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Who are we?

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

Verse of the Day

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Devotion for Wednesday in (3rd Week after Trinity Sunday), 13 July 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Wednesday in (3rd Week after Trinity Sunday), 13 July 2011 Anno Domini
“19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. 23And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.24 And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.25 And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:26 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.28 And there they abode long time with the disciples.” (Acts 14:19-28)

“And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.” A heart set upon wickedness knows no hardship of distance or effort. These Jews traveled a great distance seeking to destroy Paul and the Gospel which he preached. Being restless in their evil designs, they were filled with the hot blood of contempt for Christ. We are told that they “persuaded the people” through deceit and polished words, perhaps, but the people themselves are not innocent. When we, like Eve, stop to listen to a wicked voice, we also bear responsibility for the evil that follows. Please remember that the same crowds who shouted Hosanna to Christ in welcoming Him into Jerusalem were the same who cried out for His crucifixion five days later after being “persuaded” by the Jewish leaders. Now, the same Saul (Paul) who oversaw the stoning of Stephen faces the same inhumane treatment from the opponents of truth.

“Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” Though there were great numbers of wicked people in Lystra, there was still a remnant of believers who gathered around the body of Paul grieving. Perhaps the day shall come when the chosen in Christ will understand that not a single hair of the head of a disciple will be lost to violence. As these were expecting a funeral, Paul decided not to be a part of such an event and rose up. He immediately went into the city (a fearless journey in view of what had just transpired), and departed the next day to Derbe. It seems that among those who believed, there was one who would become special to Paul – Timothy. (see Acts 16:1-3)

“And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Though many enemies lay in ambush always in these cities, Paul was undaunted and did not allow fear to deter him from the mission to which God had called him. Who better to exhort to continuance in the faith than Paul who had now faced much tribulation – even stoning! Perhaps a brief discussion of the purpose of tribulation is in order here at this point. God is not always the author of tribulation. It is the natural outcome of preaching truth in a world of deceit and bitterness. But God will always use tribulation to strengthen and purity His saints. “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.” (Mal 3:3) Purification requires fervent heat and the nature of the metal is altered and made more resplendent in its character. The refinement of silver is a process in which the refiner sits at the fire and heats the silver until it becomes a liquid, molten mass. He then skims the impurities from the surface, and heats again – each time skimming the impurities from the surface. He performs this purification seven times the seventh of which enables the Refiner to look into the purified silver and view His own likeness reflected in the silver. It is through this process that we become more and more like Him. “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Psalms 12:6) It is the Word, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, whereby we are purified. The mode of purification may vary: “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10), but always intended for our consummate good.
“And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” Before a man is confirmed by the church in his calling, he must first be aware of it. The Church here has chosen their called out men and, after much prayer and fasting, these were commended to the Lord by whose authority all acceptable witness is performed.
“And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” It is perfectly normal to return, after a successful ministry to which the church has called us, to return to the calling Church and give an account of all that has transpired. This is a courtesy that the sponsoring church deserves. It also strengthens the sponsoring church in its testimony and resolve to continue missions.
“And there they abode long time with the disciples.” This is possibly the most blessed of sojourns for a minster of the Gospel. What a comfort and a lovely pleasure to be among those of strong faith and one mind with Christ. It is ample reward for all the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” hurled against the preacher when in a strange country. It is a blessed experience we all feel when we attend our National Convention in the AOC. We are reluctant to leave the place where love is so profuse and freely shared. May each of us abide forever with the disciples of Christ.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Devotion for Tuesday (3rd Week after Trinity Sunday) 12 July 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Tuesday (3rd Week after Trinity Sunday) 12 July 2011 Anno Domini
“8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: 9The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.18 And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.” (Acts 14:8-18)
“And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked.” This is a seeming casual coincidence that the man sat where he sat at the time most advantageous. He heard the powerful preaching of Paul and realized it to be from a true minister of God. If God could speak through this man (Paul) perhaps that God could heal as well; however, perhaps out of courtesy or fear, he said not a word! “The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed.” Paul, being informed by an ever-presence of the Holy Ghost, looked on this crippled man and saw faith reflected in his eyes. Do our eyes also reflect a strong faith in the power of God? Paul reckoned that this crippled man had the faith to be healed!
Paul issues a fairly simple to understand command, echoed to him from the Holy Ghost. And Paul: “Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.” Now, is it possible that the man suffered from impaired hearing as well? Paul had only asked him to “stand up,” but, instead, the man not only stands up, but leaps and walks. I can tell you for a surety, the man was not impaired in his hearing – he was inspired by healing and the mercy of God!
“And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.”Men who know not the voice of the Holy Ghost often draw the wrong conclusions from their unlearned observation. Paul was certainly not God. These men were of seemingly low sophistication and maybe steeped in superstition. But they unwittingly got one thing right even if they knew not what they had said: God did, indeed, come down to man in the form of a precious child of Mary the blessed Virgin at Bethlehem. He came in the form and likeness of a man, but was also the very issue of God the Father and, as we know, God Himself.
“And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.” Barnbabas appeared to them to be Jupiter for his commanding presence; and Paul seemed to them Mercury, the god of eloquence (to them) and a messenger. I would deign to say that these poor people certainly meant no offense to the sovereign God, but were trying to compliment the apostles.
“Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.” There was, most likely, an edifice erected to Jupiter without the gates of the city so that Jupiter was their premier idol. Now the priests of this false god will bring spoils of offerings to the apostles. They would furthermore have made sacrifices along with the people. This was abject error. I can say, with a high margin of confidence, that many false evangelists and pulpit vipers of our own day would cherish the offering of sacrifices to themselves as if they were gods – but NOT Barnabas and Paul!
“Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.”It was customary for a Godly minister to rend his garments at the utterance of blasphemy. “We are also men of like passions with you!” We are only men and no more. Christ was at once man and God. He was the only One out of all time and Eternity that possessed in equal measure the characteristics of both God and man – and He was the only One that walked sinlessly through His thirty three years upon the earth! He was Creator, as well as Redeemer. He had allowed man to attempt to be obedient to the Law as a school teacher to them and a foreshadowing of that fuller salvation made perfect in Him which, to them, was future promise.
“Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Actually, the entire Creation - from stormy seas to lush rainforest, from the beauty of the sunrise to the charm of the nightingale, from the birth of a child to gift of art – all are testimony to the Person of Christ. If our hearts are united in Christ, they shall also be filled with gladness and never lack of food or the necessities of life. Why can man not grasp this as the point has been proven too many times to doubt? Though the heathen are without a full witness of the Word, they, nonetheless, have the evidence of His Godhead represented in the marvelous testimony of all that is in nature and that is natural to our eyes.
“And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.” Though Godly ministers, called and sent, preach the Gospel with power, man will always seek to place his own stamp of workmanship of God’s will where it is not a trifling acceptable. Superstitions and the traditions of men have crept in to most churches, and it has marched under a proud banner into the Church at Rome. They have adopted many of the filthy rags of paganism and the proud rule of a mere man to be their own answer to the complete Will of God. Better to shed ourselves of such worldly accoutrements and return to God’s Word alone as our rule of practice and worship in faith. There is no substitute, no efficacious seasoning, no additive acceptable, to the Word of God. It stands alone pure and undefiled by the fingerprints of man!




