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The center of the Traditional Anglican Communion; adhering to the Holy Bible (KJV) in all matters of Faith and Doctrine, a strict reliance on the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, The two Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the Two Creeds, and the Homilies and formularies of the Reformation Church of England.

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

AOC Sunday Report

The AOC Sunday Report can be downloaded RIGHT HERE!
Happy Fourth Sunday after Easter!

The AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

There are excellent sermons from Bishops Jerry and Roy, as well as Revs Jack and Bryan.  Each is quite different, I am confident you will enjoy them.  Like every week, each sermon comes with a money back guarantee!

There are a lot of people who need your prayers, start with Bruce, Shamu, Tricia, Bob and move on from there.

The week ahead promises to be truly EPIC, you can make your week EPIC if you just take the grace and help God offers.

Godspeed,

Hap
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, CA

Sermon Notes - Fourth Sunday after Easter - St Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church 29 April 2018, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

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

The Fourth Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

O
 ALMIGHTYGod, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

T
HESEthings have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. 2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. 3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? 6 But because I have
said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
      7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (John 16:1-15)

The Hymn selection for the sermon today was one by Francis Havergal, a great Christian writer and hymnist from the early 1800’s., entitle: “I Gave my Life for Thee.” Wonder wherever she got the idea for such a hymn?

I love stories, but especially true ones. I want to tell you a true story of another great artist, Karl Stenburg, of Germany, which I discovered in a book given to me by my father when I was a child.

Many years ago in the old city of Dusseldorf, a town of Rhenish Prussia, there dwelt an artist by the name of Stenburg. He was religious, but knew nothing of Christ as his own Saviour from the guilt and power of sin. He was a formal Christian, but not ardent, believing, living one.

He had been hired to paint a large picture of the crucifixion, and this he was doing--not from any real love to Christ or faith in Him, but for money and fame. But in mercy, God brought this man to know the wondrous love which led Jesus Christ to suffer that awful death of the cross. 

One beautiful spring morning, depressed, Stenburg was seeking recreation in the forest near Dusseldorf when he came upon a beautiful young gypsy girl of perhaps 17 years plaiting straw baskets. 

When the girl saw Stenburg, she childishly jumped up and began to dance wonderfully.

Stenburg was so impressed by her striking beauty that he decided to hire her as a model for a picture of a Spanish dancing girl. He arranged with Pepita, for that was her name, to come three times a week to his studio to pose as a model. 

She arrived on time, and as her large eyes roved around the studio looking at the paintings, she was full of wonder. The large one (the crucifixion) caught her eye. Gazing at it intently, she asked in an awed voice, pointing to the figure in the center, "Who is that?" 

"The Christ," answered Stenburg carelessly. 

"What is being done to Him?" 

"They are crucifying Him." 

"Who are those around Him with the bad faces?" 

"Now, look here," said the artist, "I cannot talk while I work. Just stand as I tell you." The girl dared not speak again, but she continued to gaze and wonder. 

Every time she came to the studio, the fascination of the painting grew upon her. Again she ventured to ask a question, for she longed to learn more of its meaning. 

"Why did they crucify Him? Was He bad, very bad?"

"No, very good." 

That was all she learned that day, but it added a little to her knowledge of that wonderful scene. 

At last, seeing she was so anxious to know the meaning of the picture, one day Stenburg said, "Listen: I will tell you once for all, and then ask no more questions." Then he told the story of the cross, which was new to Pepita, though so old to the artist that it ceased to touch him. He could paint that dying agony, and not a nerve of his would quiver - but the thought of it wrung her heart.

Tears filled her large black eyes and she could hardly control her emotion. 

Pepita's last visit to the studio had come. She stood before the great picture, reluctant to leave it. "Come," said the artist, "here is your money, and a gold piece over." 

"Thanks, Master." Then turning to the picture, said: "You must love Him very much since He has done all that for you; do you not?" 

Stenburg could not answer. 

Pepita with a sad heart went back to her people. But her words pierced Stenburg like an arrow. 

