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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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Devotion on Job (Chapter 25), 30 January 2013, Anno Domini



The Sunday called Septuagesima, or the
third Sunday before Lent.

The Collect.

O
 LORD, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

            1 Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said, 2 Dominion and fear are with him, he maketh peace in his high places. 3 Is there any number of his armies? and upon whom doth not his light arise? 4 How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? 5 Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. 6 How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm? (Job 25:1-6)
            Bildad, like many who are not fervent in knowing God, has little to add to the discussion except for repetition of the same old themes and charges (though less offensive in tone and demeanor than the other two `friends'). He repeats the worn old themes of the great power of God (never in doubt to begin with) and the sinfulness of men (never in doubt to begin with). This reminds me of the trite little church kindergarten song of the last century; "God is so Good." Modern charismatic churches seem to never tire of singing, mantra-like, the repetitive verses of this kindergarten song. It seems somehow inappropriate that they could not go beyond and sing the great old, classic hymns of the faith so rich in scriptural truth and reverence to God.
            As we have shared earlier, the claims about God and sinners advanced by all participants of the dialogue are true and genuine, but words spoken out of season, or misapplied, carry the weight of error. Dominion and fear are with him, he maketh peace in his high places. Of course, God is Almighty both in Heaven and earth. Did He not cast out the Great Dragon (Satan) along with his angels (demons) from Heaven? Having conquered all, there remains only one Dominion and Seat of Power, and that Sovereign is God.And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Col 1:20) That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him. (Eph 1:10) To continually argue and repeat these points in argument with Job has the effect of questioning Job's faith in these truths. But it is not so. . 3 Is there any number of his armies? and upon whom doth not his light arise? Surely, His Armies cover the skies from horizons east, west, south and north.
            How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Excellent question, Mr. Bildad, but it is far easier to ask than to answer, isn't it? Had you known the answer, the asking would not have been necessary. Abraham, by faith, knew the answer; but it is clear that your faith falls short of that of Abraham. God is a God of perfect justice, and all have sinned and fallen short of His righteousness. So how can we be justified (found guiltless and acquitted) before the Bar of God's Justice? We can only be justified through the imputed righteousness of Christ (do we ever tire of writing or hearing this?). A man can be justified with God through Jesus Christ, Mr. Bildad.
            Does the moon shine? (excuse the elementary question) No, it does not shine. The Sun shines and that brilliant shine is reflected (in lesser degrees) by the Moon. Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. As they say in southern Alabama, "Even a blind hog finds an acorn occasionally." Mr. Bildad is perfectly correct in these two statements, but is does not relate at all to the accusations leveled against Job. Since Bildad knows nothing else to say, he simply expresses whatever truths he can relate without contradiction. The stars represent, symbolically, angels. Remember the stars that fell from heaven with their `temporary' master, Satan? And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth (Rev 12:3-4) "…. the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (Rev 12:9) There remains no moral perfection apart from God Almighty.
            It is true that man and worms bear striking resemblance. The Hebrew word used here differs from the word `worm' which Christ used to describe Himself in Psalms 22:6. The word `worm' (Towla) used by Bildad is the common species of worm that is low and groveling. This worm is bred in putrid substance and lives off putrefying carcasses. It reeks of the odor of the tom to which men go who know not the God of Abraham in the Promised Seed (Christ). How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm? The Son of Man, and the Son of God, for which the term `worm' (Towla –ath) is used relates to a specific grub that is referred to as a worm (towla), but with the added descriptive adjective of –ath (red); therefore Christ (in Ps 22:6) is like the 'coccus ilicis' or Crimson grub that is used to dye garments red throughout the Middle East. Jesus was like that Crimson Worm. The mother of the species (when ready to bear her young) attaches herself to a tree or post so intricately that she cannot be removed without tearing her body apart.  When the young are hatched, they feed on her still living body. When they can exist apart from the mother, she begins to die. As she dies, she emits a crimson fluid that colors her young so that, like her, they will be crimson for the rest of their lives. Christ shed His blood for us on such a tree. His blood has covered (and justified) us so that we must forever be like Him if we have been covered by that immaculate blood. So, it seems that Bildad hits upon truths at random of which he has little knowledge. This is much like the unwitting prophecy uttered by the enemy of Christ, Caiaphas, High Priest, before the Sanhedrin: And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.  (John 11:49-52) The Gospel, even when spoken by an unbeliever, is still the Gospel. It matters not the quality of tray upon which it is served, be it silver, or stone, truth is forever truth and infallible. I believe that Bildad and his friends will come to realize this further down in time of this Book.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Devotions on the Collect for Septuagesima Sunday - 29 January 2013, Anno Domini



The Sunday called Septuagesima, or the
third Sunday before Lent.

