Follow by Email

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lenten Devotions for 1 April 2011 Anno Domini

Lenten Devotion for 1 April 2011 Anno Domini

1 And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. 2 And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. 4 And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. 5 And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. 6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. 7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. 8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. 9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. 10 And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: 11 This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 12 And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way Mark 12:1-12

This parable is uttered by our Lord in fulfillment of the ancient prophecy found in Isaiah 5:1-7 which identifies Israel as the Vineyard. One point we will be keen to remember is that the judgments rendered regarding the keepers of the Vineyard are not applied to the Vineyard itself. The people of God (Israel) will always remain as the people of God. The Old Testament Church is comprised of men and women who have placed their faith and hope in the coming of Christ. Enoch, Elijah, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, etc - these are
Christians by faith in the promised Savior. We are Christians by our faith in the accomplished Savior.
A certain man planted a vineyard, This certain ‘man’ is God in this parable. God will always have His elect according to His Will and Purpose. He plants the kind of seed that bear the rue nature of His elect and, therefore, knows what progeny will arise. And set an hedge about it: God does, indeed, set a hedge about His people to both protect from predators and to confine to proper limits of behavior. And digged a place for the winefat (or wine vat). This was a vat built under the wine press where the blood (or juice) from the grapes, crushed and pressed, could be collected. Thus the wine vat was the receptacle of the fruits of the grapes. Would it not be a blessing if we, too, would be the receptacles of the blessing of the shed Blood of Christ streaming down as a covering for our sins?

And built a tower The Tower is for our protection. It is the duty station of the watchman (spiritual leaders of His people) to ensure that no thief comes in to steal from the Vineyard. “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (Psalms 18:2) He makes provision for His people – His remnant shall be preserved of all nations.
And let it out to husbandmen For a fair and reasonable remuneration, He leased His Vineyard to Husbandmen. He would not have leased to just anyone who did not bear the reputation of honesty, but these men were not honest. They kept the Vineyard, but they dishonored the owner of the Vineyard, His servants, and even His dear Son whom they would slay. And went into a far country God’s celestial home in Heaven.

And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. In due season God has sent unto His people prophets and ministers to reveal God’s Word and Will. This investment has more often than not resulted in rejection of the servants of God and often their murder instead of a ready and eager acceptance of what God has ordered for our good. This fact is brought out in the continuing narrative: And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Satan has misappropriated the property of God unto himself. That which God intended for good, Satan has corrupted and attempted to destroy and keep from its Maker. Now that the Owner of the Vineyard has performed all reasonable steps to recover His lost property, we may presume that He will yield to these wicked keepers of the Vineyard. We would be wrong to so presume.

Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. This parable is presented in simple and everyday terms. Though the Owner of a Vineyard might send His many servants to reclaim His rightful possessions, it is doubtful that a worldly ruler would send His only Begotten Son into such a den of thieves. But God the Father is no common Lord of the Vineyard. He knows the certainty of the egregious treatment His Son will receive, but His love for His Vineyard makes the cost the worth of it. But 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. (Gal 4:4-5). It has never been the intention of God to abandon us in our great need. He will send His Only Begotten!
So God sent His Son to redeem us! But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. Here Christ draws out the certainty the Elders and Chief Priest of Israel had of His identity. They (the Pharisees and Sadducees) KNEW who He was, but they could not release their greedy grasp upon the Vineyard (People of God). And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard Thus they crucified the LORD of Glory! He was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem on the brow of an ugly hill called Golgotha – all for YOU and for ME!
What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? In order for an offense to be forgiven, it must be repented of. But these buggers were evil to the bone in their intent. The religious leaders manipulated the same men and women who had, less than a week earlier, welcomed Christ into Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna! Now they scream “Crucify Him!” What shall God do to such as reject His Son and re-crucify Him by their sins and transgressions?

He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others There is a warning here to the modern church as well as to ancient Israel: If we be guilty of like offense, we may expect a like reprisal from God. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (Matt 21:43) These words Christ spoke to the Scribes and Pharisees, and He did, indeed, take the Kingdom from them and gave to others bearing the fruit thereof. We would be well-advised to continue to bear fruit for Christ and not for mammon.
And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? There is a story regarding the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza. All stones were cut to individual specifications at the Pharaoh’s quarry and transported to the base of the pyramid as it was being constructed. The workers often cursed at a stone of unusual shape near the pyramid around which they had to toil in pulling the large stones. As the pyramid neared completion, the workers wondered what could be used for a capstone. Suddenly, they realized that the stone which had always been in the way was the very capstone they needed but, alas, it was too late to construct the pilings required to transport the great stone to the top where it belonged. This was the stone which the builders rejected, but which has become the chief cornerstone of the building. And that Stone, dear reader, is Christ!
And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way Cowardly scum, these men. They knew who Christ was beyond any doubt. They were abject sinners! And they left him, and went their way They certainly did leave Christ for all time and Eternity and went THEIR way – not the Way of Christ! Our souls are our most precious possession. Let us safeguard them from offending the One who redeemed us out of our sin and folly. If we have transgressed, this Lenten Season is due time to repent and “go the Way of Christ!”

Lenten Devotion for 31 March 2011 Anno Domini

Lenten Devotion for 31 March 2011 Anno Domini

12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: 13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. 14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. 15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. 19 And when even was come, he went out of the city. 20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. 22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Mark 11:12-26

We now join Christ in His walk from Bethany to Jerusalem. The morning of His walk is just days before His Crucifixion. There is an important point being made regarding the Old Testament Church of Israel. They have rejected their Messiah and the Lord of Heaven. Jesus tells the Chief Priests and Elders of the Temple, only hours later, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matt 21:43). The fig tree will be for us an illustration of the fallen state of the people of Israel.