God's Spirit sent the gypsy girl's words home to his heart. He could not forget them. "All that for you," rang in his ears. He became restless and sad. He knew he did not love the crucified One, and mere religion gave no rest to his troubled heart, nor brought him to know the peace of God. 

Sometime after this Stenburg was led to follow a few poor people who gathered in a secluded place to hear the Bible read and the gospel preached. 

There for the first time he met those who had a living faith, and he heard the simple gospel. He was made to realize why Christ hung upon the cross for sinners; that he was a sinner, and therefore Christ was there for him, bearing his sins. 

Thus, God led the artist to repent of his sins and trust Jesus for salvation. He began to know the love of Christ and could say, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." 

Now he longed to make that wondrous love known to others. But how could he do it? 

Suddenly it flashed upon him. He could paint. His brush could tell out the love of Christ. Praying for God's help in the work, he painted as never before, and the picture was placed among other paintings in the famous gallery of Dusseldorf. Underneath he placed the words-- 

"All this I did for thee; what hast thou done for me?"

Eternity alone will tell how many were led to Christ by the words and the painting. 

One day Stenburg saw a poorly-dressed girl weeping bitterly as she stood by the picture. It was Pepita. 

"O Master! If He had but loved me so!" she cried.

Then the artist told her how He did die for her, and rose again, poor gypsy girl though she was, as much as for the rich and great. Stenburg did not weary now of answering all her eager questions. He was as anxious to tell as she was to hear of the love of Christ. As the gospel was presented to her, she received it, and went from that room a sinner saved, rejoicing in that wonderful love. Thus the Lord used Pepita's words to bring the artist to Himself, and then used the artist's words to reveal Himself to her. 

Months afterward Stenburg was suddenly called one night by a stranger to visit a dying person. Following his guide through the streets into the country and then beyond into the deep forest, at last they came to a few poor tents in a sheltered spot. In one of these he found Pepita dying in poverty, but happy in the precious love of Christ. He saw her die praising her Saviour for His love, knowing that He had taken all her sins away and that she was going into His blessed presence to be forever with Him. 

Long after this, when the artist, too, had gone to be with the Lord, a wealthy young nobleman found his way into the picture gallery, and as he gazed upon the painting and words underneath it, God there and then spoke to his heart. It was Count Zinzendorf, who from that day became an earnest Christian, and also became the father of the Moravian missions by means of which God led thousands of souls to Himself. Such are the wonderful ways of God!  Even sending missionaries to witness to some of my ancestors in Georgia and Tennessee. His missionaries even opened a mission school at the plantation of a distant ancestor of mine, Chief Joseph Vann, at Spring Place, Georgia, to teach of Christ to Indian children.

Again, years later, a young lady was sent by her parents to Dusseldorf to study art there. 

Her name was Francis Havergal. She visited the museum and viewed the painting of the crucified Lord, His eyes of love piercing her heart. The words for a hymn formed in her mind, and here we have the hymn we sang today. 

I gave My life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might'st ransomed be,
And quickened from the dead;
I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou given for ME?

I suffered much for thee,
More than thy heart can know,
Of bitterest agony,
To rescue thee from woe;
I've borne it all for thee,
What hast thou borne for ME?

And I have brought to thee,
Down from My home above,
Salvation full and free,
My pardon and My love;
Great gifts I brought to thee,
What hast thou done for ME?

According to the text today, we learn that Christ must needs have returned to His Father in order that the Holy Spirit might come to us. The Holy Spirit emanates from the Father and the Son for the purpose of leading us into all truth. We may know the Bible very well, but without the prompting of the Holy Spirit, as in the case of  Stendburg, we may not care so very much.

Christ came to us in a physical body. His ministry was limited geographically because a body can only be in one place at a time, but the Holy Spirit can be at all places and at all times. So in order that we might all come to the glorious knowledge of the Gospel, Christ sent His Spirit among us to lead, to teach, to convict, and to comfort. As in the example of this story, the waters of the Holy spirit gush forth upon a soul, and run freely beyond to many others.