The Collect.

O
 LORD, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

            We now enter upon a transition period of Pre-Lent separating the joyous season of Christmas/Epiphany and the penitential fast associated with the Lenten Season.  Septuagesima is exactly sixty-three days before Easter. Sexagesima is fifty-six prior, and Quinquagesima forty-nine. We owe the designation of the three primary Sundays before Lent to St. Gregory the Great, and to his rendering the first lectionary readings for the church calendar. Though he was called Pope, he was rather the Bishop of Rome who was a devout minister and a leader of his people. He opposed the Lombard invasion and successfully concluded a treaty with them. He saw Italy through great famine and epidemics of plague and other diseases. He compiled the Gregorian Sacramentary out of which many of our Collects are taken. The two (designated) great Bishops of Rome were Leo and Gregory. Both faced great dangers from both within and without Rom; therefore, I believe such persecution and danger engendered a greater faithfulness to the religion of Christ!
            This COLLECT does not disdain punishment that we so rightly deserve, but to the pardon, redemption, and mercy made available in Christ our Lord.  The ONLY thing that we truly DESERVE is justice! And if we receive the justice we deserve, we shall spend our eternities in Hell. "…we, who are justly punished for our offences." In praying this Collect, we readily admit that we deserve punishment for our manifold sins. Though we have no water of our own, we may beg for it in a desert place. If given, it would be given out of mercy and not deserved in any sense. Mercy, not justice, is the thing we most need and desire. Justice becomes fulfilled in the blood of Christ once we have made appeal, through Him, for Mercy! The whole of man can be remedied by the simple mercy of God. Remember when Christ was passing along the road out of Jericho, two blind beggars hailed Him: And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. (Matt 20:29-31) They sought only mercy first, and then received their sight.
            To the devout Christian, divine punishment is justly deserved by all; but it is the grace of God whereby we are reconciled to God, forgiven, restored, and redeemed of our death sentence. We need never ask of God what we deserve for, without His grace, we all would receive the just deserts for our sin and transgressions. But it is His great mercy, a corollary of grace that restores us to a position of favor with God. If we may only receive God's mercy, what more shall we need? He is All-Merciful and All-Forgiving. If we stand in His favor, even in the violent storms of life, need we fear any force of evil?
            The Collect for Septuagesima Sunday is one of the few that conclude with a most glorious ending – "….through Jesus Christ our Saviour,  who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end." Of course it is a forceful reminder of the Trinity of the Godhead. If we discount either Person of the Godhead, we have no Godhead upon which to call – as the tree dimensions of height, depth, and width describe dimensions of a material object (and without one of which there would exist no mass) – so the Three Persons of the godhead comprise the full defining character of God.
            Do we realize how perfectly GOOD is the Lord Jesus Christ? In fact, the word `good' derives from the Middle English word for God, for God is truly GOOD. For example, `Good Bye' derives from the Middle English term of the 1500's of godbwye – or God be with you! Amazing that the atheists use this term every day without knowing, isn't it? Or that they, all around the world, acknowledge Christ's birth in their calendar year of 2013 years from his birth.
            Standing, as we do, in the period between His Glorious Coming (Christmas), and His great going through His death on the Cross (Calvary), we may be best disposed to simply seek that mercy for which He came to redeem us. We are thankful for His Coming, and thankful to the promise of Redemption at the end of Lent. It is summarized in this great Collect.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sermon Notes - Septuagesima, or the third Sunday before Lent - 27 January 2013, Anno Domini



The Sunday called Septuagesima, or the
third Sunday before Lent.

The Collect.

