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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, May 31, 2013

Devotion on Proverbs (Chapter Eleven – Part Two v10-21) – 31 May 2013, Anno Domini



10 When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. 11 By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. 12 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace. 13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter. 14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. 15 He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.  16 A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.  17 The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh. 18 The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward. 19 As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death. 20 They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight. 21 Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered. (Prov 11:10-21)

            When one considers the absolute lack of any hint of contradiction, but rather a total consistency and coherence pervading all Scripture (from beginning to end), one must admit that this Book is not at all human, but Divine. Written over a period of more than 1400 years, and by more than 40 different scribes scattered over that time, it is amazing to observe that the story line is so amazingly perfect and continuous. The first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) were written by the hand of Moses, and the books of poetry, prophecy, Gospels, historical books, and epistles were all written by men whose lives occupied a small slice of those hundreds of years of its compilation. Though the hand of a scribe was the instrument whereby these books were reduced to manuscript pages, it was the Mind of God, the Holy Ghost, that guided those hands to write. We see evidence of the unchanging nature of God and His inspiration being presented in the Proverbs in the form of sound and wise logic - reason and truth are never in conflict.

            10 When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. These individual proverbs are for our general understanding and not given as principles of living that have no exception. Certainly, when justice and morality are the rule of law, as it once was in America, the people have cause to rejoice. There is no question of the righteous cause prevailing in a court of law under such circumstances. When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. (Proverbs 29:2) It is a true principle to be believed that when the wicked are in authority, even those who may otherwise have been upright are often corrupted in order to gain privilege. A just measure and balance is always to the greatest benefit of the greater number of people. A false balance only leads to the prosperity of a corrupt minority. Under such conditions, the class of the needy and those in penury grows to be the largest class of citizens while the corrupt and unscrupulous become the privileged few.

            Even the secular commentator recognizes the principle of verse 10:
            The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.

            If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, nonoppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable — whatever its political form might be.

            Under such an administration, everyone would understand that he possessed all the privileges as well as all the responsibilities of his existence. No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack. When successful, we would not have to thank the state for our success. And, conversely, when unsuccessful, we would no more think of blaming the state for our misfortune than would the farmers blame the state because of hail or frost. The state would be felt only by the invaluable blessings of safety provided by this concept of government.

It can be further stated that, thanks to the non-intervention of the state in private affairs, our wants and their satisfactions would develop themselves in a logical manner. We would not see poor families seeking literary instruction before they have bread. We would not see cities populated at the expense of rural districts, nor rural districts at the expense of cities. We would not see the great displacements of capital, labor, and population that are caused by legislative decisions.

            The sources of our existence are made uncertain and precarious by these state-created displacements. And, furthermore, these acts burden the government with increased responsibilities. (Fredric Bastiat, French Parliamentarian and Economist, 1848)

            11 By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. Consider the material blessings brought to civilization by the advent of the Christian religion. While it is the common tradition in moslem countries today to make slaves of orphans if the family is unable to care for them, the Church was first to establish orphanages and hospitals and remains the greatest sponsor of these institutions in poor nations. The Christian religion, unlike Islam, has always been a proponent of an educated populace since knowledge and wisdom are an arm of the Christian faith. Under the dark religions of Islam and other lesser gods, ignorance is the best ally of the Imam and Mullah. One of the great failures (among thousands) of Islam is its failure of justice. Hate and avarice lead the adherents of Islam to falsely accuse Christians and other religious minorities in their midst in order to gain access to their property, or due to personal jealousies. There was no such reprisal of Islamic peoples in the United States by Christians following the senseless murder of thousands during the Twin Towers bombing.

            12 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace. This verse comports nicely with the previous. The strong arm of false religions is false understanding and mob mentality. Those who are not wise despise their neighbors because they have acquired a pleasant living from the application of wisdom as a rule of life. The ignorant never have the capacity to recognize that which they do not know. So they act only on their jealousies of those who have a better status in life.

            13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter. Discretion is certainly valorous and is, in fact, the better part thereof. A talebearer does not carry tales to improve the character of his victim, but to destroy it. When I was a very young boy, I saw signs remaining from WWII that declared, "Loose Lips Sink Battleships!" How true. If a formidable battleship can be sunk with hundreds aboard, imagine the damage that can be done to the innocent individual. The wicked love sin and, perhaps for this reason, they NEVER forget a sin committed by a fellow man - even if years or decades past. 4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. (James 3:4-6) Many Godly churches have been destroyed by a single, wagging tongue.

