Thursday, December 31, 2015
Statesville, North Carolina
United States of America
New Years Day
31 December 2015, Anno Domini (in the Year of our Lord
The human heart seems obsessed with always newer things. We like to see new places, meet new friends, have a new car - a new house, a new wardrobe - etc. We make much ado about each coming New Year as if there was something good and special about that which is new. In reality, there is nothing 'NEW' under the sun. The sinful heart seeks the occasion of a New Year's celebration to conceive of sins and depravities that have lain dormant in his evil and dark heart for centuries. The wise Solomon summed up the ages well: 9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. (Eccl 1:9-11)
The ancient and sinful heart of man, conceived beneath the indecorous Tree in Eden, has only grown more and more sinful in its imaginations in ages past; and so it does today. In 1951, we celebrated a New Year's Day in Tennessee for a coming year that was devoid of so-called homosexual marriage, abortion, uncontrolled drug abuse, and a year in which the school day began with a reading from the Psalms, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer. Please observe how every succeeding New Year has resulted in an accelerating descent into the abyss of depravity and perversity. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5) And so it continues today. Wicked and false religions have emerged that are grown more brutal and horrific with the advance of years. In the name of Allah, his adherents are raping five year old girls and beheading others who do not adhere to his satanic religion.
Why do men place such emphasis on a New Year that, in their mind, will bring new opportunities for unmentionable sins? Why labor to make resolutions of your own heart when God has already provided His Moral Law to regulate a free and peaceful society? How long will your New Year's resolution continue without violation? How long has God's own Law been abrogated by the heart of man? Those who need their own laws for New Year have long rejected those of God. The New Year that men embrace today will only be a sad testimony of the vanity of man on the successive New Year - without Christ!
The heart of man is OLD - it matters not that the old heart is blessed to see a New Year. Years are simply a brief interlude compared to Eternity Future. Why not have a NEW heart and - not a New Year, but a New Forever! Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezek 36:25-27)
The only thing that is 'new' under the sun is the new life in Christ. Sin is a characteristic of the human heart across every age; but salvation and redemption results in a new life and a new heart that is eternal. It will always, and forever, be new, for what is a year compared to Eternity? This is a truth that the world cannot comprehend, for the dark world cannot comprehend the Light of Christ. Nicodemus was an educated, sophisticated, and powerful member of the Sanhedrin. He failed to grasp how a man could be born anew. But he had an honest heart and came to the point of that New Birth of which Christ spoke at that midnight meeting in John 3. Each of us need that new heart. Our society and nation needs that new heart. And our country, and the world, need that new heart - instead of a single New Year of greater sin multiplied to us.
God bless all who seek truth and light, and have a Happy New Life!
Jerry L. Ogles, Presiding Bishop
Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Devotion on Firsts of the Bible - First to Descend and Ascend of Heaven – 30 December 2015, Anno Domini
Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. (Eph 4:9-10)
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (John 3:13)
Our Lord probably spoke to correct a false notion among the Jews, viz. that Moses had ascended to heaven, in order to get the law. It is not Moses who is to be heard now, but Jesus: Moses did not ascend to heaven; but the Son of man is come down from heaven to reveal the Divine will.
That came down—The incarnation of Christ is represented under the notion of his coming down from heaven, to dwell upon earth.
