Follow by Email

Who are we?

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, February 28, 2016

Sermon Notes - Third Sunday in Lent - Saint Andrews Church - 28 February 2016, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

The Third Sunday in Lent.
The Collect.
W

E beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A
nd he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. 15 But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. 16 And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. 18 If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. 19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. 20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. 21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. 23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. 24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. 25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. 26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. 
     27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.  (Luke 11:14-27)

            It has become quite convenient to blame our sins on Satan, but that old Serpent has enough sins to his credit that we need not add our own to his hell-borne repertoire. Even though Satan initiated a temptation to our parents in the Garden at Eden, he could not have consummated the deal had Adam and Eve refused to disobey God. As George MacDonald has wisely observed, "The one principle of Hell is – ‘I am my own!’” The devil does not send us to Hell; in fact, he lacks the power to do so. We send ourselves to that unenviable place.

            In today's text, our Lord teaches us of the paralysis caused - not only by our own sins, but those committed by the society around us to which we become heirs. Sin is pain and utter darkness. Its end result is death of the spirit though the soul has a destination of its own making (unless that soul has been, by the grace of God, saved and redeemed). The death of sin blinds our eyes, stops our ears from hearing, locks our jaws, and covers our consciences with calloused flesh.

14 And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. There are a variety of demons that afflict the soul of man - these are the outcast angels of Heaven who chose to follow Lucifer rather than obey God. These unembodied spirits inhabit the netherworld of this life and seek to perform their cursed master's will.

            In the text, our Lord Jesus is casting out a certain kind of demon, or evil spirit, that rendered its victim dumb. This person has all his faculties of speech and communication, but the presence of an invited and evil guest into his heart has deprived him of the ability to use his God-given powers to speak and to communicate. It happened 2,000 years ago, and it has been happening in all intervening times to include the modern day. In fact. many Christians today suffer from a limited affliction of this demon - they fail to speak out on issues of Gospel truth and remain silent when evil triumphs.

            It is worthy of note at the wonder of the people at the restoration to health of the formerly possessed person. The world is always surprised at the mercies of God and misinterprets the His works - either through ignorance or intention. But when we hide the Word of God in our hearts, we are strengthened against the Archenemy of our Souls – the Devil!

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.  (Psalm 119:11)

            However, when we have a divided heart to admit even a small and cherished sin to remain in our hearts, it will grow and take possession of the whole organ.

            Allowed sin that is tolerated always masters a man in time. The man may loathe his master, yet he obeys him; he may fear his master, yet still he does his hateful bidding. Those wills that we consider FREE, are actually in bondage to Satan for the will of man is corrupt. It is only when we accept the Will of God in our lives that we are free indeed.

            Light always overcomes darkness because light is a positive value. Darkness has no real force. It is the absence of virtue – of righteousness. Even a tiny candle will dispel a roomful of darkness.  But we must light the candle! If the candle of our souls remains unlit by the Holy Ghost, we remain in the same darkness of those without a candle. God has given us His Word to light our way and illumine our dark hearts.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.    (Psalm 119:05)

15 But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. 16 And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.

            The modern church seeks signs and wonders! They must have always some present wonder and presumed miraculous sign to legitimize their faith, but what saith Christ?

1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. 2  He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

            When I observe the presumed signs and wonders of the charismatic churches, I am saddened to see the sinner go away with greater burdens than he brought to the service.

            We have been provided enough evidence for our faith, and more, in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – a well-documented historical event of history.

            The doubters among the multitude of Scribes and Pharisees accused Christ of using the power of Beelzebub to cast out devils. They spoke more our of jealousy than unbelief. If the people believed and followed Jesus, what would happen to the economy of their own cozy little positions?

            What does this term, BEELZEBUB, mean? Lord of the Flies – another word for DEVIL. When a dead body, or even excrement, is exposed to the light of day, flies cover it and lay their eggs thereon. Later, maggots appear on the dead.  This is the kind of life these doubters accused our Lord of creating. These unbelieving and wicked observers accuse Christ of bringing a lower form of life from filth. But Christ never resurrected maggots, but totally restored healthy human beings. His power was the Creative Power that created man in the first occasion in Eden.

