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Friday, September 30, 2016
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Heb 6:17-20)
One of the most rousing marching songs of my youth, and one that continues a favorite of mine, was composed by LT Zimmerman in 1906 in the Naval Chapel at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. It was written as a fight song for the Academy when confronting their arch enemy in sports, the US Military Academy at West Point, NY. The song later became the official march tune of the US Navy. The Song – Anchors Aweigh.
Stand Navy out to sea,
Fight our battle cry;
We'll never change our course,
So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.
Roll out the TNT,
Sail on to victory
And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!
Anchors Aweigh, my boys,
Farewell to foreign shores,
We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
Through our last night ashore,
Drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more.
Here's wishing you a happy voyage home.
Blue of the mighty deep:
Gold of God's great sun.
Let these our colors be
Till all of time be done, done, done, done.
On seven seas we learn
Navy's stern call:
Faith, courage, service true,
With honor, over honor, over all.
There are a number of relevant points in that fight song that applies to the Christian life as well. To ‘weigh anchor’ means to hoist the anchor up from its fixed point in the bed of the sea. Anchors ‘aweigh’ means that the anchors of the battleship have been weighed and are secured aboard the ship. To weigh anchor means to prepare for sailing. The Christian has his anchor in that immovable Rock of their Salvation – the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. That Rock will forever hold the Anchor secure and, subsequently, the great Ship of Church, from drift into uncontrolled waters. But the ship must weigh Anchor when the winds of the Spirit are right. We leave not the Anchor behind, but secure it aboard the ship of Church in our travels.
“Stand out to Sea” is the place of the battleship, but the sea of life is also the proper place of the Ship of Church. We cannot forever remain in protective anchor at port; but we always have with us the Anchor of the Word when we encounter storms and maelstroms of doubt and false doctrine. Under such conditions, the ship at sea, and the Church of Life, drop anchor and stand into the storm to weather it.
“Stand Navy out to sea, Fight our battle cry; We'll never change our course, So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.” The Battle Cry of the Church is “God, our Refuge and Strength!” “1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. 4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. (Psalm 46:1-5) When the earth be removed, as it surely shall be at the Last Trump, where shall our feet find firm foundation if not anchored in the Word of God?
We sail into the battles of life with the following winds of the Holy Ghost. “Though the earth be moved,” the Seat of the Sovereign Power shall stand Immovable and Permanent. Compromise is not an option for the Church. The leaven of the rich and compromising churches is precisely what Christ made reference to in the Gospels: 6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. ….. 11b. I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matt 16: 6, 11b-12)
Well, there are more parallels in that great song that escapes the notice of the modern, dumb-downed theologian or professing Christian; but I will leave those to the committed Christians (as opposed to professing) who usually take time to read these devotions (or better still – the Holy Bible), of mine though poorly written.
Every ship at sea has an intended destination. So does the Ship of the Church. Its port offers a happy rest of comfort and security from the storm. It also allows for the sharing of its cargo with the merchants thereof and the acquisition of other cargo to be carried abroad. In port facilities, the maneuver space is illiberal and any drift may result in collision with other vessels secured in port; so the anchor is necessary to prevent that drift. The Anchor of the Church is defined by Hope and assured by the cable of Faith!
When the Lord appeared to Abraham in the guise of Three Angels and informed of His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the filthy sins of the place (including sodomy), Abraham was confused that the Lord, contrary to His nature, might destroy the righteous with the wicked. (see Genesis 18:23-33) With the assurance of God that the city would be spared even if only ten righteous were found therein, Abraham was convinced that God’s character had not changed. But God found not ten righteous in Sodom, so He spared the only righteous man of the city by escorting Lot out in the company of Angels. The Anchor of God never moves, only our perceived reference to a false horizon.
The secure hold of the Anchor is fixed on the unseen Rock at the bottom of the sea and out of sight of the seaman; yet, the seaman puts his trust that the anchor will hold in that fixed position. There are mysteries associated with God’s Word that we may not fully comprehend, but we trust in the veracity of that anchor nonetheless.
