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

Verse of the Day

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Devotion for Thursday, 30 June 2011 Anno Domini Acts 10, one thru 23

Devotion for Thursday, 30 June 2011 Anno Domini Acts 10, one thru 23
“1There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, 2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: 12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. 17Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee. 23Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.” (Acts 10:1-23)
Today’s text has been misapplied and misinterpreted often to justify the repeal of the Old Testament food laws. Regardless your opinion concerning the food laws, this passage has nothing to do with repeal of them. It addresses a totally different subject as we shall see. It introduces a new thing in the providence of God – the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Church of God.“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.” The courage, valor, and conviction that attend a man in the profession of arms are not unlike that required in the army of God. It is quite true that many who are in that profession fall far beneath the ideals for which they have been sent to do battle, but so do many Christians fall short of courage, valor, and conviction. Working closely with military flight training officers over the years, I have found them much more inclined to serious faith than the general population. Moreover, he does not advocate war, but is responsible more form maintaining peace. “The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his farewell address to Congress. This man, Cornelius, is a centurion (equivalent to an Army captain) who is devout and fearing of God. He is generous as well in almsgiving and prayer. Such a man is a star on the escutcheon of any people or nation. He had outgrown paganism and searched for something real and substantial in God. He fasted and prayed which is more than many veteran Christians of today. He brought his entire family and household of servants to God.
“He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour (3 PM) of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” This may be the Lord Himself for the angel did not reject the title, Lord. Naturally, Cornelius was afraid. What similar appearance had been made to a Gentile, and one who commanded Roman troops? His innocent and childlike response at the vision sums up the character of this man of arms. Cornelius had prayed in humble petition to God and he may now rejoice in receiving a surprise answer to those prayers. I am forever amazed that believers remain surprised when God answers our prayers so completely.
“And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.” This is the first step in the answer to prayer. The vision has come to Cornelius to confirm that the prayers are heard. God will undertake a process whereby his prayers of enlightenment will be fully answered. Quite often, our prayers are answered in such steps and not all with one confirming seal! Find Peter and he will tell you what needs to be done. He provides both name and address. “And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually.” Cornelius does not procrastinate in following orders. He is accustomed to responding to orders with promptness and attention to detail. He calls for two servants, and one trusted veteran soldier. “And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.” A good officer never sends his men on a mission with less than full disclosure of facts. So Cornelius declares all to his servants and knows that his orders will be followed.“On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour (or 12 Noon).” God has prepared Cornelius for the occasion, and now He will prepare Peter for the matter. The timing of God is always perfect! “And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance.” God even provides Peter with an appetite to make greater drama for his soon-coming vision. “And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.” Beasts of every kind were presented to Peter at a moment of great hunger, and the beasts were of all manner of unclean animals which God had proscribed in the food laws. In the vision, God makes a command that does not seem reasonable to Peter: And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.” It would be especially awful for Peter to eat these creatures in abrogation of the food laws of God, but God is teaching Peter another lesson, not of food laws, but of millions of people whose salvation has been assured. “But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” It would have repulsed Peter to so eat.
“And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” The commandment here seems contradictory to Peter, yet, whatsoever God commands, we must obey even if we do not fully understand. Should we look down on a brother or sister in Christ for reasons based on station or education, we would also be in danger of displeasing God for whatsoever He has received, we must also receive.
It seems that poor Peter is so hard-headed that all must be repeated to him thrice! Christ told Peter that he would deny Him thrice before the crowing of the cock, and then Christ (to open Peter’s eyes) asked him “Lovest thou me more than these?” thrice. Now the voice is the vision is repeated thrice. “This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.”
“Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate, And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.” Please note the timing as suggested earlier. As soon as the vision had been completed, the very objects thereof stood at Peter’s gate. And what was the object of the vision? That Cornelius and his household, representative of the Gentile peoples, were declared clean and worthy of heaven. Peter would not grasp the full meaning until a bit later as the situation fully develops.
“While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” Not only was the command of the vision repeated thrice to Peter, but now three men await him at his gate. “These men are now strangers to you, but they are not strangers to me,” God seems to say to Peter. Do not doubt or mistrust. God has sent them. However God acts, or in whatsoever thing he says, do not doubt but follow.
There are times when God sends us on missions whose object is completely unknown to us and may even appear unreasonable; however, as good soldiers, we must obey orders from the higher command that knows the details. “Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?” Peter does not now know the cause, but he shall soon learn of it.
“And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.” This may have not made a lot of sense to Peter since a Roman Centurion would, necessarily, be a Gentile. He nevertheless believes there is some connection between the vision and his guests. He does not rush away as is his natural trait, but lodges these men on plans to depart on the morrow.
“Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.” Though Peter did not know these men, God had instructed him to doubt nothing and go with them. Peter would obey as he always had done once his hunger was satisfied by the Galilean Waters.
It may be that you are in prayer for a Godly desire and are awaiting the answer. And it may also be true that God is preparing your heart for the answer and preparing another means for its complete solution in a fellow Christian whom you have never met nor of whom you have ever heard. Doubt nothing, but follow the Word of the Lord.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Devotion for St Peter the Apostle, 29 June 2011