And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves The fig tree has been symbolic of a good many truths of God’s action among men. After the Fall of Adam eastward in Eden, it was the fig tree which provided an inadequate covering for the nakedness (sin) of the fallen pair. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. (Gen 3:7). The nature of the fig tree is to produce fruit before, or simultaneously with, the putting forth of green leaves. The large chlorophyll-endowed leaves are used to soak up life-giving light from the Sun which is then, through the process of photosynthesis, transformed into the food necessary to produce fruit. The fruit that is naturally produced by the fig tree is its over-weaning purpose to exist. So Christ, yet some distance away, sees the leaves of the fig tree and seems to suppose that such a tree must have fruit; however, this tree has presented a false appearance. It has leaves aplenty, but no fruit (as it normally would have if the leaves were present). And when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves. This is an exact type of the then present Israel. Their leaders claimed great holiness, and wore extravagant garments, but they were fruitless! It may also be an example of the church in our modern times. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof ….”(2 Tim 3:5) Jesus here condemns the fig tree to become that which it already is, but does not appear to be – fruitless forever. Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; The Temple had become a lucrative revenue-producing enterprise for the keepers thereof. Jesus was no wimp. He had been raised in the house of a carpenter, and His physical form no doubt reflected years of heavy exercise. He seemed to have no problem invoking fear and compliance from those money-grubbers whose franchised stalls proliferated throughout the Temple. Men will often take great risks to defend their gold, but these men scurried like cellar rats. It was abundantly clear to them that this Jesus meant business! Many souls were present in addition to the money-changers and Chief Priests and Elders. Jesus counseled them immediately back to the Word: Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. “IT IS WRITTEN!” We have these same cellar rats inhabiting the branches of the modern church. These churches have conducted ‘market-research’ and discovered what message will gain popular approbation from the multitudes with a total indifference to what God has spoken. The cowardly clerics who dared not confront Christ openly in the Temple sought means whereby they might destroy Him in the dark corners of their convocations. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And, of course, they feared the loss of revenue and prestige if the people believed in the Son of God. The example of Christ here confirms the moral provision for righteous anger which seems to have disappeared in the modern church.

As Christ and His disciples passed by the next morning, the fig tree had withered and dried up from the roots up. The root of the Pharisees and Sadducees was hypocrisy and pretention. This root will now dry up and the whole plant will wither (as history teaches us has happened.) Christ now gives a most comforting counsel on the power of prayer: Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Many moderns have presumed much from this counsel that is not there. If we are committed to bearing our cross daily, we shall not pray for anything that it is not already God’s Will to grant!

And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses There is profound significance in these two sentences. The quality of mercy and forgiveness from God, and from His people for each other, is one quality that differentiates Christianity from all other religions. Allah is all hard judgment and condemnation, Buddha has no clue one way or the other, and the Jews still struggle with their lifeless fig tree – but Christ offers forgiveness to all who come to Him. It is understood that we forgive just in the same way our Father has forgiven us – we must forgive even those who may be ignorant of their offense to us. Holy Communion will be observed on Easter Sunday. Have you made preparation in your heart of forgiveness for the occasion?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lenten Devotion for 29 March 2011 Anno Domini

Lenten Devotion for 29 March 2011 Anno Domini

32 And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, 33 Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: 34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again. 35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. 36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? 37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. 38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? 39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: 40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: 44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. 45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:32-45)

This, to me, is one of the saddest accounts given in the Gospel. Christ is fully aware of the humiliation and hurt that awaits Him in Jerusalem. He shares this knowledge, as He has done countless other times, with His Apostles. “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: 34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.” The only explanation that I can imagine for the thoughtlessness and complacency of the Apostles to this warning of Christ can only lie in their unbelief. But this, too, seems implausible for they began to jostle for position in the glory of Christ. Christ’s mind is set upon His soon approaching death of redemption, yet the Apostles are focused on the glorious positions to which they may aspire. Instead of suffering at the dismal prospects of the suffering and death of One “who sticketh closer than a brother” these vain men are concerned about honor and prideful standing. Thanks be to the grace of God that this attitude among them did not persist after the Resurrection! There is a deep-seated lesson in this circumstance for us: we must learn how to suffer with Christ and drink from His Cup rather than seeking the honored seat at the banquet. The cross which we must take up daily is not one of prideful position, but one of dying to self and living for others. This is the Christian spirit and example.

Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? Though Christ has described the Cup from which He must drink, and has informed them of the bloody baptism He must suffer, He must have been hurt that they didn’t seem to understand or, worse, care, about it. One thing Christ knew: these men spoke out of false courage and abject ignorance. Such decisions of position and calling in glory are not established before our races are run, but after. “And they said unto him, We can.” Ignorance is brave and based on this rule, these men were most courageous. “Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: 40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.” It is certain that, though these men lack the courage to drink of the Cup of Christ and suffer the baptism with which He is to be baptized at the present moment, but they will surely acquire this courage and faith by the Grace of God following the Resurrection. We should learn from this example not to be overly sure of our courage and ability to endure persecution. It may be true that the Christian lacks, at sundry times, the conviction and grace to die for His Lord; but, when that day should come, we must trust the grace to be given by God to do so.