Friday, July 8, 2011

Devotion for Friday 8 July 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Friday 8 July 2011 Anno Domini



“ 13Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. 15And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.23 Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.” (Acts 13:13-25)



Prefatory note: Henceforth in the biblical account, Saul of Tarsus is referred to as Paul (as indicated in verse 9 of this same chapter). The name means ‘small’ and most likely is attributable to the slight stature of Paul. It also is more suitable to the ears of the Romans and other Gentiles to whom Paul is sent; therefore Paul assumes a Gentile name rather than a Jewish one.

“Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.” It is clear from subsequent verses that John Mark had caused some disappointment in Paul’s opinion of him. (see Acts 15:38). Later on in the narrative of Acts, we learn that the division between John Mark and Paul eventually affected that between Barnabas and Paul so that they separated in their work at a later point as well. John Mark, being a young man, may have lacked the maturity to adhere to the rigorous schedule that Paul was keeping, or it may have been a simple difference in approach. At any rate, the letters of Paul later revealed that they were reconciled wonderfully to one another.

“But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” Worship in the synagogue on the Sabbath Day was liturgical and much like that of the Prayer Book; however, the form of worship is never so important as that Divine Being in whose Person you have placed your faith. The Law and the prophets were read usually followed by an exposition of them. The Jews had only half the truth if they had not Christ – and half is not enough in the economy of heaven.

“The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.” A proper worship of God requires that we must acknowledge His works in our lives. Here, Paul reminds the people of how God guided and protected them in the Wilderness by no man’s power but God’s. “And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.” The people, all along in the Wilderness journey, were murmurers and complainers of, not only God Himself, but those whom God had placed over them. This He did in spite of so many marvelous works of providence and miracles of light, thunder, water, and smoky cloud.

“And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.” It was the Will of God to take from the unrighteous and give to the righteous. Though Israel was often disobedient and stiff-necked, God inclined a tender and forgiving heart to them. Those who so out rightly rejected Him in Canaan, for them He had no mercy. WE must daily consider our standing in God to make our election sure.

“And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.” If God will give the judge, or the magistrate, the land will enjoy justice. When judges are named for political reasons, the system will soon be corrupted and there can be no justice. The Will of the Lord was that Israel should have no king, but judges of His choosing. The issue reminds me of a quote from 44 B.C. by a great advocate of the Republican form of government which I love to repeat: "Power and law are not synonymous. In truth they are frequently in opposition and irreconcilable. There is God's Law from which all Equitable laws of man emerge and by which men must live if they are not to die in oppression, chaos and despair. Divorced from God's eternal and immutable Law, established before the founding of the suns, man's power is evil no matter the noble words with which it is employed or the motives urged when enforcing it. Men of good will, mindful therefore of the Law laid down by God, will oppose governments whose rule is by men, and if they wish to survive as a nation they will destroy the government which attempts to adjudicate by the whim of venal judges." -Marcus Tullius Cicero

“And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.” Just as our modern wonders of legislative process of today wish to emulate all that is European in law and government (a system which our forefathers endured much deprivation in escaping), the people of Israel did not want to have God as their king, but mere men such as their surrounding neighbors had. They didn’t want to be different or peculiar, but that is exactly what the man or woman of God is called to be - “Come ye out from among them and be separate!” The irony of the moment could not have escaped Paul’s notice: the first king of Israel shared the same name of Paul (Saul) and the same tribe as well.

“And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” Saul did not do that which was right in the eyes of the Lord. He ruled in an ungodly manner, consulted with the Witch of Indor, and fell at his own hand on the battlefield. David was an unpretentious, courageous shepherd boy whose heart was given over to God in innocence. David was a man after God’s own heart, but even David sinned shamefully and sought forgiveness (which was granted) of the Lord.

“Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus.” Yes, the Seed of Abraham, through David as the royal and priestly line (both sides thereof). It is interesting to note that the lineage of Christ, given in Matthew and Luke differ in some respects. In Matthew 1, we have the lineage given from Abraham down through David and Solomon down to Joseph, the husband of Mary. (Christ is One who came down from Heaven). This lineage in Matthew provides a Royal lineage through Solomon. In Luke 3, we have the lineage given, beginning at Christ and leading up the genealogical COLUMN to Nathan the prophet and finally all the way back to God the Father (Christ not only came DOWN, but He also ascended back up to Heaven). This lineage provides for the priestly lineage of Christ (through Nathan’s side).

“When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.” What a prophet was John the Baptist! Yet, he was not worthy to unloose the shoe laces of Him of Whom he prophesied. We read of him in Isaiah 40:3 - “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” He is also explicitly described in Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, and John 1:23 in precisely the same words of Isaiah. God’s people must repent ere Shiloh come! I believe that we often feel alienated from the world as Christians. If so, that is precisely how we should feel. We are not citizens of this world. This world is perishable and shall surely end in chaotic and cataclysmic ruin. We are citizens of heaven and should deport ourselves as such. Just as John was a “Voice Crying in the Wilderness” so are we who believe the whole counsel of God. There are not a great number of hearers in a wicked and adulterous world. We are, therefore, like voices crying in the Wilderness, yet, even in the Wilderness, there are those who travel far and wide and come to it to hear God’s Word. Such people who come must forsake the things of Egypt – its comforts, its security, its opulence – and come into the Wilderness place to be led of God. We must not only hear that Voice crying in the Wilderness, we must all become that voice in our living, in our associations, in our daily intercourse, and in our very being. Have you yet come to the Wilderness, my friends?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Episcopal Appointment

Dear Friends and Family of the Anglican Orthodox Communion:
This letter will confirm that the Rt Rev. Dennis Campbell has been designated Bishop of Virginia, a post left vacant by the good Bishop Roger Jessup, Sr. who is suffering from illness for these past few years.
A certificate will be issued to Bishop Dennis Campbell making the designation official. He will assume the responsibilities of his new (and additional) duties immediately. Bishop Campbell graciously agreed to this post in previous discussions. He will have the good offices of the Rev Roger Jessup of St Joseph's of Arimethea and the Rev Ken Johnson upon which to rely as a help in his ministry.
Please join me and the AOC in prayers that God will bless and propser the Diocese of Virginia under the able leadership and episcopal oversight of Bishop Campbell.
In Christ our Lord,

Jerry L. Ogles
Presiding bishop
AOC

Devotion for Thursday, 7 July 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Thursday, 7 July 2011 Anno Domini

“25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark. (Acts 12:25) “1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 5And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. 6And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. “ (Acts 13:1-12)

We have thus far seen in Acts a history of the early church which may be broken down into three distinct phases: 1) the Church among the Jews related in the first seven chapters; 2) the Church in a transition period from the Jews to the Gentiles in chapters eight through twelve; and 3) the Church among the Gentiles in the remaining chapters.

“And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.” The two, Barnabas and Saul, appear to have remained in Jerusalem throughout the persecution. Now they bring with them John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas and spiritual son of Peter.

“ Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” There were perhaps more, but these are the prominently mentioned prophets and teachers. Manaen had been raised under the same tutelage as Herod (Antipas) together. It is remarkable what divergence of character can emerge from a commonly shared background.

“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Ministering and fasting are sure ways of getting a word from the Holy Spirit. Fasting dulls our senses to the world and opens our minds to God. The time has come to fulfill the mission to which the Holy Ghost has called Barnabas and Saul. “And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Every important step taken in the church should be done following prayer. Thus, Saul and Barnabas were sent away after the Church had laid hands on them in anointing for the mission. The call was first of the Holy Ghost, and the sanctioning call of affirmation from the Church as secondary to it.

“So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” Even though the church ordains, it is the Holy Ghost by whose authority the call is made. They sailed to Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea first owing, perhaps, to its nearness to Antioch and the fact that it was the place of birth of Barnabas. It might be expected, on that account, that family and friends would provide some welcome core of support for the Gospel.

“And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.” Salamis was the capital city of the island and a trade and mercantile center. It was a choice place of business for the Jewish residents who were plentiful. They had several synagogues in the city at which Saul and Barnabas preached. John Mark was their minister and officer of the church.

Next comes and interesting encounter with pagan religion: “And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus.” A sorcerer is not only a false prophet, but the religion he represents is also false. He, too, was a Jew, but not a very good one at that! “Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.” It is common for false prophets to ingratiate themselves to men of power to enforce their errors in religion. Sergius Paulus was an important official on the island whose ears perhaps itched as much as those of the men of Athens, but he was sincere to hear the word from Barnabas and Saul. False religion leaves emptiness in the soul that can only be filled by pure and undefiled truth.

“But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.” Of course, Elymas opposed the Gospel being preached to the very man over whose eyes he had so recently pulled the wool. Elymas was his Arabic name meaning ‘the wise one’. Well, he may have been a wise guy, but he wasn’t at all wise in truth.

“Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” Had Elymas been as wise as his name suggests, he would have taken this stern word from the prophet in all seriousness and gravity. The next words from Saul’s mouth would cause the sorcerer to rue the day he had met Saul. “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.” It is a wonderful blessing to have the hand of the Lord upon us as a guide and help, but quite another in judgment. No longer would Elymas be so free to spread false religion as he had been before crossing a prophet of the Lord.

“Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” The deputy, upon seeing the power of God over the shadows of darkness, coupled with the Words of Truth and Power which Saul and Barnabas imparted, was astonished at it and believed from that moment. Has God blinded the dark shades of your own heart and illumined it with the brilliant light of His Gospel?



Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Devotion for Wednesday, 6 July 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Wednesday, 6 July 2011 Anno Domini

“ 1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.14 And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.17 But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.19 And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode. In his pride, Herod takes to himself the honor due God, is stricken by an angel, and dies miserably. 20 And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country.21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.” (Acts 12:1-24)

If we were to suppose that the world has changed in its hatred of Christ from 2,000 years ago, we would be wrong. The same cruelty and hatred is being acted out today in our world as in the days of Herod. Christians are subjected to merciless torture, beheadings and their children are sold into the most abject form of servitude. These atrocities are happening as we write today. If you presume that such cannot happen on the fair shores of America, think again. Unless we repent and turn to the Sovereign Hand that governs all nations, it shall surely come to pass in our American ‘paradise’.
“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.” The apostle is quite often too kind in his choice of verbs. ‘Vex’ does not begin to describe the events about to occur. Herod was an Edomite. He was descended from Herod the Great (his grandfather) who murdered the innocents at Bethlehem. His rule is proof positive that the scepter has passed from Judah. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Gen 49:10) Shiloh (to Him belongs the rule) has come (the Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords). Prophecy is on a constant line of fulfillment.
“And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.” This was a seemingly a terrific blow to the early Church, but the blood of the martyrs has nourished her body from the beginning. James was one of the particularly favored three of the Lord (Peter, James, and John). His murder demonstrates that blithering fools of political appeasement have existed from the beginning. “It pleased the Jews.”
One success of wicked contrivance will always beget more until it is stopped by a higher power. “And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)” Herod will do anything to ingratiate himself with the majority view. Sound familiar? He wished to take another prominent disciple of the Lord. “If we can simply kill them all, perhaps we shall be rid of Christ” thought Herod just as his grandfather had thought in killing the innocents of Bethlehem. He would choose to do so, we learn, following the Holiest of days (unleavened bread).
“And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” A quaternion of soldiers was comprised of four soldiers (one for each of the four watches of six hours each). Four quaternions would be equal to sixteen soldiers. As you can see, Herod did not intend for Peter to escape. He must have considered Peter larger than life to require sixteen soldiers to hold him! When Passover and the days of unleavened bread were past, Herod intended to bring Peter before the people, just as Pilate had brought Christ, in the sure knowledge that the Jews would likewise demand his death – always death with these legalist (they still exist in the form of Islam today!)
Do you doubt the power of prayer? Doubt no more! “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” The whole Church prayed for Peter and that without ceasing! God loves such prayers and they are often proof of the righteous desires of the people.
Do you believe that Peter was dreadfully afraid and unable to sleep in prison? I don’t think so: “And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.” Two soldiers, one on either side, slept with Peter who was bound with TWO chains, and two more guards were at the door.

We never know what characters we may meet in prison, but in Peter’s case, it was an angel of the Lord! “And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.” Where God is, there is also Light. Like an old friend, the angel struck Peter on the side, and raised him up. God often sends angels to raise us up when we are down. The chains fell off from Peter’s hands. We learn here that God will perform marvelous works that we are unable to perform, but expects us to do those works that we are able to do. “And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.” The angel is saying, “Look, Peter, I removed the chains, you can at least put on your clothes. We cannot have a apostle running loose in the streets in undress, can we?” “Follow me!” This is the motto of the US Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Georgia. It means follow the one with authority! Authority is always reinforced by active evidence.
“And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.” Peter, the survivor of many storms on the sea, was sleeping like a baby. He had suddenly been aroused by an Angel. He still cannot separate reality from dream. In our own lives, we are often blessed to the point that we simply cannot believe how gracious God has been to us.
“When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.” When God sends and angel to help us, the angel will help only so far as we need. The iron gate opened “of his own accord.” I will remind the reader that this was long before electronic sensors or automated doors. The angel continued with Peter only until he was safely away!
“And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.” Just as the young prodigal, when he reflected and meditated on his far fall from came to himself, so does Peter come to himself over the wondrous miracle that has occurred on his behalf. What a wondrous delivery from a cruel and heartless king and a cruel and heartless mob of Jews.
“And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.” This lady, Mary, must have been a woman of some means to have a house to shelter so many in prayer. She was the mother of John Mark, so-called to distinguish him from the other John. “And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.” Rhoda means Rose. “And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.” Rhoda was so filled with joy at the sight of Peter that she forgot to open the door and let the poor man inside (after all he had experienced!).
Why, I wonder, is answered prayer so hard to accept by those who pray? “And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.” Every possible guess is made here except the logical one – it is Peter, for goodness sake! At least go to the door and prove the matter! “But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.” So slow were they to believe the majestic power of God to set free!
“But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.” Though the moment could be considered humorous, Peter indicates there is no time for humor. He must relate important words to them. The James referred to in this passage is not James the brother of John mentioned in vv2 above. It may be James, son of Alpheus (James the Less), or James the brother of the Lord. He is perhaps singled out here due to his beginning to assume the oversight of the Church at Jerusalem.
“Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.” I would venture to guess that this was a monstrous understatement! The very lives of the soldiers were in jeopardy. “And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death.” Notice that the guards did not report the missing Peter of their own accord due to great fear. “And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.” I am quite interested to learn of Herod’s fate after so much evil. Are you?
“And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country.” Though Herod was at odds with the men of Tyre and Sidon, he was more than happy to make peace at the prospect of enriching his pockets in trade.
“And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.” God is neither impressed by his conduct, nor his apparel. He will exact a price from Herod for his treachery.
“And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.” This last may give cause for our Roman friends to be concerned for their Pope – ex Cathedra or otherwise! “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.” It is not my judgment, but the Lord’s, that this is the fate of all wicked people! Herod not only died, but was eaten alive by worms in front of his so-called worshippers. Like all mortals sooner or later must do, he gave up the ghost. Pray tell, where do you believe Herod is whiling away the hours today? The worms were nothing compared to his present suffering.
I love the benediction to this chapter. In spite of all that wicked men do to stop it, the Word of God continues forth in triumph! “But the word of God grew and multiplied.” Are you fulfilling your part in this triumphant growth?