Devotion for Wednesday after Trinity Sunday, 29 June 2011
“32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. 35And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. 39Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. 40But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.43 And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.” (Acts 9:32-43)
After serving a few decades as a minister, and the last as a bishop, I have a confession to make. It is a confession that I now make generally and one which I have shared with my understanding wife: there is another woman in my life! In fact, there are many. My wife has understood completely, for the same ladies are in her life as well. The particular woman in my life to whom I refer today is the disciple, Tabitha! I love Tabitha and, I believe, if she could know me today, she would love me, too. Tabitha loved all the Christian people of her community and, especially, the widows. So Tabitha, when I read of her, I know her heart and I love what I see inside. The same is true of Ruth, Rachel, the Mary’s, Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist and also the Elizabeth who is our secretary), and Debbie my own loving wife. But I venture too far ahead. Let us go to the whole text for today in Acts 9:32-43.
“And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.” When God says, “and it came to pass”, he generally has a surprise for us and this time is no exception. We are continually surprised at the grace and foreknowledge of God and in His providential guiding hand in leading His ministers where He wants them to go. Now comes Peter who had just been fleeing persecution but who now comes in the power of the Holy Ghost to Lydda, a town about five miles east of Joppa. He avoided no quarter due to danger, but passed through all quarters preaching and visiting the saints. When we are in discouragement or loneliness, God will send a means to cheer us on and to advance our Army’s colors. “And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.” I so much adore the casual description of God’s Word. It seems that Peter ‘just happens’ to come to Lydda and ‘just happens’ to find Aeneas who ‘just happens’ to have had palsy and restricted to his bed for eight years. It is so very commonplace in its narrative, but we know, deep in our hearts, that God is about to do something wonderful! Does He ever pass up one who is so stricken? Do His ministers?
And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.” Please observe that Peter did not await satellite hookup for a national tv broadcast, or assemble a crowd (though one was apparently gathering of its own accord). He did not advertise the event before it occurred. He did not pound the man on the head and demand that God heal him. No, Peter simply pronounced what he knew to be the will and authority of Christ. Peter wanted no credit. He knew he deserved none. It is always Christ that heals. He can heal alone in the desert, or he may use his apostles to proclaim the healing! Once healed, there is no longer any comfort in lying flat of one’s back, so Aeneas arose immediately. When Christ calls you, may you also arise immediately! “And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.” Do we need such a miracle to believe? No, but it certainly opened the eyes of these in Lydda and Saron. Even if they already believed, they believed more and turned to the Lord whom they may have neglected in their faith.
Now here is the account I have desired to write about for a while of a woman whom I have loved from the day my first grade teacher read me the story: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” This woman is beautiful though I do not know her countenance. She reminds me of the beautiful gazelles which bounded the rocky slopes of the Persian mountains with grace and exotic poise when I lived there. There is good reason to so consider Tabitha, for her name in the Syro-Chaldaic, and the Greek (Dorcas), means just that – gazelle. In my flight missions over Iran, in the mist of my memory, I never saw this elegant creature in the valleys or on the plains. She was always in the rocky heights of the mountains. She could leap with great speed from slope to slope. I believe God’s people are likewise equipped to bound the mountaintops in their joy of living for Him. This woman (Tabitha) was “full of good works and almsdeeds which she did!” May the Lord be praised for sending such feminine heroes whose hands hold the distaff and who labor so unselfishly for others.
“And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.” Ah, yes, here we find another of those casual “and it came to pass” clues from God that something very marvelous will happen. Tabitha was sick, in fact, she died! According to custom, the hands whose bodies she had fed and clothed, now respectfully bathed her own body for the expected burial and laid her in the place of respect – the Upper Chamber. Truly, Tabitha was destined for the Upper Chamber, but not just yet. God would use her generous hands longer yet in the land where He had placed her.
“And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.” Now God, of course, could have sent Peter, without appeal, to Tabitha. But God also treasures our prayers and is joyful when they are prayers that He will love to answer. The prayers of the disciples had four feet in the two men they sent to Peter to beg his coming. “Then Peter arose and went with them.” We absolutely MUST love Peter! He was so very impulsive to serve and to come to Christ. He outran John to the Garden Tomb. He was first in the water to meet the risen Christ on the Shores of Galilee. Now, without delay, he arises immediately to follow these disciples to the lady who has been such a comfort to all in Christ.
“When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.” If you can read this passage without weeping for joy and pity, you are a more battle-hardened veteran than I! The widows whom Tabitha (Dorcas) had visited in love and the charity of her treasures and manual labors stood about perhaps the only soul in all the land who made them know that they were loved by at least ONE! She had purchased fabrics and made, with her own refined hands, coats and garments for these women whom the world valued little. She did it while she was WITH them. How many widows and orphans have YOU been WITH? They loved her, and so do I.
“But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.” The company of widows were focused on death, but Peter was focused on LIFE. He did not feel their presence expedient for the miracle that he would call upon the Lord to grant. He asked them to stand without. Peter kneeled (the most respectful pose for prayer and reverence) and prayed. He then turned to Tabitha and said, “Arise!” Immediately, answering to a voice that echoed down the chambered glory of heaven, Tabitha opened her eyes. She not only opened her eyes, but she also saw! How many of us have eyes to see but see not. When she saw Peter, she sat up. What a delightful dream and sleep she perhaps thought. But now she thinks, I must sit up and prepare to serve those humble souls to whom God has sent me. “And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.” Not only were the widows in mourning, but all the saints of the region as well. Peter gave her his hand, lifted her up, and presented her alive to all about. When one of our sisters or brothers has returned from some great event, we, too, should give them our hand and lift them up. My Lord raised Tabitha! How precious she was to Him, but He lent her presence to us for a while longer to soften our sorrow and give us joy. What a great comfort and astonishment was the risen Tabitha to those widows whom she loved!
“And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.” Many believed in Joppa because of this miracle. Their faith must have been doubly evoked because of the person who was raised. Had it been an evil and cunning man, they would not have thought well to believe. But in the raising of such a gentle and kind woman as Tabitha, they believed in the God of all goodness. Peter’s continued presence was needed for a bit longer in Joppa to consolidate the move of faith that had occurred during his visit.
Many believed when they witnessed the Moving Hand of God in Joppa. Now, we all know the story and have read it together of Aeneas and Tabitha. Has this made us believe as surely as those in Joppa? If we had faith, has it been increased in this account? If not, why not?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Devotion for Tuesday, 28 June 2011 Anno Domini Acts 9:20-31

Devotion for Tuesday, 28 June 2011 Anno Domini Acts 9:20-31

“20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. 23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. 26And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” (Acts 9:20-31)

