in the remote Eternity Past before the world was made. 

 

You will recall that before the Fall of Adam, there was no death or disease. But, because of Adam’s sin, an innocent animal had to die to cover their sins (nakedness). This innocent animal was most likely a lamb that would perfectly prefigure the Promised Messiah. 21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.  (Gen 3:21)

 

Hundreds of years and millennia passed, and Israel found themselves in bondage in Egypt. After Pharaoh suffered ten devastating curses from God, he agreed to let Israel go. But not before an innocent lamb was sacrificed by the Children of Israel, and its blood smeared above the door and along the lintels of their homes. When God’s angel of Death visited Egypt that night, He passed over every house that had the blood of the innocent lamb applied. This symbolizes that final Passover when we who believe will not see spiritual death when God sees the Blood of the Lamb of God covering our hearts.

 

The Old Testament is filled with more prophecies of the coming Messiah than time will allow, but it is interesting that the last OT prophet (Malachi) uttered his last prophecy some 400 years before the birth of Christ. During those 400 years, there was absolute silence from Heaven – the prevailing darkness was stifling. In fact, the last word of the Old Testament is the word CURSE for the Law is a curse to us without the Grace and Mercy of God. 

 

If we have not experienced silence, we can never appreciate the voice of angels. If we have not known utter darkness, we can not appreciate the coming Light of Christ. So, when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,  To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ(Gal 4:4-7)

 

I. v. 1-5 

 

We find a PROVIDENTIAL DECREE by the power of God (see Luke 2:1-20):   Caesar Augustus issued his decree for the taxing, not as a lucky coincidence that resulted in Jesus being born in Bethlehem. Neither was it a mere inconvenience for the people of Israel. Rather, it was divine providence that caused this imperial decree.  1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” (Luke 2:1-6) 

 

The power and authority of mighty Rome and her imperial Caesar was brought into play by God to accomplish the amazing birth at Bethlehem. Why was this amazing? Here is the most striking prophecy of the location of Christ’s birth:

 

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.  (Micah 5:2)

 

God told us Jesus would be born in a remote little town scores of miles away from the home of His mother and Joseph in Nazareth. How could Jesus be born in Bethlehem when His parents had no reason to go to Bethlehem - - - - until Christmas? Caesar ordered it!   The prophet said Messiah would come from Bethlehem, but Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth. It probably never entered into their minds to go to Bethlehem. (Ill. Travel was hard and treacherous in those days. An 80-mile trip would have been terribly hard on an expectant mother.)(Ill. Joseph was of the house of David, Luke 1:27, Bethlehem was the city of David.. God arranged all these things to ensure that His Son would be born in the right place at the right time.) (Ill. He even used a pagan emperor to do His will)

 

It is worth noting that Jesus is the Bread of Life for us: “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) the name, Bethlehem means, in the Hebrew, House of Bread – so it is quite appropriate that Jesus would be born in the House of Bread. Bethlehem was also a village that raised sacramental lambs for sacrifice at Jerusalem. Jesus was the Lamb of God that was sacrificed at Jerusalem. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8)

 

The Place of His Birth

 

The manger, a wooden feeding trough for feeding of beasts. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)

 

The King of Kings was born in a manger! Why? 

 

Two Reasons

 

1.     The immediate reason: That some old shepherds might find Him. 

2.     The eternal reason: That some old sinners might be able to identify with Him and approach Him for salvation! (No room in the Inn – Speaks of the rest of His life – John 1:11 (He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

 

Many still have no room for Him in their lives today! Do you? – John 1:12-13 (“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

 

The Picture In His Birth –  Swaddling Cloths

 

Swaddling = "bandage". These baby wraps prefigure His death and burial. Why did Jesus come? He came to die for you and me!

 

The Purpose In His Birth

 

(John 19:37) The purpose of this birth was the salvation of the soul of man. Jesus was a baby born to die. (He had been the expectation of mankind since the fall in the Garden of Eden – Gen. 3:15. Every lamb, ram, goat, bird, etc., that had been sacrificed down through the ages pointed to this special birth..) (He is why: Noah built an Ark, Abraham built an Altar, Moses built a Tabernacle, Solomon built a Temple, God built a hill called Calvary!) (He came down to be our Savior – There was a great purpose – YOU!

