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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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Devotion on Job (Part 1) - 29 November 2012, Anno Domini



The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.
S

TIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Job, chapter 1: (Please read this chapter before our study and, then make notes in the margins as you study)
 Job 1
King James Version (KJV)
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.
13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
            It seems that being a man greatly blessed of the Lord, in every way, did not immunize Job against the pernicious attacks of the devil; nor did those blessings exempt Job from being tried and proven by the Lord of Heaven. This account of Job and his trials flies in the face of worldly assumptions that ¡°success must always be punctuated by ease and comfort.¡± Like the great eagle, God will often stir up our nests exposing the sharp twigs and bones, that underlie the fur and leaves, until we must rouse ourselves and get about the works of the Lord. Unlike our retirement investments, there is no such thing as vested righteousness. We can never rest on our laurels with God. God does not measure our righteousness by our works, but by His Son Jesus and our place in Him; however, the present moment is always a measure of our present security in Christ. We should never consider good works to be works, but those favors of charity and witness that is our delight to do. When all is said and done, Job was a righteous man in the eyes of God. God took pride in the righteousness and faith of Job.
            There are three qualities that mark Job in this Book: 1) Job was blameless and upright as every professing Christian should be. This does not mean that Job was sinless, but that Job depended upon the imputed righteousness made available to all through the Lord; 2) Job feared God, not as a destroyer, but as a Father who chastises and corrects; and 3) Job shunned evil. Perhaps ninety percent of the temptations we face daily arise from our failure to shun evil. We expose ourselves needlessly to tempting situation. Job did not!
            And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. (Job 1:2-3) Please take particular note of the QUANTITIES given for Job¡¯s blessings. These are given for our edification and inspiration. Note also that Job was the greatest of all men of the East. He was of no little prominence in the land!  . And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. (Job 1:4) These were apparently birthday feasts (every one his day) and they were joyous and not rowdy feasts. This is implicit in the fact that they invited their loving sisters to attend â€" a thing no man of the Old Testament would do if immorality were the object. Job was a good father and took every precaution for the spiritual well-being of his sons and daughters. A father never knows what mischief a night may bring in the life of a child. So he offered up burnt offerings to God for them.
            Now follows one of the more interesting verses of the Old Testament: 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. (Job 1:6) This verse is not nearly as mysterious as so many commentators seem to make it. Who are these sons of God?  These are the family of created beings that attend the throne of God in heaven â€" Angels! If you will recall, Lucifer himself is an angel, though fallen. Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. (1 Kings 22:19)
            Here begins a battle of cosmic proportion, a battle between God and Satan! As with most battles, the skirmishers are not the sovereigns (God and the Prince of the Air) but their chosen representatives. God has only one man in this fight, Job, and it is all that God needs. Like Gideon, possessed of only 300 warriors against a host of more than 100,000, Job could have been dismayed at the odds. But the faith of Job proved strong in battle and Satan was vanquished from the field in the end. I sometimes almost sympathize with that deceitful old rogue â€" he never truly wins and is destined to the Lake of Fire â€" but, as Bishop Latimer of Worcester has said, he never gives up or gives out. He is constant in his effort to undo the invincible works of God. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. (Job 1:7) Do you wonder what compels Satan in going to and fro in the earth? Our great friend, Peter, warns us of his intent: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) Satan has nothing but unsurpassed animosity for the Creation of God. He will employ every tool to undo the works of God because, more than the Creation, he hates the Creator! His prime target of destruction is the crowning feature of God¡¯s Creation â€" MAN! He will engender murder, robbery, alcoholism, adultery, war, homosexuality, abortion, and every other dark and dirty sin imaginable to rid the Creation of its crown.
            8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? This question of God is rhetorical in nature only for God knows that Satan covets the heart of every righteous man.  God is confirming to Satan that He knows that Satan has set his sights on Job to ruin him. 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? (Job 1:9) Satan refuses to accept that a man can be obedient to God through a godly love for his Maker. He implies that Job is only righteous because he fears to be otherwise since God has blessed so. 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. The devil is a master of misdirection. He even justifies wickedness by deceit. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. (Job 1:11) Satan operates on the theory that there are none righteous in their hearts. They may only APPEAR so in order to gain advantage.
            12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. The Lord grants leave of Satan to hurt only those things pertaining to Job, but not his person. So, Satan, in order to do evil, always departs from the presence of the LORD just as his minion, Judas, departed from the Supper and it was night â€" an eternal night for Judas. Now begins a series of tragedies, engineered by Satan and his chosen, to try the heart and faith of poor Job! 13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house: 14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: 15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house: 19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
            Please observe the progressively evil works of Satan: first, Job¡¯s livestock are taken. Second, His servants are lost. Finally, the beloved sons and daughters of Job are destroyed along with Job¡¯s very house. The devil almost never begins with his worst torture, but builds his hurt and pain gradually upon the head of God¡¯s chosen.
            Now learn a lesson from Job in dealing with adversity: 20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. At the news of the loss of his human beloveds, Job grieved greatly without blaming the Lord for his loss. He acknowledges that he came into the world without wealth or kin (for all were gifts of God), and Job blessed the Lord even in his calamity. Do we bless God when we face the loss of a loved one, or at times of great financial loss?
            22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. Many professing Christian suffer far less loss than those thus far of Job, yet question why God has allowed them to suffer loss. Once while traveling in my vehicle to our Church Convention, I had a serious accident which disabled my truck. God preserved my body from injury. My wife and I had prayed that God would preserve my body and soul during the trip. When I called my wife and told her about the damage to my truck, she asked, “Were you hurt?” I said, “No, I wasn’t, but my truck was nearly totaled!” My wife responded, “Well, God answered our prayers, didn’t He?  You are safe and only the truck damaged!”  I was surprised at that logic, but it exhibited a greater measure of faith than I had at the moment. It is hard to continue strong in faith at moments of adversity, but that is exactly what faith is given to temper. Faith without moments of trial and want is not true faith.  Do you have it?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lttle Orphan at Christ's Christmas Tree

