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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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 30 September 2014, Anno Domini

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect.

A
LMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel

B
lessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: for I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.  (Luke 10:23-37)

            In order to fully understand the situation confronting Christ, we must observe that which the Lectionary failed to include – the preceding two verses that reveal the setting. In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. (Luke10:21-22) Those whose high-minded thoughts are infatuated with the Self of the Ivory Tower will not understand the Words given by Christ here. Those men are much too good to get a handle on such simplicity as the Gospel represents. They must add to it their own complicated and sophisticated interpretations and render those in words which they can barely understand themselves and, certainly, not understood of those who are so simple as to know only Christ.

            “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:2-4)  I am not so proud of my title as to be very happy to become a simple, little child for Christ. All of the lawyers, Scribes, and Pharisees gathered about not only would not believe, but refused to believe, the simple Gospel that had been given to the simple disciples of Christ. Note the grace of God evidenced in the last verse of the quote: “…and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” Has Jesus revealed His Father to you, Friend?

            “And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” What standing and privilege we have to have come into the knowledge of the Gospel. We have been given greater privilege than many prophets and kings. Have we treasured the privilege above all others?

            Jesus is speaking in a public place and gathered around were those who would have enjoyed presenting a question that would have undermined His wisdom and knowledge. I am amazed that they continued so to do for they were constantly made fools by the attempt. There is a “certain lawyer” present who felt able to place Christ on the spot with a question which it was the Lord’s very specialty to answer: “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Is this a very good question? No, it is not. The premise of the question is wrong for there is nothing that we can DO to inherit eternal life – it is a gift of God. Jesus, being the most able of all teachers, gives the inquirer another question in response to fathom the depths of the inquirer’s knowledge as well as cause for deeper thought on the matter: “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” Should not all of us determine our answers to questions of eternity on God’s Law? Should we not all have read it and meditated thereon? How does the lawyer, very apt at deciphering law, read the question? This is an excellent technique to determine – not the depth of the lawyer’s knowledge, but the want of knowledge.

            The lawyer answered very ably for he knew the ‘words’ of the law, but perhaps not the spirit of it: “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” The lawyer may recognize the technical qualities of a diamond, but he cannot know the source of its beauty.

            Note how respectfully Christ treats the question and answer of the lawyer who seeks to ‘tempt’ him. “And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” If credit is due, you may always expect it from Christ.

            The lawyer realizes that he has failed to reveal any indiscretion in the answer of Christ and seeks to justify his inquiry and standing by pressing further. By asking this next question, he hopes to weaken the credibility of Christ in whatever He claims as a neighbor. “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?" We can clearly see by the motive and attitude that the lawyer is less in earnest to understand truth, than to place his witness off balance. His interest is not truth, but justification of himself which he is incapable of doing just like every other sinner.

            These next beautiful lines of a Parable of Christ are among the most beloved and noteworthy of the Gospels and repeated almost daily in general conversation: “Come on, be a good Samaritan and loan me some money!” or “The life of a victim of an automobile accident this morning was saved by a good Samaritan who just happened on the scene of the accident shortly after it happened.” Do we not hear such accounts daily?

            “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”

            Here we see unsurpassing grace and a full figure of our Lord Himself described. In what way, you ask?  Because we were that man who went DOWN the road of life and were beaten by the devil and his friends. We were left to die until a good Samaritan (Christ) came along – going UP to the Holy City – and treated our hurts and sores with His own riches and Being. He did so after even those who were considered ‘holy’ passed us by. He cared for our wounds, and placed us on His own beast, and took us to a place of security, and continued to treat our hurts, and purchased our continued treatment and security until He returns for us. This is part of the spiritual meaning, but there is also a general application that presents in our own lives and those of other Christians.

            This ‘certain man’ that went down (the wrong direction) the road from Jerusalem, the Holy City, to Jericho, a worldly city, was a Jew. He it was who, it was suspected, would have a bag of money hidden on his person for commerce. Being a Jew, he had every right to expect help from his religious leaders of the same race. He would have found the gentile Samaritans (half-blooded Jews) to have been unworthy of his friendship and beneath his class.  He would never have lifted a finger to help the ‘unclean’ Samaritan.