            14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. In an representative form of government, it is presumed that those elected represent the Godly will and intent of the people. When this is not the case, there really does not exist a multitude of counselors. Counselors are those whose wisdom is applied in government or in the teaching of religion. Absent this, it is the corrupt wills of a few that persist.

            15 He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure. We may be a comfort to those who mismanage their resources, but we are not wise to assume the debts which they have foolishly made; else, we endanger the welfare of our own families for whom we have wisely and carefully prepared in wisdom. Each father is responsible for his own debts and savings.

            16 A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches. Here is another familiar and oft presented principle of Scripture. The tribute to a gracious woman is very ably provided in the 31st Proverb. Such a woman, given to the Christian rule of hospitality to all, is well honored. Those who are weak of mind and wisdom often lose the fruits of their labors through poor management or lascivious living. The strong man, good or even evil, holds his wealth in security. There may be no sin in poverty, but there is certainly little honor to be had therein.

            17 The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh. It is now a settled matter of even medical science that hate and envy are detrimental to the health and happiness of man. ". . . . remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) Giving frees the heart of many burdens and make those that remain seem light. Please remember, too, that charity means that the giver has been blessed with the excess of wealth to share.
            18 The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward. There is no fruit or gain whatsoever that results from wickedness. Wickedness only moves the wealth from one legitimate owner to one undeserving hand. But righteousness sows real fruit-bearing seed which shall bear true fruit.

            19 As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death. A good conscience allows for health enhancing sleep and rest. The stress of worry that our bad deeds might be revealed is a constant bother to the well-being of the wicked. But the righteous can look with appreciation and love to the roses of the garden and the children in their play. But the greed and tyranny of the wicked becomes their obsession. They lack sleep due to their laying on their beds trying to imagine some dishonest means of getting the savings of others. Finally, evil becomes their eternal bedfellow.

            20 They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight. Please observe that God clearly does not view all, both righteous and wicked, with the same benign eye. The froward man is a man who despises the simple and natural pleasures of the righteous. He is simply unable to comprehend the worth of natural beauty, of great art, or of Godly music. If the band is not sensual, he sees no point of it. His whole being is against the love of God and for the wiles of the devil. Just as God has labeled homosexuality an abomination, so does he lump the froward heart into the same basket. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies (Ps. 139:21-22). The modern Christian has been indoctrinated to believe that he should have no enemies. Let me assure you that the enemies of God had better be our own enemies as well. This principle has not been undone by the Gospel of Christ.

            21 Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered. Regardless the numerical advantages of the wicked, there is no sanctuary for them from the hand of judgment. They shall be punished even if they field a mighty army. And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses (2 Kings 19:35). Please note the destruction wrought by a single Angel. What army can stand against God? The Angel left only a few alive to bear testimony to others of the power of God. Perhaps for this reason was Jonah sent to Nineveh to preach repentance.

            America stands on the precarious ruins of ancient Israel today. That nation was richly blessed of God, had known His close fellowship and blessings, and had turned away. Their monuments are hidden beneath the sandy plains of the land they once held dear. It is far worse to have known the Lord and to turn away than never to have known the Lord at all. There does come a day when God will consider the iniquity of a nation to be full and complete. At such time, there will be no turning back from the hard hand of judgment. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17) Has America returned, as the dog to his vomit, and the swine to wallowing in the mud? We shall very soon know!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Devotion on Proverbs (Chapter Eleven – Part One v1-9) – 30 May 2013, Anno Domini



Trinity Sunday.
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

1 A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. 2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. 3 The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them. 
4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death. 5 The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness. 7 When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth. 8 The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead. 9 An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered. (Prov 11:1-9)

            The next several verses and chapters of Proverbs are profound principles condensed into single sentences. So we will proceed with care not to lose the greater meaning of each according to our best understanding.