I commend to you one of my favorite Christmas stories from the days of my early youth. It is written by the famous Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevski, and, in its quaint manner, reminds us of the true and eternal meaning of Christmas. As a child, it touched me deeply, but as an adult, it still touches my heart with the fire of love. I hope you, too, will enjoy:

Little Orphan at Christ’s Christmas Tree by Fyodor Dostoevski (1887)

I
In a large city, on Christmas eve in the biting cold, I see a young child, still quite young, six years old, perhaps even less; yet too young to be sent on the street begging, but assuredly destined to be sent in a year or two. This child awakes one morning in a damp and frosty cellar. He is wrapped in a kind of squalid dressing-gown and is shivering. His breath issues from between his lips in white vapor; he is seated on a trunk; to pass the time he blows the breath from his mouth, and amuses himself in seeing it escape. But he is very hungry. Several times since morning he has drawn near the bed covered with a straw mattress as thin as gauze, where his mother lies sick, her head resting on a bundle of rags instead of a pillow. How did she come there? She came probably from a strange city and has fallen ill. The proprietress of the miserable lodging was arrested two days ago, and carried to the police station; it is a holiday to-day, and the other tenants have gone out. However, one of them has remained in bed for the last twenty-four hours, stupid with drink, not having waited for the holiday.

From another corner issue the complaints of an old woman of eighty years, laid up with rheumatism. This old woman was formerly a children's nurse somewhere; now she is dying all alone. She whines, moans, and growls at the little boy, who begins to be afraid to come near the corner where she lies with the death rattle in her throat. He has found something to drink in the hallway, but he has not been able to lay his hand on the smallest crust of bread, and for the tenth time he comes to wake his mother. He finishes by getting frightened in this darkness. The evening is already late, and no one comes to kindle the fire. He finds, by feeling around, his mother's face, and is astonished that she no longer moves and that she has become as cold as the wall.

"It is so cold!" he thinks. He remains some time without moving, his hand resting on the shoulder of the corpse. Then he begins to blow in his fingers to warm them, and, happening to find his little cap on the bed, he looks softly for the door, and issues forth from the underground lodging. He would have gone out sooner had he not been afraid of the big dog that barks all the day up there on the landing before their neighbor's door. Oh! what a city! never before had he seen anything like it. Down yonder from where he came, the nights are much darker. There is only one lamp for the whole street; little low wooden houses, closed with shutters; in the street from the time it grows dark, no one; every one shut up at home: only a crowd of dogs that howl, hundreds, thousands of dogs, that howl and bark all the night.