BEELZEBUB
The Lord of the Flies” is a book by British novelist William Golding and, for some reason, is required reading in most American schools. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a sordid tale about a group of kids who are stranded on a deserted island after their plane crashes. The story is set during the Atomic War and plenty of references are made to the fact. However, the real key to the story lies in the role of Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies. Beelzebub has a central role in the story as he represents the Beast, or evil, that dwells within all humans. The Beast cannot be hunted and since it dwells within all human hearts, humans are all guilty because mankind is sick. Of course, there is a cure for that affliction. Is there a Balm in Gilead? Yes! It is the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in purchasing our salvation.

            The destruction of mankind is a point that Golding makes apparent often in this novel. He establishes early on that Beelzebub is a force within all humans that drives them to destroy and maim. (a perfect description of Satan as well as the sinful nature in all men and women born upon this earth).

            Simon – is a loner who knows that the evil in every man’s heart can only be fought by reason and virtue. He is murdered sadistically by all the others.

            This book is an unhealthy book for one primary reason:

It ignores the God Equation and offers a human, rather than a spiritual, remedy.

. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. 18 If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.

            Christ knows our hearts. He sees our nakedness always. Nothing is hidden from Him – even our thoughts and motives are revealed as a book written. Christ says: “…..a house divided against a house falleth”

If you ask the average historian who said this, they would tell you, Abraham Lincoln. But Lincoln was simply paraphrasing the Bible.

            It is ridiculous to allege that good can result from the spirit of evil.

19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.

            I was once involved with a local Korean minister who desperately wanted to acquire a new building for the church, but he did not want to inform the people of his plan. He knew, since they were paying for the building, that they might object to the cost. I advised him to inform the people and conduct prayer services to determine the Will of the Lord in the matter and to enlist the support of the people.

            He became upset with me and later told a mutual friend: “That brother Jerry is good man, but he too much Bible!” No one has ever, before, or after, paid me such an unintended compliment.

            When you launch out courageously into the deep waters of God’s Word, there will always be the nay-sayers who gather to condemn you and impute false motive to your seeking. But, just as Father Noah did, keep building the Ark of Hope and Faith.

. 20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. 21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. 23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

Compare with Luke 9:49-50

49. And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. (Luke 9:49-50)

            If a Roman Catholic minister stands and condemns homosexual marriage and abortion of innocents, will we today stone him for being a Roman Catholic?

            This might be Christ response to the book, Lord of the Flies –

24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. 25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. 26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

             We are unable to clean and garnish our own hearts. This is the work of God, through His Word, and the working of the Holy Spirit. If we renounce our sin of lust and greed, and remove them from our repertoire of sins, soon a greater an more wicked bag of sins will inhabit the place left vacant. God’s Word, being Light, is necessary to dispel the darkness from our hearts. We are unable of our own strength and merit.

            The book I mentioned obviates this principle and would leave men more destitute of virtue than before the attempted amendment.

            If we have not yet surrendered our souls, unconditionally, to Christ, we are set for a  fall to a lower point than before our feeble resolution to better ourselves. Human reason is not the answer. We need God in our lives. We need His Word in our hearts. We need the old heart regime to be filled with goodness – not simply devoid of evil. A vacuum always draws on the environment. It always seeks to be filled. If we presumably empty our hearts of evil (an impossibility), we cannot keep them empty. Something will force its way in and occupy by force our Soul’s bastion. But if Christ resides there, there will be no room for the devil.

27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

            Christ is not interested in elevating our human image – He seeks to alter it completely – to restore it to His own intents and purposes evidenced in the Garden at Eden. We are created after His own image, are we not? Hearing and knowing God’s Word is not enough for as James has said:

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:19-20)

            Saving Faith will always be reflected in our daily lives – the things we say and do, the manner in which we love and respond to those in great distress. Remember that the Love of Christ was not simply a fondness, but a sacrificial, compassionate love that always expressed itself in action. When He saw, He had compassion.


Let us do likewise.

Third Sunday in Lent

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above.  

Consider these words from the Collect:

… look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies …

In the Collect, we ask God look in to our hearts, see our desire to be His children and defend us against evil.  That also means we are looking for His Help in the form of the Holy Ghost for the changing of our hearts to actually have “hearty desires” to do His Will and to be “humble servants”, not our usual and customary self centered selves.  Quite a combination of thoughts in a small bit of verbiage! It is amazing how much we can put in a short sentence if we use our words right! If we will be follow Him, He will defend us in all assaults of our enemies[1]  If we will not accept His Help, He will not force it on us.  Back to that old, “Thy will be done.”  The question once again rises, from whose mouth does it proceed, ours or God’s? We must choose wisely, and we can only choose wisely with the help of the Holy Ghost! We must use a small bit of the wisdom we do have, to choose the help of God, through the Holy Ghost.