Devotion for Tuesday, 5 July 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Tuesday, 5 July 2011 Anno Domini
“19Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. 20And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. 22Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. 25Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. 27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” (Acts 11:19-30)

We began to see a continuing emergence of the Church in today’s text into a broader body of believers whose love and brotherhood crosses both national and racial boundaries. We discover, too, that the disciples first came to be known as Christians at the Church in Antioch. It is natural that, if we would be part of the family of God and imitate Christ in our love and faith, we would be called by the family name to which we owe our standing.
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.” We note in this verse that the early beginnings of the church has remained provincial in that its membership was primarily reserved to the Jews only. It was never the will or intent of Christ to restrict His calling to a racial minority – as a matter of fact, race had nothing to do with the offer of Grace in Christ. It is a human characteristic to restrict the benefits of a great good to their close family. But the Mind of God transcends every national and tribal boundary. He can not be restrained to the borders of a country, a city, or a church building.
“And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.” The Grecians made reference to here were uncircumcised Gentiles and perhaps a sprinkling of Hellenized Jews. Moreover, the men of Cyprus and Cyrene were, in all likelihood, Christian Gentiles. They preached the Gospel to these people of Antioch with a high degree of success. The preacher sows the seed of the Gospel never knowing on what ground it they may fall. The sower sows, the Holy Spirit nurtures. “And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.” If the “hand of the Lord” was NOT with them, the Gospel would not have been preached with such power in which case, though there may have been many believers, they may not have been true believers.
“Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.” It seems obvious that the Church at Jerusalem was now joyfully reconciled to the admission of Gentiles into the churches. The effect of the visit of Barnabas was to encourage and strengthen these people of Antioch in their faith. “Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” A good minister of God will always draw his joy and strength from seeing others receive the knowledge and Grace of God. He will always encourage and never tear down. He will urge them on to greater accomplishment in Christ. Barnabas urges them on to cleave unto the Lord (in the same way a man and woman cleave unto each other in Godly marriage). The Church, after all, is the Bride of Christ!
“For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.” Barnabas was a good man! Shouldn’t that be a given for the man of God? Unfortunately, it does not describe many who profess to be men of God today. How often do we learn that they are money-grubbers, self-seekers, and adulterers! He was “full of the Holy Ghost” so that the last phrase seems unnecessary: “and of faith.” If we are full of the Holy Ghost, we will certainly be full of faith. The last phrase is simply added for emphasis as when the vision was repeated to Peter thrice in Acts 9.
“Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul.” Why did the notion occur to Barnabas to go seek out Saul of Tarsus? The Holy Ghost, which indwelled him with great presence, moved him to go to one who was particularly called of God to minister to the Gentile nations! You will recall that the Lord had spoken to Ananias regarding Saul prior to his laying hands on him: “…..Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.” (Acts 9:15-16) So Barnabas seeks out the man of God’s choice for the hour needed.
“And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Much can be accomplished in a second with the Lord. How much more in preaching may be accomplished in a YEAR! The Church gains its name at Antioch!
“And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.” Please observe here the certification of a true prophet! If that which he prophesies shall come to pass, count him as a prophet. Four famines occurred during this period (according to the Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus). The famine came to Judea and surrounding areas in 41 A.D. But what of those modern prophets that keep getting it wrong? I’ll leave their description to the discretion of the reader!
“Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” Here is an excellent example of Christian charity! Every disciple sent relief to the Jewish church in Judea according to his ability to give. Our charity is not driven by an arbitrary goal, or limited either by such. We give according to our ability. We have a profound example of a widow, giving even more than her presumed ability, in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4. Our giving, furthermore, is not limited to money only. It is time we contribute in sharing the Gospel, teaching, serving the needs of the unfortunate as Tabitha did. In summary, the Christian gives himself – his whole being – to Christ and His Work.