But then, it used to be so warm there! And he got something to eat. Here, ah! how good it would be to have something to eat! What a noise here, what an uproar! What a great light, and what a crowd of people! What horses, and what carriages! And the cold, the cold! The bodies of the tired horses smoke with frost and their burning nostrils puff white clouds; their shoes ring on the pavement through the soft snow. And how every body hustles every body else! "Ah! how I would like to eat a little piece of something. That is what makes my fingers ache so."

II

A policeman just passes by, and turns his head so as not to see the child. "Here is another street. Oh! how wide it is! I shall be crushed to death here, I know; how they all shout, how they run, how they roll along! And the light, and the light! And that, what is that? Oh! what a big window pane! And behind the pane, a room, and in the room a tree that goes up to the ceiling; it is the Christmas tree. And what lights under the tree! Such papers of gold, and such apples! And all around dolls and little hobby-horses.

There are little children well-dressed, nice, and clean; they are laughing and playing, eating and drinking things. There is a little girl going to dance with the little boy. How pretty she is! And there is music. I can hear it through the glass." The child looks, admires, and even laughs. He feels no longer any pain in his fingers or feet. The fingers of his hand have become all red, he cannot bend them any more, and it hurts him to move them. But all at once, he feels that his fingers ache; he begins to cry, and goes away. He perceives through another window another room, and again trees and cakes of all sorts on the table, red almonds and yellow ones. Four beautiful ladies are sitting down, and when any body comes he is given some cake: and the door opens every minute, and many gentlemen enter. The little fellow crept forward, opened the door of a sudden, and went in. Oh! what a noise was made when they saw him, what confusion! Immediately a lady arose, put a kopeck in his hand, and opened herself the street door for him. How frightened he was!

III

The kopeck has fallen from his hands, and rings on the steps of the stairs. He was not able to tighten his little fingers enough to hold the coin. The child went out running, and walked fast, fast. Where was he going? He did not know. And he runs, runs, and blows in his hands. He is troubled. He feels so lonely, so frightened! And suddenly, what is that again! A crowd of people stand there and admire. "A window! behind the pane, three pretty dolls attired in wee red and yellow dresses, and just exactly as though they were alive! And that little old man sitting down, who seems to play the fiddle. There are two others, too, standing up, who play on tiny violins, keeping time with their heads to the music. They look at each other and their lips move. And they really speak? Only they cannot be heard through the glass." And the child first thinks that they are living, and when he comprehends that they are only dolls, he begins to laugh. Never had he seen such dolls before, and he didn't know that there were any like that! He would like to cry, but those dolls are just too funny!

IV

Suddenly he feels himself seized by the coat. A big rough boy stands near him, who gives him a blow of his fist on the head, snatches his cap, and trips him up. The child falls. At the same time there is a shout; he remains a moment paralyzed with fear. Then he springs up with a bound and runs, runs, darts under a gateway somewhere and hides himself in a court-yard behind a pile of wood. He cowers and shivers in his fright; he can hardly breathe. And suddenly he feels quite comfortable. His little hands and feet don't hurt any more; he is warm, warm as though near a stove, and all his body trembles. "Ah! I am going asleep! how nice it is to have a sleep! I shall stay a little while and then I will go and see the dolls again," thought the little fellow, and he smiled at the recollection of the dolls. "They looked just as though they were alive!"

Then he hears his mother's song. "Mamma, I am going to sleep. Ah! how nice it is here for sleeping!" "Come to my house, little boy, to see the Christmas tree," said a soft voice. He thought at first it was his mother; but no, it was not she. Then who is calling him? He does not see. But some one stoops over him, and folds him in his arms in the darkness: and he stretches out his hand and--all at once--oh! what light! Oh! what a Christmas tree! No, it is not a Christmas tree; he has never seen the like of it! Where is he now? All is resplendent, all is radiant, and dolls all around; but no, not dolls, little boys, little girls; only they are very bright. All of them circle round him; they fly. They hug him, they take him and carry him away, and he is flying too. And he sees his mother looking at him and laughing joyfully.

"Mamma! mamma! ah! how nice it is here!" cries her little boy to her. And again he embraces the children, and would like very much to tell them about the dolls behind the window pane. "Who are you, little girls?" he asks, laughing and fondling them. It is the Christmas tree at Jesus's. At Jesus's, that day, there is always a Christmas tree for little children that have none themselves. And he learned that all these little boys and girls were children like himself, who had died like him. Some had died of cold in the baskets abandoned at the doors of the public functionaries of St. Petersburg; others had died out at nurse in the foul hovels of the Tchaukhnas; others of hunger at the dry breasts of their mothers during the famine.