 

What was the Scene?

 

In this remote little town of Bethlehem, all were sleeping soundly this first Christmas Eve – everyone except Joseph and Mary, and their beautiful baby boy! But there were others who were widely awake as well. These were poor shepherds on the hills overlooking Bethlehem – the same hills over which another shepherd named David kept watch over his father’s sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and we are His Father’s Sheep. Jesus was not born in the palace at Jerusalem but in a lowly stable. He came to live the life of the poorest that the poorest, and the richest, might KNOW Him..

 

The Power of God’s Grace

 

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ND there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

 

Imagine the terror of the shepherds when a bright and brilliant angel appeared over the skies of Bethlehem! Shepherds were outcast by society as vile and filthy; outcast by religion as defiled and unfit to worship. However, they were chosen by Almighty God to hear the first birth announcement. How appropriate that the very men who raised the lambs for the Temple sacrifices were the first to meet the Lamb of God. (The angels did not appear to the rich and powerful, but to poor shepherds. God came there first because of pure grace – Eph. 2:8-9)

 

The Power of God’s Glory

 

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ND suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:13-14)

 

Do you know which is the oldest hymn in your hymnals? It is this: “Angels we Have Heard on High” It is Number 125 in the Korean Chang-song-ga. “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” is taken directly from Verse 14 in Latin.

 

While the kings of the earth slept, the Hosts of Heaven announced the coming of the King of Glory.

 

Response of the shepherds

 

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ND it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” (Luke 2:15)

 

They immediately resolved to go and see what the angels have announced! What has been your response to the Good News of Christ?

 

They ACTED on their spiritual resolution – not slovenly, but with haste! “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:16) Have you hurried to find the Lord of whom the Bible speaks and your pastor preaches?

 

The shepherds immediately proclaimed the Good News of Christ whom they had found: “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” (Luke 2:17) To whom have you proclaimed your discovery of Christ?

 

Response of Others

 

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ND all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” (Luke 2:18)  ( Have you wondered at the Word of Christ? Imagine, all wondered at the words of poor shepherds. There conversation formerly meant nothing, but now they spoke with the authority of faith! 

 

Mary, even after hearing the news of her Son being born of God still pondered these things in her heart. Her human love for her Child may have blinded her to the heavenly love required of her to reverence her Son. “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Have we allowed our human attractions to blind us to the greater reality of God and His dear Son?

 

Have you glorified God in the knowledge of your salvation? “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” (Luke 2:20)

 

Have we, too, glorified God for all of those things that we have seen and heard of Him?

 

Christ came that we might KNOW Him personally, for without knowing Christ, we cannot know the Father.

 

He came that we might become One with us as He is One with the Father. We can only be One with Christ when we have replaced our human self-will with His divine and perfect will. If we are all One in Christ, we cannot be fighting each other in the Church of Christ. 

 

His coming was proclaimed by Light – the Light of the Star of Bethlehem and the Light of the Angel of the Lord. He is the Light of the World (John 8:12) He is the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) And He tells us that we, too, are the Light of the World (Matthew 5:14). Is that a contradiction? Not at all. We have all seen the light of the moon, right? But the moon has no light. It only reflects the light it receives from the sun. So, do we have no light in ourselves – only the light of Christ which we reflect in our lives? If anything comes between us and our Sun of Righteousness, then our light is eclipsed and we are in darkness. We dare not allow the world and its cheap allurements to come between us and Christ!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

God and the Fine Arts – 3 December 2020, Anno Domini


 

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INALLY, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things(Phil 4:8)

 

            In the years of my childhood, I considered the writing of men such as Shakespeare to be silly and trivial; and the great works of art by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt to be vulgar and without meaning; and the musical genius of Bach, Beethoven, Handel, and Mozart simply to be productions of erratic noise. I was not aware, at that age, it was I who was silly, trivial, vulgar, and capable of producing my share of meaningless noise. One day I came into the possession of a wonderful Mirror that revealed to me all of my ugliness and my ignorance of true beauty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord(2 Cor 3:18)  23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  (James 1:23-25)

 