The component of faith must not be dismissed in understanding the efficacy of the Anchor of God’s Word for our souls. Faith is that strong cable that holds the ship to the Anchor of Hope. Without Faith, hope would be forlorn.
In order to properly secure the vessel of our souls, the Anchor must be deployed by trained hands. The Word of God, to be properly understood by the initiate, must be taught by those who both love the Word and are accomplished in the study of it. If propagated in love and fervency, it cannot help but accomplish the thing and purpose for which God intended. It is sad to witnessed men preaching false conclusions today from the Word of God, or even a false word itself. The Ship of the Church is drifting aimlessly on the modern sea because the Anchor has not been set in the unchanging Rock that is Christ.
May our Church and people settle for no other Anchor than that of the Word of God as personified in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and His unchanging Word!
Thursday, September 29, 2016
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51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:51-57)
Mankind, and sadly many Christian as well, are fixated on the looming Spectre of Death to which each and all must answer at the far end of our journey. For the reprobate and recalcitrant sinner, death comes as a night without end being cast out into outer darkness to suffer the absolute absence of God’s comforting Presence (for sin separates finally and eternally the lost soul from his Maker). But death is no terror to those who walk as the chosen of God in Christ. In fact, the Angel of Death comes as a Harbinger of Comfort, sweet repose, and Rescue to those who long for the soon appearing of their Lord.
It seems likely that the seasoned saint and the innocent babe are surrounded by an angelic host who stand at the ready to escort a precious soul into Paradise as the last spark of life is extinguished. But the damned receive no such escort but are, instead, committed to the dust of the earth. Jesus gave us a peek of this truth in a Parable: 19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:19-23)
It is true we all face the moment of dying. But does this confute the very words of our Lord? 25 I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26) It depends on your correct understanding of the meaning of death. Death, by definition, is the final and eternal cessation of life and conscious awareness. But if we believe the promises of the resurrection made sure by Christ, we must admit that death is only a transitory state – actually, merely a sleep in a borrowed bed of dust. It should be noted that every soul created by God is granted an eternity of existence – those deemed righteous by virtue of the redeeming blood of Christ will spend that eternity in the presence of God and His angels; the residue of those who are damned will spend eternity in a far distant place – HELL!
Death is, as Paul says in our leading text: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? I love the phrase, In the twinkling of an eye. That one phrase covers a wealth of meaning to the pilgrims of the Lord.
You may remember the days of your early childhood when you played with seeming endless energy until your mother called you in at night. Once play was no longer an option, you felt your exhaustion with reluctant resignation. Retiring to bed, you fell almost immediately into a deep and still sleep – so still that even dreams could not break through. You closed your eyes and opened them immediately it seemed; but now the first rays of the morning sun were breaking through your bedroom window. You were conscious of no time elapsing between the visitation of the Sandman and your awakening.
The same sensation is experienced by those who undergo anesthesia. In the deep sleep of death, there is no conscious passage of time. Falling asleep in death is merely a temporary sound sleep like unto a twinkling of the eye whether an hour or a millennium.
To be precise about death, there can be no true life except this kernel of flesh die and be raised up in abundance of life and fruit: 35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened (made alive), except it die: 37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. (1 Cor 15:35-38) Death is merely a rite of passage from mortality to immortality.
I hesitated to quote our old friend Shakespeare again so close to our devotion of yesterday in which he played a prominent role; but the words he put into the mouth of Prince Hamlet are very apropos to our discussion:
To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep No more; and by a sleep, to say we end The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub, For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause.
The earthly sleep of the saint differs itself from the sleep of the sin-laden conscience that belabors the sleep of the damned. But so is the transitory sleep of death. One (the saint) wakes up in the bosom of Abraham; and the other (the damned) wakes up in the dark and desponding fires of Hell. Just as the sleep of an honest laborer on earth is temporary, so is the sleep of death of the child of God temporary.