Monday, July 4, 2011

Devotion for Monday, 4 July 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Monday, 4 July 2011 Anno Domini
“1And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, 3Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. 4But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: 6Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. 12And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: 13And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.17 Forasmuch then as they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:1-18)
When we reflect on the events in our study of Acts over the past two days, we might wonder hwy God sent an Angel to Cornelius with instructions to go to Joppa to find Peter? Why would God not simply send the Angel to proclaim the Gospel and eliminate the need for Peter coming to proclaim it? Had God desired, He could even have caused the Gospel to be proclaimed from Heaven itself! The answer is, of course, that it is not the method of God to sue Angels to proclaim the Gospel – He has left that privilege to us. We must always bear in mind that the proclamation of the Gospel is never any burden to us but rather a privilege that bears in itself great benefits for the messenger. See what Daniel the prophet has to relate regarding that benefit: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Dan 12:1-3) I hope the readers of this devotion will “shine as the brightness of the firmament” rather than, as Kipling says, appear as “a dying ember on the distant dunes.”
“And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.” The word came to their ears while Peter sojourned with the Gentile assembly at Caesarea. Now Peter travels back to his home base in Jerusalem perhaps expecting to be received with rejoicing at the news of the reception of these dear men and women of the Centurion’s household who had so readily received and rejoiced over receiving the Word of the Gospel. “And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him.’ Instead of rejoicing at the news, there is contention. The young prodigal returns home and the elder brother is not well-pleased at the father’s reception of him. “Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” Instead of regarding the changed hearts of these new persons in Christ, the Jews can only look upon the externals of their faith – an error that has plagued Israel from the beginning. “Why do your disciples eat with unwashen hands?”
“But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.” Peter relates the entirety of the vision to the believers in Jerusalem. They know that God is not fickle regarding his ordinances and commandments, so this vision cannot represent to them that the food laws are abrogated, just as the Passover and Sabbath laws had not been, but rather fulfilled and made more meaningful in Christ. We are to judge no man regarding what he eats, or what he abstains from eating: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Col 2:16-17)
“But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.”
Old, long held opinions are difficult to dislodge in the minds of men ardent in their religion, but less obstinate to those whose faith supersedes those notions. “Forasmuch then as they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Knowing Peter to be of their same faith, and a proven witness of Christ, they no longer persisted in their contentious views but received this news with joy. This was a wonderful turning point in the early events of the Church of Christ.
I feel, at this point, a need to clarify my views of the Passover and the Sabbath so as to eliminate any notion in our readers that I am an Old Law Man. At the outset, I do not believe the Bible suggests that any of God’s people are somehow “more chosen” than others. Even the Jews who reject Christ are left without the gates of Heaven. There is no racial proof as to whom God has called and chosen as His people as the election is made sure in Christ. God is no prevaricator in His Law or His immutable Will. God does not entertain an “opinion” in any sense of the term – He possesses only absolute Truth in Thought, Word, and Deed! If God speaks two thousand years ago, that Word spoken is just as meaningful to us of today as when first uttered. These views are consistent with those of our blessed founder, Bishop James Parker Dees, and are the stated views of this Communion.
After rejecting every plea to release the Children of Israel from Egypt, Pharaoh passed one bridge too far. After bringing many hard plagues upon his people, Pharaoh finally denied the last request of Moses to let His people go. We are told of the first Passover in Egypt in Deuteronomy 12. The Children of Israel were to take (as revealed in later chapters) a young lamb without blemish and sacrifice same. They were to cover the door posts of their doors and the lintel (overarch) with the blood from the lamb. This blood was a foreshadow of the blood of the Lamb of God to come in the process of time. When the Lord passed over Egypt to take the first-born of every household, both of men and of animals, He would Passover any home whose door posts and lintels were covered by the blood of the lamb. The fullness of Passover has come with the advent of Christ. Christ is the Lamb of God sacrificed before the foundation of the world. (Rev 13:8). Nothing in God’s Command has changed, but a fuller meaning now attends the term Passover. Christ has become our Passover. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor 5:7-8) Our Holy Communion most closely symbolizes our New Passover. The meaning of the Passover has not changed, but made more perfect in Christ, the fulfillment thereof. Christ is truy our Passover and was ever so.
For much of my childhood, I struggle with my understanding of the Sabbath. My father, who was an accomplished Bible scholar, would tell me that the seventh day was Saturday. In fact, the Spanish still refer to Saturday in their calendar as the Sabbath. Yet, my father related what had been so often related to him, that the Sabbath had been changed to Sunday due to the resurrection presumably occurring on Sunday. Yet, I could not reconcile this change with Holy Scripture. I struggled for many years with the Sabbath issue and found no merit in scripture for its change. Finally, I realized the Sabbath was never changed or abrogated. It is just as much in force today as when first Commanded as a memorial by God. In fact, the Sabbath is made more forceful and binding than when first given! The principle of observing Sunday as the Lord’s Day remains unaffected by the Sabbath concept. It is right and proper that we should observe a special day of worship on the day our Lord arose from the Tomb and completed His Redemption promise.
So what does the Sabbath mean to us today and how shall we keep it? Should we keep one day in seven still? Should we consider the first day to be the changed day of the Sabbath? Is this consistent with the revealed Word of God? I say ‘no’ to all of these ideas. “For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” (Heb 4:3-10) If we were to rest from all our works on the Sabbath Day, how do we rest in Christ who has become our rest? He has also become our Sabbath rest. All of the works we do for God are a result of Christ working in and through us. To the Christian, every day is the Sabbath. We labor not, but Christ does His works through us. We no longer need to trouble ourselves about the legal checklist so many have come to keep. Rest now in Christ and allow His righteousness to work through us every day. We do have a Passover and a Sabbath in Christ! That is, very briefly, a summary of what I believe the Passover and Sabbath mean to us today.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Devotion for Second Sunday after Trinity, 3 July 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Second Sunday after Trinity, 3 July 2011 Anno Domini
"57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:57-62)
We have examples in today's text of three different types of disciples – 1) those who are overly impulsive in words, 2) those who defer in doing, and 3) those that are indecisive to act. How many disciples in the modern church rush hastily into commitments that they neither can, nor will, fulfill? Some church authorities also expose their members to sin by expecting them to vow to pay certain future expenses which they may not be able to pay for various reasons. "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee." (Deut 23:21-22) But a disciple, if he will be a faithful one, must count the cost of his discipleship ere he vows to follow. "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" (Luke 14:28)"

And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest." The inference from the text suggests that this man acts with impetuosity by speaking boldly and finally acting with reserve. If we are going state bold intentions, we must be ready to back them up with actions to match. Only minimal effort is required to tell a friend, "If you need anything at all to recover from the loss of your home, just let me know" and later, when the man has no place to sleep, we declare with moral impugnity, "Sorry, my rooms are all full with out-of-town guests." "And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." I do wonder if the name-it-and-claim-it prophets have ever bothered to seriously read that verse! Jesus only owned Himself, but He owned the world as well. We all belong to someone. To whom do you belong? Do you belong to the banks that hold a mortgage on all you have, the gambling house, the bar, and to the dark Angel who owns these all; or do you belong to God who is the legitimate title holder of your soul? It seems that Christ conveys the message that this disciple made a hasty committal which he would not honor. This is one who acts rashly.