            A leading purpose of real art is to mirror the beauty of God’s Creation, and not to mar it. Unfortunately, that principle has been long forgotten in the minds and brushes of the modern artist who mimics the decadent Picasso instead of emulating the inspiration of Jean-Fran├žois Millet. The modern novelist, or playwright, has been conditioned to believe the more pornographic material he can include, the better. And the great patterns for hymns and uplifting music of which the Book of Psalms are the ultra-standard example have been rejected and discarded as quaint, old-fashioned, and not capable of helping us to “find our groove” – whatever on earth THAT means. So our great and classic hymns of the past gather dust as the modern church opts for the very music that cannot lift our souls to the gates of Heaven, or glorify the God of Beauty and Order at all.  The church has chosen to follow the ways of the world in music, teaching, worship, and community. How sad would be the ancient fathers of the church and the Great Reformers of the 15th and 16th centuries who gave their bodies to be burned in order to preserve truth and reverence in worship!

 

            When I go shopping for commentaries of the Bible, I never purchase one of those written in the modern day. I always select those that are perhaps at least one hundred years old. Perhaps that is why my writing itself is a bit quaint. But I find that the works of older and more ancient writers are not infected with ambition for wealth, for political acceptance, or denominational compromise.

 

            Shakespeare was not especially considered to be a religious writer in his day, but today, the critics would complain of far too much biblical content and too little of “what’s happening now.” He was a baptized Anglican who wrote in the purity of the Elizabethan age. His works are colored throughout with biblical paraphrases and Book of Common Prayer language. Of course, Shakespeare needed more words to tell the same meaning of a single line of Scripture since Shakespeare was human and not divine. God, after all, is the Master Author and capable of the most exalted of the writers skill – presenting truth in the most concise manner unlike the verbosity of human writers. The King James, like Shakespearean plays, is written in a cadence and meter that facilitates memory – unlike the commercial rags that pass for the Bible in modern times such as the ESV, NIV, NASB, etc.

 

            Those who are raised up on the King James Bible will have little difficulty in understanding the writing of Shakespeare for it is written in the same exalted and majestic Elizabethan language  - the only such language fit to glorify God and honor Him. By the way, every language has a reverential dialect that is used for legal instruments and, sometimes, for the worship of God. Let us look at some of the quotes of Shakespeare with the object of finding a biblical parallel:

 

            That most Holy institution God ordained in Eden to mirror the image of His Church is found in Genesis 2:24 – Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Now observe how our old friend William Shakespeare expresses the same Act V, Scene ii, line 357 of Henry Fifth: God, the best Maker of all marriages, Combine your hearts in one, your realms in one! As man and wife, being two, are one in love. It is more likely Shakespeare learned this principle from God rather than God learning it from Shakespeare. Men generally KNEW and read the Bible in his day!

 

            Another quote from Henry V, IV, viii, 106: O God, thy arm was here: And not to us, but to thy arm alone, Ascribe we all! The King James renders the same meaning more beautifully: Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake(Psalm 115:1)

 

            Yet another from Richard II, III, ii, 54: Not all the water in the rough rude sea Can wash the balm from an anointed king. The KJV says: And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD'S anointed, and be guiltless(1 Sam 26:9)

 

            There are countless other similar references in the writings of Shakespeare that stand on biblical principles – in fact thousands – but time and space are insufficient to go further in this devotion.

 

            No one doubts the sculptured beauty of the statue of David by Michelangelo. Such a work was not executed overnight, but after long hours of intense study of the human form in which God created man. The detail of every proportional limb and muscle is precise. This is so because Michelangelo believed true art should attempt to re-create the beauty of God’s own.

 

            There is, I believe at the Louvre in Paris, a sculpture that depicts, in perfect dimension, the Hand of God in forming man. One can visualize the touch of the great Artist of Heaven as He forms man from clay. Rodin, who was the sculptor, said: When God created the world, it is of modeling He must have thought first of all.

 

            Art, up through the Renaissance, gave evidence of greater and growing skill at accurately representing the beauty of God’s Creation. The artist had always strived, from the cave drawings to the ancient icons, to accurately show the beauty and detail of God’s work. But with the advent of so-called modern art, art devolved into a sad morass of degradation and decadence – led by such men as Picasso.