The judgmental and condemnatory mindset is a characteristic perhaps of the Middle East culture. There is little difference in the low regard for life and justice between the Pharisaical sense of dealing with those who disagree and that of the radical moslems. If someone disagrees with your religious view, or represents a threat to your power base, simply kill them in the most grotesque manner possible. If the message unsettles them then, by all means, kill the messenger! The man who began as Saul the persecutor is fast becoming Paul the evangelist. His courage is great, as it must necessarily be, to confront the wicked men of his day in preaching.
“And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” What could be the role of a Christian minister if not to preach Christ, and this is what Saul does! “But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?” Men most often judge based on past evidence (and rightly so in most cases), but God, who knows what direction the life of a man will take in the next day, month, or year, judges based upon what He knows of the heart and how it can be amended. Thankfully, God never looks upon us as to who we presently are, but as who we will become in Christ Jesus! This man Saul is a known enemy of the church. It is quite normal that those aware of his past might be somewhat suspicious of him; however, the power and authority of God’s Calling will overcome all doubts.
“But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.” The more the challenge, the greater the strength in overcoming same. The worldly professors are always confounded at the power of God’s Word. This is why there is so great an effort to remove every vestige of God’s Word and Name from our schools, courts, legislatures and public forums of every variety. The Jewish leaders were so certain that they had rid themselves of Christ at Calvary, but now He is growing in general acclaim and become a real threat to their pseudo-religion of filthy rags and meager works.
“And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him.” My! What a novel approach for these brigands. You would think that another solution might at least apply on some rare occasion but, no, always kill the prophets! The Gospel of Christ has become a hydra-headed monster to these men. Once they have severed one head, seven more replace it. The Christian faith is watered by the blood of her saints.
“But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.” I checked the calendar just now and discovered there is no entry for the Devil’s Holiday. He never takes vacation or relaxes his assault on the Church. He will expend long hours in wait, but most often during the hours of darkness for, as Christ said when they came for Him in the Garden, “When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:53) and the night when the devil entered into the heart of Judas after taking the sop and he went out into the eternal darkness: “He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.” (John 13:30) Evil lurks in darkness but flees the light of day!
“Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.” Darkness may be the hour of evil, but it can also provide cover for the sake of the righteous at the very hour of the greatest advantage for evil works. The hands of the disciples work together to save one who, just days earlier, was a mortal enemy. Now, by the marvelous grace of God, Saul has become one of the strongest proponents of Christ.
“And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.” An understandable doubt on the part of those in Jerusalem who had suffered most at the hands of the former Saul. Little do they know the born anew Saul! Past reputations are difficult to overcome, but throughout the remainder of Saul’s life, he left no doubt of the power and veracity of his calling in God.
“But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” The confirming acknowledgment of the Church must also be achieved if a man is called of God. This was done apostolically at Jerusalem through the witness and testimony of Barnabas to the other apostles.
“And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.” In Saul’s daily public walk with the apostles, we see his lack of fear and presence of strong courage. He was not afraid to be seen in dangerous company for the Jews hated the ministers of Christ.
“And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.” Now we can see evidence of strong doctrine in Saul’s preaching for now he has enemies even in the assembly who wish to kill him. Perhaps these are the same Grecians who disputed in Acts 6: 1 regarding their widows not being served. Perhaps they had a habit of contention.
“Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.” There is purpose of God in all things. He had a mission for Saul elsewhere. His role on this trip to Jerusalem was finished.
“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” These churches had witnessed great wonders and, perhaps the greatest of all, the conversion of a deadly enemy to that of a brother and valiant man of God. These, too, are the regions wherein Christ walked and taught. The message of the Apostles was confirmed in the certain knowledge of the people in comparison to the actual ministry of Christ for they had witnessed it firsthand. Have you, my friend? It lies before you in the Holy Bible!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Devotion for First Sunday after Trinity, 26 June 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for First Sunday after Trinity, 26 June 2011 Anno Domini

“ 19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:19-31)
It is a glaringly solemn fact that there is a state of the dead and a state of the living. In fact, all will taste the one time physical death of this world. However, the state of the living in Christ is not a real death, but rather a transition from a worldly form of living to a spiritual. The scriptures describe that death of a Christian as a twinkling of the eye. When we were children, we played out doors on Sunday afternoon and Saturdays until we would literally drop to sleep at night. We slept soundly through the next eight or nine hours and awoke believing that we had only just closed our eyes momentarily. So shall it be for those who die in Christ. But the wicked suffer an entirely different state. They will suffer eternal death in the unquenchable fires of Hell. The following parable of Christ describes this state.
The Story of Two Men – one wealthy, the other poor. “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.” The rich man’s name is not mentioned. In fact, he has no name since it is not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life. He was a wealthy man who fared sumptuously everyday. The sin was not wealth, but how he lived his life in indifference to the needy around him. Our personal identity is of no consequence in Hell.
“ And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.” Now we see a certain beggar who does, indeed, have a name – Lazarus. He had no means of living at all but was forced to beg for every bite he ate. Even the crumbs from the rich man’s table would have sufficed this poor beggar’s need. The dogs, too, were accustomed to beg their food and felt pity for one in worse stead than themselves – “a touching act of brute pity, in the absence of human relief. It is a case of heartless indifference, amidst luxuries of every kind, to one of God's poorest and most afflicted ones, presented daily before the eye.” (JFB)
Comes now the event which awaits us all alike: “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.” My Lord tenderly relates the account of Lazarus, but the rich man lacks any benefit of sympathy. It always comes to pass that we die, and so it has come to pass that the beggar dies. Note what happens at the death of Lazarus: he was carried by the dignitaries of God (Angels) into the bosom of Abraham. What treatment awaits those who die in Christian faith! What an escort we shall have! Poor beggar Lazarus is no longer beggar. His name is recorded in the Book of Life! But what of the rich man? He also died, but here the destinies divide profoundly: “ the rich man also died, and was buried.” Lazarus went up; the rich man went down to the grave and hell.
What privilege does a rich man have in Hell? He has the privilege of becoming, himself, a beggar. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” He lifts UP his eyes and sees Lazarus in blissful comfort in the bosom of our father Abraham. He is in torment of hellfire. The distance between the rich man and Lazarus is a very great distance, but those in Hell can see those who live in Paradise. It must add tremendously to the awareness of their shame. He now begs Abraham to enjoin the help of Lazarus on his behalf. If Lazarus would but dip his finger in water to cool the tongue of this wealthy wretch, it would be a tremendous comfort to him. He who refused the crumbs of his table now begs for only a wet finger dipped in water from the former beggar. But Lazarus cannot see the rich man, or hear his pleading.
“But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” Please note the kind regard Abraham pays the rich man in calling him son. But this is the only mercy Abraham can show this man. Our memories will be crisp as our burnt garments in Hell. Does the rich man remember the opulence he enjoyed while Lazarus was perishing for hunger and disease? Remember? See now how Lazarus is in comfort, but you are suffering in misery. Your deeds on earth do count and, in the rich man’s case, they count against him.
“ And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” This great gulf cannot be bridged unlike the claims we have of men going to heaven for some ninety minutes, or to Hell for nineteen minutes and returning. There is no crossing between earth and Heaven, or Heaven and Hell, except that provided in God’s Word. The benefit of the heavenly dweller lies in the fact that he cannot observe the suffering of those he may have known and cared for in earth.
“Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” Familial love and sympathies even prevail in Hell. The rich man has five brothers who are on the same expedited road to Hell that he was on. He believes if Lazarus returns from the dead to give testimony to his brothers, they will amend their ways and seek the face of God. How sad that those in Hell will know and see their loved ones that they have misled in life suffer such pains and torment! He does not want his brothers to suffer this terrible faith. Are we so concerned about our own loved ones?
“Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” Yes, indeed. It was Moses to whom they may have given lip service in life, but they did not search further into the One whom Moses looked forward to in faith. The excuse is always that nobody ever warned me. Had they believed Moses in faith, they would have known of the Coming Christ. But they were not even faithful in the small intelligence they had of Scripture. Another point to consider is this: The prophets clearly foretold the Coming Christ, yet even the Pharisees rejected their teaching when it was abundantly fulfilled in their faces.
“And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” The unbelieving always seek after some fantastic sign or miracle. Even when they observed the miracles of Jesus, many remained in unbelief. When the Mighty Outstretched Arm of the Lord separated the waters of the Red Sea, and descended in a fog on Mt Sinai, or made its presence known in a cloud by day and a fire by night, the grumblers and murmurers were not hushed. “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.” (Matt 16:4) Christ means to express that we look at the miracle of Jonah whereas Jonah was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth and Christ was likewise three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Christ rose from the Tomb in three days after dying for our sins. That is enough for us to believe unto salvation without further acts or miracles.
Father Abraham tells the rich man that if the people do not believe the prophets, neither will they believe if one is resurrected from the dead. “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Christ did, in fact, rise from the dead. This is one of the fundamental of our Apostles’ Creed and Scripture itself that unites us in Christian faith. Lack of faith in the Old Testament prophecies will blind the eye to the truth of the Gospel of Christ. I pray that no reader to whom these words come is blinded to these glorious truths.