            When I was a young officer assigned to Korea, the Military Police began to harass many of my Korean employees when they came to the gate to enter the cantonment area. They took a particular interest in harassing the young ladies - perhaps in hope of favors. After lodging a complaint with the Commander, Military Police, and gaining no satisfaction, I began going to stand at the gate daily to supervise the actions of the MPs. This irritated them to no end. But the satisfactory outcome was that they stopped intimidating the Korean workers entering the gate. One disappointing fact that emerged was the complicity of the Military Police with black marketers, and even their direct involvement in black marketing. The Military Police vehicles were not subject to search as they left the military compound. I discovered that their jeeps were often loaded with contraband such as numerous cases of beer, or electronics from the Post Exchange. It is a particularly egregious miscarriage of justice when those who are charged with upholding the law are the very foremost violators of it. It is tantamount to the Attorney General, sworn to uphold justice in the nation, violating his oath of office. 1 A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. Those merchants who trade in electronic transactions encumbered with hidden fees and charges are also operating with a false balance. The dishonest practice of charging too much for services or material seems to permeate our modern economy. This is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. Those who remain upright and honest in their business dealings are a DELIGHT to the Lord.

            The Lord will lift up those who are humble of heart, and demean those who are lifted up by their own presumptive pride. When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. Hear the counsel of Christ: And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:12) In a manner of speaking, PRIDE is also a false balance. It advertises a false goodness and character. There is no justification for pride of works or of conscience for it is the righteousness of Christ alone that redeems us. It is the humble one who is seldom disappointed or disgraced, and the proud who, like Lucifer, have a mighty ruin. Pride led to the vanquishment of a great Angel. Do we feel that we might be an exception? 10 All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? 11 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. 12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. 16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms (Isaiah 14:10-16)

             3 The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them. When we speak only truth and honesty in our dealings, we will not have to navigate the myriad traps of lies that we have invented. We will not be trapped by our falsity and deceit. Our memories will be free to consider the abundance of truth instead of the quagmire of lies with which we are ambushed continually.

            Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death. This is basically a reinforcement of Proverbs 10:2 (Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.) The 'Fool's Gold' of worldly riches will evaporate in a single second when the Scroll of Heaven is rolled back at Christ's Coming. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10) All earthly treasures shall perish with the earth in fervent heat - much like the "world that then was" was destroyed by water in the days of Noah. I prefer to have my treasure on deposit where neither moth or rust can get at it - the depository of Heaven. Jesus ALWAYS has the precisely correct answer: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt 6:19-21)

            The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness. What does the Author mean by the righteousness of the perfect? What is it? It is the obedience to the Word of God without reservation or question. There is no excuse, either, for ignorance to the Law of God. He has given us a Book. Shall we at least READ and STUDY that gift? The wicked fall by their own wickedness - very true. God condemns no one to Hell - we condemn ourselves if we go there.

            The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness. Ah, yes, nice word - naughtiness. Any departure from the will of God is both naughty and sinful. Those who claim the righteousness of Christ are delivered from their shame thereby just as the filth and odor of the pig sty was covered by the Father's BEST ROBE for the Prodigal Son.

            When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth. Yes, their wealth, fame and pelf are destroyed at an instant - they even lose their names for no name is needed in the fires of Hell. And hope is extinguished at the drawing of the last breath. If we have not made provision for our souls at the last, there IS no provision for our souls.

            As "all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights" (Gen 7:11-12) the unbelieving wicked occupied the lands of Noah and his family, but their occupation of those lands became their prompt graves. When God removes His righteous from the world, the wicked to occupy their places in a burning furnace. The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead.

            An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered. The lives of many innocent have been made miserable by the loose tongues of the gossiping wicked. Out of the mouth come the treasures of the heart and, if those treasures by lies, torments, and hate, the whole of the community can contract the hurt of that mouth. The hypocrite builds his case with as much public remonstrance as he can muster. He is as a vandal among the masterpieces of society - only tearing down to destroy. But the just will not be deceived by the cheapened arguments of the hypocrite. Like a trained bank teller, he is conditioned to know real currency. When a false bill passes through his fingers, he recognizes immediately that it is not genuine. When you have learned and studied diligently the Word of God, no ten-horned saint can lead you away with fables and traditions of men.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Devotion on Collect for Trinity Sunday - 26 May 2013, Anno Domini