 

            Who would dare claim that the work of da Vinci was not touched by divine inspiration. He was seven years in painting the Last Supper mural on the walls of the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. This art piece went a step further than all previous works of art in several categories. For example, this painting captures, not only da Vinci’s best sense of the scene in the Upper Room, but also an instant in time – the moment Jesus said, One of you shall betray me! The shock and surprise on the faces of the Apostles is remarkable. They wondered Is it I? demonstrating that man knows not his own heart, but God does! Furthermore, da Vinci employed a new technique called “Point Perspective.” All lines on the floor and ceiling converge to a point in Eternity just behind the Mind of Christ. Due to this perspective, all eyes (as da Vinci intended) cannot help being drawn directly to Christ at first glance. How many artist of our day are capable of such thought and meaning. Instead, in our day, devolution of beauty is the object instead of evolution of it. Degeneracy is the goal, and not the beauty of God’s Creation. Satan is very busy in every field of art, isn’t he?

 

            I consider music to be the language of the spirit and, if so, we have very poor spirits in our day. I have read that the character of a nation is evinced by its quality of music. If so, it is no wonder that we have become a nation of poorly educated college graduates, druggies, confused genders, etc. I do not believe that degenerate music led to these shameful circumstances, but that the shameful character of our people has created the degeneracy in music. Even the church itself has opted for heavy metal music whose lyrics are commensurate to the sound created. Instead of trying to dress in a manner to express reverence and dignity, we have chosen ‘casual Sundays’ and ‘beach-wear Wednesdays”. Where is the limit to these vulgar fashions?

 

            Johann Sebastian Bach began, and ended, every musical score with the Latin words, “Soli Deo Gloria!” meaning to the glory of God. Why did he do so? Because Bach believed he was inspired by God to write his scores thinking himself unworthy to write such music on his own.

 

            We all have dreamed and wondered at the beauty of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” It has the aire of Heaven enfolded in its melodic notes. Few people realize that its composer, Vivaldi, was a priest who wrote his music to raise money to provide for his orphanage for girls. There was no motivation in Vivaldi’s heart to acquire a Gold or Platinum label, but only to provide for the needs of homeless young ladies who nobody wanted in olden Europe.

 

            True art lifts our souls and places our feet on Higher Ground. Beautiful music on rainy days, glorious colors of pastoral scenes on canvas during evening hours of growing darkness, and beautifully represented stories that reflect God’s image in written masterpieces during long, lonely hours are the purpose and object of true art – not to mar and disfigure the very Face of God and His beautiful Creation.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Except a Corn of Wheat fall into the Ground and Die – 2 December 2020, Anno Domini



 

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ND Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.   (John 12:23-28)

 

            One grain of wheat will provide very negligible nutrition and its value would swiftly pass; however, if a grain of wheat is planted, how plenteous will the stalk of wheat be at harvest – its head bowed with the weight of many grains!

 

            Our Lord was speaking for the understanding of every soul in earshot – including you and me. In fact, Jesus directed this counsel directly to many Greeks, or Gentiles, who had come to see and hear Him. In spite of the profuse prophesies in the Old Testament, and even our Lord’s own counsel, the Jewish rulers, and others could hardly believe that the Messiah for whom they had waited these long centuries would be permitted to die the death of a malefactor. They supposed He would come, cast off the Roman yoke, and rule with great political and military power – not die on a cursed cross. They could only comprehend the mundane and carnal aspects of life – the spiritual completely escaped their notice. Whatever material advantage could be offered by a Messiah was all they cared for or could comprehend.

 

            The seasonal planting and harvesting of seed crops perpetuate life into the unlimited future; however, to consume all that we have in one harvest, without putting aside seed for planting, will result in the extinction of future crops and famine. The grain MUST be planted in order to perpetuate its existent for the earthly span of time. Christ was our grain of life that must have been planted to perpetuate the life of the believer in the scope of eternity.

 

            A simplified explanation: You may remember a tiny grain of wheat is mostly composed of a strong outer husk to protect the internal components of the seed. Then there is the endosperm which is intended to provide nutrients to the embryonic life of the seed. The embryo is that tiny part of the seed that possesses life which will be given to a new plant that emerges from the seed. That part of the seed that possesses life represents only a tiny part of the whole seed. The seed is planted in the earth by the sower. He nourished the seed with water and protects against weeds and other predatorial factors. But the sower has no influence on what is happening to the seed during the darkness of the earth in which the seed is germinated. The sower has faith that the seed will bear fruit because he has made all conditions ideal for the purpose. 