Today’s Epistle and Gospel share the same theme.  You must not only talk the talk, but you must also walk the talk.   

Thus, when Paul tell us to live our lives as we represent our desires to God, he tells us to make our actions match our stated desires.  Actions! Not just Dictions, but Actions! There can be a distinct difference between the two.  If you actually believe, you will act.  If you just say you believe, you will not.  Believing and saying you are believing can be diametrically opposed.  Note how many people claim to be Christian, yet do not actually act on the principles of Christ and follow His Instructions. This theme is the central theme of the Christian faith, which was first shown with Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection. He came to act for us, not just to talk or meditate, but His great plan involved action, though it was painful, it was His action that released us from the wages of sin. He gave us an example to live by, that is to live out our faith through not just the right words, but the right actions as well. We have to live our lives in a manner that reflects we believe the Gospel and is consistent with how we should act, which is contained within the same Gospel.

Think about the Gospel.

It is very important to be unified in our worship and maintain mutual support; a team always beats individuals.  That is not to take away from individuality, but rather to note that we need to remember whose side we are on and work together with our teammates. It does not matter who gets the credit, all that matters to our Lord is that we work together with other believers to get the job done and to get it done right. All that matters is that we get the job done, and work as a cohesive team with other believers to spread the Good News the best we can. If people refuse to hear the Good News, it is not our problem. We just shake the dust off our feet and move on to the next group of people. 

There are two phrases particularly worth remembering, “a house divided against a house falleth” and “He that is not with me is against me.”  Middle ground exists, but it is quicksand.  Any feeling of safety there is illusory.  We must take sides.  And, we cannot keep with those who oppose the side we choose.  It is the natural part of the history of the Bible. We have to choose to follow God, as there is no other reasonable option which will give us the result following God will result in. We must decide who we will follow. One man cannot serve two masters, also fits here I find. We cannot say we love and serve one side, but serve another truly. We have to choose which one we are going to love or serve, God or mammon (things of this earth/Satan).  We cannot be wishy-washy here, we must take a stand and declare it unto the world, and let them know that we are not for their ways, but we are against their ways. We have to make it crystal clear in our actions, to tie it into the theme of acting. We have to let our faith shine in word and in deed to make it count. We do not have true faith if we do not act upon the words that we speak on our lips, of believing in Christ and His Father.

Christ himself came not to unite the world, but to divide it, father against son. He came to divide, that is that we would choose the opposite side of the world, which for them is mammon, and our side is that of God and righteousness. He came to light up the world that was for Him, and that which was against Him, to identify friend from foe. Through the Scriptures we can easily tell who is for Him and who is against Him. It is simple, who holds to the principles of Scripture is for Him. They who do not hold to them are not with Him. 

You must keep constant vigilance against backsliding, for a fallen Christian is in worse shape than one who was never exposed to The Word.  The Epistle and Gospel both talk about the curious dichotomy; you are saved by faith, Jesus’s faith, and your faith alone saves you, not what you do; yet if you have faith, you must act on that faith.  

When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and repent of the sins of your former life, you are forgiven of your sins.  But, you must understand, this is not a signal to keep on sinning and keep on saying you repent.  You must truly change a new leaf and start on the new course of life with Christ, and not slip back into the old man. This is one of the most difficult challengers as a Christian, but with the help of the Holy Ghost, we can do it. You must receive the Word, hear it, and act upon it and spread it joyously to others, in order for your faith to have any meaning at all. Otherwise we will have been for the worse than if we never had heard the Good News. It is not a gift to selfishly lock up, but to share and give to others. That is the true joy of the Good News. It is most certainly more blessed to give than to receive in this case.

You must grasp that your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior and your repentance is the beginning of your life as a New Man in Jesus.  