Trinity Sunday.
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

            TRINITY Season marks the last half of the Christian Calendar Year. The first half, beginning with the Advent Season, define the great doctrines of the Church. The last half, TRINITY, define our response to the works of Christ and our duties to God.
Trinity Sunday is the day that links the two halves together. Both the offer of free grace made available in Christ by the acts of the first half are equally important to our response to that grace through faith unto good works required by the teaching of the second half. We begin the Church year by the promise of God the Father. The Father has promised to send unto us His only Begotten Son that the Advent Season heralds. The Christmas Season is the consummation of that promise. God the Father sent God the Son to us at Christmas. On Whitsunday, we observe the consummation of the Trinity (Triune God) by the gift and coming of the Holy Ghost. So Trinity Sunday recognizes the fullness of God's presence with His people by the sending of the Holy Ghost of Pentecost.

            Grace is a gift of God made available through the life and sacrifice of Christ. ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace. A gift does not assume value until it has been received. The means by which the gift is received is by FAITH. The evidence of our salvation BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH is GOOD WORKS. Good works cannot save. It is by grace through faith that saves and makes us yearn to do good. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10) There are three prepositions that seals the whole: BY grace are we saved, THROUGH faith, UNTO good works. "..... by the confession of a true faith" Any works, good or bad, by the unsaved are without any merit whatsoever.  An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin. (Prov 21:4)

            ". . . . to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity." It is the gift of grace by way of faith that compels us to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity - the fullness of God in His Triune nature. ". . . . and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity." To what 'Unity' does our worship apply? To the same Unity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost that are ONE in nature and of which we, too, must be ONE in nature with the Church and with the Trinity. Jesus prayed that we would be One with Him just as He was One with the Father. If that be so, we will be One with each other so that no division of the Body of Christ is possible. If we are divided and fragmented by non-essential matters such as carpet color, type of pews, or personality differences, we are not One with Christ.

            Just as we cannot boast of our good works, neither can we boast of the free, unmerited grace that saves us; nor of the faith that brought us to receive that grace from God. We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith. It is the power of God that keeps us secure in faith. When God shut the door on Noah and his family, He made them secure in their salvation. Noah was secure in the salvation of the Ark. He could not fall from the Ark because He was shut in. So the truly chosen and elect of God can not fall from the strong and secure hand of his Savior (Ark).

            We have no self-defense against such a powerful enemy as Satan. It is Christ who defeated that old Serpent and won our salvation. If we are in Christ, we are defended against the wiles of the devil. ". . . . and evermore defend us from all adversities" Christ is our Tower, our Bulwark, and our everlasting Defense - the very Rock of our Salvation that is immovable.

            The last line of our Prayer of Collect sums the whole of Trinity - One God, in Trinity! ". . . . who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. God is forever alive and He reigns in power and glory. How would we ever presume to come before Him with indifference or irreverence. If Moses was told to remove His shoes before the glorious appearing of God, why are we less respectful. We must approach God with reverential worship, silence before He speaks, and humility of person. Do we observe this reverence before, during, and after worship each service of the Church?

Monday, May 27, 2013

27 May 2013 - Special Prayer Request



Surgery
Dave Pressey, a bishop with the Anglican Episcopal Church, one of our close fellow jurisdictions, had cataract surgery this past week.  His retina has torn and he is going into emergency surgery today to try to save his vision.  Please pray for guidance for the surgical team treating Dave and that they might pay close attention.  Pray also for peace of mind for Dave and his family.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sermon Notes - Trinity Sunday - 26 May 2013, Anno Domini




Trinity Sunday.
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.


T
HERE was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  (John 3:1-15)

Who was Nicodemus?

There are many facets of the answer to that question. First of all, Nicodemus was a man of wealth. He was, too,  a member of the powerful ruling Sanhedrin. He was a curious man who came to satisfy that curiosity under cover of darkness. These are some of the things that Nicodemus WAS. That which Nicodemus WAS before his encounter with Christ, and that which he BECAME afterward are poles apart. It may not be stretching reality to say that Nicodemus WAS precisely what you and I WERE; and what Nicodemus BECAME is precisely what you and I ARE in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Word of God is a great mirror exposing our rags of filth (sin & poverty) and the great mercy and grace which has lifted us up before God adorned in the White Robe of Righteousness provided by Christ. We must recognize that the politically conscious Nicodemus was the same person as you and me before we came out of our darkness and into His Light. We all have approached Christ from the dark nights of our souls. The Creation of God began in darkness way back in the beginning of Genesis, but ended in brilliant light. The same holds true for our spiritual rebirth (creation).