 

            The same is true of the Christian, called and chosen by God, in whose heart has been planted the tiny seed of life which is granted apart from any merit on the part of the beneficiary. This tiny spark of life is nurtured and fed by the Holy Ghost so a robust spiritual life will emerge in the time of harvest (God’s timing). The unblemished Word of God constitutes that life-giving seed. It may have been planted in the heart of a sinner many days, or even decades of years, earlier; but it will flourish according to the time and discretion of God. The growth of the seed of faith in the believer’s heart will eventually grow, through the process of sanctification, to occupy every chamber and sinew of the heart. In fact, it will overflow into the public square and be a testimony and example to many.  

 

            As the seed grows in the heart, the old sinful man begins to die. His old desires no longer occupy the inclinations of the person so blessed. He or she is a changed person both in disposition and behavior. In reality, the old self has died along with its ‘self-will’ which is often mistranslated to mean free will. Remember, there is no will that is free as long as it is in bondage to sin – and all are in bondage to sin before salvation. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If we truly love life, we will love the Giver of Life, and that is Christ. We shall not only love the Savior’s person, but His way and works.

 

            If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be. This is not merely a figurative description of the destiny of the saint of God. If we follow Christ closely, bearing our crosses daily, we will not flinch at the temptations of the Adversary or his illusory promises. We will bear those crosses wherever the Lord leads us. Some to a loss of material wealth, others to social ostracism, and some to the martyr's death; but all are on that same Narrow path which the Lord has laid out for each life. Whether by a martyr’s death, or natural causes, the saint will arrive at the same resurrection as our Lord in the process of time – where I am, there shall also my servant be. For our benefit here, our Lord Jesus Christ speaks in the future tense. We all have a time and a room of dying, but for those who are secure in the Ark of Christ, there is a wonderful experience beyond our borrowed tombs – in the Paradise of the Lord our God!

 

            Do you feel the darkness around you is smothering? Have you never known the Light of Life? 44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. 45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. 46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.Light reveals those things that could not be seen in darkness. Before Christ, there were four centuries of darkness between the last utterance of the prophet and the coming of Messiah. But Christ came as a Light to reveal truths that were hidden in darkness ere His coming.  2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined(Isaiah 9:2)

 

            That Light is well illustrated, even if by vulgar lips, in Hank Williams’ gospel recording, I Saw the Light! Below are some chosen lines from that song:

 

I saw the light, I saw the light

No more darkness, no more night

Now I? m so happy, no sorrow in sight

Praise the Lord, I saw the light

 

I wandered so aimless, my heart filled with sin

I wouldn’t let my dear Savior in

Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night

Praise the Lord, I saw the light

 

I saw the light, I saw the light

No more darkness, no more night

Now I? m so happy, no sorrow in sight

Praise the Lord, I saw the light

 

Just like a blind man I wandered alone

Worries and fears, I claimed for my own

Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight

Praise the Lord, I saw the light

 

            Friend, have you searched the horizons of the stormy seas of this world for a glimpse of that saving Light of the Great Lighthouse of God?



Tuesday, December 1, 2020

There’s a Star in the East – 1 December 2020, Anno Domini

 


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OW when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  (Matt 2:1-3)

 

            This Advent song begins with a slight error of perception – the Star did not appear on Christmas morn over Bethlehem, but rather in faraway Persia on that morn. The Wise Men saw the Star orbiting east to west in old Persia. They followed that Star to Bethlehem and found the babe already ensconced in a permanent home or house. Most theologians judge the time to be up to two years after the Savior’s birth. Jilted by the Wise Men, Herod was furious: 

 

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HEN Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.  (Matt 2:16-18)

 

This hymn has no known author save the efficacious intercedence of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of simple slaves in America – so simple as to hear the promptings of that Spirit! The song was first published in Slave Songs of the United States, edited by William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison in 1867 and also printed in Religious Folk Songs of the Negro as sung on the Plantations, edited by Thomas P. Fenner, Virginia, 1909 This is all we know of its origin. It is a style familiar in the fields of labor of the old South – antiphonally sung in alternating phrases. The music, too, was invented in those fields by souls anonymous to our knowing.