Thursday, June 23, 2011

Devotion for Friday after Trinity Sunday, 24 June 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Friday after Trinity Sunday, 24 June 2011 Anno Domini
“5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8And there was great joy in that city.9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. 25And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.” (Acts 8:5-25)
Stephen has been stoned and the persecution of the Church at Jerusalem intensifies. Once evil notions are supported by action, it becomes much more enthusiastic. Saul (Paul) is the leader of this severe persecution at Jerusalem and the environs. Of course, the outcome is that the disciples were scattered to places where they may never have otherwise traveled with the Gospel. They bore ‘Precious Seeds’ to the frontier regions of the Roman Empire.
“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” Samaria was the region north of Jerusalem and its people were considered unclean by the Jews. But Christ came for all – the unrighteous as well as those who vainly attempted to gain Heaven’s favor though good works.
“And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.” It happens oftentimes that those people whom religion has cast off as unholy may become the holiest of all in the eyes of God. These Samarians were eager to hear Philip and to receive his message with one accord. There were demon spirits cast out of many due to their embryonic faith. Many were healed in the pleasure of God at their earnestness. Where God is introduced to those who have not possessed the knowledge of Him, there is great joy just as an abundance of water in a dry land, whose soil has been deprived of life-giving waters for a great time, results in plenty of flowers and plants springing suddenly up.
“But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.” When God uses the conjunction ‘but’ He uses it strongly. An example is found in 2 Kings 5:1 where we are told that Naaman was a great man with his master and honorable, ‘but’ he was a leper. The complete unity of the people in doctrine and preaching is about to be contrasted by a man named Simon who had previously been a notable practitioner of sorcery.
“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” The people had been spiritually seduced by the bewitching sorcery of Simon, but now that truth has been revealed though the preaching of Philip, they are persuaded of the cheap imitation of Simon’s compared to the real, authentic preaching of the Kingdom of God! The preaching of Christ to them convinced that the name of Jesus Christ was a name above every other name, and they were baptized all.
“Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.” Yes, and so do the devils believe and tremble (James 2:19). It is possible to know that Jesus Christ is Lord but believe short of salvation. Simon believed the miracles. He was a man keen to make money by such a trade, but his miracles were mere deceptions. He was even baptized. Without that inward spiritual grace there is no regeneration.
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)” The apostles at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to Samaria when they heard that they had received the Gospel. They were sent as equals to the other apostles, not as superiors for an inferior sends not out a superior. These Samaritans had not yet received the Holy Ghost. They had been baptized in the name of Christ and believed, yet the Apostles needed to lay hands on them, pray, and acknowledge their baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. That satisfies wholly the baptismal expression of the Christian. “Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Here Simon reveals his lack of salvation. His central focus is money, not souls for Christ.
“But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.” Here is a gravely solemn rebuke to this TV evangelist who presumes to ask for money at every opportunity. Churches that bless little children who bring envelopes of money during the New Years holiday are less honorable than the corrupt priests of Luther’s day who granted, for a fee, indulgence to sin.
“Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Here an attempt is made to make Simon aware of how great was his sin, and how fearful he should be of it.
“Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.” Peter had counseled Simon to pray for himself (vv22) but Simon lacks faith and desires someone else of faith to pray for him. The most wholesome prayer is uttered by the believer. The prayers of faithful men will avail little if the object of the prayer lacks all faith.
“And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.” They came on the primary mission of preaching where Philip had laid such a good foundation. Now they will return to Jerusalem, but continue to preach in the villages that lay in their way in Samaria. Not only does a good soldier invest the primary objective, but also targets of opportunity in the way. Our lesson here is to preach at every opportunity. Share your testimony when opportunity arises even if that was not what you set out to do in the first place.

Devotion for Thursday after Trinity Sunday, 23 June 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Thursday after Trinity Sunday, 23 June 2011 Anno Domini
“54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.----1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 4Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” (Acts 7:54-60, 8:1-4)
There is no earthly pain or danger that can compare to that glorious appearing of our Lord to the comfort and encouragement of His persecuted saints. This event (stoning of Stephen) which appears so sad and tragic to us is precisely the opposite in the mind of God and, here, of Stephen. He has stood boldly and preached the Gospel in the ears of those who hate Christ. He has withheld no truths. He might have presented a very politically correct Gospel, divested of points that would so offend and enrage the company gathered against him; but those truths were the very truths these wicked men needed to hear most either to the conviction of their consciences or to the condemnation of their souls. Stephen, in terms of longevity of faith, was a baby in faith; but, in terms of strong conviction and courage, he was a giant in the Hands of God to proclaim the fullness of the Gospel without restraint. The Word of God is a two-edged sword (Rev 2:12, Heb 4:12). The heart of man does not act with impunity to the Will of God. The Word will either convict the conscience and draw the sinner to Christ, or it will harden the heart and finally condemn the soul.
“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.” Of course they were deeply offended because of their dark deeds and evil intentions. The Sword of God’s Word had penetrated their consciences and fulfilled one of its dual functions. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12). Why would a good and courageous soldier go into the line of battle with a dull or faulty sword? Why would a Called Minister of God go into the fray of heated battle with less than the whole Word of God? He must not water down or temper the Word, but preach it without distinction of the offense in the ears of the hearer. Stephen, a lovely and courageous example of strong heart and Christian Spirit, has stood his ground in battle and taken the sword to the darkest corner of Satan’s principality. He has wielded His Word in a spirit of love and not hate; but it is hate that will inspire the hands of the wicked to cast murderous stones at this young man until he is mortally hurt. Should the Lord lift the veil of our unknowing that we might converse with Stephen today, he would express the greatest joy that the Holy Ghost had given him utterance at the moment of greatest need. He would not disdain the painful death and injustice perpetrated against him but would rather glory in it without any color of regret. He would remind us of the glorious words of the Psalmist: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalms 116:15). So the self-proclaimed exemplars of the law who were actually agents of “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12) gave in to hate and took up stones.
“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” Here, surrounded by the dogs of the hunt, is a precious lamb that lifts not an angry finger in his defense. Please note the consolation the Lord offers to Stephen, whom He loves, at this moment. The pain of every stone that finds its target in Stephen is felt twice by His loving LORD for it is Christ whom they truly wish to destroy. Imagine the comfort of the wondrous vision that falls upon the eyes of Stephen. All of his faith and conviction is confirmed fully thereby, and the hope of a happy eternity with his Lord and Savior looms large in the eyes of Stephen (and it does so at the moment of his greatest earthly peril)! Stephen not only saw, but his youthful manhood proclaimed the vision: “…behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
“Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord.” It is a stain on our faith that the wicked are more often of one accord in their evil intent than the righteous in their zeal for Christ. The wicked will attempt to drown out the voice of truth, outlawing school prayer and public professions of faith. They will also fill their ears with cotton rather than hear truth. Does our love of Christ compel us to the intensity of action as does their hate for Him?
“And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.” There were at least two young men involved here: one was a professing saint of God, the other, though a worker of iniquity at this moment, will become one of the most dedicated Apostles of the Lord. Saul was an educated and polished man of the law – a student of Gamaliel, the Pharisee. His primary vocation was to seek out and persecute the Person of Christ in the form of his followers. But he would soon become Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, after seeing a similar vision and inquiry on a certain Road leading to Damascus!
The Tow Prayers of Stephen:
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Stephen utters a humble prayer as he was being stoned, not a prayer of imprecation against those who were to shed innocent blood, but a prayer that reflects the sure hope of all the Elect of God: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” We are not in such good hands with All State, but we certainly are with Christ.
“And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” This was the second prayer of dear Stephen. As I write this devotion, I sit in a motel room, alone, in Missouri; but I feel lifted in spirit by another Spirit called Holy to see this event in my imagination’s eye of Stephen at his last mortal moment. It truly brings tears of both sorrow and joy to contemplate. I am made sorrow at the capacity for evil that lurks in the heart of man, but I feel great joy at the truth of how God can create in the heart of a boy such as Stephen a vessel for His own service. I am also impressed that one of the perpetrators of Stephen’s martyrdom will soon be changed as well into such a vessel (Paul). Then I am so heavily reminded that he uses men and women such as you and me to the same purpose of witness though we are in no way meritorious of the privilege. Just as Stephen knew Christ was with him at the moment of his greatest need, we, too, have the comfort of knowing it just as surely as I now feel His looking over my shoulder as I write, in a fashion lacking of any personal beauty, the beauty of this event in a devotion. Stephen fell asleep in Christ, and he had a glorious awakening in Christ the moment of his presumed death! “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” (John 16:2)