All were here now, all little angels now, all with Jesus, and He Himself among them, spreading his hands over them, blessing them and their sinful mothers. And the mothers of these children are there too, apart, weeping; each recognizes her son or her daughter, and the children fly towards them, embrace them, wipe away the tears with their little hands, and beg them not to weep. And below on the earth, the concierge in the morning found the wee corpse of the child, who had taken refuge in the courtyard. Stiff and frozen behind the pile of wood it lay. The mother was found too. She died before him; both are reunited in Heaven in the Lord's house. THE END.

Devotion on the Book of Job (Intro) - 28 November 2012, Anno Domini



The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.
S

TIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. 2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. 3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. (Job 1:1-3)
            Some have erroneously considered the Book of Job to be an Old Testament parable, but this would be in error for it is a real account of a real man of righteousness with details too explicit to be considered otherwise. The classical and traditional dating of the period described in Job is around 1500 B.C. Fragments discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls confirms the ancient authenticity of Job. Job is filled with lessons that should strengthen our faith and perseverance as we often experience unwarranted challenges of hurt and pain in our walk with the Lord. The language is poetic and psalm-like. The narrative is not written by Job himself, but by a fellow Israelite believer whose descriptive language pays due honor and reverence to the issues at hand.
            How often do we hear the refrain, "Poor old Job," but Job was blessed at the beginning of the story, as well as even more greatly at the end? But the blessings granted Job in the interim of the narrative goes unnoticed by the casual reader and is, instead, labeled as a curse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every true Christian has undergone unfair and hurtful experiences at the hands of the world. It is not until such a Christian has, as Job, persevered that he comes to a fuller understanding of the cause of pain and suffering for believers everywhere, and of the hidden blessing that the experience grants finally. This is the overarching message of Job – not that he was blessed by God in family, wealth, and health at the beginning, lost it all to the devil, and then regained more of those riches; but the stronger message is in between the outward blessings. Job give s us an insight into the workings and plan of God in the life of a believer. Quite often that which appears to be a great calamity in a Christian's life is proven to be a God-sent blessing of strengthening faith and blessing after the clouds roll by.
            There is an age-old question that is usually intended to chide those of faith, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" The Book of Job gives us a sterling response to that faithless inquiry! Solomon spoke truly when he exclaimed: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." (Eccl 3:1) The Christian experiences all of the trials and tribulations the world has to offer just as the unbeliever does, and sometimes in greater portions; however, we are not exempted from hard times or challenges as Christians. The power of God is revealed in the manner in which we confront and address these unfortunate experiences. No infantry inductee loves to crawl in the mud under barbed wire with a fifty-cal machine gun firing a few inches over his head; but he must do so in order to be conditioned for survival in close combat with the enemy that desires his death. The hard experiences are a trial and practice for the Christian as, not only a testimony to the world, but a process whereby we are made stronger in facing the world of evil.
            The Christian confronts every trepidation life has to offer. Please remember that, if you have suffered, you have yet to suffer as Job and, more importantly, as your Lord Jesus Christ. Christ was the only One who was truly righteous and pure – without sin; yet He suffered the most violent of wrongs on our behalf. Please consider the great good to us-ward that ensued from the sufferings of Christ. Can it not be so in the life of the dedicated Christian as well? The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? (Matt 10:24-25) Our confession of faith in Christ is no exemption from trials and tribulations, but an invitation to them. A cross is not a beautiful instrument of service, but we must take up our crosses daily and follow Christ. Though the cross is crude and ugly, the results of its carriage are beautiful and blessed.
            We learn in Job that righteous works do not entitle us to be free of suffering. We learn that our friends can play the devil's part just as well as the devil himself in giving false and unwholesome counsel. We learn that, regardless the trial and pain, we must keep the Light of our Faith burning warm and bright in the window of our heart. Though the night is dark and foreboding, the light in the window assures a lighted way in any case.  The fire is not extinguished until the last cinder grows cold. It may be at the very last spark that God lights such a candle, as said Bishop Latimer to his fellow martyr at the stake: "Be of good cheer, master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle in England, as I hope, by God's grace, shall never be put out." Even at the stake of fire, we may glorify and praise God for His tender mercies – unless we consider only earthly comfort as the ultimate mercy.
            The story of Job is actually an opportunity for us to observe an ongoing battle between God and Satan. It has waged since before the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden eastward in Eden. It has raged on every continent and in every minute of man's existence. It rages now as I write. It often seems that the devil gains the high ground, but is there ground higher, or more exalted, than the Heaven upon which the Lord of Glory stands?  I will offer one more quote of the good and valiant Bishop of Worcester:
 "And now I would ask a strange question: who is the most diligentest bishop and prelate in all England that passeth all the rest in doing his office? I can tell for I know him who it is; I know him well. But now I think I see you listening and hearkening that I should name him. There is one that passeth all the other, and is the most diligent prelate and preacher in all England. And will ye know who it is? I will tell you: it is the devil. He is the most diligent preacher of all other; he is never out of his diocese; he is never from his cure; ye shall never find him unoccupied; he is ever in his parish; he keepeth residence at all times; ye shall never find him out of the way, call for him when you will he is ever at home; the diligentest preacher in all the realm; he is ever at his plough; no lording nor loitering can hinder him; he is ever applying his business, ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you. And his office is to hinder religion, to maintain superstition, to set up idolatry, to teach all kind of popery. He is ready as he can be wished for to set forth his plough; to devise as many ways as can be to deface and obscure God's glory...O that our prelates would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine as Satan is to sow cockle and darnel." Hugh Latimer
I hope and pray that in our devotional study of Job, we each will learn to face adversity and suffering with our faces to the front, our sails full of the wind of the Holy Ghost, and our consciences free from the burden of compromise.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Devotion on COLLECT for Sunday next before Advent - 27 November 2012, Anno Domini