This too is what changed the life of the great artist Stenburg, Count Zinzendorf, Pepita, and even me. 

What have YOU given  Christ?

He asked not for much – just your HEART!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Perseverance of the Saints - a Devotion for 27 April 2018, Anno Domini

If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!
 
T
HE Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee(Jer 31:3)

            I will begin this devotion with a story:

            The BEE has been aptly described as busy. To produce one pound of honey, the bee must visit 56,000 clover heads. Since each head has 60 flower tubes, a total of 3,360,000 visits are necessary to give us a pound of honey for the breakfast table. Meanwhile, that worker bee has flown the equivalent of three times around the world!
            To produce one tablespoon of honey for our toast, the little bee makes 4,200 trips to flowers. He makes about ten trips a day to the fields, each trip lasting twenty minutes average and four hundred flowers. W worker bee will fly as far as eight miles if he cannot find a nectar flow that is nearer. 
            Therefore, when you feel that persistence is a difficult task, think of the bee.

            As Confucius has said, the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step; but I would remind you that the journey of 1,000 miles is not completed, either, until the last step is taken. Perseverance is a Godly virtue which God has inculcated into the natural world. A river is a river because it maintains a constant and continuous flow. The sun, too, never ceases to rise and set else we would all be either crispy critters, or frozen statues. 

            All of the natural characteristics of the Elect of God are bound up in a union of such characteristics. Justification, Sanctification, Perseverance, etc, are all ancillary to one another. There must be a progression in life and faith, else there is a digression thereof. 

            The biblical doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is alluded to both overtly as well as contextually throughout Scripture. It means to continue upon the path of faith and loyalty to the end. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matt 10:22)

            The Westminster Confession defines Perseverance in these words: 

I. They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

III. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

            I have witnessed many who seemed the most devout of Christians turn away during times of trouble, or of plenty, and reject the faith they once confessed. But in every case, I do not believe such men were saved to begin with. If we truly love our mothers and fathers, will we at last reject them over a frivolous change of heart? If we truly love the One who bled and died for us, will we turn away from the cross at the last minute?

If the sheep belong to the Shepherd, they will recognize His Voice even at the first utterance: 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand(John 10:27-29)Once in the Shepherds Hand, nothing or no one can drag them away. They exist in perfect and eternal security. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:29)That which is yet unborn has no conscious thought of what it shall be at birth: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  (1 Peter 1:3-5)

            The Elect of God shall not be deceived owing to the intervention of the Holy Ghost before that can happen: 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect(Matt 24:22-24)

            Having known us from before the foundation of the world, would God’s foreordained omniscience fail to know us even when we were on the dark road of sin and ignorance? 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed(Acts 13:48)

            Please observe the four-fold nature of God’s election (remember it is God’s election, not man’s:

30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified(Romans 8:30)

            Once we have taken a responsibility upon ourselves, we are obligated to satisfy that obligation. This is not only true in religion, in military service, in medicine, but also in contractual obligations before the law. We are not relieved from the obligations of a legal contract simply by claiming a loss of interest. We would lose more than interest in such an approach.

            Our perseverance is an act of the constraining influences of the Holy Ghost. Our good works along the way are not our own, but belong to the One who works in, and through, us. So what works can we lay claim to? Only those which are not pleasing to God – those are our own! 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: 40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me(Jer 32:38-40)The fear given is the work of the Lord, and that fear binds us to His will.

            Did we ever love the Lord before He first loved us? No, we could not – it was an act of the Lord and not of the chosen: 19 We love him, because he first loved us(1 John 4:19)Did we place ourselves in the Hand of the Lord, or was that the work of the Father? 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.(John 17:1-6)

            Persevering means never giving up on the hope that is within us. No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God(Luke 9:62 (KJV) Not only not giving up, but following steadfastly that Light given from above. I have never had the opportunity to plow, but when I was a lad, many farmers in my area still used mules to plow the fields. In plowing, I observed that they never looked back, but always forward. One cannot see to plow a straight row if he is looking back where he has been and not forward to where he is going.

