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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.

Verse of the Day

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cornelia’s Jewels - a Devotion for 31 May 2018, Anno Domini


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

A Short Story Devotion of James Baldwin

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HE stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. 25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. 29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. 30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates(Prov 31:20-31)

            This story, Cornelia’s Jewels,  is written by James Baldwin, a prolific writer, author, and publisher of elementary school books and books for children. Below is a brief biographical sketch:

About the Author
Born in 1841 in a small Quaker settlement in the backwoods of Indiana, James Baldwin rose to become a highly-respected author and textbook editor. Largely self-educated, Baldwin became a teacher at 24, then served as superintendent of the graded schools of Indiana for 18 years before moving into the publishing world. As an editor of school books, first with Harper and Brothers and later with the American Book Company, he selected the best of our literary heritage and cast it into a form that delighted children of all ages. His influence in the first decades of the twentieth century was broad because of all the grammar school books in use in the United States at that time over half had been written or edited by him. He is remembered most for the books of introductory historical sketches he wrote for younger students and his retellings of the legends of the heroes for older students. 

CORNELIA'S JEWELS

It was a bright morning in the old city of Rome many hundred years ago. In a vine-covered summer-house in a beautiful garden, two boys were standing. They were looking at their mother and her friend, who were walking among the flowers and trees.

"Did you ever see so handsome a lady as our mother's friend?" asked the younger boy, holding his tall brother's hand. "She looks like a queen."

"Yet she is not so beautiful as our mother," said the elder boy. "She has a fine dress, it is true; but her face is not noble and kind. It is our mother who is like a queen."

"That is true," said the other. "There is no woman in Rome so much like a queen as our own dear mother."

Soon Cornelia, their mother, came down the walk to speak with them. She was simply dressed in a plain white robe. Her arms and feet were bare, as was the custom in those days; and no rings nor chains glittered about her hands and neck. For her only crown, long braids of soft brown hair were coiled about her head; and a tender smile lit up her noble face as she looked into her sons' proud eyes.

"Boys," she said, "I have something to tell you."

They bowed before her, as Roman lads were taught to do, and said, "What is it, mother?"

"You are to dine with us to-day, here in the garden; and then our friend is going to show us that wonderful casket of jewels of which you have heard so much."

The brothers looked shyly at their mother's friend. Was it possible that she had still other rings besides those on her fingers? Could she have other gems besides those which sparkled in the chains about her neck?

When the simple out-door meal was over, a servant brought the casket from the house. The lady opened it. Ah, how those jewels dazzled the eyes of the wondering boys! There were ropes of pearls, white as milk, and smooth as satin; heaps of shining rubies, red as the glowing coals; sapphires as blue as the sky that summer day; and diamonds that flashed and sparkled like the sunlight.

The brothers looked long at the gems.

"Ah!" whispered the younger; "if our mother could only have such beautiful things!"

At last, how-ever, the casket was closed and carried carefully away.

"Is it true, Cornelia, that you have no jewels?" asked her friend. "Is it true, as I have heard it whispered, that you are poor?"

"No, I am not poor," answered Cornelia, and as she spoke she drew her two boys to her side; "for here are my jewels. They are worth more than all your gems."

I am sure that the boys never forgot their mother's pride and love and care; and in after years, when they had become great men in Rome, they often thought of this scene in the garden. And the world still likes to hear the story of Cornelia's jewels.

NOTE: I reformatted the type from Baldwin’s original ‘pronunciation’ helps for child readers. I do not remember reading a single story in my elementary readers whose intent was not to lift our visions above our childish horizons promote good manners and character. Were it so today, perhaps our young people would be aspiring to higher callings than drugs, promiscuous sex, and greed. James Baldwin died in 1925. (Bishop Jerry Ogles)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Cost Christ? - a Devotion for 30 May 2018, Anno Domini

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

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ND Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. 28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt. (Gen 37:26-28)

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ND I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. 11 And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord. 12 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. 14 Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel(Zech 11:10-14)

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HEN one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him(Matt 26:14-16)