Which is in heaven—Lest a wrong meaning should be taken from the foregoing expression, and it should be imagined that, in order to manifest himself upon earth he must necessarily leave heaven; our blessed Lord qualifies it by adding, the Son of man who is in heaven; pointing out, by this, the ubiquity or omnipresence of his nature: a character essentially belonging to God; for no being can possibly exist in more places than one at a time, but HE who fills the heavens and the earth. Adam Clarke's Commentary
If there was ever any justification for self-flagellation as the Roman Catholics and Moslems practice, it would seem justifiable for any who purchased books of some conniving fool relating how they spent 90 minutes in Heaven or Hell and now came back to publish a book relating their experiences (for a handsome profit, of course.) I feel myself on solid ground to state, unequivocally, that anyone who winds up in Hell will not get out, and anyone who winds up in Heaven had better stay there for there is only one other destination for the dead.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Word from everlasting to everlasting. He was the Word when the worlds and universes were not yet made; He was the Word at the early dawn of that Creation Morning in Genesis 1; He is the Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us; and He is the Word that shall judge the world (a time unknown to any mortal) at God's own time and discretion. Here are some related verses for your perusal:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5)
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14)
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Rev 21:5-7)
Our Lord did not have to leave His glorious estate in Heaven and come as a little baby of poor and common parents. He did not have to come and suffer the rejection, the hate, the scorn, the beatings, the cursings, and the cross at Calvary; but He did! He did so out of a divine love for those of us who were at enmity with God (and that is ALL of us) that we might be reconciled with the Father and be One with Him, as He is One with the Father. He came down to a place of perversity and poverty from the regal robes and accommodations of Heaven - for you and me, and all the elect of God. That is an unfathomable love beyond our frail comprehension!
He came down as a baby, born of a virgin, whose comings had been foretold from the Garden at Eden to Bethlehem. He was at once, even as a baby, hated by the powers of Judea - in fact, King Herod had all babies of two years age and below murdered (to be certain that Jesus was included) out of jealous rage. The jealous rage of Herod was not confined to him alone, but to the religious leaders - the big preachers of the day - as well. None wanted the comforts of their sordid little gilted nests of spiritual straw and fur to be disrupted. As prophesied of old, He was carried down into Egypt. When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. (Hosea 11:1), and, When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. (Matt 2:14-15)
The biblical account provides for no man ever descending from Heaven to earth. The only man who was not born here was Adam, and he was CREATED here. But the Son of Man, being the Son of God, did so descend and was made flesh subject to all of the pain, miseries, struggles, and temptations of us all. But he possessed not the sin-tainted blood of Adam, and was sinless throughout His earthly journey. He was the FIRST to descend, and He shall be the FIRSTS to ascend! In the process of God's timing, we shall all ascend who are the Elect of God; but that would never have been possible if Christ did not make it so. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Col 1:13-18)
For every physical creature of God's Creation, He made a progenitor - whether of fish of the sea, or land mammals, or trees of the forest. And there must needs be a progenitor of the glorified body and life that is destined for Heaven. Jesus Christ is the First Born of all who are of the family of God. As He died on the cross for our sins, we die to sin and are made alive in Him. As He carried His cross, literally, all the years of His journey among us, we bear our crosses in following Him. Dying to self and living for God, we also have part in the Kingdom of God which was purchased by His glorious blood. As He rose from the dead, so have, and will, we. As He ascended to Heaven, so shall those who have followed Him thus far.
He descended as a baby, and ascended as the Savior of the World; but He shall descend once more to receive His own and to judge the world and those who rejected so great a redemption.
He ascended up from the mount of Bethany: And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-51) As He ascended, a cloud received Him (blessed cloud). And He shall come again in just the same way, but with the Hosts of Heaven in trail. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:9-11) On this last ascension, only those who loved Christ were privileged to see His Ascent; but on His return, every eye shall behold Him. And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Rev 19:11-16)
WARNING! There is no such thing as a 'casual believer.' Either you believe unto salvation, or you fall short. Which are you, friend?
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Hymns of the Church - Comfort, comfort Ye my People – 29 December 2015, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)
1 , saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (Isaiah 40:1-8)
Here we have another great old Lutheran hymn whose exquisite beauty and truth is derived directly from God's Holy Word. It tells both the Advent story as well as that of the Christmas Season. I am so happy we observe the liturgical calendar year in the Anglican tradition since Christmas is far too joyous to be observed in one night only, instead of the accustomed twelve days of Christmas ending at Epiphany (January 6th). Though intended for use on John the Baptist Day (June 24th), its lyrics clearly herald the great hunger, need, and realization of the Coming Savior. It is a paraphrase itself of Scripture that was included in the Genevan Psalter of 1551 Anno Domini. Lyrical content was modified for better meter by Johannes G. Olearius of Leipzig, Germany in 1671. Musical score is Werde Munter by Johann Schop, 1642.