 

There’s a Star in the East

 

There’s a star in the East on Christmas morn;

Rise up, shepherd, and follow;

It will lead to the place where the Christ was born;

Rise up, shepherd and follow.

Refrain:

Follow, follow;

Rise up, shepherd, and follow.

Follow the Star of Bethlehem;

Rise up, shepherd, and follow.

 

Leave your sheep, leave your sheep, and leave your lambs;

Rise up, shepherd, and follow;

Leave your ewes and your rams, leave your ewes and rams;

Rise up, shepherd and follow. 

Refrain:

 

If you take good heed to the angel’s words;

Rise up, shepherd, and follow;

You’ll forget your flocks, you’ll forget your herds;

Rise up, shepherd and follow. 

Refrain:

 

            1 There’s a star in the East on Christmas morn; Rise up, shepherd, and follow; It will lead to the place where the Christ was born; Rise up, shepherd and followThe Star was truly an Advent sign of the coming birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. That Star, or one meeting the description, timing, and vector, was recorded in 4 BC in the writings of ancient Korean astronomers on wood plates preserved in Haensa Temple in the mountains east of Taegu City. Its foretelling was recorded as Balaam’s Star: 17 I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. 18 And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. 19 Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city(Num 24:17-19) Of course, Balaam was not a righteous prophet. His counsel led to Israel’s sin in the Wilderness. (see 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11, Revelation 2:14) Certainly, the day will come that Balaam shall see the Messiah, but not as a near kinsman, but as a Judge (I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh).

 

            2 Leave your sheep, leave your sheep, and leave your lambs; Rise up, shepherd, and follow; Leave    ewes and your rams, leave your ewes and rams; Rise up, shepherd and follow. [Refrain] You will note, in every refrain of this song, the counsel, Rise up shepherd and follow. This repetitive phrase is intended to be indelibly graven into our minds and hearts. When Abraham received the call of God in ancient Ur of the Chaldees, he immediately packed his bags without delay and launched forth on the journey. Likewise, Matthew delayed not an instant to follow Christ when invited: 9 And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. (Matt 9:9) The same is true of Peter and Andrew:  16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.  (Mark 1:16-18)We must all respond when beckoned by the Lord to follow. He calls us out from our daily labors and gives us a rest, or Sabbath, that is a continual rest.

 

            3 If you take good heed to the angel’s words; Rise up, shepherd, and follow; You’ll forget your flocks, you’ll forget your herds; Rise up, shepherd and follow. [Refrain] This worldly life is base and lowly. But when the Master of our Souls calls us by name, we must ARISE to that higher plane and follow wherever His footsteps lead. From thence will our ways and thoughts be stayed on a higher vision and eternal scope. Forgetting the lowly rags and wraps of the world and looking toward that Robe of Righteousness mad available through our Savior and Redeemer – just as Paul counsels: 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus(Phil 3:13-14) When Christ calls, we have no business to attend of greater gravity. We must not seek to see the property we have purchased, or bury of fathers – for the dead in trespasses and sins will bury themselves. At that call, there is no greater imperative of action than the tiny time scale of NOW! 1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)  (2 Cor 6:1-2)

 

Refrain

Follow, follow;
Rise up, shepherd, and follow.

Follow the Star of Bethlehem;

Rise up, shepherd, and follow.

 

            Without question or hesitation, the Wise Men embarked on a strenuous and difficult journey at the sight of the Star. They did not launch ‘on a lark.’ They had studied the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah as well as the Jewish rabbi’s.  They recognized the reality of the prophecy the moment the Star appeared. Should we do less having received a more sure word of prophecy than they? Their Advent began with the Star and ended in the discovery of the prophesied Savior. They followed the Star. We follow the Lord of whom that Star was herald. It is my prayer that we all of faith shall be in the trail of that great host of Heaven that will attend the second Advent of our Lord. That star of fading brightness on the distant horizon grows in beauty and magnitude in the eyes of all true believers each passing day. Are you one?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

AOC Sunday Report - First Sunday in Advent

 


Happy First Sunday in Advent!