          The rulers of the Jews paid a very low price for the opportunity to crucify our Lord. The price was symbolic, however, of judgment. Our Lord would be subject to a false trial at which even the judge (Pontius Pilate) pronounced Him innocent. Thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slave gored by another’s ox. 32 If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned(Ex 21:32)The servant was guiltless, as was Christ, yet it suffered at the horns of another’s ox. Moreover, silver is a symbol of redemption, or atonement. 14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel (of silver), when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls. 16 And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls(Ex 30:14-16)

            You will remember that the young boy, Joseph, was sold into slavery to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver. Twenty is also significant. Two is the number of witnessing. At least two witnesses are necessary to prove a point at the bar. But three will secure a judgment. Joseph, being a type of Christ, was sold into slavery for twenty pieces of silver as a witness and testimony against all of Israel whom he saved during a time of draught.  The text from Zechariah above demonstrates the prophetic selling of Jesus by Judas unto the hands of the enemy. Two symbols are used therein – 1) a staff called Beauty which likely represented the Tabernacle and Temple worship of the Old Testament. It was broken asunder in judgment as Jesus establishes His new covenant. The second staff, Bands, was broken symbolizing the breaking of the union of the Jewish rulership which was represented by the Jewish High Priest, scribes, and Pharisees. Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall TAKEN FROM YOU, and GIVEN TO A NATION BRINGING FORTH THE FRUITS THEREOF.  (Matt 21:42-43)

            For Judas, Jesus was worth only a very low sum of money, but even a small sum of silver figured high on the value scale of Judas Iscariot. It goes without saying that he derived no benefit at all from the trade and, in the process, lost everything. After going out from the supper into the night, Judas did not see another sunrise. As prophesied by Zechariah, the money was used to purchase a potter’s field in which to bury Judas. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.And next we have the text from Zechariah quoted, but attributed to Jeremiah. Why? It is because Jeremiah was the foremost of the prophets under whom Zechariah labored and recorded his works: 3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. 6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. 7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. 8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. 9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 10 And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me(Matt 27:2-10)

            Now, brethren, Judas is not the only one to sell the Lord out for meager value. All of us, at some point, have sold out on Christ. Peter did three times during the night of His betrayal. All of the disciples sold out the Lord by fleeing from the Garden when Jesus was taken. Many today will sell out our Lord for social standing, prestige, economic gain, and political correctness. Many will claim Christ, as did Judas, but sell out over cardinal issues of sin, grace, and redemption. Many will accept doctrines such as homosexual marriage, abortion, the prosperity gospel, etc. in order to appear ‘broad-minded’ and accepted by sophisticates. 

Well, may I offer a word to such sellers and money changers of the Temple: Being broad-minded will not gain any favor with Heaven. Christ was not ‘broad-minded’ nor tolerant of sinful actions and lifestyles. Of course, He is able to forgive and save to the uttermost; but He saves FROM sin, not IN sin. The 11th verse of John, chapter 8, expresses that principle – a verse not often emphasized by modern ‘Pulpit Wonders’:  . . . . go, and sin no more! John 8:11 (KJV) This woman was dragged before Christ by enemies intent upon her demise. But they had brought her to the ONLY ONE who could save her to the uttermost. She recognized Christ, during the moments of hearing His rebuttal of the scribes and Pharisees (and in her great terror), as LORD! That makes all the difference!

 Many will sell out our Lord Jesus Christ to the State believing it can provide all that is needful for survival. If we look about us, it is obvious that wherever the powers of the state are greatest, the people suffer in squalid and servile conditions. In nations where Islam bears absolute rule, the people live in filth and penury. In nations where the state considers itself to stand in the place of a little god (such as North Korea), the people are eating grass and fearful to even think a thought against their little god, Kim Jong In.

