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

Verse of the Day

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Devotion for Whitsun Thursday 31 May 2012 Anno Domini


1  The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. (Matt 13:1-8 (KJV)
The Collect
Pentecost (Whitsunday)
O
 GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
      This 13th Chapter of Matthew is full of beautiful parables that Christ employs to open our eyes to the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, this chapter is called the Kingdom chapter of the Bible. The parables are stories of the natural which give rise to understanding the spiritual. Longfellow wrote of Agassiz, the great investigator of Nature:
"Here is a story book
Thy Father hath written for thee, -
Come wander with me, she said,
Into regions yet untrod,
And read what is till unread
In the manuscripts of God."
     The setting of this parable is a beautiful one if we use our imaginations to place us on the shores of the Galilean Sea where it was delivered. Jesus has been engaged in preaching and healing all the daylong and is tired, yet, while it is yet day, He always will have time for those who seek Him. Sometimes, we may find our closest friends and family need us little and will not seek our counsel, but those who hear and listen to the voice of our Father in Heaven will bear the badge of family in their stead. (see Matthew 12:46-50 for full explanation).  Can you employ that fertile imagination God has given to see the azure blue skies over the Sea where Jesus stands? Can you feel the soft sea breeze brushing against your cheeks and slightly rustling in your locks and raiment? The multitudes gathered are many, yet we look to the surrounding hill country and see many others making their way to the seaside meeting. The boats rise and fall gently with the small tide coming from the sea, and their oars are stowed and sails furled for future ventures out at sea.
     The Bible tells us that the multitudes gathered were a very great multitude. Times have changed from that day when men and women would travel great distances by foot to hear the voice of Christ and, today, will hardly rouse from bed to attend the church only a few blocks away. In the Islands of the Philippines where I visited our churches recently, women walk barefoot up steep mountain slopes for hours on end to attend church.
     The venue is one at which two different endeavors of livelihood meet – the wheat fields abounding with golden grain on the surrounding mountain slopes, and the sea which provides food for countless souls stretching out to the misty horizon. Christ has used both fish and grains of wheat to teach us the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. Today, standing so near the sea water, He will face the land and give a lesson on Good Seed – the Good Seed of the Gospel.
     The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. "The same day, after so much strenuous dialogue and labor, Christ is not allowed a moments rest in the house into which He has gone for repose. The crowds are great beyond the doors of that house. The greater need, in the Heart of Christ, is not the security and privacy of the closed door, but the multitudes without whose hearts are empty of the Bread of Heaven. So Christ arises and goes to meet them as any gentleman would do a guest who arrived unexpectedly. Our Lord ALWAYS has time for YOU! Since many are gathered about, He sits by the sea side where, at least in one direction, there is only the natural beauty and quiet of God's Creation.
     2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. `Far From the Madding Crowd' by Thomas Hardy is a classical novel which exposes the error and meaninglessness of following the crow3d and not the heart. Jesus never becomes a part of the multitude or crowd. We must not either if we desire to be righteous before God and independent of mind. So Jesus makes a line of demarcation between Himself and the crowd. This separation is not due to any repulsion He feels for the multitudes of people, but so that His mind can be clear and His voice well heard, by the listeners. When our affairs become too muddled with the diverse counsel and advice of all of our friends, we might be well advised to withdraw from all the discordant voices to a place apart – a place of seclusion where you can be alone with God.
     3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, Yes, in this setting, Jesus speaks many parables to the people, in fact, seven, of the Kingdom of Heaven. Behold, a sower went forth to sow. Behold! An interjection evoking undivided attention. When God speaks, are there any other matters that should distract our attention from His Words? Pay attention, people! "….a sower went forth to sow.  Not just any sower, but one of special character. The Sower is Christ our Lord. Christ came sowing the Seed of the Gospel, and He has sown it in diverse places and with great abundance. Notice, in the following account, the Sower is not careful about where He sows the Seed, but broadcasts the Seed randomly and every place – just as He speaks to the multitude now gathered of diverse hearts and minds. Just ONE of those Seed He sows can produce such an abundance of grain, down the lanes of time, to feed the whole world. Just one sharing of the Gospel to one forlorn and hopeless, may result in that one arising from his despair and becoming such a propagator of truth and goodness that the whole world may be changed by it.