And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. Envy and jealousy are the enemies of peace and good order. Contentiousness among the brethren will result, always, in much damage to the Body of Christ. “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: 44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. 45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” The order of government in Heaven is not akin to that exercised by earthly powers. The Apostles are thinking with worldly ambition, but ambition is the opposite humility. In the Kingdom of Heaven those accounted the chiefest among many shall be that one who serves and ministers best as servant to all. Mankind has difficulty wrapping his mind around this concept. As a matter of fact, he cannot do so without the efficacious working of the Holy Spirit in his heart. If Christ is our minister in suffering such atrocious humiliation and death for us, are we less burdened to the same?

My father told me a story of a wealthy investment tycoon in New York City who had begun his working career as a shoe shine boy at the corner of Wall Street and Broad. He worked hard as a young boy and saved some back of his proceeds. Finally, he acquired a little extra in savings and, listening constantly to the freely offered discussion of brokers whose shoes he shined, he invested his money wisely and made more. He continued to invest until he no longer needed to shine shoes and finally became a powerful financial giant of Wall Street. After many years, an old rival friend of the man was passing by Wall Street and Broad. To his surprise, he saw the former shoe shine boy again shining shoes at his former location – except now, he was mature in age. The acquaintance stopped for a shoe shine perhaps more to embarrass his former rival than to get his shoes in order. He smiled and looked down at the old gentleman shining his shoes and said, “Well, Henry, I guess you finally lost it all, didn’t you?” to which the man shining shoes responded, “Not really, Sam. I simply come back to this shoe shine stand once a year and shine shoes.” “But, why?” asked Sam. “So that I may remember where I came from.” was the response.

Do you remember where YOU came from? Have you forgotten that you were a miserable and hopeless sinner before you came to receive the Lord who bled and died for you? Do you feel a burden for other lost sinners who have not the privilege of knowing Christ? We must never forget where we came from. All were dead in trespasses and sin before the Grace of God reached across the galaxies and across the ages down to a poor sinner’s heart and made that heart new!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reflections on fhte Requency of the Lord's Supper

The following study has been taken (by persission of the Rev David Miller) from the website of Redeemer AOC Church in Atlanta (www.redeemeraoc.com):


REFLECTIONS ON THE FREQUENCY OF THE LORD’S SUPPER: A Thought for Ash Wednesday
March 9, 2011 | 0 Comments

REFLECTIONS ON THE FREQUENCY OF THE LORD’S SUPPER: A Thought for Ash Wednesday
by David J. Miller, Ph.D., Vicar, Redeemer AOC, Loganville, GA, 03/9/2011
We receive the gifts and graces of God with much gratitude, but ultimately we need the Giver, not the gift! There’s always a danger that we can focus on the gift and forget the Giver. Faith always has, as its object, the Lord God Himself.
I want to raise a matter that I think is important for us to discuss.
About a year ago, I received an email from our bishop, +Jerry Ogles. He was writing on the subject of weekly Communion, and urging the churches to consider that it was not consistent with the history and practice of the Anglican Orthodox Church. He wrote:
“Bishop Dees (the founder of the AOC) felt, as do I, that the weekly Communion makes the observance of the Lord’s Supper too common and less appreciated. He also believed that it detracts from the sobriety of the event. While there is nothing wrong per se with a weekly observance, there is certainly not anything amiss in the monthly observance… The weekly practice … (was) strongly influenced by the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century whose intent was to take the church back to the apostate practices of Rome.”
The Anglican Reformers of the sixteenth century intended that Morning and Evening Prayer be the main services of the church, with Holy Communion ordinarily on a once or twice monthly basis, and this was how it was until about the last quarter of the twentieth century, when the trend towards Anglo-Catholicism succeeded in bringing about changes. Among those changes were, in addition to weekly Communion, the introduction of Roman-style vestments (like the alb, the chasible and the bishop’s mitre and cape) along with prayers for the dead, which were added to the 1928 BCP. All these trends were increased with the introduction of the 1979 Episcopal prayer book. It wasn’t long before Anglican churches began installing sanctuary lights, which originally were to alert worshippers that the transubstantiated host was in residence in the ombrey, a box attached to the front wall beside the altar (formerly called the Communion Table).
Many in the Episcopal Church and Anglican splinter groups have found the pull towards Roman Catholic ritual and practices irresistible; and I do think it’s important that we take a distinctive stand for the Reformed Faith.
I had always been an advocate of weekly Communion, and I’m taking the time to bring this up because Scriptural and historical facts have influenced me to reconsider that position. I’d like to suggest a monthly observance in the morning service, as a general rule, with observance on other special Sundays and holidays throughout the year as they occur on the Church Calendar. Scripture does not say how frequently we should celebrate the Lord’s Supper; but in the Roman Catholic reaction to the Protestant Reformation, called the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church moved to a virtual idolatry of the Eucharist, elevating it to “the primary act of Christian worship,” hence the weekly observance. Read 2 Kings 18:4-5, Isaiah 1:12-15 and John 3:14-18 with this thought in mind. Mankind may easily slip into valuing the ordinances more than the Lord. I am reminded that John Calvin said our hearts are “idol-factories.”
I do not in any sense want to minimize the importance of the Lord’s Supper, but I do want to keep it in perspective. By observing it monthly, I believe it will actually enhance our appreciation of Communion as a special time of “renewing our vows” to our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is of His renewal of His covenant promises to us.
Bishop J. C. Ryle’s comments may be helpful here:
“We see continual proof that the Lord is not tied to the use of any one means exclusively in conveying grace to the soul. Sometimes He is pleased to work by the word preached publically, sometimes by the word read privately. Sometimes He awakens people by sickness and affliction, sometimes by the rebukes or counsel of friends. Sometimes He employs means of grace to turn people out of the way of sin. Sometimes He arrests their attention by some providence, without any means of grace at all. He will not have any means of grace made an idol and exalted, to the disparagement of other means. He will not have any means despised as useless, and neglected as of no value. All are good and valuable. All are in their turn employed for the same great end, the conversion of souls.”
All of these considerations give the lie to the idea that the Eucharist is “the primary act of Christian worship.” That just is not true, and it is another example of theological fuzzy (at best) thinking, not only from the Roman Catholic position, but also from among many of today’s Anglicans. It’s difficult to find any one “primary act” of worship; if we could, I think it would have to be something general that would incorporate all the elements expressed so well in the Prayer Book’s introduction to the prayer of confession for Morning Prayer, (BCP p. 6):
“And although we ought, at all times, humbly to acknowledge our sins before God; yet ought we chiefly so to do when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul.”
The “primary act” of worship, thus Scripturally understood, would have to be something like this: “To come together with God’s people to offer God the gratitude of our hearts for all His blessings to us in Christ Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Such a definition would be an example of maintaining the Scripture’s balance.
When we serve Holy Communion each week, we also never get to use the services of Morning or Evening Prayer, which is, I think, a loss. Remember that it is by the Spirit’s activity in ministering the Word to our minds and hearts that our Lord Christ makes Himself known to us. The sacraments are, to quote St. Augustine, “visible words,” and along with preaching (the Word explained) and fellowship/discipline (the Word made practical), are one means of grace, not the sole means of grace.
We always need to be aware of the necessity of maintaining balance in our ministry. In times of brutal persecution, we might need to have Communion every time we gather together, but in more ordinary times, we may need a different balance. Historically, the churches that have over-emphasized the sacraments have tended to de-emphasize the teaching ministry of the Scripture, and that we must never do. By the same token, there are some churches today that so de-emphasize the sacraments and preaching, that music and emotional experience have become the idolatry! Always the issue of worship comes down to balance. We need “to think and act Biblically.”
Our goal and prayer must always be to honor the Holy Spirit’s balance revealed in Scripture. This balance is to be expressed in every aspect of the Church’s life and ministry. Let us increase our expectations in faith of the Spirit’s working in all ministries of His Word, whether by reading, teaching, song or sacrament, always “waiting upon the LORD:”
Psalm 27:14 14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
In the service of our Lord Christ,
David+