Will you slip?  Without doubt.  But, when you do, will you again repent and continue to do your best to follow the Word of God, the Light and the Truth?  All that matters is that you get up and do your best not to do what you did to slip. Life is a continuous learning process. Indeed, if you are a Christian that is what you must do.  We will always slip up in our lives, that is in our fallen nature. But we have to get up and get back on track, using the Holy Gospel to guide us like the instruments in an aircraft.  We cannot trust our feeling, but only our instruments (God’s gift of Holy Scripture).  You are called to believe and act on those beliefs to the best of your ability.  If you do not, then prepared as you were for life, you will so be prepared for the pit.  As you read Luke, remember the second half of the Book of Luke is The ACTS of the Apostles, not thoughts, wishes, prayers or meditations.

For, “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

ACT
It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God




[1] A Collect for Peace – 1928 Book of Common Prayer Page 17

Friday, February 26, 2016

Lenten Devotion - Dying for the Nation - 26 February 2016, Anno Domini

Caiaphas - High Priest, Low Understanding

49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.  (John 11:49-52)

            Is it possible for goodness to emerge from evil deeds and thoughts? By all means it is certainly within the power of our God to bring goodness out of evil. Of course, evil left to itself begets worse evil. But for the Elect and Chosen of God, even evil and wicked snares of the enemy are turned to his goodness. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Do not stumble at the word 'ALL' for it means precisely what it says. ALL things work together for good to them that love God.... But even seemingly good things work together toward the condemnation of the wicked - even their good deeds. 1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. 2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts. 3 To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. 4 An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.  (Prov 21:1-4) It is difficult for the human mind to conceive simple plowing as sin, but for the wicked, no matter what good deed they perform, it is wickedness. There are not good works apart from those of the servant of God acting upon the will and commission of God.

            . He was respected and revered everywhere he went. He looked the part with his robes of fine linen bordered with signs of his piety and office. If miters were to be had at any price in that day, you can wager the farm that Caiaphas would have made the purchase. But like many religious icons of our own day, Caiaphas was thoroughly wicked. It is obvious that he committed no outward sins owing to his high office; but his heart was full of the bones and blood of sinful compromise and political calculation.

            Caiaphas at first only heard rumors of a man called Jesus of Nazareth. He learned that Jesus had been baptized by John in Jordan Waters. Caiaphas heard that many multitudes had begun to throng to Christ to hear His preaching and to see His miraculous works - more than ever came to hear and see Caiaphas. Jesus seemed to have an uncanny source of authority that Caiaphas could hardly fathom. No question about it: Jesus worked miracles and had all of the prophetic marks and attributes of the Messiah; and this is precisely what troubled Caiaphas about Jesus. If Jesus were broadly recognized as the Messiah, what place would there be for a High Priest? If Jesus was the Messiah, what would happen to Caiaphas and his ecclesiastical authority - or of what need of animal sacrifices? Caiaphas would become as Saul, and Jesus would become as David!

            His political mind began to exercise itself to seek a remedy to this impending dilemma.  Water into wine; chasing the money-changers from the Temple (particularly heinous for the standard of living of Caiaphas); rebuilding the Temple in three days, indeed; healing the lame at the Pool of Bethesda; feeding thousands from scratch; Jesus even taught in the Temple right under the nose of those who presumed the authority all to themselves; forgiving sins willy-nilly even of those taken in the act of adultery; restoring sight to the blind; and even shaking the faith of Nicodemus - a fellow of the Sanhedrin. To Caiaphas, this was not a theological issue, but a political one. Jesus seemed, unlike Caiaphas, to take every Word of the Laws and the Prophets seriously, and He knew them better than Caiaphas' own learned council. It became more and more obvious in the worldly and twisted mind of Caiaphas that this man, Jesus, must be destroyed.

            We look at Caiaphas and find him repugnant in every way; yet, how many churches and ministers today only give a contrived lip-service to Christ. They turn His Gospel on its head in their political ambitions for power and growth. The doors of the mainline church buildings are, today, closed to Christ - and His Church as well is locked out and relegated to exiled status. The respected and learned men who head these churches are not, in any sense, different from Caiaphas. They would have Christ crucified anew, if it were in their power, should He attempt to enter their church buildings and restore the Truth of the Gospel. Do not doubt it!