     4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up. The Sower reaches into His endless seed-bag of abundance and sows in a manner that we might consider careless. But God does not count the cost when sowing seeds of blessing for all who will hear and receive Him. So the seed is rejected? At least the Giver is just in making the offer available even to those who exist along the margins of society by the way side. Living by the wayside is not a wise place to stay for it is a place to which Satan has ready access. It would be far wiser to remain in Christ – the Way, the Truth and the Life. There are many scorners by the way side who will ridicule the slightest sign of faith. But the Seed, nevertheless, is sown there. Christ has some of His chosen Ones even among the dregs of society. The fowl that come to devour the Seed are demons. Later we will learn in this same chapter that those demons actually come and live in the branches of the church itself. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sowerWhen any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. (Matt 13:18-19) We have churches that constantly strive to increase their numbers by convincing men, women, and children to make a simple confession of faith in Christ. Once done, those churches fail to nurture that embryonic faith expressed through meaningful Bible teaching. After a time, the tiny embryo of faith dies as an ember separated from the fire of the hearth. Separation (or failure to fellowship in church) causes the old man to grow stronger and return to master the soul. The road less travelled is the very Road Christ appoints for us. Its soil is less compacted by the feet of men. His way is straight and narrow and leads upward to God. But the World chooses that broad road that is well-travelled and leads down to destruction. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt 7:13-14) Have you found that Narrow Way?
     5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. What encourages the development of a root system of faith? A constant study of the daily Bread of Life (God's Word)! Just as the ground is broken and watered around a newly planted tree, so must the first expressions of faith be constantly watered and the environment softened and prepared for that unseen development in the darkness of the soil (heart). But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth itYet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. (Matthew 13:20-21) The early Christian education is so important in fortifying our youth to courage and steadfastness.
     7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them. Can roses and daisies live in fields of thorns? The briar is a parasite that sucks the very life from whatever plant they attach themselves to. They choke and starve the plant of the vital sap of life. It is very important how we choose our associates and friends. We will become like the meanest friend we have, or we shall cease to be who we were in Christ by association. If I see a person who hangs out with drunks and prostitutes, I will consider him to have the same character. When we allow our greed for wealth, power, or sex to dominate our hearts, the Holy Ghost is offended and will not live in a filthy apartment.  He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. (Matt 13:22)
     8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. When the soil (heart) has been prepared, and the water of life is made available, the Seed (Word) will be nurtured in the darkness of the earth by the Holy Ghost. The Sower is not anxious for He knows the Seed is a good Seed, and He knows the Soil is a good Soil. He leaves the growth to God the Father. The tiny Seed germinates, puts forth green shoots, and strives to reach the Light of the Sun. By and by, the happy Sower is well pleased to see the first green evidence of the plant break through the crust of soil and reach for Heaven.  But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matt 13:23)
       As we said earlier, the Sower is Jesus Christ. The Seed is His Word. The soils are four different kinds of hearts. Some readily receive the Word with joy, but are made weak from following through in living that word out in their lives. Can you imagine that each of these kinds of hearts had to exist in the multitude to whom Jesus was speaking? Has the Seed of the Gospel been sown in your heart? Have you nourished that Seed daily with the Water of Life? Have you made your soil a place of sunlight and separation from the stony ground? Have you received Seed with joy?  Have you nurtured that Seed in the good soil of your heart? Has that Good Seed begun to bear fruit in your life – abundant fruit? Since all of the grain of this world came from a single seed, so can the single Seed of Faith in a man's heart bear such an abundance of fruit that the measure cannot be made. Have you borne fruit today?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Devotion for Ember Wednesday after Whitsunday 30 May 2012 Anno Domini