Lenten Devotion for 28 March 2011 Anno Domini

Lenten Devotion for 28 March 2011 Anno Domini

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 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. 26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. 28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. Mark 10:17-31

God hides many precious gems of truth in His Word, and He does so in the most concise use of words. He tells us more in one sentence than great authors can do in a large volume. Our literary and intellectual faculties, though they may be noteworthy, are useless to open the hidden truths in God’s Word unless our hearts be in earnest for Christ.

The unmitigated Grace of God extends to people of every background and social standing; to the Centurion as well as to the man stricken of leprosy; to the poor blind man as well as to the well-heeled man of the Sanhedrin; and to the depraved and violent as well as to the morally upright, though faithless, man of society. God has chosen His elect from all these varieties of people. We should not trouble ourselves so much with ‘why God has chosen others’ as to make our own election sure in Christ.

We are presented, in today’s text, with a man who “came running” to Christ and “kneeled” before Him in the way. The young man has done well so far. He runs to Christ. He kneels to Christ. This, must we all do if we come at all. But true faith is revealed in the wholeness of our lives and not in an instant of it. The young man’s salutation, as well as his question, begins to run amiss of the mark: “Good Master” means, in the vernacular of the day, ‘Good Teacher”. Is that ALL Christ is to this young man? His salutation would have been more fully informed to call Him “Good Lord” for reasons to be revealed in the continuing dialogue. And the young man’s question also is full of error in understanding: “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” What is wrong with this question? Well, first of all, we do not INHERIT eternal life – it is a free gift of Grace. Secondly, the question presumes that we may be saved by our good works. It is not what we DO that brings salvation, but the One in Whom we believe!

Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God? This is a question pregnant with meaning. Christ reveals the man’s ignorance of Christ’s Person and Nature. Does this man recognize Christ as God? There is none good but God. Christ is good because Christ is also God. None other of our race can say, finally, that we are good. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) and “…..there is none righteous, no, not one!” (Rom3:10). This rhetorical question is intended to provoke a spark in the young man’s mind, and in ours. Do we know that Christ is ALL good, and that we lack WITHOUT good apart from the imputed righteousness of Christ?

Christ then reminds the young man of the Commandments by citing five only. “….Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live” (Prov 4:4). The Lord is preparing the young man’s mind to grasp his failure, as well as the falsity of his claim, in keeping the Commandments of God. The young man responds : “And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” It is quite possible that the young man has been conscientiously faithful to these five Commandments mentioned, however, he has been remiss in keeping the most important one – the very first that God wrote with His very finger on the Tables of Stone: “ I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. (Deut 5:6-7) This wealthy young ruler allowed wealth to eclipse his full loyalty to God!