The seeds of hate grow more quickly when rained upon by presumed success in their goal. “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” God uses even calamity to achieve His purpose. Often those whose intent is to destroy will be used to accomplish that which the Lord intends. How hateful to them would this knowledge be if they could conceive of it! The hard persecution that prevailed was turned into a wind that would carry the seeds of the Gospel to regions beyond Jerusalem and the Gate called Beautiful.
“And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.” Not only is the death of the saints precious in the eye of the Lord, but also in the hearts of His people. Devout men – committed men, convicted men, dedicated men, courageous men – lamented the hard death of Stephen, tender in years but courageous in faith. The Gospel by more loudly shouted by Stephen in his death than ever in his living.
“As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.” The same Saul, soon to be Paul, will be changed by the very Gospel that Stephen proclaimed with his last breath. He, too, will one day suffer death at the hands of the wicked after following hard and close the dictates of that Lord whose fires he attempted to extinguish. Perhaps you have also attempted to hush the voice of righteousness? It should be a powerful remedy for you if the Lord will draw you also from the battlements of Satan and into the lines of the Lamb of God.
What was the result of the intense persecution that followed on the heals of Stephen’s “falling asleep in Christ?” “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” The Winds of God began to blow, nourished by the blood of men and women such as Stephen. Those Winds bore precious Seed to every corner of the known world. Such a Wind as began to cool the hateful hearts of Saul and countless others still send their refreshing breezes to deserts of Arabia, the jungles of Africa, the Islands of the Sea, and every place that needs the healing love of God to touch the hearts and minds of a disobedient race. Do you feel those Winds in your heart today?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Devotion for Wednesday after Trinity Sunday, 22 June 2011, Anno Domini

Devotion for Wednesday after Trinity Sunday, 22 June 2011, Anno Domini
“35This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. 36He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, 40Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon. 44Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. 47But Solomon built him an house.48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?50 Hath not my hand made all these things?51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.(Acts 7:35-53)
“This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.” Man most generally rejects the very men whom God sends for their benefit and comfort. They rejected, too, Moses, but Moses was chosen by God as the instrument of their freedom.
“He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.” When God acts with great Might, such actions are evidenced by marvelous events of unimaginable magnitude. God sent the Pillar of Smoke by day as a guide and a cover for the Children of Israel. He made it into a Pillar of Fire by Night so that His presence would be known with them. He parted the waters of the Red Sea for their salvation, and closed the waters again to the destruction of Pharaoh’s Army. He sent Manna in the Wilderness, and made water to flow from the cleft Rock; and, yet, they grumbled and doubted all the way.
“This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.” Yes, the true Children would truly hear Christ, but not these belligerent fools of the Sanhedrin!
“This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt.” Yes, this Old Testament Church in the Wilderness rebelled against Moses and those of Stephen’s time would rebel against Christ and turn to the depraved and unwholesome traditions of men and not God.
“Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.” The people seek after gods made after the imaginations of their own evil hearts. Moses was not their God, but the moment that they have freedom to turn back to the wallowing in the mud of Egypt, they attempt to take it. “And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.” God had demonstrated abundantly His power and love for them yet they turn back to the work of their own hands as if this would save. We know the record of their constant failure in works of profit – utter failure every turn against God!
“Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?” If man turns away from God, does he believe that God will shyly abide with him? No, to depart from God is to place a great abyss between one’s self and salvation.
“Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.” The Israelites turned to two different kinds of idols for their gods – Molock (the god of fire to whom they sacrificed their children), and Remphan (the idol god of the heavens in the form of the star). And God did, indeed, carry them captive even beyond Babylon by whose rivers and upon whose willows they sadly hung their harps.
“Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.” This was a prick in the sides of the idolatrous Israelites to have the presence of the Lord among them in their idolatries. Their dark consciences were seared to the bone to have God’s Presence among them in their apostacy from Him. The Scribes and Pharisees, too, could not abide the Presence of God in the form of Jesus among them in their idolatrous traditions derived from the minds of men. “Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.” The Gentiles who have been denied the privilege of the tabernacle presence were those who now came to God while those (the Jews) who did not favor the tabernacle among them are now excluded by their own consciences.
“But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?” God is not confined to the walls of a structure. The tabernacle represented His presence in the Wilderness, and the Temple – a proper display of increasing honor – in the Land of Promise. The Temple of God is still with those who love God and obey Him. God has made their bodies His Temple. Since all things on earth and in heaven belong to God, how can man offer anything to His profit?
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Do you suppose that the modern church is not full of the same hypocrites as those of the time of Christ. If Christ made application to the First Church downtown, do you believe for one minute that the credentials of this homeless and undocumented Lord would be accepted by their pulpit committee? They would feel their power and money threatened because the people would flock to Him and they would sense a great loss.
“Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.” All of the prophets of old gave testimony and prophecy of the Coming Lord Jesus Christ, yet they were tortured and murdered. And when that One of Prophecy appeared, they wanted to murder Him as well. Those who have received the most direct and sensible testimony of the law at the hands of angel are here the most incorrigible of all on earth in wanting truth and love. Even the Law which they insisted upon for their salvation was the most violated by them to their shame. They claimed to love the Law, yet hated the Law-Giver! Are you laboring for your salvation, or do you accept the only sacrifice that will remit your sins – that of the Lamb of God!