14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matt 5:14-16)
The Collect
Ember Days
O
 ALMIGHTY God, who hast committed to the hands of men the ministry of reconciliation; We humbly beseech thee, by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, to put it into the hearts of many to offer themselves for this ministry; that thereby mankind may be drawn to thy blessed kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pentecost (Whitsunday)
O
 GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

     If some are not anxious to learn the scientific properties of the objects of Christ's Parables, I apologize for the license I have taken in pointing them out. The reason I do so is for the purpose of revealing with what precision the Lord uses the physical to represent the spiritual, and He does so with a scientific precision for He is also the Author of true Science. Not all parables lend themselves to such a scientific analysis, but those two parables dealing with Salt and Light certainly do lend themselves to that end.
     Bishop Phillips Brooks of Massachusetts, in Candle of the Lord, points out this illustration: "A man was sent up a dangerous mountain by night to light a beacon. His friends, anxiously watching, could not see him as he went, but they could see the light of the lantern that he carried – Men should see not us, but the Light of Christ in our good deeds."
     In reality, we cannot actually see light with our physical eyes – we can only see those effects of light in revealing objects to our eyes. Neither can we see God, but we know of His reality from the works of His Hands and the Words of Holy Writ.
     When we read the first part of verse 14 (Ye are the light of the world.), we may surmise that a contradiction exists between this statement and another that Jesus makes at John 8:12 - I am the light of the worldThere is, however, a greater continuity of truth than we might have imagined! If Christ lives in the heart of the Christian, and if Christ is the Light of the World, then we have our lights of Christ in our hearts to brighten the path of our steps and of others. It is a singularly important principle that Christ is the ONLY Light of the World. If so, how is it that we, too, are the lights of the World? Our light, like that of the Moon, is a reflected light; not a self-generating Light as is that of Christ, or of the Sun (Son). If a material object, or lust for filthy lucre, comes between us and the Light-Source (as in a lunar eclipse), our hearts and souls are darkened by the deprivation of that Life-giving Light of Christ.
     Light travels via electromagnetic radiation (or so science opines). It travels at a constant speed always of 186, 282 miles per hour. The speed of light is the only absolute known to science. Christ, too, is absolute and unchanging. Light exposes evil as does Christ. Light points to the right way, as does Christ. Though science can fairly describe the behavior of light, it cannot define light or its complete nature.
     Light is not capricious in its behavior, but is constant in speed and direction. Each of its radiating beams travels in a straight line. Should we not also mimic that honest behavior of light in the manner in which we live and deal with others?
     Though we are lesser lights and reflect only that Light of Christ, we are nonetheless lights in the same way the Moon is a light at night by reflecting the light of the Sun. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night (Gen 1:16)
     The colors of the rainbow are representative of the Creator who made that rainbow. There are seven colors in the rainbow. The Creation Week consisted of seven days, as well. There are likewise seven colors in a beam of the sun's light. When all seven colors are combined together, what color do we have? The answer is White! Black is not color at all and has no force – it is simply the abject absence of light.
     We must take on the characteristics of light if we are to be like our Light-Source (Jesus Christ). The diffusion of light in the atmosphere is a result of the reflection of the rays of the sun from the particles in the air, from the clouds, from the earth and all that is on it. Otherwise we could only see the sun, and in all other directions would be darkness. But by the dispersion of light (by those who reflect it) every particle becomes a miniature Sun, and the world is full of light, even to those who do not live in the direct rays of the Sun.
     On our visit to Port au Prince (Port of the Prince) there was a great lighthouse in the central harbor; but the harbor is quite long and meandering. Ships at sea, encountering the tempests and billows of the storm, look with longing eyes for the bright beam of the Light House scanning the waves. Once this is spotted, they have hope of safe harbor, but all is not assured yet. They must approach the harbor and find secure anchor. How to navigate between the shoals and rocks of the harbor once they have been drawn near by the great Light of the Lighthouse? Along the harbor edge at Port au Prince are small lights to guide the great ships to safe anchorage. God calls His out to the lost, and He allows us the privilege to become the Lower Lights guiding the ship the final way into the harbor. We must keep "our Lower Lights Burning!"
     The powers of darkness have no power whatsoever to resist the Light of God. A small candle will disperse an entire room full of darkness. Darkness flees helplessly before the light and wherever the Light is carried. Darkness is simply the absence of Light. It truly has no force. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Once, while driving across the barren deserts of Iran from Esfahan to Teheran, I spotted a city on a rise at night with its lights gleaming. The air is quite pristine in the high desert air. I judge the city to be some 10-15 miles ahead. Two hours later, driving at 70 mph, the city still appeared less than 20 miles away. It could not be hidden by great distance because it was a city on a hill – and its lights were burning. How near to you must a person be to know that your lights are burning for Christ?
     Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Lights are not made to be hidden and, frankly, we cannot hide our light if we have it. Lights are to be elevated for maximum effect and benefit. Jesus is the true Light of the World who was lifted up on the Cross as upon a Candlestick to bring Light to all who would receive Him. It is never OUR light that we elevate, but the Light of Christ for all to see. It might disappoint us to know, despite the brilliance and Christian love it includes, that the Pilgrim in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress was never a light to anyone else and only confined his effort to his own salvation. This fact does not detract from the witness of Bunyan, but typifies the walk of too many go-to-church-only Christians. Rather than constantly planning our own escape from the distractions of the false lights of the Forbidden City, perhaps we should be more like Christ in designing escapes and means of salvation for others. That, essentially, was Bunyan's greater point that is often missed. The purpose of saving a single soul (Christian) was to make more and more lights to be burning for the saving of others. Only a saved soul can lead others to safe harbor by their light.
      Another point to consider here is that the light we are given does not only benefit us, but all within range of the glowing beam:
     "Are you not afraid to live here (at the Light House)? It is a dreadful place to be constantly abiding," said a visitor to a light-house keeper in his lonely tower.
      "No," replied the keeper; "I am not afraid. We never think of ourselves here."
     "Never think of yourselves! How is that?"
     "We know that we are perfectly safe on this rock, and only think of having our lamps burning brightly, and keeping the reflectors clear, so that those in danger may be saved." – H.L. Hasting
     Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. The whole purpose of our Christian walk is to glorify God and serve Him only; however, in serving Him, we must serve those of His Palace. We love Him, and we are therefore compelled to love all of His. Knowing that we are sons and daughters (Princes & Princesses) of the greater King of Kings should weigh heavy upon our hearts in the manner in which we live, serve and light the path of others. In what way have you been a light to others today, or the light of the world reflected?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Devotion for Whitsun Tuesday 29 May 2012 Anno Domini