            Alas, he falls among thieves who are waiting along the path in ambush. The devil sets many ambushes for us to destroy both our faith and our persons. The thieves took all that the man had, even including his raiment (clothes) and left him half-dead. Do you know that all who know not Christ have been left half-dead along life’s road? Satan would prefer to leave us half-dead than fully dead so that we may cause others to follow our folly. This is true of combat. The enemy would prefer to seriously wound our soldier than to kill him. Why? Because many support personnel are required to treat a wounded warrior, but far less to bury one such soldier.

            Note that a priest and a Levite comes along, going DOWN (the wrong direction) as well, to Jericho. It may be presumed that they had just completed Temple duties and were cleansed. But these two had yet to learn the meaning of the Lord’s words: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea6:6) Temple worship, or indeed any worship, will not suffice apart from a love of God and our fellow men. The priest clearly sees the man, we are told, but decides not to help the man or to touch blood which would have made him ‘unclean.’ The Levite sees the man and, at least comes to where he is and looks on him. But then goes the way of the priest. Both are guilty of lack of mercy and compassion – ingredients of character that cannot coexist in evil hearts.

            Now comes a Samaritan UP the Road to Jerusalem. Unlike the priest, the Jew, and the Levite, this man is traveling in the RIGHT direction. (Psalm 1) Note the actions of the Good Samaritan:

            1)       “came where he was” As Christians, we must GO to where the need is greatest, not relax in opulence in our parlors.

            2)       “he saw him” How many needs go unseen every day though our eyes cannot avoid the observance of that need?

            3)       “he had compassion on him” Just as our Savior, Christ, this Samaritan, though hated by this Jew, felt the man’s hurt so keenly that he took measures to help the man of his hurt (just as Christ has done for those of us who have come to Him).

            4)       “And went to him” His first coming to where the man was at the time , to us by happenstance; but surely to God, our steps were ordered. After coming to a person in need we do not simply stand and watch. We GO to the victim so that we may render assistance.

            5)       “and bound up his wounds” Just as Jesus practiced triage of treating the most critical need first, so does this Samaritan by binding up the man’s wounds to stop the bleeding. Has Christ not found us with our own blood flowing from our souls and given us life? “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.’ (Ezek 16:6) When we see our neighbor strangers perishing for grave want, have we forgotten the great mercies granted to us?

            6)        “pouring in oil and wine.” The only resources the Samaritan had to treat the man was the expensive oil and wine which he not only ‘applied’ but ‘poured’ into the man’s wounds. He spared no personal treasures in helping his charge. Do you not love this Good Samaritan?

            7)       “set him on his own beast” The Samaritan would rather walk in order that the wounded man might ride. This is ‘mercy’ combined with ‘sacrifice’– the kind of combination that the Lord loves.

            8)       “and brought him to an inn” The Samaritan is not concerned about his tight schedule. He takes time to take the best care of the wounded man. This is an expense as well, but he does not even consider it an expense. It is an obligation before God.

            9)       “and took care of him” I wish I had many friends as kind as this Samaritan Stranger. Actually, I do have ONE, and perhaps others of my friends who love that ONE. He continued, even at the end, to take time and trouble to treat the man.

            10)    “And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him” Apparently being convinced that the man would be well after rest and gentle treatment, the Samaritan departs to care for his pressing business in Jerusalem. But he does not forget the responsibility he has shouldered for the Jew. He PAYs even the innkeeper to continue caring for the Jew. “He doeth all things well!”

                11)    “and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” Had you ever considered ALL that the Good Samaritan did for this wounded Jew, or for that wounded soul that resides in your own heart? “Even if it costs me more, I will pay. I will pay to the uttermost.” Says the Good Samaritan.

            Jesus has told the story which will fully answer the question of the lawyer, but the lawyer remains stiff-necked in his pride. Jesus asks: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” Three men were involved. Two were not only religious leaders from whom one might expect greater degrees of compassion, but also men of the same blood. They, of all people, should have considered a fellow Jew, a neighbor. They passed by without lifting a finger to help the poor wounded fellow. The third, a lowly Samaritan, spent his own wealth, took his own time, and delayed his own business to help a man whose race hated him. Which one of these three would any sane person believe was neighbor to the wounded man? You, or I, would answer the Samaritan; but the lawyer, being a Jew who loathed even the name of a Samaritan, answered only: “He that shewed mercy on him.” The lawyer would prefer a pronoun to a real name. Even so, he answered correctly even if in the wrong spirit.