This hymn celebrates the coming of the Light of Christ, but it also begs the question: "Who will we be comforted by it, and how?"
Comfort, Comfort ye My People
Comfort, comfort ye My people,
Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
Mourning ’neath their sorrow’s load;
Speak ye to Jerusalem
Of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover,
And her warfare now is over.
For the herald’s voice is crying
In the desert far and near,
Bidding all men to repentance,
Since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way!
Let the valleys rise to meet Him,
And the hills bow down to greet Him.
Yea, her sins our God will pardon,
Blotting out each dark misdeed;
All that well deserved His anger
He will no more see nor heed.
She has suffered many a day,
Now her griefs have passed away,
God will change her pining sadness
Into ever springing gladness.
Make ye straight what long was crooked,
Make the rougher places plain:
Let your hearts be true and humble,
As befits His holy reign,
For the glory of the Lord
Now o’er the earth is shed abroad,
And all flesh shall see the token
That His Word is never broken.
Comfort, comfort ye My people, Speak ye peace, thus saith our God; Comfort those who sit in darkness, Mourning ’neath their sorrow’s load; Speak ye to Jerusalem Of the peace that waits for them; Tell her that her sins I cover, And her warfare now is over. As we have noted several times over, the purpose of the great classical hymns of the church is to convey biblical truth and doctrine in such a way as to aid memorization and love of God's Word in the heart. It is notable that the first words uttered by the Angel of the Lord to the frightened shepherds on the heights overlooking Bethlehem were, "Fear not!" At the sight of such an amazing sight, why would we not fear? We fear not because such a blessed sight is from the Lord. Once we understand that all things that come into the life of the Christian is of God, we can then take comfort in that knowledge. It was God's Voice that spoke through the medium of the Angel of the Lord to the shepherds. Why should they fear when the Angel brought them "good tidings of great joy which shall be to ALL people?" Were the shepherds not included in that happy term, "all people?" The pervasive spiritual darkness of the centuries fled before that coming Light of Christ. He is the Light of the World, and if a candle can dispel the darkness in a pitch dark room, the Light of the World can disperse the darkness from every quarter of Creation! The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2) This darkness had grown so prevalent from Adam's Fall that the eyes of the people were now blinded to that spiritual Light that came down at Christmas - that is, all but the poor shepherds and those of the Wise Men from afar - and wise men and women everywhere today.
For the herald’s voice is crying In the desert far and near, Bidding all men to repentance, Since the kingdom now is here. O that warning cry obey! Now prepare for God a way! Let the valleys rise to meet Him, And the hills bow down to greet Him. There would be no point for men to repent if forgiveness was not made available in Christ. Repentance and forgiveness does not mean that man is now free to sin wholesale and reject the Law of God. We must never willingly sin, but we sin a thousand times without even being aware of that sin at the moment of its commission. We repent of all, but cannot even remember all. It is for this reason that we have the General Confession Prayer that all can utter without reservation. It covers the two categories of sin - those of COMMISSION, and those of OMISSION! John came preaching in the Wilderness as a forerunner and emissary of the great King of Glory to come. Many had forgotten even of their need to repent! But "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Our Lord will not walk in the ways of a sinner, for He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. So the sinner must be converted and follow Christ in the RIGHT way. With the Coming of Christ, the Kingdom also came down to be among men; but some are so blinded by the smothering darkness of centuries and millennia that they comprehend not the Light.