13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matt 5:13)
The Collect
Tuesday in Whitsun Week
G
RANT, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit, may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Pentecost (Whitsunday)
O
 GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Over the past week, we have studied certain Old Testament parables selected for their beauty and meaning. We have not covered all of them for there are many; however, we have covered a small selection to remind us that the OT does present parables for our understanding. We will now turn to the New Testament Parables most of which I plan to cover in the coming year. Perhaps it might be helpful to review the meaning of `parable.' According to Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language (1828 ed), A parable is an allegorical representation of something real in life or nature, from which a moral is drawn for instruction; such as the parable of the trees choosing a king in Judges IX, etc. There are parables in the Bible which we might not realize are parables until we have considered the natural, as well as spiritual, meaning attending. Such a parable is being considered today in Christ's Words regarding `salt.' Though He is the Maker of salt and knows its composition and nature better than any other, He uses the compound to reveal a deeper spiritual truth that has a likeness to that physical nature of salt.
First, let us look at the Collect for Whitsun Week: We will immediately notice that the entire petition is directed to the glory of God with no personal request for material benefits. The key element of this Collect is our gathering for worship "in unity by the Holy Spirit." Have we thought this one through carefully? Why are there divisions in the church? It is simply because some individuals, or many, are not listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. His Voice is single and not divided. If we are studying the Word under the Light of the Holy Spirit, how can we be divided? If we understand clearly the mandate of Holy Matrimony from Scripture, how can we be divided on marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman? When the church is Bible-centered, there will be no division, and the power of God among all of its people will be made manifest. When we pray the Collect, do not be guilty of `vain repetition.' Pray with conviction and understanding!
The single-verse parable we are studying today relates to a physical property of a physical compound calledSALT, or NaCL. Christ does not randomly choose His subjects, but He does so with a fuller knowledge of the nature of the matter than the collective minds of all of our greatest scientist combined. Salt is a very valuable compound not found everywhere in abundance. It is valuable because it is essential for life. The term `salt' derives from the Latin `salio' from which we get the term `salary.' Salt was so valuable during the Roman Empire that it was used as payment for soldiers.
Chemically, salt possesses some surprising characteristics in the combining elements of sodium and chlorine. There are a variety of benefits we may gather from simple table salt. It is a preservative of foods, and was applied between the boards of ships to preserve them from, decay. The Christian testimony of those living among a world of the lost also helps to preserve the better natures of society. It may be used to melt ice and, so, Christians, too, are those who break the ice when hateful speech may be uttered, or spiteful behavior demonstrated. Salt also creates thirst (i.e very salty popcorn in cinemas to encourage the further purchase of a soda). The life of a Christian should be such as to create a thirst (as the Woman at the Well) for the Water of Life. Salt also helps to speed the healing of wounds and sores. Christians, too, must be a healing balm in society. Salt brings out the flavor in foods. So should the Christian make the better way attractive to those around him?
Ye are the salt of the earth. There is no other salt of the earth but those whose faith unite them in Christ. Christ chooses His Words wittingly knowing every facet of the nature of salt. But if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? How does salt lose its savor, pray tell? How does regular table salt, for instance, lose ITS savor? The two combining elements of salt compound are sodium, a silver, soft metal never found in its pure form in nature. Like the sinner, it is always joined to some other if not joined to God (Chlorine). Sinners are never pure in form until they have that imputed purity of Christ. When salt is placed in bags upon the earth, it will not be a very long while before the element of sodium (the sinner) begins to separate from the Chlorine (God) and takes on a union with one of the lesser elements of the earth. It is interesting to note that Sodium is poisonous for our consumption, yet it joins with another deadly poison – Chlorine – to form a compound essential for life. Chlorine is an odorless, invisible gas that is so deadly that it was the first chemical used in Chemical warfare during World War I. Without God (Chlorine), the sinner (Sodium) will always be deadly and joined to the world. Contrarily, if we are not joined to God (Chlorine), we are dead in trespasses and sins. An example is given by the Rev.Theodore L. Cuyler, LL.D.: "A merchant of Sidon, trying to escape paying a duty to the government, carried off an immense cargo of Cyprus salt and stored it up among the mountains in fifty or sixty stone cabins. There were no floors to the cabins, and the salt, by lying next to the ground, became utterly worthless. Bushels of it were shoveled into the road and `trodden under foot of men.' That Sidonian merchant's experience with his salt stored away next to the damp ground is full of warning to us. Grace is never given to us to be stored away; it will soon lose its pungency unless it is used, and leave us wretchedly insipid. Scatter your salt, brother, for `there is that scattereth and yet increaseth.' Jesus will give to thee all the more abundantly." It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
If we view table salt under a microscope, we will observe that it is comprised of perfectly cubed crystals, and it is white in appearance. We, too, must be four-square in our dealings with others, and we must be pure in Christ. If we crush a cube of salt, it will maintain its structural integrity by simply forming several smaller perfect cubes of salt. Do we maintain our Christian integrity even under pressure and persecution?
Salt must be applied modestly and evenly. As Christians we do not go out pronouncing judgment on every sinner we meet. We are kind and gentle in our approach just as was Christ. Actually, our life, more than our words, will draw the lost to inquire of the mystery. Did Christ ever tell a depraved sinner that he was bound for Hell? Though He was quite harsh with the Jewish rulers in telling them that they were of their father the devil, He never used such words with the woman taken in adultery, the woman at the well, or the poor lepers.
We might consider the Church to be likened to a salt shaker. Salt in kept in the shaker ready for use. Small holes are made in the top of the shaker so that we do not over-salt our meals. Those who are led to Christ must be led with simplicity as babes or lambs – not with an overly enthusiastic appeal to all of the counsel written in Holy Scripture. They must have the milk first, and then, as they grow stronger in faith, the meat. But what happens when the salt in the shaker goes unused for long periods of time. What happens when we get so buddy-buddy inside church with our social meetings and fellowships that we disregard those without? The salt forms lumps in the shaker and cannot be applied when needed. So we must be active in seeking those who need our salt and we must be ready to be used in its application.
Christ tells us that we must have the nature of salt in preserving, healing, making thirsty for the Water of Life, in improving the appeal of the Gospel through our living testimonies, and being used sparingly to the benefit of the Gospel. Remember, it is not the salt that is the essential, but the Bread of Life which it seasons. Have you been salt today?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sermon Whitsunday 27 May 2012 Anno Domini