IN America, God used His elect men to establish a nation in which men and women would be free. We were given, by the Providence of God, a Republic in which all laws applied equally to every citizen without exception. As the years of an increasing greed and indifference to our blood-bought freedoms on the part of our citizenry rolled on, we began to discount the importance of personal freedom with a growing reliance upon the state to address the most mundane of our problems. Finally, we find that, in selling out our faith in the Lord and His Liberty, we have come to embrace the most egregious of sins mandated by that once God-inspired nation called America. We have allowed the very institution of marriage to be demeaned and perverted, and we have turned to that abominable sin mentioned in Leviticus: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.(Lev 18:22)and Romans Chapter 1:19-32. We have turned from the alabaster mountains and grained-endowed plains of America to lesser little gods. We have looked at the confused and inept governments of Europe and said, “Let us be like them. Give us a king other than King Jesus to rule over us.”

             Please remember the somber words from the days of Samuel the prophet: 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now MAKE US A KING TO JUDGE US LIKE ALL THE OTHER NATIONS6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. 7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them(1 Sam 8:4-7)

            We have enjoyed great blessings as a nation. Our azure skies have never known warplanes of another nation. Our seas and coastal defenses have been inviolate. Our freedoms have provided a zeal and enterprising spirit excelling all nations preceding us. Yet, we were not happy with those blessings. We desire to have ANOTHER king rule over us in the place of the Lord – a secular power that cares neither for body nor soul. Shall we continue, AMERICA, to forge the chains of our own enslavement; or shall we again look upon God as our Preserver and Benefactor?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hymns of the Church – As Now the Sun’s Declining Rays– 29 May 2018, Anno Domini

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

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BIDEwith us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.   (Luke 24:29)

This is an ancient hymn whose origin is shrouded in antiquity; however, Charles Coffin (Hymni Sacri) added the lyrics, which we have today, in 1736. John Chandler translated the hymn into English in 1837. The tune most often used is ST. COLUMBA, an ancient Irish melody. This is also the tune used in the hymn, The King of Love. Another, alternate and equally beautiful tune is ST. PETER, by Alexander R. Reinagle composed in 1836. I regret that the hymn, a Trinity Hymn, is not included in the 1940 Hymnal.

As Now the Sun’s Declining Rays

As now the sun’s declining rays
At eventide descend,
So life’s brief day is sinking down
To its appointed end.

Lord, on the cross Thine arms were stretched,
To draw Thy people nigh;
O grant us then that cross to love,
And in those arms to die.

All glory to the Father be,
All glory to the Son,
All glory, Holy Ghost, to Thee,
While endless ages run. 

As now the sun’s declining rays At eventide descend, So life’s brief day is sinking down To its appointed end.  I love hymns and stories that begin with a seemingly sad and sorrowful word of melancholy. It is because each time such thoughts are expressed, or even felt,  I am reminded of that which lies beyond that sadness of declining light of the sun. There is rest and a wonderful promise of the next sunrise! How sad were the two disciples on the Road to Damascus who were contemplating the end of all hope over the events of the crucifixion the preceding Friday. What a tremendous loss they felt as they commiserated together over the loss of One whom they considered the hope and promise of Israel. Well, without a sunset, there can be no sunrise. The dwindling light of day may bring a greater glory than the mortal sun could ever provide. So, as these two walked and shared their misery, the One over whose loss they mourned joined them on the way and slowly revealed the purpose of the events of the crucifixion. At the moment of sharing of Bread, their eyes were suddenly opened to the glorious truth of a Risen Christ! This truth of the Risen Savior was of greater brilliance in light than and earthly sunrise could benefit. Though the shadows were lengthening, these two found newborn energy to rush back to Jerusalem and share the glorious news with the other disciples that evening.

I believe we have all had our Damascus evenings when hope seemed forlorn – only to realize a greater blessing near the sinking of the sun. When we have struggled and battled against some sought after prize, and find our hopes dashed on the stones of reality, we suddenly discover that God has a better plan that far exceeds the paltry hopes we so recently sought to achieve. 