My heart is moved at the compassionate and gentlemanly approach Jesus takes in opening the eyes of this man. The moment he came to Christ, all of his shortcomings were known by Jesus, yet Christ did not hurl claims of sin and shortcomings at the man. He gently and knowingly guides the man to recognize the needful lacking in his soul. Unfortunately, the young man could not go the distance.

Jesus loved this young man when He heard his simple response which the young man, no doubt, truly believed. But Jesus will open the man’s eyes to see the answer to the question which he had brought to Christ. “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

It is possible to come near the Kingdom of Heaven and, yet, not be admitted. Christ congratulates, kindly, the young man’s zeal in trying to live righteously, but also points out that none of us can do so apart from the righteousness of Christ. – “One thing thou lackest” It is this ONE thing that makes all the difference in our Coming to Christ – the One Commandment that supersedes all others! The omniscience of Christ revealed to Him that this young man placed his riches above all other considerations. He loved well, but that love fell short of the mark. Look at the loving counsel of Christ to this poor sinner (unaware of his depravity):

“Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” So simple, isn’t it? But yet so difficult. “If they right hand offend thee, cut it off!” Whatever it is that keeps us from coming all the way to Christ, dismiss it summarily and choose the greater good. There is no evil in “possessing many things” unless the love of those many things keeps you from coming to Christ. All men desire that their investment be place at the most secure place, and return the greatest benefit. There is no greater security than that of heaven, and no greater return of interest.

“Take up the cross, and follow me.” Oh! Is THAT all? Yes, I’m afraid it is! How unattractive the cross compared to opulence and power! The garden hoe is the least distinguished of all tools, yet is the one tool that makes food for the table possible. Would we want to expect the resurrection to life eternal? If so, we must die to self and abide in Christ. We must walk the ‘Via Dolorosa’ with Him. We must carry that instrument of sacrifice on our way and all the way. Never mind those who stand by the wayside hurling words of ridicule and contempt. Christ rose on the third day according to the Scriptures. If we would rise, we must rise in Him!

This cross was too much for the young man. He wanted eternal life, but it was, to him, a business deal. It was not worth the investment required. So he went away sorrowful – almost, but not quite, saved.

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. There is a story (I know not if it is true, but consistent as an illustration) that the Eye of the Needle was a small and low gate on the north of Jerusalem. Because of the inconvenience of making entry there with their camels, many merchants with their camels elected to circumnavigate the city and enter at the south gate since it was less harrowing. To enter the Eye of the Needle, the merchant must cause his camel to kneel, remove the burdens of merchandise from its back, and literally crawl through the gate. This is the manner by which we come to Christ – on bended knee and our burdens removed by Him ere we make entry to His Kingdom. Yes, we must count the ost prior to signing the contract, but, once signed, the counting stops. Have you allowed Christ to remove your unbecoming yoke and burden? If not, do so this very day of Lent, and remember: “With God all things are possible! Believest thou this, friends?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lenten Devotion for 27 March Anno Domini

14 And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. 15 But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. 16 And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. 18 If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. 19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. 20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. 21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. 23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. 24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. 25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. 26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. Luke 11:14-28

When Jesus, with a voice more powerful than any other uttered in history, called out the name of Lazarus, Lazarus was immediately restored to life. There was no period of convalescence. He came forth promptly from the tomb that had heretofore not needed a door of departure – only an entrance. Now we read of Christ casting out a demon and, forthwith, the one who had been dumb spake in evidence of the demon’s hasty departure. There is no demon that can withstand the power of that Voice!

But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils There will always be those of dark and wicked character that will dare question even the righteousness of heaven and assign questionable motives thereto. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). This horrendously evil motive these men assign to Christ rises to the level of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost! Beelzebub was the Philistine god of Lord of the Flies. They assign the power of Christ to heal the sick and raise the dead to this god whose only evidence of giving life arises from the maggots that hatch from the eggs of flies on dead bodies, or even excrement. The estate of these men is in the gravest of jeopardy.

And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. So what greater sign from heaven do these fools need than to see life restored to dead men, or sight restored to the blind, or demons cast out of the dumb? Yet, they are not seekers of truth for their motive is to tempt and not to trust. But Christ is not deceived by the dark and ugly hearts of these men for He sees clear down to the hidden filth of those hearts – He KNEW their thoughts before they spoke them. “A house divided against a house falleth” He now presents them with a dichotomy of reasoning: “If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.” This opens up a serious flaw in their argument and reveals the absurdity of their claim! Jesus’ question is rhetorical in nature – “If Satan also be divided against himself?” Satan’s kingdom is intact in the hearts of the tormentors of Christ and it is NOT divided else it could not stand as it does until Christ has dispensed with it.

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. Christ is God the Son. His Finger is the Finger of God, and with that Finger, He cast out devils! Satan would never stand for his own to be cast out, so this is absolutely the power of God and not Satan that cast out devils. Every miracle, every pitched argument, proved the divinity of Christ. It was without question!

When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: Jesus pursues the point even further! The strong man is Satan. He was the god of this world hitherto. But now a stronger than Satan has arrived on the scene. The goods of the strong man’s palace are no longer secure. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. Christ has come upon Satan and driven him out. He has disarmed him and exiled him. No longer can Satan claim sole ownership over the souls of men. Christ has made remedy for their bondage in His Cross.

You may smugly consider yourself on better ground than these men who opposed Christ. But if your heart is not in commitment to Christ, think again! “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth” It is not enough simply to abstain from opposition to Christ – you must be in a committed relationship FOR Him and WITH Him!

