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Sunday, July 31, 2016
Bishop Jerry is on travel this week and until his sermon is up, he suggests you may wish to consider this from Rev Jack:
Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together.
Consider the words from the Collect, wherein we ask God to give us … be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee …
Once again, this Collect is kind of a follow-on to last week’s Collect. First, we ask God to hear our prayers, this is funny in that He always listens intently to us when we pray and we very seldom listen to Him when He answers. It is an odd paradox, He listens but we never seem to listen. It seems as if at times we should pray that we should listen not Him, as He always listens! Nonetheless, we ask His help to ask for those things we need, not those things we want and are bad for us. We need to be humble when we ask. What does that word mean? According to the dictionary, to be HUMBLE means to be:
Modest - unassuming in attitude and behavior
Respectful - feeling or showing respect and deference toward other people
Lowly - relatively low in rank and without pretensions
These are three characteristics that we do not possess in our natural, sinful state. We however can obtain these through asking the Holy Ghost to bring these attitudes into our hearts, souls and minds. And not just asking, but we have to be willing to listen to what He says we should change within our lives. We cannot change what is our station in life, but we can change our attitude towards God. He is God, we are not. We are His creatures, imperfect with free will. We must recognize that when we ask for His Help. We badly need the guidance from the Holy Ghost so we can ask for what we need, instead of what we want. NEED and WANT are two four letter words that are used too oft interchangeably that do not mean the same thing. People often use these four letter words erroneously, thinking they mean the same thing. They do not and cannot. Needs are vital for our spiritual health as well as physical health. Wants are nice things to have, but they are not vital for us to survive. When we think we “NEED” something, we have to ask if it fits the above definition “Is this vital for our ministry/life here on earth, or is it something just nice to have, but not a critical item?” We have to see if what we need is something we truly need, or just a want. Too many people do not perform this need analysis and as a result suffer for it physically and spiritually.
While our needs must be fulfilled, there is nothing wrong with wanting, just so long as you want things that are good for you. And as long as your want does not turn into coveting or wanting people’s stuff without being willing to work for it. We have to carefully monitor our wants and make sure that they are good for us and that we are wanting to work for whatever it is that we want. Once again, we are asking God to help us to want the right things that will be good for us and help us develop in our Christian lives. Paul reminds us though each believer is different, throughout all the believing peoples of the Church the same God, the same Spirit, the same Christ works all in all and through all His work is done and accomplished. When we are setting off to do work for the church, we have to keep in mind that those believers we serve and help believe in the same God we do, and they are filled with the same spirit.
Paul reminds us we each have differing talents, but if we use them to the Glory of God, without concern for who gets the credit, all will be well. I can think of no finer example of this than the Marines serving on Peleliu with Eugene Sledge, in the 3rd Batallion/5th Marines. I was reading his memoir, With the Old Breed, when I realized in my reading, none of the Marines he served with cared a bit who got a credit, all they cared about was helping their fellow Marines accomplish the objective. They didn’t do what they felt like, at least not the good ones. They did what was right without thought as to who would get the credit. Their main thoughts were to work as a team to defeat the Japanese. We must work in the same manner with our fellow Christians, using each of our talents to further His work and to defeat the forces of Satan. God has given us all each unique talents to be used to further His Mission. Together, our talents can help us as the Body of Christ serve and glorify Him on Earth.
Do what you can, not what you feel like. Ignore what you feel like doing and do what God wants you to do. We will profit from doing what God wants more than if we did what we just felt like doing. This is hard for us to grasp, but it will help us in the long term if we do what He asks, instead of doing what we want. What we feel like doing often does not align with what God wants for us, which can result in negative consequences for us. However, if we do what He wants for us, there will be positive consequences. It is a simple message, yet one that can be hard to swallow sometimes, but it is a message that must be swallowed all the same.
If you will but read the Bible, what God wants you to do will be clear. If you do your best to do His Will all will be well with you. Death is a pretty hollow threat if you do your duty. If you have done your best, that is at the end of the day, you have done your best to follow Him, then truly you have nothing to fear. The people of Jerusalem would not have been in the pickle they got in when 70AD came along, had they only done what God wanted. But, it was too hard for them. These were of course the descendants of the people who defied God in the wilderness for 40 years, they were a stubborn and stiff-necked people. They were blinded by their stubbornness to change. They could not see what God wanted for them or now for us. In 70AD, what had been so hard seemed pretty easy compared to the fix they were in, but by then it was too late. By that time they were left with only “There are none so poor as cannot purchase a noble death.” But, for most of them by that time they had no will. It left when they failed to follow God’s Will.