19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.  (John 4:19-26)

Pentecost, commonly called Whitsunday.
The Collect.

O
 GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said daily throughout Whitsun Week.

     We have hitherto observed the Church Season from Advent to Whitsunday (today) of the present year. The entire church year is like the budding of a beautiful rose in revealing the completed works of Christ for us.

     In today's text, Jesus had begun his ministry on Jordan Banks at His baptism, performed His first Miracle at a Wedding Feast at Cana of Galilee, and then determines that "He must needs go through Samaria." This is more than a quaint phrase from Shakespearean English. Why did Jesus NEED to go through Samaria when this would have been a diversion to the normal course of travel to Galilee? Perhaps we might posit that question much earlier: why did Jesus find it necessary to come to Bethlehem as a babe, or to be baptized like unto us, or to do so many marvelous works and wonders among us, or to readily go to the cross and die in our stead? The answer, of course, is that He must satisfy the foreordained purpose and grace of God the Father in saving us…..and, as well, a poor and sinful woman at Jacob's Well, and at an insignificant city in Samaria. Christ must needs go through Samaria because He knew of a woman whose heart was pierced with many wounds that sin had caused in that heart. And He came not only for that particular woman, but all of the other men and women of Samaria who would be drawn to Him through the testimony of that woman whom no one would have believed prior to her coming to know Christ. Is this not marvelous to know - that He came, two thousand years ago, to a manger in Bethlehem to save multitudes of that land, but also you and me in particular!

     Christ had a rendezvous with an unsuspecting woman whom He had watched many times, through the eyes of the Holy Ghost, come to draw water at an inopportune time of noon to the Well. She thirsted for water, but she knew not that Water which would satisfy not only her thirst but her soul. She brings an empty bucket to be filled, but she also brings an empty heart that needed filling more.

     Our Lord Jesus Christ is foremost a gentleman. The Spanish say: "Jesus es el Senor" He will not impolitely impose upon our hearts without a proper opening.  The Lord insightfully engages the woman with a marvelous exchange of wisdom and insight into her character and present circumstance. Doesn't He engage us in the same manner? Have we ever gone through the usual exercise of the day when, suddenly, we meet someone, or have an experience, that is totally unplanned but which changes our whole day? The woman got out of bed as usual that day. She avoided the women of the city and their gossip by going to the Well at the unusual hour of greatest heat – Noon.  But there she met someone whom she considered to be a Stranger. Perhaps He had been to her, but she had been no stranger to Him for He knew of every secret of her heart. He knows the secrets of our hearts as well and nothing is hidden from His understanding.