Yea, her sins our God will pardon, Blotting out each dark misdeed; All that well deserved His anger He will no more see nor heed. She has suffered many a day, Now her griefs have passed away, God will change her pining sadness Into ever springing gladness. The New Jerusalem of the God is the Bride of Christ, and includes all of Israel - not those who are of the fleshly seed only (for many are NOT), but are Children of Abraham by the Promise and inner workings of God - both Jew and Gentile. All who are without Christ are still dead in trespasses and sin. (see Ephesians 2) But Christ paid the sin-debt on the cross for His Elect. Paul Lee Tan offers a great illustration of that glorious blessing of freedom from the old dead corpse that we were: "The Romans sometimes compelled a captive to be joined face-to-face with a dead body, and to bear it about until the horrible effluvia destroyed the life and health of the living victim. Virgil describes the cruel punishment:
The living and the dead at his command
were coupled face to face, and hand to hand;
Till choked with stench, in loathed embraces tied,
The lingering wretches pined away and died.
Without Christ, we are shackled to a dead corpse - our sinfulness. Only Spirit- evoked repentance frees us from certain death, for life and death cannot coexist indefinitely.
Make ye straight what long was crooked, Make the rougher places plain: Let your hearts be true and humble, As befits His holy reign, For the glory of the Lord Now o’er the earth is shed abroad, And all flesh shall see the token That His Word is never broken. The first two phrases are not our labors, but rather those of the Lord. Since He is the WAY, He is the one who makes the WAY straight. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt 7:13-14) But it is the drawing power of the Holy Ghost that drags us, sometimes kicking and screaming, to that Way which the Lord wants us to follow. Heartbreak Ridge is a rugged part of Bear Mountain overlooking the US Military Academy at West Point. The forced march in full field packs up that ridge is heartbreaking, for the trail inclines steeply upward and appears to end at a crest; but when the presumed crest is approached, the cadets are disappointed to find that it only turns up a steeper incline. I am one of those who knew the disappointment of Heartbreak Ridge in my younger days at the Academy.
The Straight Way is uphill for it leads up to God. Not many people wish to travel uphill, so there are few on that Narrow Way. But many lazy and shiftless sinners are on that Broad and highly trafficked way that leads down to destruction. They love to be in the company of abject sinners. They love the apparent ease of sin and the world's recognition and approbation of sinners. They know not their destiny until the gaping jaws of Hell appear before them at the abyss when it is too late to turn back. Truly, the Word of God is immutable and never broken, for Christ is the Word Incarnate - He changeth not. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Heb 13:8)
Sunday, December 27, 2015
First Sunday after Christmas - St. John the Apostle - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 27 December 2015, Anno Domini
If you enjoy this, the entire
AOC Sunday Report is
Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist.
ERCIFUL Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it, being illumined by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
HIS spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. 20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? 24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:18-25)
Who is your favorite Apostle, and is it appropriate to claim a favorite among the twelve? I believe it is both appropriate and a spiritually valid approbation. Jesus held a special love for John, the Apostle; and so I believe we can do so as well. After all, the name, John, means 'favored one of God.' If you read carefully the four Gospels, we must admit that John has a greater reference to love than all of the others, though all stress the love of God and our fellows.
The historical record suggests that John was the only Apostle to be spared a martyr's death having lived well into his nineties and written the final book of the Bible from exile on Patmos Island in an advanced age. This will introduce us to the biblical text provided in the lectionary for today - St. John 21:19-25.
The venue for the text is beside the blue waters of Galilee (Sea of Tiberius) which held many fond memories for the Apostles - the fish with the golden coin in its mouth (Matthew 17:27); the scene of the immoderate storm while Jesus slept (St. Matthew 823-27): the same Sea upon which Jesus walked and bade Peter to walk also (St. Matthew 14:25-32); the shores by which Jesus found Simon Peter and Andrew casting nets into the sea; and many other happy occasions. God gives us happy memories to make our hearts light and joyful on stormy and dark days. But the present occasion under discussion is the most joyful of all.