It is an object lesson for us, to do what we can in the here and now and not worry about tomorrow. And also we shouldn’t complain if it is too hard for us, because being on God’s side, nothing is too hard for us. We should ignore these thoughts and turn our attentions to what God wants for us. We must learn from the past mistakes of our spiritual forebears and resolve not to repeat those same mistakes. If we are ignorant of our spiritual past, we are doomed to make those very same mistakes.
When Luke wrote of the sales in the temple, he had a point. The point was not to preclude jumble sales at church. He was not abhorring the sales, but the cheating in the name of God. This Gospel does literally preclude cheating people at those jumble sales! You must understand the temple hawkers were selling perfect defective “sacrificial lambs” which would be recycled over and over. In their very successful effort to make money they were defrauding the people and insulting God in His own House. It should also be pointed out that a church should be a place of worship. It may be a Prophet Center, but not a Profit Center. Similar sounding words, but a totally different meaning for the church. If the building needs constant commercial enterprise, then perhaps the emphasis is on the wrong center. All of these churches that emphasize quantity over quality should be suspect. It does not matter the quantity, as long as you have a base of quality believers that serve the One Triune God. We need to be concerned more about the spreading of His Word, the constant truth, then focusing on how many people we can attract, and how the message can be changed to suit them. These are both problems with the modern churches today. A church should be funded for its needs by its members and its wants should come much later, if not in fact unheeded. A church is about Him, not about IT. It should not be a self-licking ice cream cone, but a center to help the believers walk in Christ, not focusing on physical and material plant on earth, but on helping us on our own “Pilgrim’s Progress” towards heaven. If it focuses on anything but that, it is a stumbling block to believers. We are not called to be a stumbling block, but to be guides, to be lanterns shining in the darkness, to be as a light cloud amidst the darkness of this world.
Do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it. That is duty. It does not matter how you “feel” about black or white. Black is black; White is white. Do your duty. Work as hard as you can, do the best you can, trust in the Lord. By the way, cheat no one. If you follow that, you won’t need to be told, “Particularly in God’s House.”
Action counts. For by their actions ye shall know them.
Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail. The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.
The time is now, not tomorrow. The time has come, indeed. How will you ACT?
It is by our actions we are known.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
 The concept of being truthful in the efforts we make to spread The Word is not a separate subject by any means, but would take more time to talk about than we have time for here. Suffice it to say that we must take every care to spread The Truth and not what our audience, whoever that may be, would like to hear. When we bring our “sacrifice” to the “temple” we need make certain it is in fact as perfect as we can make it. This is so hard that one of the recurring themes of the Collects is asking for guidance to ask for the right things.
 A term I first heard from Bishop Dennis Campbell in 2011. It was a great thought then and a great thought now!
Thursday, July 28, 2016
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
I wonder how many readers of this devotion will remember their first grade teacher in primary school. I certainly remember, with vivid detail, my first grade teacher – Mrs. Painter. She immediately became my hero when we reported for the first day of school. I can now dismiss my manly pride and admit that I was scared stiff the first day that my mom left me at the door of the classroom with a last hug and a kiss. My older sister had taught me, long before, to sing the little jingle, “School Days, School Days; Good old Golden Rule Days.”
School days, School days
Good old Golden Rule days
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful barefoot beau
You wrote in my book “I love you, Joe”
When we were a couple of kids.
I was an approving participant until we got to that infamous line, “Taught to the Tune of the Hickory Stick.” That struck fear into my conscience for, Lord knows, I often required the ‘hickory stick’ at home to keep me faithful to the law and rules of the house. I soon learned that Mrs. Painter did not wield the ‘hickory stick’ with malicious intent, but rather in measures tempered with mercy and grace. I truly loved her. She reinforced my faith by opening every school day with a reading from the Psalms, a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a few stanzas of “My Country ‘tis of Thee.” I remembered it all so very well, and I particularly kept in mind that ‘hickory stick.’
Well, reader, there is nothing new under the sun. Our Primary School days are not that much different from the observers of the Law of Jesus’ day. The Law was truly given as “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The Greek word for Schoolmaster describes someone who not only oversees learning and enforces discipline, but also serves to protect the young scholars. When we have put on the Mind that is in Christ Jesus, we do not forget the imperatives of the Law of God, but we observe them with a better will power – HIS WILL – and that tempered by HIS LOVE! We have long ago bade farewell to our Primary School teacher whom we respected, loved, and for whom we may have harbored a hint of fear. We obeyed her out of respect for her person and fear of discipline, or of disappointing her. But now we still remember the lessons of Primary School, and we retain them out of common sense and maturity rather than out of fear of reprisal.