The AOC Sunday Report can be downloaded RIGHT HERE!

There are really great sermons today from Bishops Jerry and Roy, as well as Revs Jack and Bryan.  Bishop  Jerry also wrote a very interesting and involved comment on the Collect.  This Collect is going to be said until Christmas in conjunction with the weekly Collect, so you might want to learn about it.

There are a lot of people who need your prayers, this week is no exception, perhaps more than normal.  Please take the time to pray.  We lost two invaluable matriarchs this week, Loretta and Leah, please pray for their families who of necessity remain behind; Tricia, Whitney, Jenny, Jim, Bob and Shamu all have need of prayer, start with them and move out from there.  Please pray also for our various countries under siege in the name of Covid.

There is potential for an epic week ahead, without the help of that Third God Guy, the Holy Ghost, you won't even know it is there, let alone experience it.

Godspeed,

Hap
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, California
United States of America


First Sunday in Advent



Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action

Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California

Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together because, as is always the case, there is a unifying message in the Scripture for this Sunday. 

 

The First Sunday in Advent

The Collect.

 

A

LMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

 

¶ This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.

 


Today’s Collect, like almost all of them, starts out asking God’s Grace, His Help, His intervention to allow us to turn our backs on evil and our own desires that we might make His Desire our desire. This theme is constant through ought most of the collects for the simple reason that it is truth.  And it is the truth that without God’s intervention in our lives through the help of the Holy Ghost we are doomed to fail. If you will understand how short we fall in our “natural” desire, you will understand to cast off the works of darkness and don the armour of light, we must turn to Christ, who came to visit us, born in a simple and humble inn in Bethlehem.  As His manner of birth, we must be humble as well, not boastful and proud like the rich[1], but meek and lowly, to embrace light and cast off the works of darkness.  We have to let go of our pride in order to be humble and be able to cast off the works of darkness. Though He came in a rather humble manner, He shall return in a glorious and majestic manner, a rather stark contrast to His original incarnation, leaving no doubt who has come to lead us.   

 

The whole point of the Collect, Epistle and Gospel is that we must embrace light and reject the darkness. We do this by allowing the Holy Ghost into our hearts, to shine the light in our hearts and expel the darkness. It is like the light Galadriel gave Frodo in Lord of the Rings, a light to shine in the darkest of times and places and will cleanse our hearts of the inner darkness and will send the darkness scattering like insects. Only then can we truly don the armor of light. We need to train our brains and minds and souls in this way, so that we can act for Christ.  It is like any other skill that we develop, it takes lots and lots of practice of training our minds to do God’s will. We have been called to do these things, as sons and daughters of God, but only with a conscious effort on our part to accept Him and more importantly to listen to Him, can we do these things. To do these things we have to live it. Not just say we are living it, but physically perform the actions needed to live it. 

 

This brings us straight to the Epistle. Paul tells us we need to live the life we aspire to.  He wastes little time on the don’ts which the Jews were famous for getting around, but goes right to the dos; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. By going through the dos, Paul is saying we need to let in the light and allow the Holy Spirit to expel the darkness. We cannot hope to accomplish any of the dos if we do not have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Following God requires us to reject the dark and cling to the light. 

 

Paul cautions us to not borrow for what we do not need that we might owe others nothing but our love.  To know the difference between want and need.  This sound advice is sorely needed in this country these days.  If we do, we are ensuring that we will not have a worldly obligation to any who might hold that over us to influence our path away from that Christ set out for us. We ideally owe no man anything but that of our love.  Paul asks us to love our neighbors, by love he means to take care for them as we would for ourselves or our own close relations.  Not necessarily to “give” them money, but to help them to attain self-sufficiency that they might prosper both in soul and body. 