            Jesus responded to the lawyer in the same way He responds to you and me: “Go, and do thou likewise.” What have you been this week: a priest, a Levite, or a Good Samaritan?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Devotion on Firsts of the Bible - First and Only Prophet Swallowed by a Whale – 29 August 2015, Anno Domini

… Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me…


Part One - Introduction

Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. (Jonah 1:1-2)

            There is an old Appalachian bluegrass song entitled, "Down to the River to Pray." It reminds me of Jonah with notable exceptions - Jonah went down to the sea - not the river -  (and INTO it); and not to have communion with God, but to ESCAPE God.

            We begin today a devotional study of the Book of Jonah which is not a prophetic, but historical, book - though the historical aspects themselves are prophetic of all who try to outrun God..  It reveals God's calling of a man named Jonah - a real person of ancient times - to go into a wicked and fearful city to carry His warning to the pagan people there. We learn herein that God not only exercises His oversight of nations, but also of individual persons. His Providence is over you and me just as surely as it is over the nations of the world. Secondly, we learn that God calls men of His choosing to execute His Will and to carry forth His Word. God seldom calls one unfamiliar with His Word and Name to call others to repentance, or to prophesy on His behalf, but mainly those who know Him and are courageous to do His Will. Jonah was just that man though Jonah had to learn that truth through some hard trials. One who is called of God may delay in his responding, but he will not finally escape the unrelenting persistence of God. Rather than kick against the prods, we would suffer far less wounds in our bodies and souls if we would simply obey at once when God calls.

            You will recall the experience of Saul of Tarsus, a great persecutor of the Church, on the Road to Damascus:  And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:3-6) Paul (Saul) learned a hard lesson from the Lord on that Road to Damascus. He was not short on faith, but of the knowledge of the Lord. Young Samuel was asleep when the Lord called to him. He didn't recognize the Voice, being of tender years. But when he knew the Voice, he never relented. Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him. And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. (1 Sam 3:7-9)

            Mr. Jonah is different. Mr. Jonah did not lack either faith, or knowledge. He heard and recognized the Voice of the Lord, but did not AGREE with the Lord, and chose to flee to a distant land where he must have presumed the Lord would not follow. He was WRONG. The whole earth is the Lord's! Perhaps Jonah lacked that which many professing Christians today lack - COMPASSION! He was well aware of the compassion that the Lord would feel for a repentant people, but did not desire that the Lord forgive such desperate enemies of Israel. The further Jonah fled from the Lord, the more awesome became the Lord's presence. It is a great error to forbear witnessing to a people of your own choosing rather than those to whom the Lord sends us. We cannot discount any race, tribe, or nationality of people as being unreceptive, or unworthy, of hearing the Word of the Lord. We preach the Gospel without distinction to all, and allow the Holy Ghost to separate the wheat from the chaff.

            What was the message that Jonah was to deliver? 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. Jonah was to pronounce God's coming judgment against that wicked city. So why would Jonah bolt at such a mission? First of all, Nineveh was a powerful city whose wickedness was felt and renowned in the Holy Land.  This city had sent armies out to conquer and take spoils from all of their surrounding neighbors. They treated their victims with such cruelty that the mention of their name struck terror in the hearts of the people. They often impaled their victims on sharp poles while they died a slow and excruciating death.  Their armies were strong and terrible. Secondly, Jonah, being a prophet of God, knew that God's heart would melt should the city repent, and God would forgive them. It was THIS fact that most bothered Jonah. He felt that, if he were taken out of the way, this intention of God could not be fulfilled. Of course, the works of God depends not upon the will of any man. Jonah was soon to learn that the Will of God overrides that of men - even His own prophets.