O
 LORD, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? 24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? 26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. 27And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. Matthew 21:23-32
Today, Septuagesima Sunday, begins the period of Shrovetide (Pre-Lenten period) in the Church Calendar. The great worth of the Church Calendar gives us a chronological perspective of the life of Christ and His Gospel. This is a time to begin preparing ourselves for the solemn observance of Lent which leads up to Calvary.
In Matthew, we note Jesus has entered into the gates of Jerusalem for the last time in His earthly ministry. We read that Jesus was met by multitudes of the City of Jerusalem who welcomed Him with royal acclamation throwing before the feet of His donkey their garments, palm branches, and shouting Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. (Matt 21:9) Ironically, the same multitudes would be screaming for His crucifixion in the courtyard of Pontius Pilate less than one week later. (Revealing the fickle nature of man's heart) We saw in verses 12-13 of this same chapter that the first order of business for Christ in Jerusalem was to enter into the Temple and cleanse it of the money changers and those who those who dealt in commerce by buying and selling therein. He further demonstrated His Divinity by healing the sick and lame, and restoring sight to the blind. This was considered a terrible offense, not by those healed, but strangely enough, by the Pharisees and rulers of the Temple. They burned in their jealousy and greed for such a compassionate soul as Christ. To these calloused culprits, compassion and love were undesirable traits, especially if it threatened their power.
The question at hand is one of AUTHORITY! The Scribes, Pharisees, and rulers of the Jews had their own neat little nest built which separated them from what they considered to be the common rabble of the people. They were much better, you see, than the common people. They had had their tickets punched and been granted this high status simply because THEY deserved it – or so they believed. Though their station was a Godly station, they disqualified themselves through a lack of love and obedience to the God whom they pretended to serve. Whatever authority they had was no longer of God, but of political man. It may be true that the overwhelming number of pretenders to the cloth today is likewise without authority from God to preach. It is my firm belief that, though I am less than I should be, I am in the first instance a preacher under authority of God. A true and devout Church (the AOC) has confirmed that belief in my ordination to Holy Orders. Being consecrated a bishop does not relieve one of his role to serve as priest and preacher, and the ultimate authority for his Calling must come from God. It matters not the number of heads touched in Apostolic Succession if those heads have not hearts touched and called by God. God is the prime authority and, in the end, the ONLY authority for preaching. The authority to perform works of righteousness does not derive from men, but from God.
Beginning in our assigned text, we learn that, after threatening their profit margin in Temple sales, the chief priests and elders confronted Jesus to know by what power He had worked such ruin to their daily sales: and they wanted to know by what authority He did such wonderful miracles of healing. In my thinking, it is flabbergasting to learn that they considered this a thing that required some superficial authority of some council of Temple wimps to grant. A miracle is an authority unto itself, for only God can do these things. I am stunned to believe that these men KNEW the miracles came from God, but chose to ignore the fact for the sake of their own impoverished souls. 23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?This is the day following His cleansing of the Temple and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. By now, they have rallied their political forces to challenge Jesus. These deceivers were hoping to catch Jesus off balance and catch Him in a slip of the tongue – perhaps a claim that would justify them in accusing the Son of God of blasphemy! It is not an easy debate when the Other Side is able to read your words before they are spoken and your motives before they are revealed. Their pettiness is likened to the lowest officials of the Palace asking the King's Son by what authority does He wear garments of royalty. Today, churches such as the AOC and other of the faithful, are ridiculed for holding so tenaciously to the Ancient Landmark remaining faithful to morals and virtues long grown stale in popular culture.
All who ever argued with God before have lost the contest– either through ignorance of His Will, or power. These wicked priests and elders are about to have the same experience – an experience to which they should, by now, be accustomed. He thwarted their best wisdom so many times that a continued debate makes them appear as imbeciles. 24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?The battle, though the smoke will rise a bit more but briefly, puts the chief priests and elders squarely in their place. There is no answer that will achieve their original design after this inquiry from the embodiment of Wisdom. The subsequent reasoning of the Temple leaders reveals the poverty of their argument:
And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? 26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. 27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. At the end of this chapter and this discourse, having lost any advantage by subterfuge, they resort to their favored weapon – brute force. However, being politicians and not men of God, they feared the people and burned in their evil hearts awaiting a more opportune moment of treachery.
Now comes a parable of two sons whose natures are at contrast one with the other. It is a short, but beautiful, parable of hope and grace to you and me; but it could also have applied to the Temple leaders had they had hearts that were acceptable to God.
28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
You and I may find our own identity revealed in this wonderful parable. The Two Sons featured represent all of professing Christendom combined. We all most likely fall into one category or the other. Please do not insist that you have never been a publican or an harlot, for you and I certainly have been in one sense or the other. We have sold out our hearts for what we considered a cheap profit at some point (harlot). We have denied God at some point with our unfaithful lifestyles or public testimony (again harlot, for spiritual adultery against the Bridegroom is greater sin than physical adultery). We have all benefitted the interest of the world more than the interest of God at some point in our lives. (Publican). The publican was a Jewish public tax collector who worked for the bosom enemies of the Jews– the Roman Empire.
The parable presents us with two different members of one supposed family. One will be a true son (one who at first has rejected God through his life's choices, but relents later and comes to God), and the other unfaithful to the father (who, like the modern professed Christian who enthusiastically, and with great fanfare insist on following Christ but later renege).
Alfred Lord Tennyson has written in The Ancient Sage:
Faith reels not in the storm of warring words,
She brightens at the clash of `Yes' and `No,'
She sees the Best that glimmers through the Worst,
She feels the sun is hid but for a night,
She spies the summer through the winter bud,
She tastes the fruit before the blossom falls,
She hears the lark within the songless egg,
She finds the fountain where they wailed `Mirage!'