     As the two discuss the matter of water, the poor woman's heart is focused on water that lies fifty feet or so beneath the surface in the bottom of a Well; but Christ makes reference to that Water which comes down from Heaven – the Water of Life which He freely offers. An empty heart can hold much of this Water once it opens to the Giver. Our hearts are also made to be receptacles of that Water of Life if we open them to the Giver.

     The woman claims not to have a husband, and Jesus confirms that she does not have, for the five she has had before are not her husbands, and the one with whom she lives now is not her husband. The woman is mystified by this Stranger whom she can not deceive. He knows too much of her to be one of those kinds of men she has known in her past.  That is one of the characteristics of Jesus – He mystifies us with His grace, His love, and His Wisdom towards us.

     The woman recognizes that none other than a great prophet could utter such words of understanding. Her sin-dimmed mind is beginning to receive a small and glowing light that leads to an even greater suspicion of who this Figure might be.  She says that Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Now her mind is turned from earthly water to that which Christ offers. She is curious to know more.

     21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Has that hour yet come for the moslem-infested land of Samaria? Truly it has.  We, too, can know what and Whom we worship for Christ has taken upon His perfect Person the flesh of men such as we are. Being sinless, He suffered every pain and temptation that we are heir to. There is not longer any geographic limitation to the worship of God; however, we must worship in Spirit and, at the same time, in Truth. If we have great spirit, but depart from truth, we are not worshipping the True God. If we worship rigidly in Truth but lack the attendant Spirit of Love, we are amiss in our worship. Truth and Spirit combine to the glory of God in worship.

     So the lesson of today's Gospel text reminds us of the fullness of the ministry and Person of Christ. He came in the flesh to minister to us and to be Light unto our path. He died for us sealing the redemption promised to Abraham and his Seed. He was, in fact, that Promised Seed. He rose on the Third Day, according to the Scriptures, and then what? He ascended into Heaven where He sits on the right hand of God to be our constant Advocate and Intercessor. Having physically departed, Christ promised not to leave us comfortless (Greek meaning: orphaned). He must send the Spirit to be our Comforter and Guide in leading us into an understanding of all the truth of Christ revealed in Scripture. A Spirit is not limited in physical properties. The Holy Spirit has the nature to be in a billion hearts at once and leading all in the particular way the Spirit determines. Christ went away in bodily form and sent the Spirit to be a comfort to all of God's people regardless the distance and time that separates them from one another. This is the Glory of Pentecost and Whitsunday! Do you have that Water of Life poured out in your heart by that Holy Spirit of God in Christ today?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Devotion for Saturday after Ascension Sunday 26 May 2012 Anno Domini

14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. 16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. 17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.  (Eccl 9:14-18)
The Sunday after Ascension Day.
The Collect.

O
 GOD, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us un-to the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.  Amen.