It was an all-night fishing expedition which yielded not a single catch. With their Lord being crucified, Peter decided it was time to return to his old living as a fisherman - and, indeed, it was; but not of the smelly fish of the sea, but rather the smelly fish of sinners. In past times, these men - Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and others, had lived upon the generous support of those who followed Jesus. Now, in their mind, all of that was over, it was time to return to their old ways. How many Christians come to know Christ, are changed profoundly thereby, but later lapse into their old carnal selves after some dramatic setback in life?
Our Lord has just informed Peter, in this placid meeting and breakfast by the Sea of Galilee (following the resurrection), what manner of death he would endure as a martyr for Christ. 18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. Before we came to know Christ, we, too, did as we pleased. Our wills were in bondage to the devil; but when we come to Christ, we forsake the old wine and walk a new life of love and sacrifice. The weather will not always be fair and calm. Taking up our cross daily (St. Luke 9:23) to follow Christ means to follow him - not only TO the cross, but ON it and beyond. We die to self, surrender our wills to Him so that His Will is now OUR will; and dying to self by means of that cross we have taken up, we live for Him in that resurrection unto eternal life emphatically demonstrated at the Garden Tomb that beautiful Easter Morning. Thusly, our wills become FREE.
There are far more lessons than the brief length of the text would suggest!
First The disciple of Christ is not to concern himself with the calling of others - that is God's prerogative. We have enough challenge on our hands in seeing to our own calling. The church organist is not to concern himself (or herself) with the calling of the Lay Reader; and the Lay Reader is not to concern himself with the nature of calling of the Altar Guild. Whatever our own calling in Christ (and we are all called as surely as day follows night), it is sufficient to occupy our souls and spirits in performing that calling. After Jesus informed Peter of the manner of his martyrdom, He told Peter, "Follow Me!" In other words, do not follow John or any others besides me - only ME! That will always be enough, for our Lord always leads in the right way, for He is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." (St. John 14:6)
Second Do not harbor jealousy or envy for fellow servants of our Lord. Instead, edify all of the Body of Christ. If you cannot utter a word of encouragement to a fellow soul, at least do not utter a word of discouragement. The world has already provided an abundance of discouragement. The House of God is not a place to be discouraged, disparaged, or disappointed. It is always possible to offer a word of kindness and love to the most obscure (to us, but not to God) among us. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Third Two doctrinal points of the Gospel are mentioned in the text. The first, that each Christian must follow Christ alone as commanded. His Way is always the right way and untainted by petty jealousies. Like Peter, Christ admonishes each of us to abide by this doctrine. The second doctrine presented is that of perfect contentment with one's calling. Jesus bore a special love for the apostle who lay his head on His breast at the Last Supper. John presumes nothing - he only answers in echo to that love of Christ. John does not ponder the plight of Peter. He only accepts whatever the will of Christ may hold for himself. (see Philippians 4:11)
Fourth The Christian life not only follows Christ in the manner of living, but also in the manner of death. We may bear a strong testimony of Christ even in the manner of our death as will Peter. We live in Christ and, if so, we shall also die in Christ (as Christ himself says, we will fall asleep). "A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar. "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:34-37 )
Fifth Obey Christ in the instant without lingering doubts. What is the first thing Peter does when Jesus commands him to "Follow me" in Verse 19? He immediately takes his eyes off of Christ and looks upon John with envy. We all are guilty of that human frailty. To deny this fact is to add guilt to guilt. We follow Jesus Christ, which is the incarnate Word of God, implicitly! There are too many today who look upon the ministers as the perfect role model while they should be, instead, looking upon the Word which they teach (if you are fortunate today to find one that preaches that Word). St. John the Apostle would be first to counsel you to follow and imitate Christ, not himself! The Saints of God did not die in our stead on the cross. They were men of carnal minds and souls like unto our own until touched by the Holy Fire of God. The light and fire they share or reveal is evidence of a Source for Fire and Light - our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are all saints.