            Perseverance leads to victory. Here are the words of Winston Churchill in 1941 (in the early days of the terrible bombing of England during the Second World War): Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Sophia - a Devotion for 26 April 2018, Anno Domini

If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!

M
Yson, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. 2 Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. 3 Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. 4 Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: 5 That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words(Prov 7:1-5)

            I learned early in life to have a very high regard for the distaff, and womanhood in general. In my mind, true womanhood remains an exalted pedestal above the common plane of mankind. Womanhood is endowed with a heart of compassion, kindness, and charity that gives it a great power exceeding all others since love is its crown, and sacrifice its shield of honor. Even most names of women, many of which are biblical, convey a softness and beauty that is a comfort to hear – Lois, Elizabeth, Deborah, Hannah, Bathsheba, Esther, Eve, Martha, Mary, Drusilla, Lydia, Salome, and, yes, Sophia. But wait, you say! There is no such woman mentioned in the Bible! Yes, there is! SOPHIA (translated from the Greek transliteration) is the name of Wisdom which is almost always given a feminine nature in Scripture. In the introductory passage, we are counseled even to call wisdom our sister. (Verse 4).

            See what gentle reference Solomon makes to Wisdom in the next chapter of Proverbs: 1 Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? 2 She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. 3 She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. 4 Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. 5 O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. 6 Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. 7 For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them(Prov 8:1-8)


            Wisdom is the best Counselor of the conscience. How often we hear her voice call at the gates of strange cities to which our paths have ventured. Cities are centers of gathering of every kind of person – both good and bad. It will not be possible to have a city of many thousands without some evil hearts therein. So we are warned at the entry gates to BEWARE of the seducer and the robber before entry. We have all heard that warning whether we heeded it or not; but we disregard the voice of Wisdom at our own peril. Wisdom is better than a mother for a mother will always advise what she deems best for her children, but a mother’s counsel is not infallible – the Counsel of Wisdom is indeed infallible. 

            The marginal notes of the Geneva Bible state: Solomon declares that man is the cause of his own perdition and that he cannot pretend ignorance, for God calls all men by his word and his works to follow virtue and flee from vice.Man is one creature that is specially inclined to lie to himself – and to believe his own lie! Shakespeare well spoke when he counseled: This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Polonius, Tragedy of Hamlet, Scene III. Above all, indeed! Why is this quote profoundly true? I believe it is because we look upon our own sins with the eyes of mole, but upon the sins of others with the eyes of an eagle. We justify every fault and shortcoming of our own doing, but magnify the shortcomings of others regardless how minor. We LIE to ourselves, do we not!

            The Bible often uses the technique of personification when making reference to strong points of ideas such as WISDOM; however, wisdom is not a person, but descriptive of Godly qualities and, certainly, descriptive of the nature of our Lord. If any single Person could be said to perfectly embody the qualities and properties of WISDOM, it would be our Lord Jesus Christ. He counseled only with wisdom. 

            So why is the feminine noun often used to describe wisdom? It may be due to the convincing and pleading nature of the feminine over the masculine. Men often depend upon their brute strength or intimidation to convince others to do or think in a certain way; but a woman has a more gentle approach in convincing through wise counsel rather than force of personality. In the end, only reasoned wisdom matters.

            What is the source of wisdom? It is given by the Lord just as He gave to Solomon because he was a seeker of wisdom. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you. Matthew 7:7 With what disposition is one motivated to ask, to seek, to knock at the door of wisdom? An interesting reference is made in the Psalms in answer to that inquiry: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that DO HIS COMMANDMENTS: his praise endureth for ever(Psalm 111:10)A good understanding is begotten of wisdom, and that comes – not in merely knowing God’s Commandments, but in DOING THEM!