            Just as God used the decree of the wicked Caesar Augustus to bring Mary to Bethlehem for the prophesied birth of His only Begotten Son, so He uses Caiaphas to express a great truth of which Caiaphas had no understanding at all - not out of innocence, but out of a stiff-necked rebellion to God. Many do not believe today because they choose not to believe. God knows them, and He knows the hidden evils of their heart. .... the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. (1 Sam 16:7)

            Now Jesus has gone a 'bridge-too-far' for Caiaphas and the Pharisees to overlook - He has raised a man - Lazarus - from the dead in the sight of many witnesses. Many believed on Jesus because of these miraculous works. 45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. 46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. 47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. (John 11:45-48) It was as much the loss of their status as the loss of the nation which Caiaphas and his cohorts feared.

            Ye know nothing at all,  Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. Though uttered by a desperate sinner, these words were inspired by the Holy Ghost. Jesus would die for the people and the Kingdom of God. But Caiaphas limits the benefit of his death to 'us' and the nation. Caiaphas held a position of authority in Israel as High Priest, thus he was compelled to pronounce the purpose of God without understanding it. His motive was selfishness, but the Truth revealed an immeasurable mercy on God's part to provide us with a  Redeemer.

            Being called of God to a position of authority in His Kingdom and Church is a serious matter, indeed. The greater the responsibility, the greater the peril for disobedience. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: (Luke 12:48) As stewards of God's Vineyard, a minister must be an example of faithfulness and righteous endeavor.  1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. (1 Cor 4:1-2)

            We no longer have a High Priest in Israel today for Jesus Christ has become our High Priest. No longer do we need a high priest as our intermediary before the Holiest of Holies for Christ has become our High Priest, our Friend, our Redeemer, our Lord, our Savior, and Sacrifice. 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:14-16)


            We are in the midst of the Season of Lent. In most churches across America (and I am sorry to say MOST), a minister after the likes of Caiaphas will mount the pulpits and teach us a message that is weak and maybe even defamatory of the Gospel. At the same time, devout and Godly men and women will gather in the bush country of Kenya under the arbor of a Kon Tree, and throughout the islands of the sea, I know, for I have witnessed it, and conduct soul searching services to the glory of God. And there will be a few, even in western churches, who are considered the religious outcasts, who will do the same. My prayer is that all who read this devotion will be among the latter.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lenten Devotion - Woman with an Issue of Blood, 25 February 2016, Anno Domini



            Like the story of this dear woman, the salvation stories of great Christians are intriguing. One such story is that of the great and beloved minister and biblical commentator, Matthew Henry. In the early days of the founding of our country, Matthew Henry's Commentary was almost as commonplace in the households of America as the Holy Bible. Born to a Anglican minister of the Gospel at Broad Oak Manor in Wales in 1662, Matthew was an exceptional biblical scholar even at the age of three years and, according to Bickerton's Life of Henry, he could read the Bible with distinctness and observation at that early age. At age nine, he could read Latin and Greek, and was fluent in French. Though he heard his father's sermons each week, his first abiding convictions in religion came with a sermon his father preached on Psalm 51:17: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Though his commentaries cover the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelations, it was this single verse by which he was drawn to repentance and conviction. Here is an excerpt of his commentary on this text:

Those who are thoroughly convinced of their misery and danger by sin, would spare no cost to obtain the remission of it. But as they cannot make satisfaction for sin, so God cannot take any satisfaction in them, otherwise than as expressing love and duty to him. The good work wrought in every true penitent, is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. It is a heart that is tender, and pliable to God's word. Oh that there were such a heart in every one of us! God is graciously pleased to accept this; it is instead of all burnt-offering and sacrifice. The broken heart is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ; there is no true repentance without faith in him. Men despise that which is broken, but God will not. He will not overlook it, he will not refuse or reject it; though it makes God no satisfaction for the wrong done to him by sin. Those who have been in spiritual troubles, know how to pity and pray for others afflicted in like manner. David was afraid lest his sin should bring judgements upon the city and kingdom. No personal fears or troubles of conscience can make the soul, which has received grace, careless about the interests of the church of God. And let this be the continued joy of all the redeemed, that they have redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace. — Matthew Henry Concise

20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. 22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. (Matthew 9:20-22)

One of the greatest barriers to faith in Christ is in knowing WHO Christ is. Many today consider Him in the same sense as a genie who grants our every wish, or as a good teacher of ethics and morals; but how many in the modern churches truly know Jesus to be Lord and Savior in more than a mere vocally expressed sense? He is our Lord and King. He is our Savior and Redeemer…and He is God! This last part seems to be the hanging point for many pseudo-religionists. Jesus is literally God the son and acts with the same power and authority of the Father – for both are One with the Holy Ghost!