The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.
S

TIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. 7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Tim 1:6-9)
            A strong counsel for the Christian of any time of persecution, and of those who live, as we do, in a world of watered-down faith and easy-believism. Regardless the number of Sundays in Trinity Season, this COLLECT must always be the COLLECT of choice on the Sunday next before Advent Season. (See rubric following the Gospel for 24th Sunday after Trinity in 1928 BoCP, or following the Gospel for 25th Sunday in the 1662 English BoCP). The title referenced above was not used by Cranmer but was restored to its ancient title by the 1892 American Prayer Book (from the Sarum Missal). The Collect was famous for its beginning words – "Stir up" – so much so that the Sunday of its use was popularly labeled, "Stir Up Sunday"!
            The words, "Stir up," summarizes the fullness of the Gospel preached in its entirety.  It relates to that most powerful aspect of the human nature – the WILL! If it is the will of a man or woman to become rich in the material riches of this world, it is very likely that he or she shall surely become wealthy if that will is strong enough – even to the detriment of character and virtue! The WILL is that overt and compelling manifestation of what is hidden in the heart. The heart that belongs to Christ may, indeed, become wealthy in giving and caring, but wealth is never the superseding goal of such a heart. The problem with the rich young ruler was not his wealth, but that he allowed his wealth to blind his eyes to his duty to God. (see Mark 10 & Luke 18) When we take all virtue, all godliness, all compassion, all love, et all., that we have been granted in Christ, we need to `stir-up' these qualities and devotions from time to time in order to bring them back up from the depths of forgetfulness and revive them to a fresh and lively currency.
            The will of the sinner, while free of the godly restraints of righteousness, is a completely free will. However, when a heart is given over to Christ as Lord and Savior, it is that Mind and Will of Christ that takes possession of that former will of the world and transforms the heart to godliness. Do not preach to me of Calvin or Arminius – but only of Christ and His Word. Both these men were stellar scholars. Each `got it right' at some point, but those moments of correct interpretation only followed learning of truth gained from Holy Scripture. So why not, instead of quoting some good man, go to the Fountain of Truth Itself rather than drinking downstream?
            You may ask: "How do we `stir up' our Godly wills of faithfulness to God?" We do not, but God DOES! He does so through the preaching and hearing of the Word! So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17) But wait! Suppose you have already heard the glorious Gospel and yet sleep? One of my favorite means to allow God to `stir up' my faith is through the singing of hymns – whether alone of with family, or friends. Nothing touches my soul more than scripturally-based classical hymns. (You may keep your Gospel songs filled with pabulum, thank you!) But suppose my heart is closed to every means of being stirred up by conscious rebellion? How will God elect to `stir up' my faith? But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.  But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. (Romans 10:18-19) I personally prefer the more gentle stirring of love and remembrance than to be stirred up by jealousy and anger. But God will use whatever mechanism He deems useful to stir us up.
            Though God may use the wills of evil nations in bringing judgment, He only stirs up the wills of faithful people in service to Him. With what result does God stir up our hearts? With the results that our faith again becomes foremost in our daily living, and our fruits of righteousness and good works are multiplied over and over again. Such fruits are not ours, but belong to the Sower who sowed the Seed in our hearts at the beginning. When we are a useful vessel to God, He will use us more and more as a favored vessel in His Hand just as a loving mother may have an old iron skillet or stone bowl that she treasures above even more expensive and beautiful vessels in her kitchen. If we, as Christians, are able to hold our `heat of the Spirit' as the heavy iron skillet holds its heat from the oven, God will be more disposed to use such a proven and useful vessel. Moreover, He will reward such a vessel by placing it is a favored place in the cabinet of Heaven. He will often clean and polish it even more for future use. Personally, I would rather be an old, blackened iron skillet than a beautiful, French porcelain vase on the mantle. If God will use me to prepare food for His Children, how much greater honor can I have?
            We have a mere four more Sundays before the blessed observance of Christmas. The Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a precious baby at Bethlehem stirred the hearts of kings, rulers, wise men, and shepherds. Christ always stirs our hearts!
            When God stirs up the wills of His faithful people, such a stirring can only result in greater production of fruit somewhat as life-giving rain on a parched field planted with wholesome seed. If we produce plentifully in good works, this gives the Father the opportunity to reward us with even more Rain of Blessing. Is there a smell of rain in your heart today, dear Reader?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sermon Notes for Sunday Next before Advent Season - 25 November 2012, Anno Domini