The sleep of death is also a spiritual rest. Remember that the Lord rested over the Sabbath in the Borrowed Tomb before His Resurrection. It is now the case that Christ is our Ark of Salvation just as He was for Abraham and the seed of Promise. If we are in Him, we see no true death for death cannot exist in the presence of Christ having been defeated by Him at Calvary. A man in the rest of natural sleep will awaken at the time of refreshing from a restful sleep. He may be awakened by other men at their beckon and call; so may the man who sleeps in the sleep of death be awakened at the time of refreshing at the beckon and call of the Lord Himself.
That divine sleep of the saints is so complete and sound that even dreams are not likely to intrude. What a disappointment would dreams be compared to the joyous scene of our awakening!
We all have a bed for our future sleeping – the cardinal question that begs an answer is this: Where will that sleep be, in Heaven or in Hell?
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
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8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Phil 4:8)
In the years of my childhood, I considered the writing of men such as Shakespeare to be silly and trivial; and the great works of art by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt to be vulgar and without meaning; and the musical genius of Bach, Beethoven, Handel, and Mozart simply to be productions of erratic noise. I was not aware, at that age, it was I who was silly, trivial, vulgar, and capable of producing my share of meaningless noise. One day I came into the possession of a wonderful Mirror that revealed to me all of my ugliness and my ignorance of true beauty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor 3:18) 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:23-25)
A leading purpose of real art is to mirror the beauty of God’s Creation, and not to mar it. Unfortunately, that principle has been long forgotten in the minds and brushes of the modern artist who mimics the decadent Picasso instead of emulating the inspiration of Jean-François Millet. The modern novelist, or playwright, has been conditioned to believe the more pornographic material he can include, the better. And the great patterns for hymns and uplifting music of which the Book of Psalms are the ultra-standard example have been rejected and discarded as quaint, old-fashioned, and not capable of helping us to “find our groove” – whatever on earth THAT means. So our great and classic hymns of the past gather dust as the modern church opts for the very music that cannot lift our souls to the gates of Heaven, or glorify the God of Beauty and Order at all. The church has chosen to follow the ways of the world in music, teaching, worship, and community. How sad would be the ancient fathers of the church and the Great Reformers of the 15th and 16th centuries who gave their bodies to be burned in order to preserve truth and reverence in worship!
When I go shopping for commentaries of the Bible, I never purchase one of those written in the modern day. I always select those that are perhaps at least one hundred years old. Perhaps that is why my writing itself is a bit quaint. But I find that the works of older and more ancient writers are not infected with ambition for wealth, for political acceptance, or denominational compromise.
Shakespeare was not especially considered to be a religious writer in his day, but today, the critics would complain of far too much biblical content and too little of “what’s happening now.” He was a baptized Anglican who wrote in the purity of the Elizabethan age. His works are colored throughout with biblical paraphrases and Book of Common Prayer language. Of course, Shakespeare needed more words to tell the same meaning of a single line of Scripture since Shakespeare was human and not divine. God, after all, is the Master Author and capable of the most exalted of the writers skill – presenting truth in the most concise manner unlike the verbosity of human writers. The King James, like Shakespearean plays, is written in a cadence and meter that facilitates memory – unlike the commercial rags that pass for the Bible in modern times such as the ESV, NIV, NASB, etc.
Those who are raised up on the King James Bible will have little difficulty in understanding the writing of Shakespeare for it is written in the same exalted and majestic Elizabethan language - the only such language fit to glorify God and honor Him. By the way, every language has a reverential dialect that is used for legal instruments and, sometimes, for the worship of God. Let us look at some of the quotes of Shakespeare with the object of finding a biblical parallel:
That most Holy institution God ordained in Eden to mirror the image of His Church is found in Genesis 2:24 – Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Now observe how our old friend William Shakespeare expresses the same Act V, Scene ii, line 357 of Henry Fifth: God, the best Maker of all marriages, Combine your hearts in one, your realms in one! As man and wife, being two, are one in love. It is more likely Shakespeare learned this principle from God rather than God learning it from Shakespeare. Men generally KNEW and read the Bible in his day!