We are directed to the key to Godliness and that is Faith in God. Whether that faith comes to the desperate sinner's heart, or the accomplished artist; the morally but godless upright, or the depraved drunk; the mistress or prostitute; the physician or the addict - is immaterial to the result. The faith that comes to the unsuspecting heart through the unmerited grace of God is ALWAYS sufficient for thee.
Promises are not taken with any degree of solemnity in today's society. A newly elected President may swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, yet act with immediate dispatch to dismantle that Constitution once the swearing is done. A bridegroom or bride may swear an oath before God to remain faithfully wed "until death do them part" and yet in the next year apply for divorce. Their promises before God seem to have meant very little to them.
So many evangelical churches today will go to great lengths to gain a public profession of faith from their charges, but leave them wondering by the roadside of faith as to what more may bless their souls. There is no nurturing, so often the profession of faith will die of neglect. How can we know if the profession of faith by a stranger who enters one night at church is genuine, especially if that stranger has not come to learn who Jesus is in an intimate way?
If we say that we believe and later abandon our profession, are we not as the second son? If we have lived lives of sin and vice for many years, yet come to knowledge of our Lord so true that all of our life is turned upside down, do we not represent the first son. Which would you rather be – the first who said he would not obey, and later came to obey: or the second who said he would obey, and later disobeyed? Would we not be as the seven women of Isaiah 4:1? And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.
(Isaiah 4:1) Do we, like these seven women, desire only to be called by the name of Christ – CHRISTIAN –and not wear His garments of righteousness? Do we prefer to be identified with His Holy Name for the sake of appearance by eating our own bread and not His Bread of Life? Are we nominal Christians only when we enter into public life, or the political scene; or do we remain committed to the Christian faith in season and out? Which are you, my friends?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Devotion on the Book of Job (Chapter 24) – 26 January 2013, Anno Domini



The Second Sunday after The Epiphany.
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTY and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

            Though the incorrigibly wicked go about their works of evil and ruin oblivious to the righteous laws of God, they seem to be spared any measure of divine retribution. Why is this the case? God is patient and all-wise in dispensing justice to the wicked. Today's wicked may be tomorrow's righteous in the eyes of God. Who among us would not relegate to Hell a man who goes about destroying the Church of God - murdering men, women and children by stoning who fall into his wicked snares? Perhaps we all, being human, would condemn such a man on the spot. Thankfully, God does not "condemn on the spot." He rather gives every opportunity for repentance of the wicked perchance after the eyes of their heart have been opened to Him. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) If their remains the spark and promise of salvation in a soul, according to the predestined will of God, He will withhold His hand of Judgment. So David, the King, did not suffer immediate destruction at God's hand at the occasion of his committing adultery and murder. So God spared Saul (Paul) who went about persecuting the Church of God and stoning its people until he had experienced an encounter on the Road to Damascus with the blinding Light of Christ! So God's thoughts are not our thoughts. He knows, not only the instant present, but the eternity past and future. Though we may today ride the express train to Hell, He knows that, at some future point, we may transfer passage to the "Straight and Narrow" Highway of our God. Job responds further today that God's judgment is not `if' but `when'. It is not the certainty of God's judgment that Job questions, but His reluctance to act with sudden dispatch at the transgressions of the wicked.