Sixth Stop looking back. If I look back on the dreadful old self that I was before Christ, I may utterly despair that the Love of Christ could ever forgive such a one as I. The past is full of our own misdoings, but the future is full of the hope of Christ. Keep looking to Christ else you, like Peter, may sink into the briny foam. As our dear Lord has declared: "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) When the plowman looks back over his shoulder at the puny evidence of his own past works, the rows in front will not be straight either. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength." (Isaiah 26:3-4)
Question Is your mind, spirit, and soul stayed upon Christ or are you distracted by the specters of the past and present? Is your love governed by that effulgent Fountain of Life in Christ? "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matt 22:37)
Friday, December 25, 2015
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11)
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Matt 2:1-2)
The proclamation of the great Angel of the news that would be of great joy, which shall be to all people, opens the deep fountains of joy in my own heart to know that I am among those “all people” who have known and believed upon the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. God set aside a nation apart from every nation in the world which was Israel, His chosen nation. That nation was both political and spiritual. The political could not save, but the spiritual would. It is the spiritual Israel that are the true children of Abraham because they have believed that same Promise of the coming Seed of Promise that is Christ Jesus. There was a sequence to the first coming of Christ: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Gentile). (Romans 1:16)
The very night of the birth of our Savior, the Angel of the Lord appeared to the poor Jewish shepherds who were on the hills overlooking Jerusalem, “keeping watch over their flocks by night.” These men were as near the Lord that night as the shot of an arrow; however, there was another group comprised of distant Gentiles who had seen and followed the Star that heralded His coming. They followed from far away Persia, and they traveled for months on end across mountain, desert sands, rivers, and trails perilous for the times. They were not privileged to see the Christ-Child on the night of His birth, but much later. When they arrived, He was already lodged in a house. But the time of our coming to Christ is of no consequence to our salvation. The most important consideration is that our hearts respond to His Light and that we come ere the “Door of the Ark” is closed.
So all who are the Elect are the children of Abraham – you and I are in that category if we have been called and chosen in Christ! Our status with God is not decided upon by national boundaries or racial concerns. It is totally based upon the response of our heart as orchestrated by the effectual working of the Holy Ghost.
Today, the world is trying to reject the reality of Christmas; but there is a clumsy little detail around which they cannot maneuver: “What happened 2,015 years ago that was so critically important that our calendars are based upon that wonderful event?”
As Tiny Tim proclaimed at the end of Dickens’ Christmas Story:
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND GOD BLESS US – Everyone!
Jerry L. Ogles, DD
Presiding Bishop Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
Chancellor, Faith Theological Seminary
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
This hymn/carol serves a dual role as a Christmas carol as well as an Epiphany hymn. Lyrics for the hymn were composed by William Dix in 1860 and written from his sick bed on the very day of Epiphany. Konrad Kocher composed the music, DIX, or Stiemen aus dem Reiche Gottes, in 1838. The tune is the same for For the Beauty of the Earth, and Praise to God, Immortal Praise (#140 in 1940 Hymnal). Though the coming of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus is most often depicted as a Christmas event, but it actually, in all probability, happened some months after the actual birth of Christ since the baby Jesus was lodged in a house when they arrived, And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matt 2:11) It might be expected that the Star appeared to the Magi at the time of Jesus' birth, yet they would need to travel more than a thousand miles by camel to arrive at the scene.
As with Gladness Men of Old
William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898)
As with gladness men of old
Did the guiding star behold;
As with joy they hailed its light,
Leading onward, beaming bright;
So, most gracious lord, may we
Evermore be led to thee.
As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger-bed;
There to bend the knee before
Him whom heaven and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek the mercy seat.
As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin's alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ! To thee, our heavenly king.
Holy Jesus! Every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds thy glory hide.