     The Old Testament Parable today is found in verses 14 and 15 of the text above. The parable bears out a truth that is evidenced in all of the endeavors and experiences of civilized peoples – those who are wise and prudent are generally not highly regarded by those greater numbers among us who live for the present moment and who make no provision for future needs. The wisdom that comes from God is deposited in the hearts of those who seek and cherish wisdom. This was true of Solomon, and it is true of all who seek wisdom and are willing to obey its voice. Of course, the mere possession of wisdom will not avail – its voice must be heeded else we do not possess it. The gentler and more passive voice of wisdom is oft drowned out by men whose hearts are bent on making wealth on the backs of future generations, or by those beating the drums of war for the sake of conquest for speculation in arms and materiel of war. Only when the circumstance of a people or nation become hazardous will they sometime hear the voice of wisdom which speaks without greed or selfishness. The brilliance of a gifted writer is to put an abundance of meaning in concise letters, and God is the Author of greater brilliance than any other. The parable is brief, abounding  with meaning, and enlightening to all who will read for understanding.
     14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: The city is small and therefore one in which any one of note would be well known to all inhabitants. It is a city that is not equipped to defend itself from so great an army as has come against it in the erecting of bulwarks against her walls. With no standing army, what shall the city do? It is the nature of life that the greater will always oppress the weaker. The Great King, Cyrus (the anointed of the Lord), was the first to take a benevolent approach to those people whom he had conquered. His policy is encoded on the walls of the Hall of the Nations and by the stairway of the Appadana at Percepolis, written in Mesopotamian Cunieform, which I was privileged to observe in 1975: "All these nations have I, Cyrus, conquered by the strength of Ahuramazda (God). I lifted the unbecoming yoke from off their necks and caused the stronger not to strike the weaker." But this sentiment is not the usual one demonstrated in the policy of nations. Wars are caused, almost without exception, by greed and lust. The victor, through rapine and pillage, oppresses and humiliates the nation or people who fall their victims. This city is nearly defenseless. They have fashioned no war engines, and know not the art of war. In such circumstances, the only element that can compensate for such lack is that rare element of wisdom. But in order to discover wisdom among a population not given to the study of it, a search must be made for the exceptional man among them who does know Wisdom and has attained it.  He will most likely not be well-known for he has been consulted seldom by a people whose bent has been to throw `caution to the wind' heedless of the counsel of God in wisdom.   
      15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Desperation being the mother of invention, such a quiet and goodly soul was found in the city. It is perhaps likely that this wise soul offered many gems in times past from the Psalms and Proverbs to no result other than scoffing and ridicule. Perhaps he did so even as the enemy began to array his forces in resplendent and gleaming armor outside the walls, to the ignorance of the inhabitants of the town, until the threat became too much apparent and too late for  preparation for a viable defense.  They sought the advice and counsel of this wise, but poor, man. Wisdom holds no grudges and is ready to offer itself to all seekers.  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5) I have personally observed that wisdom often resides more profoundly among poor farmers and miners sooner than among the elite in government, banking, or academia. Those who seek wisdom most often do so in the same manner as Solomon – without asking for wealth and riches to go along with it. Wisdom is sufficient in itself for our satisfaction and comfort. You will not find a source for it on NBC, CBS, ABC, or CNN – if you hear it being proclaimed, it will most likely come from less prominent voices. Once the threatened multitude have been rescued by the words of the wise man, they return to their thoughtless and complacent ways. The poor man is forgotten for his essential wisdom is not valued as much as present pleasures and filthy lucre. That disregard for wisdom is much as Rudyard Kipling spoke of God and the soldier: God and soldier, we adore, in time of danger, not before. The danger passed and all things righted, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.     16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. It is true that Wisdom is more precious than gold and silver, and it is a special benefit that comes from God. The world, however, despises wisdom and will silence it except in moments that the enemy is overrunning the walls and foxholes. The fleshly allurements of the world have a stronger draw on the ungodly soul than wisdom because wisdom smells of the halls of heaven – a prospect they cannot endure. Now the danger has passed, the wisdom of the poor man is no longer sought after.
     17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Yes, wisdom speaks in low tones and never proudly proclaims itself from the parapets.  It is the Currency of the Realm and needs no other guarantee than its own Minting Authority. It speaks with the voice of God from the silent shadows of the mountain heights, and the stormy gales that threaten the beleaguered seafarer. The noisy multitudes at the foot of Sinai cannot hear Wisom's voice for their heart is not seasoned to hear it by study of the Word of God.
      18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.  Wisdom is even stronger than weapons of war because it is spoken by God. Moses and the Children of Israel saw Wisdoms power demonstrated as their hearts sank on the Red Sea Banks, but God had sent his Pillar of Fire by day and of Smoke by night to confuse, frustrate and destroy the mighty army of Pharaoh's gallants. Gideon saw that Wisdom destroy thousands at the hands of hundreds. Joshua saw Wisdom destroy the walls of Jericho by listening to that still, small voice that whispered to a heart that was receptive. But one sinner in the Garden brought ruin on all of his posterity. Have you, my friend, listened and heard the Voice of Wisdom in your own life?

Friday, May 25, 2012

AOC Friday Quote Digest


Courtesy of Rev Geordie Menzies-Grierson AOC UK

Quotes Of Interest ----Ministry Minute.
Commentary on Sunday's Gospel
Quotes Of Interest
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The Holy Spirit
821. Mr. Moody, taking in his hand a tumbler, explained that

It was full of air, and that it was almost impossible to remove

That air. In the same way the human heart is full of sin, and

Our efforts to remove it are unsuccessful. Seizing a pitcher of

Water from the table, he filled the tumbler so full of the liquid

That it overflowed to the platform. There was no longer any

Air left in the tumbler. His moral was that when a human

Heart is filled to overflowing with God's Spirit, there is no room

For sin in that heart.