            Today's chapter devotion may be divided into three headings:

1.      The wicked often seem to go unpunished during their `visible' existence. (24:1-12)

2.      The wicked, as the snail, despise the Light. (24:13-17)

3.      The wicked will endure a final and certain judgment. (24:18-25)

Job 24
King James Version (KJV)
24 Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know him not see his days?
Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof.
They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox for a pledge.
They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together.
Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work; rising betimes for a prey: the wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children.
They reap every one his corn in the field: and they gather the vintage of the wicked.
They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no covering in the cold.
They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock for want of a shelter.
They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor.
10 They cause him to go naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaf from the hungry;
11 Which make oil within their walls, and tread their winepresses, and suffer thirst.
12 Men groan from out of the city, and the soul of the wounded crieth out: yet God layeth not folly to them.
13 They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.
14 The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is as a thief.
15 The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me: and disguiseth his face.
16 In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the daytime: they know not the light.
17 For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death: if one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death.
18 He is swift as the waters; their portion is cursed in the earth: he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.
19 Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned.
20 The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him; he shall be no more remembered; and wickedness shall be broken as a tree.
21 He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not: and doeth not good to the widow.
22 He draweth also the mighty with his power: he riseth up, and no man is sure of life.
23 Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon he resteth; yet his eyes are upon their ways.
24 They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all other, and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn.
25 And if it be not so now, who will make me a liar, and make my speech nothing worth?

Job first of all wonders at the mindless logic of the wicked. If they know history, why do they believe a disregard for God's Laws to be a better way? When a nation has known the joys and securities of the Godly Way, why do they ultimately turn to the meaner and lesser gods - power, money, bondage, promiscuous sex, poisons of body and soul - of old time? Are they blind? Yes, certainly, they are more blind than blind Bartemeus on the Jericho Road: Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know him not see his days? Man cannot create himself. He cannot bring new life into being – even of a lowly flea! Neither can he cause himself to be able to see absent the Holy Ghost working in his heart to create a new man. The new birth, just like the old, must come from the Creative nature of God. Yet men consciously oppose the works of God at every turn. Even men who function under the pretense of the ministry are often the greatest enemies of truth and Gospel promise. They do attempt great damage to righteousness because they pose as its adherents. They are traitors to the cause in every sense. The principle laid down by that great proponent of republican government describes the rule that applies to governments in this way:     A nation can survive its fools… …and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the galleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and wears their face and their garment, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. Marcus Tullius Cicero Circa 42 B.C. The same principle holds true to the deceit of compromising and ungodly ministers.

            The traitors to the Gospel are far more plentiful than those without who oppose it without knowledge. In what ways do they do damage?

1)      Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof. What is a landmark? It is a true starting point from which all property lines are drawn. Move the landmark and all property lines will be in question. What is the Landmark of the believing Christian? It is the sure Word that has been preserved incorruptible from ancient time until now. Men claiming to be more enlightened and knowledgeable than the men who copied the ancient manuscripts; who profess a greater devotion than those reformers who laid down their lives at the stake for truth; who insist on a greater knowledge of ancient language though far removed from the source – these are those who corrupt the truth and attempt to remove the Landmark of truth. Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it. (Deut 19:14) Moses refers to landmarks in general here. This they attempt to move by theft of their neighbor. But the greater and enduring Landmark is that Landmark of truth mentioned earlier: Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. (Prov 22:28) This is the Landmark of our Fathers set in the Rock of our Salvation from time immemorial. As men tamper with question of the Canon of Scripture, and even the very words and content of Scripture itself, they are attempting to move the Ancient Landmark of Truth.

2)      They do damage by making the Temple of God a house of commerce and not a House of Prayer: They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox for a pledge.They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together. The birds nesting in the branches of the Mustard Tree have come, as demons, to corrupt the Word and to steal from the people. One of the Bible verses that the modern revisers are adamant to remove is Matthew 23:14 which reads: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Do you wonder why this particular verse would offend the greedy sellers in the House of God (Church)?

3)      They are tireless, more so than the righteous, in doing their works of robbery and deceit: 5 Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work; rising betimes for a prey: the wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children.They reap every one his corn in the field: and they gather the vintage of the wicked. 7 They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no covering in the cold. 8 They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock for want of a shelter. 9 They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor. 10 They cause him to go naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaf from the hungry; 11 Which make oil within their walls, and tread their winepresses, and suffer thirst. 12 Men groan from out of the city, and the soul of the wounded crieth out: yet God layeth not folly to them. Contrary to the popular little ditty, the "lion does NOT sleep tonight." The hours of darkness are his choice time of seeking out victims to devour them. It is a well-known fact that, unlike ministers, "the devil never takes a holiday."