"And he said unto another, Follow me!" There is no command more imperative than that issued by God. Since He holds all power, we cannot dally in obeying such an immediate command of God…. "Follow me!" Do we really need to hesitate to obey when the command is so direct, and it is? As you read these words, the command is a Standing Order to all who belong to Christ. Are you in the very act of obedience to this command as you read today? How did this man respond? "But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father." Ah, yes, the old, old, excuse! "I want to obey Lord, but right at the moment, I have more pressing business with which to deal." Really, now? This man has heard the command from Christ Himself, yet he desires to delay until he has buried his father. Would his family allow a dead body to lie around unburied if he does not come? Is burying a dead body more important than following the One who gives life to every BODY? "Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." There is much greater gravity here than meets the eye. Who are the dead, really? The dead are all who know not Christ. Let the unbelievers bury the unbelievers. The believers must be about the Lord's business. "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)." (Eph 2:1-5) This is the disciple who defers to act."And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house."

Though some may consider the burial of a father to be of some significant importance, bidding farewell to friends is less so. The friends will have opportunity to know of your discipleship and may seek you out if they have any conviction of your Master or His message. This is simply an excuse to avoid following. The man's mind is neither resolute nor determined. He is one who wavers in serious decisions. But this is one decision over which one simply cannot waver, delay, nor postpone. "And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Actually, there are many who do, indeed, put their hands to the plough and look back on all they presume to miss in following a righteous Savior. But their plough lines are not straight. These who present themselves as "having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim 3:5) have fallen short of their calling and are unworthy of the Kingdom of God. Do you speak insincerely in committing yourself to follow, or procrastinate in fulfilling your commitment to the Lord, or simply defer to act on your claims to follow? Beware, lest you find yourself locked out of the Gates.

Devotion for Saturday, 1st Week of Trinity, 2011 Anno Domini

Devotion for Saturday, 1st Week of Trinity, 2011 Anno Domini

“34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) 37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. 44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” (Acts 10:34-48)

Here follows the full realization of Peter’s vision. God being no respecter of persons, He is no discriminator among the nations and tribes either. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one .” (Acts 17:26-27) It was never the intention of God that certain nations and tribes should be excluded. The Old Testament Church in the Wilderness (Acts 7:38) was to be the rallying ensign for faith of all. God especially anointed Israel to be the flag-ship of His people. The law was given them as a school teacher. In keeping it, they failed utterly and realized their need for a Savior. The Jew and Gentile alike must come to the Father through the Son.
“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” This was the complete vision of the diverse beasts Peter saw in his vision being let down from heaven in a sheet. Not that he should actually eat these beasts, but that he should receive the Gentiles.
Peter must acknowledge the fact. “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)” All who believe upon this Lord are children of Abraham truly and not by genetic descent but by way of adoption so that no separation exist for the people of God. I am repulsed at the popular preaching that the Church so looks forward to the Jews rebuilding their Temple in Jerusalem and renewing the altar sacrifices. Will God be pleased that the blood of His Son is not considered sufficient, but rather the blood of lowly oxen and lambs be again counted for forgiveness of sin. Will we turn to the shadow and not the authentic Person being foreshadowed in Christ Jesus?
“That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Yes, Christ went about doing only good and healing all into whose presence He came regardless of race or tribe. These men and women of Caesarea had already learned the Word. They needed a preacher, and they had surely found one in Peter!
“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:” Yes, Peter was certainly a witness – from a distance. But now he is imbued with power from on high. He has the Holy Spirit as his Guide and Comfort. “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.” Peter’s memory is rich with that last meal on the Galilean shores where he was asked thrice “Lovest thou me more than these?” His heart was pierced to the lowest chamber to hear these words from Christ, but then also to know the unmatchable Grace that forgave and restored him there by the Sea. Yes, Peter did, indeed, eat and drink with Christ after He rose from the dead. An apparition cannot eat and drink – this was the Risen Lord to whom Peter makes reference! God elects His ministers long before they chose to be elected. In His providence, He decides what witnesses are necessary and what preachers must carry the message – even to Gentile nations.
“And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.” Peter here gives the testimony of his calling in Christ to preach the Gospel. If a man has no testimony, he cannot preach. Christ is truly the judge of the quick (alive in Christ) and the dead (dead in trespasses and sins).
“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Faith in Christ is not an exclusive privilege of the New Testament, but of both those people of the New AND the Old Testament period. The prophets all foretold His Coming and the necessity of it. Even our Father Abraham had the Gospel preached unto him: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Gal 3:8-9). Was Abraham ignorant of Christ? Not at all. His faith was based upon that promise: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56) In another amazing bit of prophecy, Abraham himself gave evidence t=of his knowledge of Christ. When Isaac and Abraham came to the base of the mount of sacrifice, Isaac asked his father, “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” (Gen 22:7-8) God will provide what as a lamb for the offering? HIMSELF! Not the wording of the NIV (per)version : “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” (Gen 22:8) Is that really what God said? Did He simply say that He would provide a lamb, or did He say He would provide HIMSELF a Lamb? And did He? Yes, in Jesus Christ, His only Begotten Son! Do not be fooled by the deviation from truth of these new copyrighted, made-for-profit Bibles. The ESV is just as bad and maybe worse than the NIV!
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.” These people did believe! Peter had just said, “…through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” So, the Holy Ghost fell upon these good people. If Pentecost was the beginning of the Church in Jerusalem, here we see the beginning of the Church of the Gentiles in Caesarea! The Jews who had accompanied Peter was astonished to see that God so richly poured out the Holy Ghost upon the Gentiles!
“For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God..” They heard them speak with the same kind of tongues (glossa, or language) that they had witnessed at Pentecost in Acts 2. They spoke in languages that they perhaps did not understand of the Grace and Beauty of God. This was clearly understood by those standing about. “Then answered Peter:”
“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” Are any here more worthy of baptism than these? This is an establishment of an ecclesia, or assembly of Christians, for they have been baptized in the Church of Christ. They pleaded with Peter to remain with them for a time. They loved the man who brought them the glorious message of the Gospel. Do we, too, long to hear the clear Word of God preached; or are we timekeepers with a constant eye on the clock desiring the conclusion of the same? Do we give evidence in our lives of the knowledge of our baptism and into the life of blessed bliss in Christ? To neglect to do so imperils our election in God.
Peter apparently did spend time with these brethren since word had already gotten back to Jerusalem of the events at Caesarea on Peter’s return there.