Lord, on the cross Thine arms were stretched, To draw Thy people nigh; O grant us then that cross to love, And in those arms to die.The Prodigal Son disappeared on the distant horizon as his Father watched every step. He was a true Son, but one who was going away from the presence of his Father to a Far Country – any place the Christian wonders out of the Will of the Father is a far country. As he walked, each step presented a smaller image to the Father. But after being so meanly treated by a stranger of that land, and experiencing such deprivation and want as the most lowly servant of his Father would have suffered, he suddenly came to himself (came to his right mind), and resolved to return to his Father in repentance. The plight of the son was constantly in the know of the Father. Now the Son appears once more on the distant horizon which was never out of the focus of the Father. He spotted his Son clothed in rags and covered in the filth of the pig sty. But now, the Son is returning in contrition and repentance. Each step brings him closer to his Father and builds his image in the Father’s eye. The distance the Son is away from the Father is not important in the Mind of the Father. But the DIRECTION the Son is moving IS important! He is returning! The Father runs to him and embraces him. So does God hurry to embrace each of his Elect who have ventured away from the Father’s Will, but returns. His arms are outstretched to embrace His own.

The last line of the verse, And in those arms to die, is not quite true to the Christian for there can be no death in the embrace of Christ – there is merely a transition from mortal life to eternal life! 

All glory to the Father be, All glory to the Son, All glory, Holy Ghost, to Thee, While endless ages run.This is truly a Trinitarian hymn. How much I would rejoice if the members and ministry of the mega-churches would acknowledge that NO GLORY belongs to the worshipper or their ministers, but all GLORY belongs to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost! Those false ministers who regularly misappropriate the power of the Holy Ghost to themselves will not be as much as a stain on the memory of the saints in eternity; but they shall be feeding the fires they have built  and fueled for themselves in the nether reaches of Hell. One such minister (Stanley) of Atlanta has a church of 30,000 members. He recently preached that the church should ‘unhitch’ from the Old Testament. The Christian cannot pick and choose which parts of God’s Word to study, obey and reverence. The Whole Word is a gift from God to us.

Each of us have a day of the setting of the sun on this life. It is the treasures that we have deposited in our hearts and in Heaven that will give us a joy and courage in that day of gathering darkness. How sad if we face that day alone and bewildered. The true Christian does not fear death, but faces it as he has faced his life in Christ – head-on and with a knowing smile on his face.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

AOC Sunday Report

The AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Happy Trinity Sunday!  Not really up to speed on the Holy Trinity?  Learn more in the AOC Sunday Report which is RIGHT HERE!

There are great sermons from Bishops Jerry and Roy, as well as Rev Bryan;  Rev Jack is on travel, so you also get one from me.  If you don't enjoy each of them, let me know and I will send you a double refund of your subscription!  Of course, in that there is no charge, it is kind of a hollow offer.  Still, I am confident you will enjoy them.

There are also a lot of people who need your prayers, please take the time to pray for them.  Start with Bruce, Shamu, Jay and Bob, work out from there.

Have a great week ahead, but do me a big favor (yourself also) tomorrow when you are having that nice BBQ, remember who gave you the freedom to BBQ what you wanted.  Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day we remember those who gave their lives for our country.  Do not forget they gave their tomorrows (and those of their families) that we might have our today.  Read a bit about Ken in the AOC Sunday Report and think on that.

Godspeed,

Hap
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, CA




Sermon Notes - Trinity Sunday - 27 May 2018, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

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

Trinity Sunday.
The Collect.

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LMIGHTYand everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

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HEREwas a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto
him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:1-16)

            Imagine if we could start life anew from our mother’s womb, but with the sense and wisdom of our accumulated years of the present age! You might remember the illustration of the DROP OF WATER: 

            “There was once a drop of water that found itself puddle in a dirty and unsavory gutter drain.  It was constantly subject to being spat upon and frequented by mosquitoes laying their larvae in the water.  The little drop of water looked everyday up to the beautiful blue skies above and yearend, for once, to be clean and pure, and separated from the filth of the gutter. The yearning of its heart was heard in heaven, and the warmth of the sun began to draw the small droplet up, up, and away from the filth it had always known. Being drawn higher and higher, the air around the droplet was no longer foul and smelly, but clear and pristine. Yet, it was drawn still higher by the force of the sun to levels of colder and colder air. The winds took up the droplet of water and carried it far away where it became a beautiful, white snowflake. It was deposited on the heights of Mt. Everest where its beauty could be seen, mingled with other snowflakes, for many miles around. The droplet of water, transformed by the power of Heaven, had moved from the lowest and dirtiest place, to the highest and most beautiful on earth. That is regeneration, and that is the power of God to make new the soul of man.”