Tyler E. Gale.
From BIBLE TRUTHS ILLUSTRATED
J. C. FERDINAND PITTMAN- 1917
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In his sermon, "A Dangerous Pentecost," Halford Luccock tells of Lorenzo de’Medici, the great Florentine patron of the arts who was very proud of the spectacles he staged for the citizenry. Among his productions were several amazingly realistic religious pageants performed in church. But one Pentecost, Lorenzo went too far: he used actual fire to depict the descent of the tongues of flames on the apostles. The fragile stage set caught fire and, before horrified onlookers, the entire church burned to the ground (Marching Off the Map, Harper, 1952). The moral is clear: pray for Pentecostal power, but don’t try to manufacture it.
 
Charismatic Chaos, J. MacArthur, Jr., Zondervan, 1992, p. 175
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MINISTRY MINUTE
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For private devotions.
Kindly Paraclete,
In Thy gracious visits to our souls
Thou bring relief and consolation.
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Bend the stubborn heart and will.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew,
On our dryness pour Thy dew.
Amen
(from the sequence for Pentecost Sunday)
Adapted Rev.GMG
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Commentary on Sunday's Gospel
Gospel Reading for Whit Sunday (Pentecost)
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.....we see in the first Christian Pentecost the joy and happiness of the Holy Ghost, the
Faith and love of the primitive Christians, in whom the spirit of Jesus Christ has been implanted by the Holy Ghost, in whom the peace of which the world knows nothing has be come a joyful reality, and love to God and love to their fellow-men is the
Controlling factor in their hearts, so that they live in peace, without contention and quarrel, with out envy and strife, without anger and hatred, then, then indeed we see a condition of affairs with which our own day and generation presents a lamentable contrast.
In the thou sands of contests and struggles that agitate the hearts of men and society everywhere there is one cry heard over all, and that is for peace. The Pentecost peace is found so rarely in our day ; and for that reason this festival is an admonition to earnest humiliation and prayer that the spirit of our times may be transformed and transfused by the Spirit of Pentecost from on high.
In the spiritual bitterness and darkness of to-day this is the only fountain of hope and reformation.
REV. DEKAN W. PRESSEL
From HOLY DAYS AND HOLIDAYS
Compiled byEDWARD M. DEEMS, A.M., PH.D. 1902
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Calvin on Pentecost
John Calvin, Theologian, 1564
 It was requisite that the gift should be visible, that the bodily sense might the more stir up the disciples. For such is our slothfulness to consider the gifts of God, that unless he awake all our senses, his power shall pass away unknown. This was, therefore, a preparation that they might the better know that the Spirit was now come which Christ had promised. Although it was not so much for their sake as for ours, even as in that the cloven and fiery tongues appeared, there was rather respect had of us, and of all the whole Church in that, than of them. For God was able to have furnished them with necessary ability to preach the gospel, although he should use no sign. They themselves might have known that it came to pass neither by chance, neither yet through their own industry, that they were so suddenly changed; but those signs which are here set down were about to be profitable for all ages; as we perceive at this day that they profit us.
 And we must briefly note the proportion of the signs. The violence of the wind did serve to make them afraid; for we are never rightly prepared to receive the grace of God, unless the confidence (and boldness) of the flesh be tamed. For as we have access unto him by faith, so humility and fear setteth open the gate, that he may come in unto us. He hath nothing to do with proud and careless men. It is a common thing for the Spirit to be signified by wind (or a blast). For both Christ himself, when he was about to give the Spirit to his apostles, did breathe upon them; and in Ezekiel’s vision there was a whirlwind and wind. Yea, the word Spirit itself is a translated word; for, because that hypostasis, or person of the Divine essence, which is called the Spirit, is of itself incomprehensible, the Scripture doth borrow the word of the wind or blast, because it is the power of God which God doth pour into all creatures as it were by breathing. The shape of tongues is restrained unto the present circumstance. For as the figure and shape of a dove which came down upon Christ had a signification agreeable to the office and nature of Christ, so God did now make choice of a sign which might be agreeable to the thing signified, namely, that it might show such effect and working of the Holy Ghost in the apostles as followed afterward.
 
From Commentary upon the Acts of the Apostles, volume 1,
by John Calvin, translated by Henry Beveridge; found at 
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom36.ix.i.html

"It was King James I, I believe, who became annoyed with the irrelevant ramblings of his court preacher and shouted up to the pulpit: “Either make sense or come down out of that pulpit!” The preacher replied, “I will do neither.” - Steve Brown, in Tabletalk, August, 1990.

"Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders and they will tell thee." Deut. 32:7 –

"Enquire, I pray thee, of the former age." Job 8:8 –

"I have considered the days of old." Psalm 77:5 –

"This shall be written for the generation to come." Psalm 102:18 –

"Call to remembrance the former days." Hebrews 10:32 - "To put you always in remembrance of these things." - II Peter 1:12. [kjv]