            The fabric that gives WISDOM strength and value is TRUTH. Wisdom is truth personified! 6 Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. 7 For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them. 9 They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge. 10 Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. 11 For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it(Prov 8:6-11)

            The leading characteristic found, in toto, pervading the nature of the Triune God is WISDOM. The Wisdom of God is eternal and has existed with Him from Eternity Past to Eternity Future. 22 The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. 23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. 24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: 26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. 27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: 28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: 29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth.  (Prov 8:22-29)

            Wisdom was the treasure of God’s eye when He created mankind, and was the blueprint for Creation: 30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; 31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men(Prov 8:30-31)Wisdom delights in the Counsel she provides to the sons of men – when they hear and follow that still, small voice. 

            The Straight and Narrow Way that leads up to life is paved by the stones, and girded by the handrails, of wisdom: 32 Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they thatkeep my ways. 33 Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. 34 Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 35 For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. 36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death(Prov 8:32-36)Clearly and simply stated, sin is the rejection of wisdom. It may feel good at the moment; it may enrich our bank accounts; it may boost our prideful yearnings; it may please our carnal desires; but it is sin if it contravenes the counsel of wisdom. There is no such thing as ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes. The so-called ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ gospel is a delusion and a deception of the most egregious kind since it rejects Godly wisdom. The slogan of a popular false prophet of our day is God has something good in store for you today! Really! God may, indeed, have something good in store for us, but He may also allow persecutions and tribulations of the most severe nature as well to show forth His glory. It would be interesting to post the slogans of Joel Osteen beneath the horrid photos of Christians of the Middle East being beheaded for their refusal to deny their Lord. Such unwise and deceitful preaching renders those so deceived defenseless when trials and persecution do appear. 

            Following the wisdom of God does not make the believer immune from all of the atrocities committed against humanity, but it does arm him to be a witness and a testimony of the strength of His Lord who also bore His cross to a cruel and tortuous death outside the gates of Jerusalem. It empowers us to face our trials.

            Wisdom takes the long view, not the view of instant gratification. It may be encouraging and enlightening to read the lives of the Early Fathers of the Church, but how much more profitable to drink from the overflowing Fountain from which those men, too, drank – the Holy Bible! If we will profit most, we will study both, but the Holy Bible is the reigning Monarch and Foundation of Wisdom.

A
NDfurther, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil(Eccl 12:12-14)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Why Hymns for Worship - a Devotion for 25 April 2018, Anno Domini

If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!
A
NDwhen they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives
(Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26)

            Have you considered the difference between the ancient and classical hymns of the Church and the light and often frivolous ‘kum–bah-yah’ songs of the modern Church? Do you not feel a spiritual difference when such light songs are sung in the solemn worship of the Lord? 

            A few months ago, I was invited to a Wednesday prayer service by a close friend. The church was a Baptist church, so I presumed the music and sermon would be based on reverence and biblical doctrine. Well, one out of two is not bad! The sermon was indeed very biblical and reverential – it was even based upon the Received Text of the Bible. But the musical portion of the service lacked much to be desired. For each ultra-modern ‘gospel’ song that was sung, a young lady came up to “lead” the singing. The lyrics were projected upon a wall in the front of the church. But the music director was the only one who knew the songs and made any effort to sing them. As a result, all of the singing was done solo. 

            As I looked around at the worshippers (who averaged 60 years of age and older) I saw a vacant look on the faces of the people. In the pew rows were excellent copies of the Baptist hymnal containing many great old hymns; yet, this was not used. It seemed obvious to me that the congregation would have loved nothing more than to sing the beautiful old and meaningful hymns of the church rather than simply sit idly in the pews and listen to the meaningless (and I mean meaningless) songs being sung by the leader of music. I wondered why such frivolous songs came to take the place of the powerful hymns of the past. Perhaps it is due to a decline in spirituality and reverence in religion; or maybe it is due to the lack of copyright profits that are not available in the use of the ancient hymns. The modern songs that pass for worship today are the very product of a generation that has turned its back on serious bible study and teaching in preference for ‘feel good’ songs that just happen to make a handsome profit for the creator of such cheapened songs. 