The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.
S

TIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. (John 6:4-14)
            What a wonderful Season of the Church Year is Advent. All good things in the lives of men – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Apostles, and us – begins with the Coming of Christ, both spiritually and physically, to us. Having longed to see the fulfillment of God's promises in the Seed of Promise, Abraham hoped in the Gospel of Christ and was blessed to see His Coming. Christ comes to us that we may be enabled to come to Him. We see this truth enacted in today's Gospel sermon text. Those who hunger for Christ will find Him if even on the mountain heights of the Galilean coasts. Those who hunger for Christ will 1) discover (through the Word and Spirit) where He may be found; 2) they will leave the place where that are presently (sin and error) and GO to Him; 3) they will not give thought of what the morrow may bring, but trust in Him to provide their every need; and, 4) they shall be fed with the Bread of Heaven.
            When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him This is most prophetic of that company of souls that will come, over the expanse of centuries and millennia, to Him in faith and trust.  They shall come seeking that Bread of Life which will satisfy eternally and not temporarily. They shall, on the day of God's own choosing – and not that of greedy spiritual speculators – come to meet Him in the air, and not a mountain, on His glorious Second Coming. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:16-17)
            Christ often challenges the faith of His chosen vessels just as He tests that of Philip. Knowing the mind of Philip in His spiritual growth, Jesus asks: Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?  A lesser prophet than Christ once asked the same question of God in the Wilderness: Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. (Num 11:13) It is certain that Christ wants us to know that a greater prophet than Moses stands before us. Without the presence and power of Christ, the world is in constant worry about this matter sustenance. Shall we have bread to eat and raiment to wear? Of course, the world takes the matter a step further: How can we enjoy the most opulent of cuisine and the most fashionable and elegant raiment – delicacies and raiment that will set us apart from the common people and that will exalt us in our pride? The starving child on the backstreets of Calcutta does not wish for delicacies, but only a morsel of bread to appease his gnawing hunger. It is so because the starving child knows not of delicacies or of elegant silken robes, but only his desperate NEED. So the sinner (rich or poor), when he comes face-to-face with his depravity, can recognize no righteousness at all in his feeble works, but starves for the Redemption made available in Christ. Rather than the bread of wheat, he starves for the Bread of Heaven. This Bread cannot be bought with money, so Christ gives Philip a thought to nourish his soul.
            Philip's mind has not progressed to that perfection of understanding, as yet, that might be expected from so close a disciple! Clearly, under the terms of the world, a small fortune would be required to buy sufficient bread to feed so many. There were many more than five thousand present for there were five thousand men alone, plus women and children. Has Philip forgotten that He who provides food and lodging for the sparrows of the field is in his presence? Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. Two hundred pennyworth of bread would cost two hundred days of wages - And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard (Matt 20:2) And even at such an expense, there would certainly be no leftovers for each would only "take a little." All of our labors and wages from our birth until now will not purchase a single morsel of that Bread from Heaven. The combined wealth of the world would not do so. It is a gift of pure Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
            There was one disciple among the lot who accepted that there was a mystery in the Person of Christ that enabled Him to provide plenty from little of nothing. He knew not the manner in which might do it, but he nonetheless believed that the mystery would be realized even in a meager amount. God takes our talents and multiplies them when we are willing to share them. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? What are five barley loaves among a multitude so great, yet, Andrew suspected that Christ would use even a small amount to supply a great need – and He did! Now, we must recognize the innocence of youth in this circumstance. The little lad had labored to bring his two fishes and five loaves over a great distance and even up the slopes of the mountain. Were he a mature man of wisdom, he probably would have refused to share so little claiming that it would not suffice so many hungers and, moreover, he had the foresight to bring them for himself and it would be consumed by him. But the little child has a heart that is closer to the Kingdom of Heaven and has not grown calloused by the world. The child willingly shared his small treat with the Lord. Though we have little, if we share what we have, the Lord will multiply the gift an hundredfold, or more!