In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its light, its joy, its crown,
Thou its sun which goes not down;
There for ever may we sing
Alleluias to our king.
As with gladness, men of old Did the guiding star behold As with joy they hailed its light Leading onward, beaming bright So, most glorious Lord, may we Evermore be led to Thee. Men who seek Christ are always glad at the sign of His coming. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. (Psalms 16:8-9) Of course, these Wise Men erred in one respect. When they approached near to Jerusalem, they began to depend less on the Star and more on their human logic. They thought to themselves, Ah, we are near Jerusalem the capital city of Judea. It stands to reason that the King of Israel should be born there, and in the palace as well. So they ignored the Star and went into Jerusalem. There was no knowledge of Christ with Herod or the Jewish rulers, so the Wise Men went on their journey again. Once beyond the false lights of the city, they again saw the true Light of God in the Star, and followed on to Bethlehem. Of course, they were glad to see the star! 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. (Matt 2:9-10)
As with joyful steps they sped To that lowly manger bed There to bend the knee before Him Whom Heaven and earth adore; So may we with willing feet Ever seek Thy mercy seat. Here the author of the hymn makes a small error. It is unlikely that Christ was still in a manger since he was now lodged in a house according to the verse eleven of St. Matthew, chapter two. These were Wise Men and men of means. It would have cost a small fortune to journey from as far away as Persia, and the value of their gifts suggests great wealth. But these men were not too proud to bend the knee in worship and admiration of the Child Jesus, knowing who He was. It is true that both Heaven and earth adored the Baby Jesus. The heavenly host proclaimed His birth, the shepherds adored Him and so did the Wise Men from the East. It is a simple matter for us to adore Christ in our day. We do not need to leave our sheep unattended and go to seek Him. We do not need to travel over field and fountain, moor and mountain, to find Him. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:22) The mystery in all of this is thusly stated: We must seek Him if we are to find Him. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD. (Jer 29:13-14) We must possess the thirst of the wise Men in our seeking Him: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matt 7:7-8)
As they offered gifts most rare At that manger rude and bare; So may we with holy joy, Pure and free from sin’s alloy, All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King. Yes, these Wise Men offered gifts suggesting royalty (Gold), and divinity (frankincense), and healing & death (myrrh) - all prophetic of the Person of Christ. The abode was necessarily a humble one that would be a sharp contrast to the wealth of the Wise Men, yet, they kneeled there nonetheless. Should we not have the same joy as the Wise Men after traveling from such a distant place. By the way, every sinner is far from God until He comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ! Sin is definitely an alloy. We may have many good works but all of those good works, when mixed with ONE sinful thought, is poison to our souls without Christ. We not only bring our costliest treasures to Christ, but ALL of our treasures. If He owns our hearts, He owns all that pertains to us. If Christ is our Heavenly King, He is also higher than any earthly ruler to us and takes preeminence among all rulers.
Holy Jesus, every day Keep us in the narrow way; And, when earthly things are past, Bring our ransomed souls at last Where they need no star to guide, Where no clouds Thy glory hide. Jesus is Holy, and we should strive to be Holy as well. This holiness we can only attain through the imputed righteousness of Christ. Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16) After finding Christ, the Wise Men had no further need for the heavenly Star, for they had the light of the Holy Ghost to guide in future paths. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt 7:13-14) Men always prefer the downward path just as running water seeks the lowest level: therefore the broad way leading to destruction is quite crowded. But the narrow path needs no great width to accommodate the few who will travel that path upward to Heaven.
In the heavenly country bright, Need they no created light; Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown, Thou its Sun which goes not down; There forever may we sing Alleluias to our King! Just as the Wise Men left behind the Star of Bethlehem once they had found Jesus, yet, they had His light perpetually to light their hearts. The Christian has a light that is unseen to the world except for its natural goodness. But we process on to a light that is both unending and brilliant in our days of eternity future. IT IS WRITTEN: And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. (Rev 21:22-25)