The best example of a hymn in Holy Scripture is the Psalms of David. In fact, these were the only hymns sung in some churches of the Reformation. After all, who could find fault with singing the Word of God? But there also arose a practice of singing hymns that were intended to reinforce doctrine and biblical faith. These hymns rely upon direct points of doctrinal truth outlined in Scripture.  But in the more modern setting of the past one hundred and fifty years, another genre of spiritual song came into existence. Most of these were quite spiritual and personally meaningful to the singer; but these were directed inward to the soul and not, as a hymn, outward to the praise and worship of our Maker.  Below is an example of a classic hymn. Can you discover Biblical references in this hymn? I have pointed out just a few:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

First Stanza (above)
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)
“. . . . early will I seek thee.” (Psalm 63:1)
“ . . . . thou art a gracious and merciful God.” (Neh 9:31)
“ . . . . our God, the great, the mighty.” (Neh 9:32)
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7)

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Second Stanza:
The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.” (Ex 15:2)
4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. 5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.(Rev 4:4-6)
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Heb 13:8)
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”(Isaiah 6:1-3 )

            We could continue with the remaining two verses of this great hymn, but you can see the point in just these two verses.

            The purpose of worship is to praise God and render due worship to Him – not men! A hymn serves that purpose. It is directed toward God. But a gospel song, though it may be of comfort and spiritually encouraging, is directed toward the worshipper and not the One being worshipped. Below are the first two verses of a modern gospel song. Choose whatever profound truths from this you may detect other than the elementary nature of God:

God is so Good

God is so good,
God is so good,
God is so good,
He’s so good to me!

He cares for me,
He cares for me,
He cares for me,
He’s so good to me!

            This kindergarten song has become a mainstay in the liberal churches, and it represents a dumbing down process in worship. While it is true that God is good, and He cares for the little children, should mature worshippers not focus on the deeper truths of the Gospel concerning the nature of our Triune God? I have witnessed this song being sung, ad infinitum, in charismatic worship services as the standing congregation, with uplifted arms, sway to and from with the singing for nearly 30 minutes. It essentially becomes a mantra rather than a song of worship among mature congregations. The song is attributed to Velna A. Ledin who wrote only the first verse in 1933 to keep the children occupied during long drives by automobile. Many have been added by desperate parents.

            Notice that every verse (there are dozens) ends with the word, ME!

            I suggest that our classical worship has been dumbed down by both modern and light-hearted singing as well as deviant Bible versions that attack the divinity of Jesus Christ as well as to sterilize the Church against discipline and judgment. Political correctness has rendered the Church sterile in the area of condemnation of sin and the polemic defense of cardinal biblical doctrines.

            The Church underwent a serious Reformation five hundred years ago. Perhaps we should now exert our efforts to a Restoration of the pure doctrinal and biblical truths achieved during that Reformation. This cannot be achieved by a shameful and effeminate clergy and laity – it will require strong and courageous propagation of the Truth once delivered to the saints by men and women of faith – by fathers and mothers who love their children ardently. If we burn, so be it!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hymns of the Church – Shepherd of Souls– 24 April 24, 2018, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!

I
is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God
(Luke 4:4 (KJV)

I
 AMthat bread of life49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world(John 6:48-51)

            The name of the tune for this hymn is noteworthy – Saint Agnes. Agnes is depicted in art with a lamb, from the Latin word for lamb, agnus. However, the name Agnes is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective hagnē (γνή) meaning chaste, pure, sacred. She is also shown with a martyr's palm. This young virgin girl of fourteen years was martyred for her absolute devotion to Christ and the moral character required of His followers. It is said she was a beautiful young girl of aristocracy who was reported to authorities for her Christian faith after being reported by would be suitors who felt slighted by her refusal to succumb to their seductions. She was sentenced to be dragged through the streets of Rome to a brothel naked. (304 AD) Owing to several unusual cases of her persecutors being struck blind, she was later tied to a stake and beheaded. The tune is composed by John B. Dykes to go with another hymn, Jesus the very Thought of Thee in 1866.