            And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. The rubrics of the Prayer Book indicate when we are to kneel, stand, or sit, and we must comply with each and every rubric of the Prayer Book if we are able. The Lord expects all things to be done in good order and, here, He is about to feed the multitudes with His Bread. The Bread of the Prayer Book is the Sermon delivered from the Lectionary appointed for the day. So the people sit to hear the Word preached. It is the means by which faith is received and increased. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17) Contrary to the Romanist approach, preaching takes precedence over every other act of worship including Communion for, without the Word, Communion is meaningless. So Christ asks that the men be seated to receive His blessing of Bread. When men receive from the Lord, they do not stand in their own power as if they contribute to His miracle. "Stop your labors, have a seat, and see the works of the Lord!"
            The Lord will always comfort our needs in green pastures - He maketh me to lie down in green pastures (Psalms 23:2) Now there was much grass in the place (vv 10), So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Obedience before the Lord comes most surely when men realize their need. These men were hungry and were expectant that Jesus could, indeed, feed them. They obeyed Him.
            And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks Here, Jesus gives us the perfect example to follow in returning thanks for the blessings of Heaven. He never failed to thank His Father in Heaven for every blessing of food and drink. Do we do so, Friends? "….he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would." Please observe a stark lesson here for us. We do not serve ourselves at the Communion Rail, but kneel reverently (according to the Prayer Book form of worship – and the Holy Bible) to be served the Cup and the Bread. We do not innovate and do according to what seems right in our own eyes, but serve according to the good order required. The Lord allows His servants to have a hand in assisting in His important work. They serve the bread, but the Bread is given by Christ – it is not their own. We, as ministers, preach the Word, but the Word is His and not OURS! Note also, that each person on the grassy slopes received as much as they wanted of the bread and fish. The cupboard of the Lord has no bottom of blessings. There will always be more than enough to satisfy our hunger. We must return to the Bread Table daily for our "Daily Bread."
            When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Notice that all were FILLED! You never come to the Lord hungry and go away hungry. He fills you with the desperate need of your heart. Another important lesson in this verse is the one of stewardship. We are to be good a faithful stewards in the economy of resources with which God has blessed us. We are to use His blessings of talents we receive in satisfying the hunger of those God has placed in our hands (parents included) but we are to waste nothing! When we travel field and forest to gather souls for Christ, our efforts do not end at the early confession of faith – we must continue to teach and nourish the soul in the Word so that the convert will grow strong spiritual bones and muscles. We must not lose a single flower from the bouquet….that nothing be lost!
            Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Let us count the balance sheet of the Lord here: there were a mere five loaves at the start. Now the remnants taken up fill TWELVE BASKETS! Do you believe this is too amazing? Do you believe that the Creation of the stars in the expanse of space too amazing, or the earth with all of its wondrous beauty too amazing, or billions of people – all with different faces and features – amazing? What is so amazing that the Word which created all that has been created could multiply a few morsels of bread into such an immense supply? He is able to likewise multiply the smallest mite of the widow's heart when given out of her need to Christ! He is able to multiply that love scattered abroad from that heart brimming over with the love of God so that the residue is always of plenty.
            What is the result of receiving the blessed Bread of Heaven? How should our hearts respond to so mighty a miracle as salvation, forgiveness, grace, and faith? Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. Faith is confirmed from pillar to post when we have tasted the Bread of Heaven. The multitude recognized that Christ was a prophet of even greater miraculous power and virtue than Moses – their greatest prophet beforehand. The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken (Deut 18:15) Christ is, indeed, that Prophet! In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men…… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:1-4,14) Friend, believest thou this?
AMEN

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Devotion on Law and Grace some Particulars - 24 November 2012, Anno Domini



The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity
The Collect.