Devotion for Tuesday after Trinity, 21 June 2011 Anno Domini

I apologize for being late in posting the devotion for yesterday and today. I have been traveling since yesterday early morning. (Bp Jerry)
Devotions for Tuesday after Trinity, 21 June 2011 Anno Domini
“17But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.19 The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. 26And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? 27But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? 28Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
30And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground. 34I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt. (Acts 7:17-34)
“But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.” In the perfect economy and providence of God, there will always come a time that His promise will draw nigh to fulfillment. It will always be according to that perfect Will of God and not our own. The children of Israel had grown to perhaps two million or more souls in the four hundred years in Egypt. After Joseph had passed from the scene, another king arose who did not know or honor the people on Joseph’s behalf. Joseph was the agent whereby God’s prophecies were, not only fulfilled, but foreshadowing of that better savior which we have in Jesus Christ. The rulers of the world likewise know not the Lord of Glory in our times.
“The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.” As is true with all worldly governments, the Children of God were dealt with in treachery and deceit. They were even compelled to cast off their children. We have already witnessed in our modern day the forced abortion of innocents in their mother’s wombs in China. Do not doubt that the evil which reigns in China cannot rule here in America as well. It already does so in voluntary process. Since Roe v. Wade, more children have been murdered in their mother’s womb (in the home of the brave and the land of the free) than the combined populations of Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Solomon Islands, Fiji, and four other notable nations.
“In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months.” Fair in the eyes of his mother (as is every blessed child) and fair in the eyes of His Father in Heaven. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.” (Heb 11:23) He was born at the moment of deepest despondency for the Children of God. At the moment their sufferings were reaching the highest point, God was preparing His man to lead them out of bondage under the mighty, outstretched arm of the Lord. Though the Pharaoh had ordered all such boys to be murdered at birth, Moses’ mother hid him away three months in defiance of that government which had grown even wicked. Obedience to the secular powers should never entail disobedience to the higher Law of God, but often the child of God is compelled to disobedience of the secular power in order to remain obedient to the higher Law of God.
“And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.” (Acts 7:21) Being cast off by threat of violence may lead to far greater blessing to the Christian. Noah was not the only one saved from the deluge in an Ark. Moses, too, was placed in the Mighty Nile in a tiny ark of reeds and was thereby drawn from the waters by the ladies in waiting of the Princess of Egypt who took him to be her own son. God places His emissaries of love even among the heathen for the benefit of His purpose and will.
It is truly amazing that God can take a complete castoff and place him in the king’s palace with all the privileges of nobility and refinement. The Scriptures tell us that even the spider stretches forth its hand and takes hold in the king’s palace. (Pro 30:28). “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.”
“ And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” The life of Moses was divided evenly over three distinct periods: the first forty years was spent in the House of Pharaoh, the second forty years was spent in the land of Midian where he witnessed the burning bush at the conclusion of this exile, and the third forty years was spent in leading the Children of Israel across the Wilderness to the Promised Land. But now, after his early life in opulence, Moses is led to visit his brethren – the Children of Israel.
“And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.” The people to whom God sends us to minister do not always have the vision and clear understanding that God has given us. Our patience is often tried to abstain from treating such people with total contempt. This provides Stephen the opportunity to contrast his own spiritual understanding of God with that slowness and incorrigible spirit of the contemporary Israel.
“And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?” How sorrowfully often does the Called man of God experience rejection of the truth from those he seeks to enlighten? “Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?” It is truly tragic that sincere works of love and charity are often taken as evidence of some sinister and hidden motive by those who could benefit most from the counsel of the Lord.
“Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.” Pharaoh was wroth at Moses and would have slain him (Ex 2:25). So God compelled Moses into a place where the political conversations of the palace and the striving of his kindred people would not be heard – only would he hear the voice of the Lord there. When we are strangers to the world, we can more likely be friends of Heaven.
“And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him.” In the due time decreed by God, the Angel of the Lord appeared unto Moses. This was no ‘created’ angel for it demanded reverence and worship of Moses. The bush was aflame but not consumed by the fire! The voice of the Lord spoke unto Moses from out of the bush! “Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold. Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground. (Acts 7:32-33). When God appears in great power, even His chosen are restrained from beholding so great a glory. Moses trembled as all should do before the God of our Fathers – the same which we worship today. In our form of liturgical worship and Bible readings, we observe a reverent formality before God. Here, God gives example of that which He expects of us in the way of sobriety and reverence in worship. We stand on Holy Ground when we gather to worship!
“I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt. All of our sufferings and affliction are known of God. In all of our living, God is unfolding His will, often unknown to us until the reality is made plain. Moses never, in his wildest imaginations, ever intended to return to Egypt. God often calls men to the ministry to dangerous cities such as Nineveh, or to hostile and sinful lands such as Egypt. The decision to go is never the personal choice of the Called Man, but the Provident Will of Him who Calls. God will, at length, always come down to deliver His people. Though the days are waxing more and more evil with each setting of the Sun, God knows our plight and is bidding His time to the moment of greatest salvation and impact for us, His people. Do not grow weary in well-doing. Take heart. Though the pilgrim journey is long, hot, and we are burdened about with every care, the climb to the summit lies just around the next turn of the path. God waits in the place of blessing and safety for His dear ones. He will neither forget nor forsake us. Amen!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Devotion for Monday in Trinity, 20 June 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Monday in Trinity, 20 June 2011 Anno Domini
“1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so? 2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. 4Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. 6And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. 14Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.” (Acts 7:1-16)
“Then said the high priest, Are these things so? The accusers of Stephen twist the meaning of the words he expressed regarding the Gospel. Of course, Stephen taught the truth of Christ’s testimony that should they destroy “this” Temple (meaning His body) He would restore it in three days.
“And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.” Stephen gives a complete history from the calling of Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees to that present time. He also describes how God had promised Abraham, and his seed following, the possession of that land in which the Temple now stood. He further describes how the seed of Abraham would reside in a strange land and be brought into bondage for a period of four hundred years (this prophecy was fulfilled in detail).
“And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.” Continuing the historical summary, Stephen explains how Abraham’s seed would come into the Promised Land to serve God after God had judged Egypt for their sins.
“And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.” Here we observe the old covenant descent from Abraham as the blessing passed through Isaac to Jacob and to the Tribes. The sign and seal of the covenant was acknowledged through the circumcision. Baptism is the sacrament whereby the Covenant of Grace is signed and seal in the Church today. “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.” Briefly related is the manner in which Joseph (a type of Christ as well as an historical figure) was sold into slavery by his older and jealous brothers, but God had caused him to be exalted in Egypt and was made governor over Egypt and all the house of Pharaoh.
“Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.” There was a widespread famine which fell upon Egypt and all the adjacent areas including Canaan. Jacob and his sons found themselves in great want, but Jacob had heard that there was corn and grain to be had in Egypt (due to the excellent administration of Joseph). “But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.” Jacob sent the brothers of Joseph into Egypt to buy corn – all except Joseph’s young brother, Benjamin, the child of Rachel (Joseph’s mother).
“And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.” Through a ruse, Joseph tricked his brothers into returning to Jacob and bringing back Benjamin. When they had returned, Joseph revealed himself as their brother and benefactor whom they had sold into slavery years before.
“Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers.” God’s Providence is beyond our understanding, but it was through this process that Scripture would be fulfilled regarding the seed of Abraham sojourning in a strange land and being in bondage for four hundred years. The bondage did not take place, however, until after the death of Jacob and his sons.
“And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.” Important place this Sychem. It is made reference to as Shechem in the Old Testament, and Sychem, or Sychar, in the New Testament. It is the place of Jacob’s Well where Christ met the Canaanite woman at the same Well of Jacob. When the Children of Israel were led out of the land of Egypt with the Mighty and Outstretched Arm of the Lord, they brought with them the bones of Jacob. Egypt symbolizes the land of bondage and, therefore, sin. Jacob’s bones being carried out may symbolize the fact that our bodies will be resurrected at the last day and taken away from this world of sin and transported to the New Jerusalem. There is an underground river at Sychar of which I have written before. The river is deep beneath the streets of the city and cannot be heard during the bustle of trade and commerce. But at night, when all feet are stilled, one can hear the gentle gurgling of the River beneath the streets of the city. Jacob’s Well tapped into the abundant waters of this river which emerged to water the fertile plains and pastures beyond the city. It reminds me of the silent working of the Holy Ghost. Until we are quiet and still, we may not recognize its flowing Waters of Peace in our souls. Even in the noisy chambers of the Sanhedrin, Stephen’s heart was in sufficient quiet and peace to hear the promptings of that Holy Ghost beneath the surface.