Friday, July 1, 2011

Devotion for Friday 1 July 2011 Anno Domini Acts 10:14-30

Devotion for Friday 1 July 2011 Anno Domini Acts 10:14-30

“24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. 25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. 26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. 27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. 28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me? 30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing. 31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. 33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” (Acts 10:31-33)

In yesterday’s devotion, I suggested that the lowering of the beasts in a vision to Peter had nothing to do with the food laws. Perhaps I can clarify that claim by stating that it had nothing to do with a ‘revision’ of the food laws per se’, but rather used the food laws as an example to Peter of what Peter, himself, had previously considered unclean, that is, to be not so, but declared clean by God. This alluded to the Gentile nations which Peter, and all other Jews, considered to be outside the blessing of God. There would no longer be a “wall of separation” between the Jewish Christian and Gentile Christian in worship – all must come alike to God the Father through God the Son. The fact that the vision was making reference to the Gentiles and not food per se’ is revealed in the continuing narrative.
“And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea.” Peter travels with the three guides as agreed the next day to Caesarea where Cornelius was waiting with his friends and kinsmen of like mind. “And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. 25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.”
“And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.” Cornelius may have considered Peter somehow less human and more divine than others of the human race. He recognized in Peter a man different from all others he had ever met because of the power of Christ which Peter demonstrated through faith; however, no mere man is worthy of worship or high reverence - even apostles whether living or dead. How would the worship or reverence of a stone statue of an apostle make them any more worthy of worship as some Roman’s do today? If there is any element in our nature that makes us appear good, it is the imputed and practiced nature of Christ. It is Christ, therefore, that deserves the worship. “But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.” When we see men today bowing to statues of saints, or to bishops, we know that they have added an ungodly element to worship.
“And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.” When a man has discovered a great treasure which may be freely had, it is natural that he would share the treasure with his friends and family. We have fallen upon the Gospel and discovered greater benefit therein to our souls than anything the world can offer. It is free and therefore abundantly available to all who believe. Have we called many of our friends, neighbors, and family together, as has Cornelius, to share in the blessing we have?
“And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” Peter recognizes here the meaning of the vision of the diverse beasts. It was unlawful (through the tradition of the elders) for Peter, as a Jew, to keep company or make friends with a man of any nation other than that of the Jews. In the company before him, toward which Peter demonstrates great respect, there are men of deep and sincere faith though limited it may be in knowledge.
“Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?” Peter did not understand completely his purpose in coming, but he refuses to question the vision which he has received of God. He knows, instinctively, that God has a great purpose for his coming to this assembly of Gentiles. He did not question the intent of those men who came for him at Joppa. Now that he has arrived at the destined time and place, he asks the intent of them.
“And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing.” This will further alert Peter to the purpose of his own vision. The time sequence fits perfectly to that of Peter’s vision. The Centurion had a vision at the ninth hour (3 PM) four days ago. The next day (day two), Cornelius sends his messengers for Peter. “….on the morrow Peter went away with them” (day three) and, “And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea” (day four). So Peter knows that his own vision is related to that of Cornelius. The diverse beast did not represent unclean foods, but the nations of the Gentiles. (including this present company).
Cornelius relates his vision to Peter: “And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.” The fasting of Cornelius has also led to earnest prayer. His prayer has been heard and all the kindnesses his has performed for others are known of God and kept on safe deposit in Heaven.
“Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.” Now Peter has heard the whole of the vision. He is left with all necessary detail to comprehend the vision of God to him.
“ Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” Being a military officer, the Centurion is not slothful when orders are issued. He acts with immediate dispatch, especially in view of the High Authority of the Issuing Headquarters (God). He is telling Peter: “We are prayerful people, though Gentiles and we have heard from God who has honored our prayers and sent us a vision and a promise. We have complied with His Command and have done so implicitly. Now we are all gathered here before God to hear whatever further command God may command us through you, Peter, his servant. They did not await Peter’s command, but the command of God through Peter. There are many false Peter’s just as there are many false Christs. We must exercise informed discretion in proving all things preached to be in accordance with Holy Scripture. In this way, no man can deceive us even if he does appear as an Angel of Light. (2 Cor 11:14) “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thess 5:21) Are you, dear friend, an eagle or an oyster? An eagle challenges the elements and the heights. He searches diligently for his food and he must often fight to get it. He is also very selective in what he eats. The oyster, on the other hand, lies at the bottom of the sea. He exerts no effort in obtaining his food. He simply opens his shell and consumes whatever enters in of its own accord. He is not selective and he is not industrious to find good nutrition. What is your approach to the Gospel? Do you diligently seek out your bread in God’s Word from the heights, or do you simply lie in front of your TV and consume whatever is dished out by some tin-horned evangelist seeking to enrich his pockets at the expense of truth?