Most of us have learned some basic points in political science lately. We have come to understand that a power vacuum will not remain a vacuum very long. A vacuum demands invasion! “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.” When a person turns away from his wickedness, he empties his heart and cleans it of the dreaded habits of immoral conduct. But he is, in fact, without power to do so. Even if he could do so, the premises are vacant and demand occupation. The outcast demon will return to that heart and bring along his decadent buddies! We cannot rid our hearts of sin! We must invite Christ to enter into all the hidden chambers of our heart and He will do the cleaning (sanctification) and, if the whole heart is His, there will be no room for devils!

And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.” Christ is teaching earnestly regarding spiritual darkness and evil. But this woman, though speaking truth, lowers the level beneath the dignity which the situation required. She brought in the carnal elements into an otherwise strictly spiritual discussion. Christ gently reprimands her: “, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” We may know the Gospel of Christ backward and forward, and many lost souls do, indeed. But knowing the Word of God, and LIVING the Word of God are not synonymous. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Rev 22:14) We are not saved by our good works – we are saved by Grace unto good works. If our lives do not evidence true faith in God, than the absence thereof is evidence of our lack of standing in Christ.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lenten Devotion 26 March 2011

Lenten Devotion for 26 March 2011 Anno Domini

45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. 46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. 47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. 49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. 53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. 54 Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples. 55 And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? 57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him. John 11:45-57

The miracle which Christ has just performed is not subject to doubt. ALL who witnessed the miracle were convinced of its authenticity. There are two responses to this amazing miracle of Christ that we observe in the text: 1) Belief and submission - Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. 2) Belief accompanied by rejection - But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. You may doubt this last conclusion of belief, but look at the continuing context: 47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles Those who saw the miracle, and yet rejected Christ, carried their message to the Pharisees who believe the reported miracle. The messengers (those who rebelled at Christ on seeing the raising of Lazarus) must have been convincing! Men will often go to great lengths to rationalize away the truth in favor of a lie. In this case, the deliberations of the Pharisees were nebulous and informed of political concerns (sound familiar?). Truth was not the point – politics and jealousy WERE!
48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. Why did these men conclude that all men would believe on Christ were He to be left alone? Because the evidence was overwhelming, even in their sight, that Christ was precisely who He claimed to be!

There was one man present at this conference who was wicked beyond all measure and, yet, he was the High Priest. He was a man who coveted power and hated righteousness. With Caiaphas, the end (his end) always justified the means. Righteousness was not considered in his judgments. But God uses even the wicked to pronounce His will at times particular, and this was that particular time. Even oblivious to the supreme truth of his utterance, Caiaphas, as High Priest, uttered a definite and true prophecy: 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. Not just the nation of Israel, but for the people – ALL people! The text reads: 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. That is, all Israel, or all the people of God. The will of God in His redemption of His elect would be accomplished at the hands of evil men. Those who hated Him most would be the very agents for assuring His victory over death and sin!

What is the fruit of the ungodly? 53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. If we stand not with God, we stand with the adversary of our souls, and thus the Pharisees chose their estate in Hell. To reject Christ is to go over all the way to evil. We read about these men and others like them in Isaiah 59:7 - Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.

Because He knew their intentions and belligerence, Christ avoided the Jews until the time would be ripe for His offering Himself up. The lesson for us is to walk not among the ungodly unless it is according to God’s plan and, then, only if a righteous reason exists. Do not over-tempt evil emotions.

And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand It certainly was at hand, and how much so, little did they know or comprehend. The type always foreshadows the fullness of that typified! Christ, from Eternity Past, has ever been our Passover. He it is who is the “Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world!” The innocent and spotless little lambs could not atone for sin, but their innocent blood foreshadowed the One who could, indeed, atone. When the Angel of Death descended upon the land of Egypt that fateful night preceding the exodus, His penetrating eye spotted at once the homes over whose doorposts and lintels the blood of the lamb was applied, and He saw the blood (in type) of the only Begotten of the Father – and He passed over. What blessed assurance do we of the flock of Christ have that this same Angel shall surely PASSOVER us at that last day coming when He sees the blood under which we abide!

Amazing! As if on cue, these bloodthirsty hypocrites, knowing that Passover was approaching, did not seek out a usual Passover lamb, but looked from the Temple porch for that Lamb of God so promised to appear. Many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple.
What astounding blindness! They even put out warrants to find Him and bring Him to the altar of sacrifice. They needed not wait long, for instead of being drawn by force to the place of sacrifice, Christ made a royal entry into it just hours later………

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lenten Devotion 25 March 2011

25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, tho, Lord: I believe that though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. 30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. 31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. 32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? 38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. John 11:25-44

I feel that we have been climbing a great, lone mountain in this chapter. Christ now utters a mighty and profound truth around which our salvation is gathered: I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. His is the life that transcends all time and eternity. His promise is the life that continues beyond the grave. Though we die in this mortal body, yet we are alive in our Ark of Christ which rises all the higher the greater the calamity below. Only God’s clearly stated Word can do justice to this promise and our descriptive adjectives fail us to come near in explanation. 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? Whosoever liveth and believeth? Once our last breath is taken, there is no longer opportunity for decision – it must be made while we yet live in these bodies. We must not gamble away valuable moments – NOW is the time of decision for Christ! Though he were dead, yet shall he live! There is no death in the life of the Christian. If we are safe in our Ark of Christ, we shall rise as the Ark has risen! NO DEATH!