           It seems Christian virtue was much more fervent in the days of the cruel Diocletion than in our own time. The author of the lyrics to the hymn is anonymous though Charles Wesley wrote a hymn with almost the same wording and claimed it as his own. This hymn is my favorite Communion hymn next to Panis Angelicus.

Shepherd of Souls

Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless
Thy chosen pilgrim flock
With manna in the wilderness,
With water from the rock.

We would not live by bread alone,
But by that Word of grace,
In strength of which we travel on
To our abiding place.

Be known to us in breaking bread,
But do not then depart;
Saviour, abide with us, and spread
Thy table in our heart.

There sup with us in love Divine;
Thy body and thy blood,
That living bread, that heav'nly wine,
Be our immortal food.

Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless Thy chosen pilgrim flock With manna in the wilderness, With water from the rock.  The words to this hymn borrow heavily from the types and metaphors of Exodus. As  you see in this verse, we see three major representations of the Exodus in the pilgrim flock (Children of Israel), Manna in the Wilderness, and the Water from the Rock. These beautiful terms should not seem odd to us since we experience the very same nature of God’s works in our lives today perhaps under different forms. The Christian adherent will immediately confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is the true Shepherd and Bishop of his soul. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls(1 Peter 2:25)

            We would not live by bread alone, But by that Word of grace, In strength of which we travel on To our abiding place. We are pilgrims and vagabonds in this world. We are a people who seek to find a Holy City. . . . . they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.(Heb 11:13-16)A long and arduous journey demands sustenance for the way. Our sustenance is, of course, bread for our bodies, but more importantly, the Bread of Heaven for our souls. How tragic to travel such a distance with a healthy body and arrive with a famished soul at the last. Our abiding place is that place at which we abide together with the One who abides in our hearts.

            Be known to us in breaking bread, But do not then depart; Saviour, abide with us, and spread Thy table in our heart. We have an excellent counsel on the breaking of that bread by Paul: 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body(1 Cor 11:23-29)The breaking of bread in the Holy Communion is the best reminder that where two or three are gathered together in His Name, He is there among them. His presence is real, though spiritual, at the Lord’s Table. It is His Bread that is Broken (Body) and His Cup (Blood) of which we  partake. Just as a family sups together (or should), so does the family of God gather, with one mind, around the Lord’s Table to sup with Him and with each other. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is ‘an outward and visible expression of an inward and spiritual grace.’ The Table of the Lord from which we are served the Bread and Wine must mirror that same table in our hearts at which we dine daily on Bread and Wine of Heaven with the Lord.

            There sup with us in love Divine; Thy body and thy blood, That living bread, that heav'nly wine, Be our immortal food. The Cup from which Christ drank was a Cup of horrendous proportion. He would have preferred to allow that Cup to pass from Him; yet, He came to do His Father’s will and He received the Cup with an obedient heart. We, too, have that Common Cup from which to drink. It is for that reason that we observe the Communion with the one Cup for all: Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized(Mark 10:39)Besides the Blood and Body of Christ, what one word might summarize his terrible suffering and sacrifice for us? Is it not the word, LOVE? Love is able to sacrifice all for the object of its affection. It can perform miracles on its own behalf. Christ represents the truest form of LOVE in its virgin state. He loved us while we were yet enemies. He loved us first before we ever could love Him. That kind of love survives death and is not subject to death. He feeds us with His Word. We feed on Him because He IS the Word. 

            At times of reflection on my life, my memories often go back to the glimmering dreams of childhood when, engaged in outdoor games with my little friends, I would hear my mother call my name. She called it in a special way and with a peculiar accent reserved only for the occasion of supper. Jereee! Come to supper. I knew to drop all other interest and head for the table to be fed on the choice foods of my heart – my mother could prepare a table fit for a king! But God calls us now to a Table PREPARED BY A KING, and fit for His sons and daughters! The call should immediately cause us to forfeit all other interest to be drawn into that Communion of Holy Bread and Wine of the Holy Spirit – and without delay. 

Our hearts must be staid on Him alone – ALWAYS!