Another quote from Henry V, IV, viii, 106: O God, thy arm was here: And not to us, but to thy arm alone, Ascribe we all! The King James renders the same meaning more beautifully: Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. (Psalm 115:1)
Yet another from Richard II, III, ii, 54: Not all the water in the rough rude sea Can wash the balm from an anointed king. The KJV says: And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD'S anointed, and be guiltless? (1 Sam 26:9)
There are countless other similar references in the writings of Shakespeare that stand on biblical principles – in fact thousands – but time and space are insufficient to go further in this devotion.
No one doubts the sculptured beauty of the statue of David by Michelangelo. Such a work was not executed overnight, but after long hours of intense study of the human form in which God created man. The detail of every proportional limb and muscle is precise. This is so because Michelangelo believed true art should attempt to re-create the beauty of God’s own.
There is, I believe at the Louvre in Paris, a sculpture that depicts, in perfect dimension, the Hand of God in forming man. One can visualize the touch of the great Artist of Heaven as He forms man from clay. Rodin, who was the sculptor, said: When God created the world, it is of modeling He must have thought first of all.
Art, up through the Renaissance, gave evidence of greater and growing skill at accurately representing the beauty of God’s Creation. The artist had always strived, from the cave drawings to the ancient icons, to accurately show the beauty and detail of God’s work. But with the advent of so-called modern art, art devolved into a sad morass of degradation and decadence – led by such men as Picasso.
Who would dare claim that the work of da Vinci was not touched by divine inspiration. He was seven years in painting the Last Supper mural on the walls of the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. This art piece went a step further than all previous works of art in several categories. For example, this painting captures, not only da Vinci’s best sense of the scene in the Upper Room, but also an instant in time – the moment Jesus said, One of you shall betray me! The shock and surprise on the faces of the Apostles is remarkable. They wondered Is it I? demonstrating that man knows not his own heart, but God does! Furthermore, da Vinci employed a new technique called “Point Perspective.” All lines on the floor and ceiling converge to a point in Eternity just behind the Mind of Christ. Due to this perspective, all eyes (as da Vinci intended) cannot help being drawn directly to Christ at first glance. How many artist of our day are capable of such thought and meaning. Instead, in our day, devolution of beauty is the object instead of evolution of it. Degeneracy is the goal, and not the beauty of God’s Creation. Satan is very busy in every field of art, isn’t he?
I consider music to be the language of the spirit and, if so, we have very poor spirits in our day. I have read that the character of a nation is evinced by its quality of music. If so, it is no wonder that we have become a nation of poorly educated college graduates, druggies, confused genders, etc. I do not believe that degenerate music led to these shameful circumstances, but that the shameful character of our people has created the degeneracy in music. Even the church itself has opted for heavy metal music whose lyrics are commensurate to the sound created. Instead of trying to dress in a manner to express reverence and dignity, we have chosen ‘casual Sundays’ and ‘beach-wear Wednesdays”. Where is the limit to these vulgar fashions?
Johann Sebastian Bach began, and ended, every musical score with the Latin words, “Soli Deo Gloria!” meaning to the glory of God. Why did he do so? Because Bach believed he was inspired by God to write his scores thinking himself unworthy to write such music on his own.
We all have dreamed and wondered at the beauty of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” It has the aire of Heaven enfolded in its melodic notes. Few people realize that its composer, Vivaldi, was a priest who wrote his music to raise money to provide for his orphanage for girls. There was no motivation in Vivaldi’s heart to acquire a Gold or Platinum label, but only to provide for the needs of homeless young ladies who nobody wanted in olden Europe.
True art lifts our souls and places our feet on Higher Ground. Beautiful music on rainy days, glorious colors of pastoral scenes on canvas during evening hours of growing darkness, and beautifully represented stories that reflect God’s image in written masterpieces during long, lonely hours are the purpose and object of true art – not to mar and disfigure the very Face of God and His beautiful Creation.