 

This takes us right into the key theme of the Gospel.  We must not be for God in speech only, but in deed.  The Collect and Epistle and Gospel’s key theme is action. Acting to remain in the light rather than the darkness is the overall message. When Jesus came into this world, He came knowing the true purpose of His coming, He came knowing how He would leave, He came knowing the cost at which our souls would be accounted as perfect. He knew what He had to do to save our souls for eternity.  His whole ministry, including his death and resurrection, can be best summed up in one word; action. He consistently backed up His Message with actions and not just diction. This is a pattern for us to follow as believers; we are called not just to say good words, but back those good words up with actions. Jesus expects us to not just say we believe Him, but to actually believe Him and the best way to accomplish that is through our actions. The story of Palm Sunday is the same as that of the Nativity.   For on Palm Sunday, there was joy in the crowd at the arrival of the Savior, much as there was in the stable at the arrival of the Child Jesus.  Yet, many in the very same crowd who cried “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday were there early on Good Friday.  For what did they cry then?

 

“Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

 

Pilate asked for them to cry for mercy, they cried for vengeance on their Lord and Savior!

 

A swift 180° turn from “Hosanna to the Son of David.”  How quick are men to turn upon a good thing.  As Charles Spurgeon said "It is an astounding thing and a proof of human depravity that men do not themselves seek salvation. They even deny the necessity of it and would sooner run away than be partakers of it."  This is due to our natural inclination to choose the fruit of death rather than the bread of life, which comes from the Baker of Life, Jesus Christ. 

 

The Bread of Life is Christ’s sacrifice for us, and every time we partake of it in Holy Communion and listening to the Gospel and the Epistle, we must always remember the cost of our freedom from death. This Bread did not come to us without a cost, namely His Death and resurrection.  It also comes with conditions, namely we profess Christ as Our Saviour and to put Him first in our lives, love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves. We have heard this before in the Summary of the Law. This is what the Law of God condenses down to, and this is what all laws we set forth must be based upon, for there is no other rational or foundational base so great and solid as Christ. He must be the Chief Cornerstone in our lives, if our lives are to have any meaning. There are those who He is not chief in, and they are those who may vainly profess His name with their lips, but not in their actions. This is a great sorrow for them. They have not kept the Word of God in their hearts, though they may shallowly profess it with their lips. It is action, not diction, that counts!

 

We must not be like them.  We must put on the great Armour of Light and so reject our former lives of sin and vanity. We must switch from our old selfish lives to a new unselfish, Christ filled life.  It is something we always struggle with, but God never gives up on us. We can be comforted by the assurance He will never give up on us. We just have to never give up on Him and do our very best to follow what He says. As long as we repent from our sin and turn back to God in our private prayers and devotions, he will wipe our slate clean. I know I have a hard time keeping on the straight and narrow path, so I am glad He left the Scriptures to guide us.

 

Through following His Word and Instructions, we shall be given a greater reward than anything existent on the Earth; past, present or future, that gift of immortal life, life for all eternity, that will outlast this physical world. To don the armour of light is not merely putting it on, you must utilize the helmet, the buckler and sword (Scriptures and Christ’s teachings).  You need the whole complement of weaponry to go into combat with the Prince of Darkness in this fallen world. And you not only need the complement of weaponry, but we need to train with these weapons. The best way is to be reading Scriptures regularly and discussing the meaning of it with your fellow believers. This way you can ingrain the Scriptures in your heart and be ready to do battle with those who follow the Prince of this World.

 

Make no mistake, we are engaged in a World War with the Prince of Air, the Prince of This World, for the souls of men, starting with our own, a World War which has been going on since the beginning of time. But we know the ending is in our favor for certain, for the Book of Revelation tells us so.

 

As individuals we may not experience victory here on earth. We may struggle with problems in this world and our own, our whole lifespan on this planet. We may not see and savor that victory here on earth; but we know in the end He will be victorious as we know the Savior.  We will win, for we are on His Side.

 

Cast off the dull worn robes of darkness, which lack luster, give no warmth, protect not from heat or cold and put on the shining glorious armour of light.  So kitted up, we walk in light, not in darkness where we may stumble and fall.   Unlike moths, for us light is life, not the destruction of darkness.

 

Come, put on the Armor of Light and go forth to destroy that last enemy, death!

 

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



[1] It is not that worldly wealth is, in and of itself, bad, but rather the attitude it can bring, one of self-worth beyond that which is correct.  Wealth often brings to us a “better than thou” attitude, which soon turns to “Holier than thou.”  The kind of thing that was referred to when Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  Mark 10.25