4)      Just as the lion hates the Light for his hunting, so does the sinner, as a snail, hate the Light for exposure. 13 They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof. 14 The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is as a thief. The wicked sinner LOVES darkness. He cannot abide the Light for his evil deeds. He hides the rocks and caverns in the day, and rises at night to offend the innocent. He is as the snail: As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun. (Psalms 58:8) When the Sun of Righteousness arises, the snail will scurry for the shelter of darkness beneath the nearest stone.  So do the wicked hide their guilt and run from the Light of Truth. 15 The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me: and disguiseth his face. 16 In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the daytime: they know not the light. 17 For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death: if one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death.

            But do the wicked, at last, escape any judgment for their deeds? Certainly, they do NOT! The Prodigal Son had a gay old time as long as his ill-gotten wealth remain (more ill-spent than ill-gotten), but when his treasure was gone, he at last came to be a tender in the pig sty. 18 He is swift as the waters; their portion is cursed in the earth: he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards. 19 Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned. 20 The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him; he shall be no more remembered; and wickedness shall be broken as a tree. 21 He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not: and doeth not good to the widow. 22 He draweth also the mighty with his power: he riseth up, and no man is sure of life. 23 Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon he resteth; yet his eyes are upon their ways. 24 They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all other, and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn. 25 And if it be not so now, who will make me a liar, and make my speech nothing worth? The ultimate judgment against the wicked is a sorrowful and final judgment. Hope being past for salvation, they are left only a barren estate of nakedness in the fires of Hell. Having led a life of compromising appeasement and ingratiation to the political powers of society and government, he no longer has ability to bride and influence. His co-conspirators share the bed of flames with him. There is no one to bribe or to seduce in Hell, and the Father will no longer hear their prayers. They are "in outer darkness".  Verse 19 makes the summary complete: 19 Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned. The languishing in the grave without power even to resist the relentless worm that devours the greatest worth of the sinner – his physical heritage, is his demise. There is no escort of his soul to the "bosom of Abraham" as poor Lazarus enjoyed.  The snows of Kilimanjaro cannot resist the heat of the African sun no more than the darkness can abide the power of light, but must disperse a far distance from it. Let me ask a personal question, friend: Do you love light greater than darkness?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Devotion on the Book of Job (Chapter 23) – 25 January 2013, Anno Domini (Conversion of St Paul)



The Conversion of St. Paul
The Collect

O
 GOD, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world; Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
            There are moments in our lives when the heavens above seem as hardened brass so that our prayers bounce back upon our own heads. During those moments, we presume that God has turned a deaf ear to our pleadings, but God is never deaf to the prayers of His saints.  In a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, he expresses the forlorn despair of the tested soul:
My prayers must meet a brazen heaven
And fail and scatter all away.
Unclean and seeming unforgiven
My prayers I scarcely call to pray.
I cannot buoy my heart above;
Above I cannot entrance win.
I reckon precedents of love,
But feel the long success of sin.

My heaven is brass and iron my earth:
Yea, iron is mingled with my clay,
So harden'd is it in this dearth
Which praying fails to do away.
Nor tears, nor tears this clay uncouth
Could mould, if any tears there were.
A warfare of my lips in truth,
Battling with God, is now my prayer.

(The poet experiences some of the misery of Job, but lacks his faith)
Job 23
King James Version (KJV)

23 Then Job answered and said,
Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.
Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!
I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.
There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge.
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:
On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:
10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.
12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
13 But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.
14 For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.
15 Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.
16 For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:
17 Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.