The Law of God, given from the heights of Sinai’s Summit, have not been disannulled or revoked. In fact, they bear a greater burden of obedience to the Christian than the God-fearing Jew of old time. The Law was given as our Schoolmaster to teach us boundaries of behavior. The Old Testament Church could not fully comprehend the extremities of the Love of God from afar – not before Emmanuel came and proved that limitless love that expunges the Law from those Tables of Stone and writes it upon the soft sinews of the heart of the Christian believer! Let us examine a fuller reading from Galatians 3: But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 3:22-27)
Though we loved our first grade teacher in Primary School (The Commandments of God) with a sincere and enduring love, we have grown up with the precepts and admonitions that she taught that we have internalized as part of our character and persons. We are no longer confined to our little desks equipped with inkwells and book compartments under the seats, but we are now free to go out and make application of those first precepts we learned, under the Law, in love and kindness to all around us – and to God our Father. The Law of God taught us impossible boundaries of conduct – impossible unless motivated by LOVE.
Jesus is our great Teacher, but more than that. He departed the Gates of Splendor to descend to this pig sty of sin and humanity. He walked, talked, taught, and did works of mercy among us for thirty-three years. He taught us the PURPOSE of the Law of God. As He taught the rich young ruler, we cannot keep the Ten Commandments unless we begin by keeping the first; and, if we keep the first, we cannot help keeping the others. It is the Love of God, shared in prolific measure, to us from Him that enables us to return that love to Him on high. And how can we truly love God if we do not love His manifestations in Creation – the animal kingdom, His natural provisions in beauty of structure and flowers - and our fellow man?
Yes, Christ walked among us, and taught us by Word and example, all that is needful for our soul’s thirst and hunger. Today, He sits as our High Priest, Advocate and Intercessor at the right hand of God the Father. But His role as Teacher continues in the Presence among us of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the Third Person of the Godhead, but, unlike many charismatic churches, He will not mention Himself – that is not His role. His role is to teach and remind us of all things written in the Holy Scriptures of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
It follows as an imperative that we must first, at the very least, read the Words of Scripture if the Holy Spirit is to REMIND us of that which is written there concerning our Lord. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Tim 2:5-6 (KJV)
Instead of Primary School, the mature Christian is now operating at the Master’s level at which those things learned and believed are put into practice at a higher level than out of the compulsion of fear. We obey out of love. We have mastered the Law by the redemption of Jesus Christ who satisfied the demands of the Law. In a sense, we were even saved by Christ through the dictates of the Law. The Law demanded the wages of sin (death) for the sinner (all of us). The requirements of the Law could only be satisfied by One who was worthy under the Law (sinless) to be our surrogate and a propitiation for our sins. He taught us, too, to take up the cross daily and follow Him – to drink from that same cup of sorrow from which He drank, and to experience that same spiritual gratification, which He derived, by sacrificing for others. Just as He traveled that Dolorosa Way of Suffering and Shame, He asked us to not only take up our crosses and follow Him; but to follow Him ALL THE WAY to Calvary’s blood stained brow. The Christian dies daily to self, and glories in that sense of living for others just as Christ did in preparing the way for us to follow.
The Christian must always remember his Primary School lessons, but now he must learn how to employ those lessons in service to others. I often ask my youth group some question involving the practical application of some geometric problem with which the solution I am certain they are intimately familiar. Most often, they cannot render a practical answer because, though they know the theory and geometric principle fully, they have never considered its practical application. Jesus gave us the practical application of the Law, and it is LOVE.
The Two Great Laws which Christ recited from the Old Testament are the keystone of support for the Commandments of God: 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt 22:35-40) Observe the love of God, and of our neighbors, are the two Stones of Landmark in keeping the Ten Commandments of God. Observe, too, these two Laws do not abrogate a single Commandment of God, but rather bolster the obedience of the Ten Commandments by the gracious imperative of love – love demonstrated by the two beams of the cross. The greater vertical beam illustrating our Love for God, and the lesser horizontal beam our love for others.
Yesterday, we were in Primary School, but today, we have moved on to the Master’s Degree program – but we never graduate until, in the process of time and at God’s own choosing, we are called Home from School, and life truly begins beyond the hallowed Gates of Splendor.