            Nineveh was a GREAT city, even in the Words of the Lord. How great was Nineveh? The city itself was a three day's journey - Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. (Jonah 3:3) That means that it would take a traveler three days to go from one gate of the city to the opposite gate (by foot).  In spite of modernist skeptic's claims that there was not, nor ever had been, an historic city called Nineveh (that the Bible was wrong); Dr. Henry Layard, Esq., sought out the ruins of Nineveh in the 1840s. He proceeded to modern day Mosul on the Tigris River. Searching out the environs of the area, he came to a mound which the locals called 'Tippeh Yona' (mound of Jonah). This he presumed to be the tomb of Jonah. But looking some short distance to the north, he spied a mound of earthen works of tremendous proportion. Later excavation proved this to be the ruins of "that GREAT CITY - Nineveh!"

            Skeptics had also claimed that the Book of Daniel was in error in naming Belshazzar as King of Babylon at the time of the "Finger that wrote upon the Wall." In the central ruins of Nineveh, Dr. Layard found some thousands of clay tablets recording daily commerce and legal matters. One such clay tablet contained this remark: "I am King Nabonidas of Babylon who is visiting in Nineveh. I have left my son, Belshazzar, as king in my stead at Babylon." This finding answered another mystery of Daniel as well. Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. (Dan 5:29) Skeptics have argued that there was never, historically, a second ruler in Babylon, no King Belshazzar, and no justification to make Daniel third ruler in the kingdom.  since there was no second. But Belshazzar, himself, was the second ruler under his father; therefore, the greatest honor he could bestow on Daniel was to name him third ruler. You would think that this overwhelming empirical evidence would close the mouths of such critics, but many still cling to the false thread of fantasy over truth.

            Suffice it to say Nineveh was a GREAT CITY. Though Jonah may have feared his own safety in going there, it seems that his greater concern was that the Lord would have compassion on the city. Though we may harbor great malice for a people, or even the President of the United States, our prayers must be that the Lord will guide them and open their eyes to faith and reason. If we can make a believer of our adversary, we have made a double friend - one more friend, one less enemy!

            As we learn from many places in God's Word, the beginning of sin is a DIRECTION away from God. Naomi and Elimelech left Bethlehem-Judah (the city of Bread and Praise) and went into the cursed land of Moab. It was the WRONG direction. The Jew left Jerusalem (City of Peace) and went DOWN to Jericho - again, the WRONG direction. The Prodigal Son took his inheritance early and went out on the long road to a FAR country - WRONG direction! Psalm 1 tells us the RIGHT direction as well as the WRONG. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalms 1:1-3) We begin by walking in the wrong direction with the wrong company; we find ourselves, after a while, stopping in the place of sinners; and finally we find that we have made ourselves at home with the wicked by sitting down with them in intercourse. Well does Eve prove the point in going before the wrong tree, stopping there, and finally chatting with the evil voice. Likewise, did Lot cast his eyes upon the plain before Sodom. Later, we find that he had moved into that wicked city and, later still, sat in the gate of the city. So, we see that Jonah chooses the wrong direction - and it is constantly DOWN. Please read this very short book and meditate on its contents as we cover each verse in the coming days.


            For those who look with smug indignation upon Jonah, Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. We have all demonstrated that same attitude of Jonah to escape the calling of God at some point, or points, in our lives though perhaps with less drama. History is a great teacher, and we do, indeed, see ourselves reflected in the obstinate Jonah. Which shall we be: the fisherman, or the BAIT!

Devotion on Firsts of the Bible - First Temple – 28 August 2015, Anno Domini


                 
… he began to build the house of the LORD…


1 And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD. 1 Kings 6:1

            I offer an introductory word to those who love the beautiful and intricate details of the building of the Temple that carry with them both physical and spiritual truths: This devotion is not intended to be a detailed study of the Temple, but an observation of what the Temple means to us in a devotional setting. Volumes are required to reveal all meanings of every column, door, and piece of furniture in Solomon’s Temple. So this devotion, hopefully, will stir yearnings in the heart of the reader to learn and study more of this magnificent structure. I undertake this devotion with a sense of awe, humility, and with an awareness of my limited expertise to reveal all that should be known about the Temple. For a more complete description of the symbolism in the Temple, I invite your attention to my devotion on Wilderness Tabernacle – available on digits from our office in North Carolina.