O
 LORD, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: 30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Romans 3:21-31)
            Following on the heels of the somber message of Habakkuk, I will now turn to a glorious provision made for those of us of faith in Christ. So often do we confuse the terms of the law with that grace granted in Christ. We often consider that God has a "list, and He's checking it twice…gonna find out whose naughty or nice!" This message does not square with the Lord of the Bible. Certainly, if we are without the provisions of grace made available through the shed blood of Christ at Calvary, we are held to the very strict terms of the Law which no man can satisfy. God does not need to keep tabs on the number of offenses of those under the Law for one offense deserves the fires of Hell. God can tolerate no unrighteousness at all in His Heaven. He is, above all, Holy and righteous. He demands that we, too, be Holy and righteous if we will spend an eternity in His blessed company. So by what means can we be considered in the eyes of God as Holy and Righteous. If we are trying to EARN Heaven by our goodness and commendable works, we are hindered by a multitude of Scriptural Truths to the contrary. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (see vv23 above).  ALL covers quite a large field, doesn't it?   
            How can we be considered righteous when there are "none righteous, no not one"?  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10) Has God the Father forsaken all members of the crown of His Creation to the jaws of Hell? No, He has not. He made an eternal provision for them in the Councils of Heaven long before the earth was formed, or you and I were a twinkle in our father's eye.  Knowing that man's free will is arbitrary and in constant conflict with that perfect will of God, the Father made provision for that free and sinful will of man be cast off and that perfect Mind of Christ be taken upon our souls which would cause us to love and obey God in His Will and not our own reckless and free wills. If our wills are yet free, than they are not conformed to that Mind which was in Christ. The sinner must surrender his free and sinful will in exchange for that perfect will of God, His Sovereign and King. Grace is the provision, purchased by Christ, whereby that exchange can become reality. Please know that the Law was not annulled by Christ, or even circumvented. It was through the very provisions of the demands of the Law that Christ purchased our salvation. The soul that sins must die according to the Law. However, Christ – the Fountain of Life and Love – submitted to that death sentence of the Law on the behalf of all who would accept that sacrifice through faith. He was perfectly righteous and without sin, yet He took upon Himself our sins (and the sins of the world) so that all who believe may be accounted righteous before God.      
24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Heb 9:24-28)  As the Thirty-first Article reads (of the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion): "THE Offering of Christ once made in that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits." Not regarding the Holy Communion as a Mass and a sacrificing of Christ anew, the AOC has refrained from the practice of over-frequent Communion services to avoid it becoming like unto that idol of Rome.
Augustine of Hippo, in his Confessions, lays all of the claim he makes in Christ at the feet of Grace. Once coming to knowledge of the Person of Christ, he says: "You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am on fire to attain the peace which is yours." Augustine Confessions translated by Henry Chadwick.  (Oxford. Oxford University Press, 1992).
We have no personal righteousness, even as devoted followers of Christ. But we do have His imputed righteousness to cover our sinful flesh. That is Grace, satisfied under the terms of the Law, by Christ!
You will note that these mysteries of grace and salvation are all personal to the believer and not national. So what impact the national message of Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Isaiah, et al.? It is not unlike the nation as the congregation gathered at the Morning Prayer. The sermon has personal application to each present. The message of Christ to the nations is a personal Gospel message directed to collective hearts of the nation. A faithful church is known by its faithful members. Nations who fear God are known by the faithfulness of her citizens. If our nation is to be saved from ruin, the issue does not hinge on merely electing the right leader – it is dependent upon the nation coming to Christ one heart at a time. Those collective hearts, devoted to Christ and His righteousness, shall be reflected in the leadership such a people elevate to public trust. Such a nation will become like unto that nation established upon these fair shores more than two centuries ago by a God-fearing people. Are you one of them? If so, get busy in your duty to claim this land for Christ!