Nicodemus was obviously a man proud of his station, but he also had a tender place in his heart for truth and justice. He yearned to know truth. He was a seeker of truth, and a seeker of God. This characteristic his timidity in coming to Christ. A wealthy and powerful Pharisee would deign to approach a humble carpenter of Galilee for enlightenment - and Nicodemus came at night for that Light. He surely discovered that Light in Christ. Some men of lesser metal and courage may have slipped away that night unchanged by the Brilliant Light that emanated from Christ, but not the good man, Nicodemus. Nicodemus was unlike the rich young ruler of Matthew 19 and Luke 18 who, having heard the cost of the cross, left sorrowful because he placed riches above the salvation of God. Nicodemus was fundamentally changed by Christ. In making us into His new Creation, Christ performs the miracle of the spiritual Creation in a manner not unlike His genius employed in the physical Creation. By observing the beauty of a sunrise or sunset,  we witness the miracle of transformation: One looks at the sunset glories of the sky, the clouds shining in many radiant colors as if a thousand rainbows had been scattered in fragments along the horizon; and it seems as if there were the very gate of heaven; he looks at the snowflakes so pure, so beautiful, and he asks, Whence came these? They came from the salt waters of the sea: they came from muddy reptile-haunted marsh and fen; they came from road –side pools. They were raised to the sky by the sun, and are now glorified by his rays.(Rev. F.N. Peloubet, D.D.)

Can you not see yourself in the person of the night visitor, Nicodemus? Have you often held your peace when a subject of vital spiritual importance is raised - preferring to hide your faith from a scowling crowd? Have you spoken our boldly, as Stephen, in the face of threatening persecution? Or have you withered as a dying flower before those who inquire if you were not one of those disciples of Jesus as did Peter?

The rich young ruler went away from Christ unchanged, but not the noble Nicodemus. He was changed forever and never again came to Christ at night. He was forthwith open in his defense of Christ and growing in his courage.

Nicodemus is mentioned at three places in the Gospel of St John. The first mention is in the present text for today. The second appears in John 7:45-51 - 45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. 47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. 50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. 53 And every man went unto his own house. (John 7:45-53) The Pharisees had been foiled in their plot to catch Christ in His own Words. Instead, their emissaries had been solidly stumped by the divine wisdom of our Lord. As they sought a means to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus had the temerity to speak out in defense of the Lord and was publicly rebuked.

It is noteworthy that each time the name of Nicodemus is mentioned after this first night-time rendezvous, the following stipulation is made: (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) This stipulation is made to contrast the behavior of Nicodemus in being an open advocate for Christ when he was a night-stalker in the present text. We are all changed once we come face-to-face with Christ! The last reference to Nicodemus has him coming openly, in the face of the Jewish rulers, to claim the body of Christ along with Joseph of Arimathaea. Please observe the courage required and the lack of any hesitancy whatsoever on the part of Nicodemus: 38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. (John 19:38-42) Here again, we see the qualification in the text - which at the first came to Jesus by night. God is a great economist of Words. He never tells us anything needlessly. He tells us repeatedly that Nicodemus is the one who stands publicly for God when he at first came by night.

Are we a Nicodemus type of Christian, or are we a Rich, Young Ruler type? Do we stand firm and publicly on our convictions and testimony, or do we slink away at the threat of lost revenue?

Tradition has it that Nicodemus was martyred in the 1st century. That would have been only a few years after the death and resurrection of Christ.

The man who came at night (as we all do), never again sought Christ in any way other than publicly and courageously. Have you done so, and do you ALWAYS do so?

Nicodemus was treated to some of the most beautiful symbolism and metaphor of the Bible. He was a man of learning and high intellect. Even though he could not understand all that Christ told him at first, he pout those words of Christ in his heart and meditated on these things. As a result, Nicodemus had a growing faith and not a diminishing faith. The Holy Ghost, described to Nicodemus by Christ as being like the Wind, soothed and comforted Nicodemus in his doubts and nurtured and fertilized his understanding. Nicodemus never forgot that night-time encountered, and neither should we.