Saturday, June 18, 2011

Devotion for Trinity Sunday, 19 June 2011 (Gospel of St John 3:1-15)

Devotion for Trinity Sunday, 19 June 2011 (Gospel of St John 3:1-15)
“1There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:1-15)
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” In Nicodemus, we see a real sincerity struggling with a political concern for his status on the Sanhedrin. He had obviously heard much of Christ and may have even heard his teachings in the Temple. Something about the Words of Jesus held a strong attraction for him or he would never have risked his position as a ruler by coming at all – even at night! “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43) Herein lies a lesson for us: Though Nicodemus demonstrated a weakness in resolve and character by coming at night, God already knows what He will do in the heart of Nicodemus. He will change the heart of Nicodemus and imbue him with greater courage and conviction at the last. When Joseph of Arimethea went to the court of Pontius Pilate to claim the body of Christ, Nicodemus went also and courageously associated himself with the followers of Christ. God knows the end from the beginning – we do not! “ And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.” (John 19:38-39)
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” To be a citizen of a country, one must be born into the nation, or be naturalized as a citizen. We are first citizens of the fallen world before we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Just as we were natural-born citizens of the world, we must become naturalized citizens of Heaven. Only Christ is the natural issue of God the Father. All other sons and daughters must come through the process of adoption. Once adopted, or naturalized, we no longer are citizens of the world but children of God. He chose us and elected us before the Sun and stars were flung into their respective constellations. To a Pharisee, this concept was difficult to fathom. A child does not usually choose his adopted parent ere the parent has chosen him.
“Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Nicodemus is not being obstreperous, but sincerely cannot grasp what Christ is saying. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” This answer would evoke profound concerns for Nicodemus who was quite knowledgeable of the many symbolic uses of water in the Temple as a purifying agent. In the mind of a Jewish ecclesiastic, aware of the symbolic use of water, in every variety of way and form of expression, these words were fitted to show that the thing intended was no other than a thorough spiritual purification by the operation of the Holy Ghost. Indeed, the element of water and the operation of the Spirit are brought together in a glorious evangelical prediction of Ezekiel. “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezek 36:25-28)
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Flesh and Spirit are two entirely different entities. Flesh cannot beget Spirit and neither can true Spirit beget flesh. The thing begotten will bear the image of the parent which begot. The flesh is expressed, not only in the entirety of man, but also in his abject depravity! “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 51:5) “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” If flesh is so very distinct from spirit, why is it such a marvel that flesh must be born anew into spirit to follow after that Spirit that is Holy? Ye must be born again! – the most import event that can come to pass in the life of a man, woman, or child.
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) I love the majestic beauty of the metaphor used to describe the Holy Ghost! Who, pray tell, has seen the wind? Yet we are absolutely certain of its presence by way of its manifestations of sound and movement. We do not know where it originates, or its destination, but we know of its PRESENCE! We have some advantage in our knowledge of the Holy Ghost. We know it comes from God, and we know its final destination is Heaven, but what about the in-between present in our lives? We must be born of that Spirit and become like it in our lives – in love, in care, in service, in reverence and adoration of God. Of course, when we become like unto the Spirit, men will not know where we are coming from or where we are going either.
“Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?” (John 3:9) An honest question and one asked with the willingness to know as a child. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10) This question seems to have relegated Nicodemus to the true status of a disciple – he asks no further questions. He has encountered a depth of wisdom and mystery that has overwhelmed his pride and his standing as a ruler in Israel.
“ Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.” Here Jesus speaks with the authority of One who has been with the Father and seen all things in (and under) Heaven. He is not allowing Nicodemus to fall into some marginal border of rational contemplation. While He has Nicodemus before Him, He will challenge the full measure of the man’s understanding to bring him to Faith. “And ye receive not our witness”…. Not Nicodemus personally for he was beginning to be separate from his Sanhedrin colleagues, but the Temple establishment itself of which Nicodemus was a member.
“ If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” Nicodemus failed of understanding even the simple things spoke of which were earthly. He failed even the simple dimensions of understanding. How might he possibly understand the higher things of the Spirit? Actually he could not unless he is born of the Spirit, and this is the result which Christ demands.
“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Really? If this be true (and it certainly is) what shall we do with the fad-books we have purchased giving account of men and women who have ascended on high to heaven and returned to write rave reviews about their experiences (for a profit, of course)? “……let God be true, but every man a liar…..!” (Romans 3:4) And so they are (liars) that make such claims. And even if they had descended to Hell, believe me, Hell would have seen fit to keep them!
“ And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” God sent fiery serpents among the Children of Israel when they wandered in the Wilderness as a result of their inordinate murmurs and complaints. When the people recanted, God told Moses to make a brazen serpent and attach it to a pole to be lifted up. (Numbers 21) When the people were then bit by the serpents, they could look up to the serpent and live. They perhaps yet suffered pain since sin bears its own scars and consequences. Better to be obedient from the first and avoid the serpents. Well, there is a Serpent loose in the world today. He is here at our own invitation made in Eden. His bite is fatal without the Redemption of the Cross. You are bitten! Look to the Cross of Christ for Salvation! Why? “ That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Are you still looking down to the bondage of Egypt (sin)? Look up to the Savior who Redeemed you and be set free!