Jesus has just been conversing with the followers of John the Baptist and reveals to them that He is the promised Bridegroom of the Church whom they seek, but unknowingly: “Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” (Matt 9:15) It is unlikely that these disciples understood the meaning Jesus spoke to them until much later. He had, on this same occasion, forgiven the man stricken with the palsy of his sins, and sealed the miracle of forgiveness with His second miracle of physical healing.  We now take up the text:

20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment.” We are told more detail of this woman in the Gospel of St. Mark: “And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.” (Mark 5:25-27) Clearly, this woman, too, had only one hope of healing and that hope was Christ! She wasted away all of her savings on physicians, but grew only worse. Now she will come to the Great Physician who is able to heal body AND soul! How often do we, friends, struggle helplessly with our problems until they grow to immense proportion. Then we run to Christ for our solution! The woman had great difficulty approaching Jesus for the press of the crowd so close to Him on all sides. There were many who rubbed shoulders with Jesus that day, but only ONE who touched Him with faith. Just claiming the name of Christian does not avail to make us Christian unless we have the faith to match our convictions. 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” It is the touch of faith that heals and not the material garment itself.  22 “But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” Here again, St Mark adds touching details that Matthew omits: “And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:29-30) Jesus felt healing power being transferred to another. His question, “Who touched me?” is profound, for Christ KNEW who touched Him. So many in the crowd had touched Jesus in the bustle of the street, but none with the faith of this poor woman. We may call on Christ in vain if our faith is dead, but if our faith is real – even if small – the touch will bear fruit. Jesus gave comfort, not only to the body, but to the soul of the woman by telling her that her faith had made her whole – whole in every sense of the word. Not just whole in body, but whole in soul as well for Christ does not work half-way miracles. “And the woman was made whole from that hour.

            What are the most prominent points that we must take from this miracle of healing?

1.     IMPORTANCE OF PREACHING: The woman had, at least, HEARD of Jesus. Unless we hear first, we cannot come by faith to Christ. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) The woman had heard the report and, though she may not have known Christ deeply, she hung onto that faint hope which just the hearing made available to her.

2.     RECOGNIZE OUR DIRE NEED: The woman had a serious health problem but, greater still, is that deadly disease that afflicts every child born of woman – SIN! She recognized her need, and she recognized that the need could be satisfied in Christ! The Woman had spent all of her savings on doctors who had not helped her in the least. The world cannot satisfy our want, but Jesus can. She had only ONE hope left – the Lord Jesus Christ. So do we if we only will admit it.

3.     DREW NEAR TO THE SOURCE OF OUR HEALING AND SALVATION: The woman, though frail and suffering, dragged her diseased body to Christ. She did not come proudly or arrogantly, but fell in behind the crowd seeking to draw near enough as to only touch the hem of His garment. Those nearest to Jesus almost prevented her from approaching, but she allowed no impediment to her coming to Christ. We, too, must have that persistence once we know our need, and the source of its satisfaction in Christ. We cannot worship Jesus from a distance – we must TOUCH His heart with our own hearts.  We must communicate our need in prayer whether by act or word.

4.     HAVE THE FAITH TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT CHRIST CAN SUPPLY OUR NEED: “For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” We do not come to Christ with reservations. There are no if’s involved in faith except the IF expressed by the woman – “If” I can draw so near Him as to touch only His hem, I shall be healed.

5.     NO ONE APPROACHES JESUS IN FAITH WITHOUT HIS KNOWLEDGE:But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. The one in greatest need and want among the crowd was the one whose TOUCH Jesus felt. She came in faith out of her need. Should we all not recognize our own depravity and need in coming to Christ rather than simply walking in His Presence for the benefit of our pride?

6.     IT IS THE WILL OF JESUS TO HEAL US OF OUR DISEASE OF SIN AND ALL OTHERS: There is no delay in granting forgiveness to those who call upon Him with earnest heart. It is the influence of sin that brings sickness and disease upon the world – even among those who are otherwise innocent such as babes and little children.  But if we have no faith in Jesus, He will not heal us. He is our healing medicine. If we do not take Him inot our hearts, how can the medicine have its desired effect? “And the woman was made whole from that hour.