This chapter in Job can be divided into three significant parts:
1.      In verses 1-9, we read of Job's searching for God to plead his cause.
2.      In verses 10-12, Job recognizes that God is refining him as gold, and he will emerge from his troubles pure.
3.      In verses 13-17, Job acknowledges that it will be God's will that is done and not his own. 
As I was discussing the previous chapter devotion and our reference to God's rainbow with a dear friend, we talked of how the rainbow covers the canopy of heaven but, yet, touches the earth at some point. My mother, being Irish, would tell me of a `Pot of God' at the end of the rainbow – but I can assure you that there is far more than a `Pot of Gold' where the heavens came down to touch the earth. Jesus came down two thousand years ago and opened the floodgates of mercy and love for us. Being the Light of the World, he brought every color of the rainbow with Him and covenanted with us as of old. It is remarkable in my view that Job began with great faith but, hammered mercilessly by his friends, he began to feel deserted by God; however, the more they lambast him, he begins to grow more staunchly fixed in that reviving faith and courage of a righteous man. In our modern world, the true-believing Church is harried from pillar to post, yet a greater and more enduring faith will always arise. The world today is enjoying a drunken orgy, but once the orgy is over, they shall plead with the church for a sanctuary from the justice of their licentious sins.
Even in the opening lines of the chapter (v 1-9); Job again expresses grief at not being able to connect, as in olden days, with the comforting fellowship of God. Knowing God to be just and also full of mercy, Job asserts that, if he could only converse with God, God would be persuaded by his argument and grant a reprieve from his present sufferings. 2. Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. 3 Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! 4 I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me. Much as the fair, Shulamite maiden of Solomon's Song longs for her Lily of the Valleys and her Rose of Sharon to comfort and reassure her, so does Job long for that fellowship of prior days he has enjoyed with the LORD. So, too, does the true Church in our day long for the same Rose of Sharon, and the encouraging Lily of the Valleys to light our way in a sin-darkened world.
Job may not know the Why of God's workings, but he knows well the Nature and Character of God. Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge. When we have entrusted our fortunes in a strong and reputable bank, we may not know in what way they will safeguard our funds, but we do know that the bank will take whatever measures are necessary to keep our interests safe and secure. Job knows well that God will not come against him in violence but rather as a loving Father. Is it possible for the righteous to commune with God with questions and arguments? Yes, Abraham dealt with God prior to the destruction of Sodom and the cities of the plain. The process did not change the will of God – for He was bent on the destruction of those wicked cities – but it did change Abraham's mind in knowing that God would not destroy Sodom for the sake of ten innocents. But God knew that there were not even ten innocents. Jacob likewise wrestled with God. God was not changed, but Jacob was permanently changed. Job feels that his predicament is based on some presumed evil that God sees in him but the circumstances are just the reverse – God has allowed Job to be tempted because He sees Job as RIGHTEOUS! He knows Job will withstand the storm and become an everlasting encouragement and witness to us who, likewise, suffer unjustly for our faith.
There is a growing faith in Job's present doubt. He readily admits that, though he cannot find God, God is present and hiding His visage from him.8 Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: 9 On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him. Since God is present everywhere and at all times (omnipresent), Job knows that God is present even if Job cannot see Him.
It is a continual worry to the saints that they are unworthy of the grace of God and deserve their tortures of the world; but, though they certainly do not deserve the grace of God, it would no longer be grace if it were deserved. And, yes, we do deserve the tortures of earth and Hell, but God has called by grace through faith, into the heart of His Beloved Son, Jesus. Please observe how Job's compass bounces, at times, from true north, but at last always returns to its proper reading. He doubts, and his doubts actually FEED his faith. The first nine verses depict a weakness in faith, but see how the faith is confirmed in the next three verses: 10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. 11 My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. 12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. Job knows, despite his sometime doubts, that God is good, and that whatever God brings into his life will be a refinement of his character and virtue. Can we all recognize this? See how in verse 12 that Job treasures the Bread of Heaven more than the bread made from the fruit of the earth?
Finally, Job acknowledges that, in spite of his own reasoning and logic, that of God Almighty is always sure and true. The will of God is always based on best wisdom and knowledge of the facts above those of any mortal. God, knowing the best in the long outcome, will not change His will for He does not vacillate between two opinions as does man. 13 But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. Truly, God is of One Mind. When we have taken God's will into our lives to the out-casting of our own frail wills, we will always ask those things that are convenient to God to grant. Divisions in Church and society itself will disappear for those individuals and nations whose direction is dictated by that Bright and Morning Star.14 For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him. Have we not read this in remarkable places of the Holy Scriptures? Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Heb 13:8)
            Should we fear God as Christians? Yes, but not with the mortal fear a convicted murderer has for the guillotine; the fear of a Christian for the Father should be the fear a good son has for his Father whom he never wishes to disgrace or make ashamed. 15 Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him. 16 For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me: Job says that God has melted his heart to be without courage. Did not Christ suffer more greatly all of our afflictions? Read His words from the cross:  I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.  (Psalms 22:14)
            Job claims that he has been spared the comfort of death before the pitch darkness that has arisen and that, instead of covering Himself with a cloud of darkness, God has covered Job's face with that darkness.  17 Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face. The eyes of God are never blinded to our present circumstances, only our understanding is clouded from knowing the perfect will of God; therefore, we often linger in pointless doubt.