If we were drawn up to such a high estate, what good amendments would we make in our lives going forward? Would we still bear a shame of declaring faith in God and His Holy Word at all times and in all places? Or would we be another Nicodemus who, being well versed in the law and prophets, as a Pharisee, but yet approach Christ under cover of darkness? We dare not judge Nicodemus without first repenting of our own failure to stand up openly at many times when we have failed of public courage in the past.

Nicodemus thirsted for knowledge of the Holy, but he was also a prominent figure of the ruling Sanhedrin. He had a reputation to mind. He did not wish to make any rash decisions. He had witnessed the amazing miracles and profound words of Jesus at the Temple. Those words touched the heart strings of Nicodemus’ soul. He suspected that there was a depth of meaning in Jesus that he must fathom – even at the risk of being exposed as an admirer. This would, of course, have meant trouble for a man in his position. So Nicodemus came at night to see Jesus. He was drawn to Jesus by the few days he had observed Him, so, he came under cover of darkness. In this respect, he had an opposite character of that of Judas the traitor. Nicodemus had just a limited knowledge of Jesus, yet he was drawn to Him. Judas had a very thorough knowledge of Jesus, yet he betrayed him, instead of being drawn to Christ on that last night of the Supper, Judas betrayed Christ and went away from Him for his treacherous deed at night. He never saw another sunrise. It seems that instead of going out from the light into darkness, Nicodemus came in from the darkness to the Light and departed that place with a new light in his heart. Let’s examine the account from the text:

            1. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night”  We see a contrast being drawn in the text between a man of great power, wealth, and learning; and the Lord Jesus Christ who did not have a place to lay His head. Nicodemus was an influential member of the ruling Sanhedrin. Nicodemus was also keen to the politics of the day and did not wish to be exposed as someone who would be an admirer of Chrsit – at least not until he had come to know Him for the Lord that He was. So Nicodemus came under cover of darkness. 

             Earlier in the day, Nicodemus had seen Christ drive out the money changers and those who made merchandise of the House of God. He had heard, that day, His strange but refreshing counsel: Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.(John 2:16)He had heard the profound and beautiful teachings of Christ and seen His miracles. His logical mind could not deny that Jesus had strange powers that could only come from God, unlike those political posers who sat with him of the Sanhedrin.

            If we desire to know a man better, we must find out where He is and meet Him face to face. Nicodemus obviously had scouted out Christ to know where He was sleeping in Jerusalem that first Passover of Christ’s ministry.

 “……… and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”   Nicodemus has the least seed of faith in his heart, but it was enough to drive him to Christ. He recognized the power of God in Christ and he must settle the issue before the dawning of another day. Though he comes here at night, he later publicly defends Christ in the Sanhedrin (John 7:50-52) and even publicly goes with Joseph of Arimethaea to claim the body of Christ for burial even under threat of retribution from Rome and the Jewish rulers (John 19:39). The one who came by night later became one who feared no one but God. John considers the change in Nicodemus so significant that he always makes reference to Nicodemus in later references as “he who came to Jesus by night.”

Jesus is frank in His approach to Nicodemus. He knows the heart of Nicodemus, and He knows that complete transparency and blunt truth is the very thing Nicodemus needs. 

            Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus tells Nicodemus what he desperately NEEDS to know, not that which his ears would have been comforted to hear. Nicodemus is considered by many to be a great teacher, yet he calls Christ RABBI., or Teacher. Nicodemus is not too proud to accept the role of student before superior knowledge of a better Teacher. But these words of Christ are simply too amazing for Nicodemus to grasp.