Do not overlook the significance of the first two words of Jesus’ statement – “I AM!” - not I was, or I shall be, but “I AM” from before the foundations of the worlds and beyond the dying of the suns. If we are in Christ, WE ARE from this time forward beyond the Space-Time Continuum and into Eternity Future. The comforting point is that this also includes the dead (in our sense) in Christ!

The faith of Martha gives off a spark on understanding, but the whole understanding is yet to be realized. But she believes enough to know Him. Yea, Lord; I believe thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. We may not comprehend (and certainly cannot) the fullness of the character of God, but to believe and know His Son is sufficient of faith.

And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee It appears that Martha, in her characteristic zeal to ‘get the job done’, has told a little white lie to her sister for it is not recorded that Christ asked for Mary. Of course, such a casual request may not have been recorded. But we are told that Martha called Mary “secretly”. She knows, perhaps, that Mary is hurt by what she misconceives as her ardent love for Christ being scorned by His seeming indifference to the predicament of her brother Lazarus. Not knowing the power and mind of Christ, Mary cannot know what Christ is about to do. We are told that Mary, on hearing Martha’s report, arose and came to Christ quickly. This is the same Mary who loved to sit at the feet of Christ. Now she has sat in her parlor delaying going out to Him at first as Martha had done. The Jewish friends who had come to the house to mourn the loss of Lazarus were blind to that love that compelled Mary forth to Christ. In their reasoning, she was “gone to the grave to weep there.” In fact, Mary had not gone to the place of death, but the One in whom there was no room or place for death –“the Resurrection and the Life!” Yet, when she fell at His feet, Mary asked the same question as her sister: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Though an outright statement, the statement is an implied question.

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept. Why did Jesus groan in His spirit at the sight of the mourners? He was troubled. Why? We are not told outright, but the context of the scene, as well as knowing the nature of Christ, are indicators of the reasons. He did not groan for Lazarus for He knew that Lazarus was not finally dead. He was not troubled over the sorrow of the women, for He knew their sorrow would be turned to joy in a matter of minutes. It is possible that Christ was troubled that His friends, who had known Him intimately and seen His many works of wonder, did not seem to know Him fully – that He was the Lord, also, of Life itself. “Jesus wept.” Though the shortest verse in the Bible, it is also the most poignant. I am often impressed with the notion that my own lack of faith and obedience may cause a precious tear of Christ to well up in His eye of love and compassion.

Some of the Jews remarked: “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” They focus is upon death and not upon the LIFE that Christ offers.

Jesus said, Take ye away the stone! What powerful command is this! God will do a work that no man has before witnessed, yet He allows us a part in the work. We may roll away the stone to demonstrate our faith that something of wonder will be done by our Lord.
How many stones of ignorance and faithlessness block the way of sinners in coming to Christ? May our living and teaching not remove some of these cumbersome stones from their way? We are now to witness a profound and memorial event!
Martha simply cannot believe the power of the Christ whom she knows to be the literal Son of God. Her ability to see beyond common measures is limited by her lack of fully understanding what it means to be the Son of God. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. She, too, is focused on the tragedy of death and not the hopefulness of life. In her understanding, the length of death is a measure of the eternity of it. Though Abraham died thousands of years ago, yet he lives today, for God is not the God of the dead, but the living!

Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? As I write these words, I am overcome at the intensity of this statement! Though we may be secure in our salvation, yet we still are unable to comprehend the immensity of the power of God. In my private prayers and devotions, I often repeat the words of the father of the child possessed of a devil: 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. Mark 9:23-24 The mighty powers of heaven are about to be concentrated on the least of all things – a dead body in a stone tomb in an unremarkable community in an unremarkable land, and that before observers who cannot comprehend the measure of the miracle about to be performed before their very eyes!

41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. If Christ can return thanks to His Heavenly Father for granting the powers to do great good, can we not also return thanks for His doing of the great good to us? Our lives are a sermon to the unbelieving world.

. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. Are my ears worthy to hear this final commandment, even to ears that are dead? Yes, Christ spoke with a loud voice – so loud that it penetrated the stone casing of the tomb. So loud that it entered and fell upon the ears that had been dead four days (no matter the length of time). So loud that it transcended the eternities of time. So loud that the Voice entered in the dead and lifeless heart of Lazarus and thereby sparked an impulse that made that dead heart no longer dead. The heart responded, and life-giving blood again pulsed through a body that had already begun decay. No longer! The very cells and tissue came alive and responded to that Loud Voice! Death cannot exist in the presence of life. Darkness cannot abide the force of Light! Spirit of Lazarus was returned to his lifeless body, and Lazarus WAS ALIVE! That Loud Voice echoes down the annals of time and completely off the charts into eternity! That same Voice will one day beckon to another dead body that belongs to you and me and all others who know Christ as Lord and Savior.

And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Lazarus, because of the habits of mankind, was bound hand and foot in grave clothes. He was blinded, too, by the napkin that covered his face. Without Christ, we, too, are bound hand and foot by our deadness in sin. We are blind and know not the way. But Christ commands, “ Loose him, and let him go How can I add any word of meaning to this last command? It sums up the whole of what Christ does for us if we only will believe and come to Him in faith. His Grace will set us free!

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. Psalms 23:1-6

I feel a great reluctance in preparing this devotion on the 23rd Psalm. Its beauty, majesty, and high spiritual character render it above any human capacity to expand upon. So please view my commentary thereon as a simple statement of what the Psalm means to me.