            Our first notice might be directed to the fact Solomon built his own house (1 Kings 5) before undertaking the building of the House of the Lord. I draw no rash conclusion from this fact, but, yet, it provokes a mild curiosity about the nature of man’s heart.

            The Wilderness Tabernacle was a portable prototype of the Temple of God constructed by Solomon. It provided the same design and intent as was reflected in the finished Temple at Jerusalem. The Tabernacle was a work of beauty on its interior, and a structure lacking any artistic appeal whatsoever on the exterior (being covered in goats hair). But the Tabernacle represented the attributes of our Lord Jesus Christ. He possesses all of the benefits of grace, sacrifice and beauty in His heart, but lacked any particular outward attraction. 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:2-3)

            King David lost the privilege of building the Temple due to his breaches of God’s Law. So Solomon would finally build the Temple as a monument to the Glory of God. Since the focus of the Temple was of a greater spiritual application, no tools of man were permitted inside its walls during construction. And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building. 1 Kings 6:7  We cannot truly do the work of the Lord unless we are following His floorplan and purpose. Construction began 480 years after Israel’s coming out of bondage in Egypt, and in the fourth year of the reign of Solomon. It took seven years to complete, seven representing the perfection of Creation as from the beginning in Genesis 1.

The First Temple was a model of that perfection that can only be achieved by human effort that depends upon the guiding counsel of God for its authority and purpose. That First Temple might be regarding in the same light as our first parents, on the day of their creation in Eden, for perfection. Their souls, bodies and spirits were created in a perfect state by the hand of God. But just as our first parents fell away from that perfection in rejecting the Tree of Life (Christ) and opting for the ill-winded Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so did Israel fall away from the God of their comfort in the years following the building the First Temple by Solomon.

            As Adam and Eve would suffer death, so did the First Temple suffer ruin at the hands of the Babylonian Empire. Captivity is a certain consequence of falling away from God. Israel (or more particularly, Judah) went into a 70 year captivity in Babylon. 1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. 3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. 4 How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land? 5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. 6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” Psalms 137:1-6  It is a pity the captives had not given account of the singing of praises to the Lord BEFORE the captivity. Our memories are frail things. We of our own nation had best take heed of the consequence of our own falling away from God and singing His praises.

            From the building of Solomon’s Temple, until its destruction, the righteousness of Israel had fallen into an accelerated decline. There were punctuated moments of repentance during which God showed mercy, but, as a drunk’s cure for the hangover, they went back to their bottles of sin until God could no longer withhold His hand of judgment. The sacking and destruction of Jerusalem was a cruel endeavor by a heartless enemy who knew not God; but God had rather give power over to infidels than to those of His people who have openly rebelled and rejected His offers of forgiveness and salvation.

            After those long, hard years of captivity, God placed a man on the throne of Persia in Babylon who would heed the Word of the Lord and send His messengers back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and, finally, the Temple. His name was Cyrus the Great, and God had foretold his ascension to the throne – by name- some two hundred years before his birth. 1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; 2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: 3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.  Isaiah 45:1-3 Cyrus was the first benevolent world ruler. He is a man of singular virtue for his time. I had the privilege to visit his palace and tomb in Iran (old Persian) and to stand at an altar at which Daniel the prophet ministered. I could sense the holiness of the place.

            1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. Ezra 1:1-3 The work to rebuild the Temple preceded apace for a time until stopped temporarily by Artaxerxes. Later appeal was made to King Darius (successor to Artaxerxes) and decree was given to resume the building – this after a meticulous search for Cyrus’ decree which was found in the palace of Ecbatana (Adam Clarke erroneously claims Ecbatana was in India, but it is located in the modern city of Hamadan where Esther and Mordecai are buried in north central Iran.

            The second Temple was not as imposing as the first, and lacked the beauty and grandeur of the Temple of Solomon. When the foundation was laid, even then, it was obvious to those who had known the old Temple that this new Temple would be less imposing.  11 And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: Ezra 3:11-12  The younger of the people rejoiced because they had not known the Temple of Solomon. When the final remnants of the Last Great Generation are gone from our midst in America, who will remain to remember what the greatness of America was during the time of the Great War? Who will remain to remember the Providential hand of God in preserving us a favored nation among the nations of the world?