The Word of God possesses a mysterious and unseen power to change, fundamentally, our characters and our hearts. The children of Israel could little understand the efficacy of beholding the lifted up serpent in the Wilderness; but they heeded the counsel of Moses and looked to that brazen serpent when bitten by the fiery serpent - and lived. That brazen serpent of the wilderness was a meager type of the Christ who, when men look to Him, they shall be healed of the most deadly of diseases - sin! Will you heed the Words of Scripture today and look to Christ for every need?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Devotion on Proverbs (Chapter Ten – Part Two v17-31) – 15 May 2013, Anno Domini




17 He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth. 18 He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. 19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. 20 The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom. 22 The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. 23 It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom. 24 The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted. 25 As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation. 26 As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him. 27 The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened. 28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish. 29 The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. 30 The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth. 31 The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out. 32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness. (Prov 10:17-32)

The self-opinionated fool is incorrigible in his ignorance. His pride, based on only ignorance and a foolish and unmerited regard for his own lack of understand, blocks any process of enlightenment from entering his tiny brain. This is very relevant to the man who cannot hear God speak for the treasured regard for his own free will. He cannot accept the will of God as superior to his own foolish desires. If a man or woman will listen to instruction of Wisdom, Holy Scripture, and the Holy Spirit, he or she will be attuned to that eternity made available only through the Author of Life. He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.

No ruse of the tongue will go unexposed and unpunished at God's own time. So any who slanders another or who conceals hatred by a hypocritical pretense of friendship will bear a heavy retribution in the day when all secrets are revealed before the throne of God. Oftentimes, the just punishment occurs in this lifetime as well as in the Judgment. He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. Those hose lips are loose are very apt to speak from an empty heart that is fraught with sin. It is always more wise to hear the full matter rather than eagerly speaking out in ignorance. "The wise old owl sat high in the Oak. The more he saw, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why aren't we all like that old bird?" (Mr. B. L. Hale, my beloved high school French teacher who never suffered a loss of words). All that you say will be held against you in a Court of Judgment! The slanderer is a fool as well as a sinner because he has no limits in victimizing everyone with whom he has odds. Soon, no man will go near him.

The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. Why is this so? In the early days of the last century, the US Dollar carried this inscription: "Redeemable in real money (silver) at the nearest Federal Reserve Bank." A one dollar paper note could be exchanged for the face value's worth of silver. The US dollar, in those days, was as good as its word, but what of today. Does its value not float and decline in value according to the number of such notes printed by the Feds without an ounce of silver to back it? My father used to tell me that he would much prefer the handshake of an honest gentleman to the iron-clad contract of a thief. Whatever an honest man tells you is just as good as the silver on deposit in his heart. But the wicked speak from hearts devoid of any precious metal to back it up. Those hearts are filled with dross and filth.

The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom. We see righteousness and wickedness, wisdom and foolishness, compared in the same sense of oneness. Righteousness or wickedness are not an act, but a disposition in manner and habit. An able man of righteousness does not feel the need to boast of his resources. He is most often far less rhetorical than his opposite - the fool. Fools boast of their prowess in battle, of their false wealth and means, and a hundred other deceptions; but when the time comes for payday, they come empty-handed to the table and, usually, quite hungry. It is the fool that fails to save for the future, fails to learn wisdom so that his words will have meaning, and fails to labor so that he is independent in his living that is always seeking his welfare from those righteous people who have saved, labored, and learned to live by God's order.

The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. There are certainly hardships that befall us all, however, the Lord will bless the righteous and will ease the burden that he bears and not add sorrow to sorrow. Laziness is a form of wickedness. The lazy man will confront the same hardships as the wise man; however, he is unable to overcome them since his hedonistic lifestyle has left many additional stones of sorrow that are uncovered by a single hardship. The wicked has paved his road with thin plaster whose facade is supported by sharp stones and thorns. The storms of life wash away the plaster and the stony way is left to him.