Devotion for Saturday, 18 June 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Saturday, 18 June 2011 Anno Domini
“1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, 2To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; 4Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” (2 Tim 1:1-14)
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.” If one is truly called to the ministry, he is called by authority, and that authority is the Lord Jesus Christ just as surely as Paul, himself, was stunningly called on the road to Damascus. Dr. J. Plumer quotes the testimony of Dr Albert Barnes, a very Godly preacher of the 19th century whose published studies and devotions exceed a million volumes and whose early ambitions were set on becoming an attorney before called of God: “I have carried out none of the purposes of any early years. I have failed in those things which I had designed, and which I hoped to accomplish. I have done what I never purposed or expected to do. I have known what it was to weep at discouragements. I have been led along contrary to my early anticipations. I can now see, I think, that while I have been conscious of entire freedom in all that I have done, yet that my whole life has been under the absolute control of a Higher Power, and that there has been a will and a plan in regard to my life which was not my own. Even my most voluntary acts, I can see, have been subservient to that higher plan, and what I have done has been done as if I had no agency in the matter.” Instead of an expositor of man’s law, he became an expositor of God’s Grace! A called minister cannot stop his voice from proclaiming the Gospel and can never be satisfied seated in the quiet comfort of home or secular employment. He may labor for his bread as required, but he will not cease to take every occasion to preach.

“To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Timothy had no other earthly father that had shared the Gospel with him. He did have a Godly mother who did! And he had a surrogate father in Paul who loved in every way as a son. All Grace, and all Mercy, descends from the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from them those, there is no Grace or Mercy of worth to the Christian heart.

“I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.” Just as a loving father would write to his son, so Paul writes to his son-in-faith, Timothy. Those of the family of God, especially those of close attachment, deserve our constant prayers and remembrance. How often do we pray and forget even the mention of those dear friends and family who have always been our best support in our life and ministry! Paul thanks God for giving him this heart of thanks and remembrance. He also makes clear his pure conscience from his forefathers whom he could not have gotten from Gamaliel, but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were believers and looked to the coming of Christ.

“Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy.” Remembering the sorrow of their parting as well as the often longing of Timothy to see Paul, Paul’s heart is warmed to joy at thoughts of seeing his spiritually adopted son. “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” Timothy had a gracious and God-fearing mother and grand mother. Entire empires have been swayed by such women. Certainly, the Kingdom of Heaven is here profited by these women. The Commandment to honor thy father and thy mother certainly makes strong application to the favor, especially, of that parent whose influence has promoted Godly and righteous living. Since Timothy’s fleshly father had not met his responsibility, the mother and grandmother more than filled the vacant office.

“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” Paul feels it expedient to remind Timothy of the real faith that is in his heart which may have cooled to a glowing ember which, when blown upon by the wind of the Holy Ghost, may burgeon into a consuming flame. A true Christian will always have faith, but we may, at times, allow that faith to cool through neglect of assembling together with others of like faith. The gift to which Paul refers is that of preaching which was apostolically sealed by the laying on of Paul’s hands.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The only fear we should have of God is that fear we feel in disobedience to a good father. We do not wish to bring shame or dishonor on our earthly fathers, and we certainly must have an even greater aversion to bringing such upon so gracious and loving Father as that which we have in God. Instead of fear in our living, we should have a sense of the great power made available to us in Christ. Of course, the only way in which we may have a ‘sound mind’ is to have put on the Mind that was in Christ. We should as well have a Spirit of Love. The amazing nature of Love is that it is never depleted but rather increased at the sharing of itself.

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.” Shame is a close companion of fear. If we are ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, or of those who have stood firm in it, we will also fear to reveal our sympathies and standing on that Gospel among those who hate the Christian faith. “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) Due to the lack of fatherly influence in his life, Timothy was perhaps timid, but certainly did not lack courage and faith. We are “more than conquerors” through Christ who loved us. Therefore, our Gospel preaching should proceed with a sense of power and authority, not timidity.
We must rely upon God “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Clearly a great expression of the truth of Grace in the calling of both ministers and Christian brethren and sisters. Not according to our works, or even our wills, but according to His own purpose and grace. The Call of God is persistent and inescapable. Francis Thompson (1859-1907) expresses it well in the first lines of his poem, Hound of Heaven:

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat--and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet--
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

“Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” Every calling is not the same. God takes our particular gifts (which He has given) and molds them to the calling He deems fit for our constitutions. Paul was called in threefold ministry: preacher, apostle, and teacher; and he was called peculiarly to minister to the Gentiles. Some others may be called in single purpose to care for orphans, or widows, or the infirm.
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Paul present suffering as a prisoner is a result of his Godly ministry. Make no mistake about it: there is a price to pay for your faith. True, the rewards will overshadow any present sufferings, but a true professor of Christ will enjoy no privileges from the world establishment. Paul is not ashamed or fearful for he is completely aware of the security he enjoys in the Lord in whom he has placed his faith and trust. He is convinced that all to which he has entrusted to Christ – souls gained, as well as sacrifices made – will be on deposit in the Bank of Heaven at the last.
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” How many today are holding fast the form of sound words? Seemingly devoted Christians are so easily led from the pure fountain of waters first preached to the saints. The Holy Bible has been subject to vulgar and irreverent re-translations for profit and copyright. The villains who presume to provide a ‘better and more meaningful translation’ have such sparse credentials in both Greek and Hebrew as to have made them a laughing stock among the great minds of the Geneva, Luther or King James translations. And they are so careless with the Word of God as to accept every excuse to lessen its authority and impact.
“That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” By all means, and may we do the same, for the Holy Ghost is able to keep those things in secure holding. Keep faith, keep love, keep truth and never be ashamed or fearful therein.