            It is easy for us to observe a sharp contrast in that First Temple and the more worldly Temple to follow. Observe that we (the people of God) are the true Temple. The Temples made of marble, wood, and marvelous works of art were only a type of the true Temple of God which Temple we are!  . . . . ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Cor 6:16-18   Just as the first Temple fell into disrepair and ruin because of sin, so did the first man, Adam, made in perfection, fall into the throes of sin and death at Eden. Our second temples are nothing like the first; however, that Temple of God, which is found in the heart of the believer, stands erect and sure and is furnished with every needful accoutrement for the true and faithful worship of our God. As long as we maintain that Temple intact, we shall never be forced to hang our harps upon the willows, that is why we call them “Weeping Willows”, by the Rivers of Babylon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

General Devotions – The Pearl Necklace - 25 August 2015, Anno Domini


"Then give me your pearls."


The Pearl Necklace or the way the love of a father reflects the love that God has for us.

The cheerful little girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them, a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box.

"Oh mommy please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?"

Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl's upturned face.

"A dollar ninety-five. That's almost $2.00. If you really want them, I'll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday's only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma."

As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies.

After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere, Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night as he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"

"Oh yes, daddy. You know that I love you."

"Then give me your pearls."

"Oh, daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess, the white horse from my collection, the one with the pink tail. Remember, daddy? The one you gave me. She's my very favorite."

"That's okay, Honey, daddy loves you. Good night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny's daddy asked again, "Do you love me?"

"Daddy, you know I love you."

"Then give me your pearls."

"Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper."

"That's okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you."

And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.

"What is it, Jenny? What's the matter?"

Jenny didn't say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, daddy; this is for you."

With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny.

He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her the genuine treasure. So it is, with our Heavenly Father. He is waiting for us to give up the cheap things in our lives so that he can give us beautiful treasures.

Isn't God good? Are you holding onto things that God wants You to let go of? Are you holding on to harmful or unnecessary partners, relationships, habits and activities that you have come so attached to that it seems impossible to let go? Sometimes it is so hard to see what is in the other hand but do believe this one thing.

God will never take away something without giving you something better in its place.


The greatest gifts happen when you share love and touch others.

Hymns of the Church – All People that on Earth do Dwell – 25 August 2015, Anno Domini


"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands"

Psalm 100 - An exhortation to praise God cheerfully
                                                                           
A Psalm of Praise.

1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. 2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (Psalms 100:1-5)

             Today’s hymn is full of reverential praise and joy. It would not be possible to compose a more Godly hymn than those that has God composed; and that precisely defines a 'Metrical' hymn. The old reformers paid much diligence to the arrangement of words and phrases (paraphrase) that would reflect the precise meaning of the Psalms, but also fit into a metrical order suitable for congregational and choral singing.  Of the metrical hymns this hymn, and its tune, is one of my favorites. Another would be "The King of Love my Savior Is" (23rd Psalm). "All People" is a nearly exact rendition of the 100th Psalm. The tune, Old One Hundreth, by Louise Bourgeois, Ge­ne­van Psalt­er, 1551, is the same to which we sing the Doxology (Psalm 150:6). Alternate tunes for this hymn are: "All People that On Earth Do Dwell" by Dwight Armstrong,; and  " Cannon Tallis " Thomas Tallis c. 1567

            Metrical hymns were the only sung in the ancient church since they were taken directly from the Biblical text. That brings to light one of the over-riding strengths of the King James Bible (in addition to its majestic reverence and accuracy): the metrical rhythm in which the KJV is written facilitates both memorization and understanding. Why should we settle for less?

The paraphrasing of the 100th  Psalm was done by William Kethe in 1561.