The LORD is my shepherd This is the beginning point of every Christian walk – to know and acknowledge Christ as our Shepherd. He made us, sustains us, and calls us to Him. No other cares for us as He does. All others simply desire to use us and to ruin us in the process; but Christ loves His sheep. He eats, sleeps, and keeps watch with them day and night. He has given His very Life-Blood for them. This, a stranger will not do. He is always conscious of our needs and feeds us.

I shall not want All of our needs will be provided by the Shepherd. Those desires we have that will not benefit, but harm us, He will with hold. But our wants (those needs we have to sustain us in our journey and being) He will see to. We are mere sheep and cannot know where the pastures of feeding will be found for the morrow, but He knows and makes provision for our being led to them.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures Sheep are fickle creatures. They are reluctant to lie down just any place. They will shy away from lying down where they do not feel secure (it is difficult for them to arise due to the structure of their legs). They will not lie down unless they are first fed. They will not lie down where pests will annoy them. They only lie down where they are secure, well-fed, and serene.

He leadeth me beside the still waters. To those who love the Shepherd, all waters are still waters to them. They have peace in spite of the external havoc that may exist around them. The waters of the Lord are still and deep! His provision of the waters of life is boundless and pure. Though we wander in the wilderness of the world, to our eyes and thirst will always be visible the Still Waters of the Lord.

He restoreth my soul Because we are as sheep compared to the Providence of God, we often fail and falter. We loose confidence in our walk. But He lifts us up and gives us new hope. Are we weary? He encourages us by His Voice –“ just a bit further in the journey and we will have found the new pastures to which I am leading you.” When we are too tired to proceed, He lifts us to His breast and carries us near His Heart just as the shepherds do until this day. His Voice is uniquely different from every other voice and we respond to it as sheep do to their shepherd.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. He only leads continually in the right way to sanctify us and improve our lives. As the Psalmist says: “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies." Psalms 25:10. Through our obedience and righteous living, we glorify our Shepherd. All the other shepherds stand in awe at the orderly and loving company of His flock.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; For me, this is the most powerful line in the Psalm. I call to the bar the following two witnesses: 1) 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. (Matt 4:16) and 2) Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. (John 8:51). The last witness, the Lord Himself, assures us that we may only view the ‘shadow of death’ but a shadow is not the real thing, but only a spectre. The Ark offered complete security for Noah and his family because they stood WITH God. The Ark of Christ is always and forever the safe place. He is with us even in the valley of the ‘shadow of death’. We need not fear for the Shepherd is with us, and where He leads is always to a place of greater and more abundant blessing.

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me The Shepherd’s Staff is both a Rod and a Staff. The top end has a hook in it to rescue those little lambs who fall in the rocks and crevices. The Shepherd pulls them from places of danger with His staff. But the bottom end of the Staff is a sharpened Rod. It is used to prod the sheep who attempt to wonder into danger. The Lord uses both in leading us in life’s journey. If we remain alert and obedient, the Shepherd will not need the use of either end of His Staff.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies No matter the presence of strong enemies in the field arrayed against us, the Shepherd will take measures to feed His sheep. He feeds us with the food that is comfortable for us. The greenest grass on the slopes and valleys of pasture is our food. The enemy (wolves, lions, dogs) lurking around the perimeter of the flock cannot eat our food. It is not suitable to them for they must have blood only. So He feeds us before them.

Thou anointest my head with oil He takes time and care to anoint us with the oil of the Holy Spirit. So anointed, we appear refreshed and present a pleasant fragrance by our love and obedience to our Shepherd.

My cup runneth over Certainly, there are moments in which a child of God can barely handle the enormity of love and spiritual blessing flowing from God’s Hand to us. The world often wonders how a Christian can seemingly be overcome with troubles and yet give every evidence of joy and happiness in his state. I have discovered that the best method to dispel sorrow or depression is to sing the Godly and classic old hymns of the church – the same I have heard from my mother’s lips as a child. God does not only fill our Cups ….He fills them to overflowing. As we drink from our cups, they remain still full and still overflowing. His Grace is a well-spring of Living Waters.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life SURELY! Beyond any doubt or question! Even the judgments of God are mercy for His people. His Hand of blessing will follow us everywhere and all the time, even to the end of our earthly journey and, yes, beyond into eternity!

I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever The most palatial mansion awaits those who wait upon the Lord. The Home of God is our Home! We will abide there, not as servants, but as sons and daughters forever and forever. All that He owns He has given to His beloved children, but the greatest gift of all will be the fellowship with Christ, with the Holy Spirit, and with God the Father. We shall then eat freely of the fruit of that Tree which was taken from the Garden because of the sin of Adam. We shall dwell together in heavenly places, and love each other and our God.

The depth and beauty of this great Psalm is beyond our complete understanding. Our attempts to render all of its majestic beauty from the few short lines of it will always be a humiliating failure for God’s every Word is so pregnant with meaning that the depths of the Sea are insufficient to fathom the fullness thereof. This Psalm is like a precious gem, or diamond. When held up to the light, one sees striking rays of gleaming blue. Another will see bold shafts of golden beauty. Another observer, looking at the same stone, will see effulgent white, green or red. Is there a disparity of meaning? Do we see the same stone wrongly? Not at all for God is Light. His Light is White and pure. White Light is composed of every color in the rainbow! It takes all colors combined together to produce white. God is all of those Colors. He provides different glimpses of Himself to each of us according to our present need and ability to see.

May this Lenten Season be one which climaxes in a multitude of gems of new truth and knowledge for everyone who seeks the face of the Lord.