It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom. Every year, there is a humorous letter that is published entitled, The Darwin Report. It list the most foolish and insane acts for the past year of the 'self-evolved' (my term) man; incidents such as: "Is this gun loaded? Let me press it against my ear, pull the trigger, and find out." You get the message. The more insane the act, the greater pride taken in doing it by the fools of the world. To a man of understanding, the chamber of the gun might be checked to see if it is loaded; or he may fire the gun into the empty space beyond. To the fool, the empty space is between his ears.

The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted. There is a completely opposite reward that comes to the wicked as compared to the righteous. The wicked is full of a dormant fear that arises constantly as a result of the prospect of his being found out. But the desires of the righteous, being in perfect congruity with the Will of God, is granted him. Personally, I prefer the desires of the righteous to the fears of the wicked to be my reward.

As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation. The tornadic whirlwind dissolves into thin air and leaves no trace of itself; however, in its wake, like the wicked, it leaves only death and ruin. The opposing illustration of the righteous is an everlasting foundation of faith and hope. The righteous are like the tree planted by the rivers of water - it shall not be moved. This truth is expressed in the words of a negro spiritual:

Jesus is my Savior, I shall not be moved;
In His love and favor, I shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that's planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.

In my Christ abiding, I shall not be moved;
In His love I'm hiding, I shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that's planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.

If I trust Him ever, I shall not be moved;
He will fail me never, I shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that's planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.

On His word I'm feeding, I shall not be moved;
He's the One that's leading, I shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that's planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.

Chorus
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
Just like a tree that's planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.

As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him. Just as vinegar draws up the lips and smoke the eyes, so are the grimaces and frowns of any who depend upon the sluggard to fulfill their hopes. The sluggard simply wastes away the resources that are offered him for his labor. The sluggard is like unto a snail that neither labors nor enriches the garden. In the light of day, they slink under stones and moss. In the hours of darkness, they emerge to devour the product and labors of honest men; but when the sunrise approaches, they again head for their dark shelters. There are two things that the snail cannot abide - salt and light. Both will melt the snail. Salt (righteous living) and Light (the Word of God) will stop the snail in its literal, gossamer tracks. 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)

The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened. You will recall that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. Once begun, the knowledge and wisdom builds as line upon line and precept upon precept. It adds years and joy to a natural span of life, but it also adds an eternity to our mortal years when the shadows of life lengthen. The wicked, on the other hand, lack wisdom and knowledge. Their sins actually lead them to a shortened lifespan and an eternal death. The homosexual lobby fails to mention that the average life-expectancy of a practicing homosexual is only 43 years. Wonder why?

The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish. Make no mistake - the wicked know the reward that awaits them in fear and trembling. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Heb 10:26-27) The expectation of the righteous is not only a contemplated gladness, but a real and present gladness as well.

The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. "Stand tall, soldier!" was an often repeated command from the military drill sergeant to the trainee. You are a soldier and drooping posture is beneath your dignity. So to the righteous! There is an uprightness of walk which compels obedience to God, but which can also be a testimony of righteousness to the observers. Men, unlike animals of lower form, walk upright and straightforward. The more we become the character of an animal, the less upright and straightforward we become. Since all that the wicked have ever contributed has been destruction and ruin, this ruin will be their investment and reward in eternity.

The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth. God is immovable. The righteous, having God as their Ark and Shelter, shall also be immovable. The righteous have their heritage in the Lord both on earth and in Heaven. They will hold their places even when, and if, Hell freezes over. But the wicked have no heritage either on earth or in Heaven. Sorry, Reuben, but that leaves only one resort - Hell. They have no names because the only names that matter are recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life.

The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out. It would seem to me from this last verse that the slanderous language will have no organ from which to sputter lies. There is no greater treasure than to have a friend who will speak to you words of wisdom and not flattery.

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness. How do the righteous know what is acceptable? It is because their hearts and minds are guided by the Word of God and confirmed to their souls by the Holy Spirit of God. The wicked have no such reserve of treasure in their hearts. In fact, their hearts are filled with hate and violence. There is no place found for virtue in the heart of the wicked. Having chosen to follow their own waning stars, the wicked are left without a chart or compass upon which to rely. There is neither a governor for their mouths or for their actions. The virtue of the righteous lift them to the highest heavens, but the weight and burden of abject sin draws the wicked downward to the pits of Hell itself. Which nature, friend, do you prefer?