All People that on Earth do Dwell

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with mirth, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

Know that the Lord is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His flock, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why! the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is forever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

            From the dawn of the first day in long-ago Eden, the presence of God among His people has been a matter of great joy and comfort. However, sin, for a time, separated us from God - and that joy that our first parents felt before they turned from the Tree of Life to embrace the discordant voice emanating from that other Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In His Providence, and according to His perfect timing, the Lord has placed His presence once more among His people by way of His only Begotten Son (Emmanuel) and the sending of the Holy Ghost to be our comfort and our Light.

            "All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice. Him serve with mirth, His praise forth tell; Come ye before Him and rejoice."  The Light of God and His Word is shed abroad to "ALL PEOPLE" who dwell upon the earth; but not all people are the chosen and elect according to the promises of God. Even if the joy of the world is silent concerning those benefits and promises of God, nevertheless, those who call upon His Name and keep His Commandments will sing songs of praise and cheer and will "be not discouraged whate'er betides" because "God will take care of you." We do not sing to mammon, or to Babylon as the children of bondage did in the captivity. "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion." (Psalms 137:1-3) The songs of the world are funeral dirges compared to those songs of praise and worship with which we honor our God.

            "Know that the Lord is God indeed; Without our aid He did us make; We are His flock, He doth us feed, And for His sheep He doth us take." It is likely that every reader of this devotion will remember these famous words from the Psalm (100:3) that we learned in elementary school back in the days when God was welcomed there: "Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." Not all who come into His pasture are lambs. There are an increasing number of goats, and even wolves, who have come into the Church who pretend to be sheep. It is likely that the latter far outnumber the former in our time. But the Shepherd knows His sheep, and He is known of them. He will call forth His sheep and they will follow. Goats will not do so. His Word is our Manna, and He has provided our sustenance and daily bread therewith.

            "O enter then His gates with praise; Approach with joy His courts unto; Praise, laud, and bless His Name always, For it is seemly so to do." I do not believe the truly elect of God can enter into His gates with any other sentiments than those of praise! Forget not that we are the Temple of the Living God! "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early." (Psalm 46:4-5)
Surely, if we are the Temple of God, He is in the midst of our hearts to order them according to His will and not ours. Praising, lauding, and blessing Name is not only seemly, proper and decorous; it can only emerge from a heart given over to God - "lock, stock, and barrel."  Only those who APPROACH His courts can experience joy. All those who have DEPARTED there from have experienced ruination. The Prodigal Son is an example of that truth. The world will feed us pig slop; but God will feed us on the manna that comes down from heaven. The Rev. Thomas Brooks of St. Matthew's once remarked: "Jesus told Peter to 'feed my sheep' - not 'slop my hogs.'"

            "For why! the Lord our God is good; His mercy is forever sure; His truth at all times firmly stood, And shall from age to age endure." Yes, God is good, and what shall we do about THAT! There is an overly simplistic mantra (a 1914 kindergarten song for children) entitled "God is so Good." Wow! does it take 28 verses repeated over and over again by a hands-waving congregation for us to grasp that single truth. The reason that song is entitled 'God is so Good' is because it is for children, and our faith must begin with the knowledge that God is indeed GOOD. But once we grasp that truth, we go on to learn of the many other attributes of God in His Judgment, Patience, Grace, Mercy, Love, and Long Suffering. The little kindergarten song is popular in charismatic churches since the goodness of God must mean that "we can do as we please and He will not mind." The Truth of God is not a flat faced stone, but a multi-faceted diamond whose emanating hues of gold, green, blue, and white are viewed from different angles of perspective. The Truth of God cannot be condensed to a single majestic hymn, much less the line, "God is so good." So why not put as much of the nature and qualities of God as the vessel of a hymn can hold instead of condensing our focus to a single attribute to be sung repetitively as a Hindu mantra?


            God's mercy truly does endure forever since it extends beyond the grave. In spite of modern attempts to re-write the Holy Bible and preach that "good has become evil" and "evil has become good;" Truth is immutable and unchanging. Perhaps there is a single verse that best describes many of our modern pulpits, and it is a dire warning to those who preach for filthy lucre: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:20-21) WOE! This is not the same term used in bringing a horse-drawn carriage to a standstill - it is a sober and grave warning to the teachers of error in pulpits today who are scrambling to decide that God does not condemn homosexual marriage and abortion after all. How do you read that subject, friend?