             4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? This is not a frivolous response by Nicodemus. He does not ask WHY, but HOW.  If Jesus were making reference to the Gentiles, Nicodemus could have understood somewhat, but Jesus is speaking to a ruler of the Jews – the presumed people of God! To Nicodemus, it does not make sense, but he trusts in the superior wisdom of Christ to shed light on the matter. Our first longings of faith must be satisfied through deeper inquiry even if we risk ridicule by the world. There are profound mysteries in the Bible, yet many consider themselves so accomplished scholars of the Word that they attempt to explain every mystery and leave nothing to wonder.

             Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. Nicodemus belonged to a religion that based salvation upon a complete obedience to the Law written on Tables of Stone. It was a difficult concept to beleive that his entire previous training had been lacking. Christ points to a change that is alien to Nicodemus’ thinking. There is the story of an owner of a clothing store that decided to clean his main display window. He gathered his cleaning materials and went outside to clean. After working diligently, the window appeared immaculate with the exception of a single troubling blemish high up on the glass. Regardless the efforts and elbow grease used to clean the spot, it remained a glaring flaw in an otherwise clear glass. At last he discovered that the dirty blemish was not on the outside, but the INSIDE of the glass. Regardless our efforts to dress and beautify our persons, we cannot cleanse the heart by dressing the outward appearance with good works. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)God cleans us inside first with the purgative of the Holy Spirit ere making our appearance clean on the outside. If the heart is full of filth, it matters not the outward APPEARANCE.

            When we lay down this life, we lay down the body of flesh before our parents who gave us our traits and the hereditary features of flesh. We then are drawn in the spirit back to the Father who gave us the Spirit of Life. Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Eccl 12:6-7)

            Jesus shares a great mystery with Nicodemus8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Does any man have the key to the gate of the wind, to open and close as he deems fit? The Wind is no different in certain aspects than the Holy Spirit. We do not know the source of the wind, but we KNOW it has a source. We can hear the wind if we are quiet and attentive. It literally whispers as that still, small voice of God. (1 Kings 19:12) We cannot say its direction or where it is going.  The Wind is unseen just as the Holy Spirit is unseen. We see its effects, but not its essence. Those who are born of God have been touched by that Wind of the Holy Spirit. Their change is complete and not prideful in display. Moreover, the sails of their souls are propelled by that Wind throughout their walk in Christ.

            Can you imagine Nicodemus’ eyes squinting in effort to understand this strange new doctrine? . 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things

Nicodemus is very much like many who are educated in theology and who press a point of an olive until it becomes a watermelon. He is well educated but, unfortunately, in things that are not real. Jesus points out his ignorance to him. Many prominent theologians of our day lack the simple wisdom of a poor farmer who knows the Lord. This was Nicodemus’ problem, but he is open to amendment in understanding. I wish we all were.

            11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? Jesus places His evidence before the bar. He taught often in parables so that the simple farmer or fisherman could grasp greater spiritual truth when illustrated by earthly logic. But those educated too much in ‘theological error’ may not be able to grasp the simplicity of the Gospel which a child can easily grasp. It is not faith and knowledge that saves us, but ‘faith in Christ’ and right knowledge of Him. We may know the print in a thousand theological works, but if we lack the nature of a little child in faith, we are lost. 

             13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. Despite the delusional dreams and copyrighted commercial works of many today, no one has ascended to heaven or come down but Christ. 

             14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. God sent fiery serpents among the Children of Israel in the Wilderness for their sins. When they pleaded for relief, God told Moses to erect a brass serpent on a pole for all to look unto when bitten that they might live.  The serpent represented our sins that are crucified on the cross with Christ. Looking to the sacrifice of Christ, for our own sins, we are saved from eternal death. (Numbers 21:6-9) We have the same symbolized in the medical kadusa today.

     16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life Do not be deceived by modern versions of the Bible such as the NIV. Jesus Christ is the literal ISSUE of the Father. He is God because He is of the same substance with God. Not a son or daughter through the adoption that we are, but the true and issuing Son of the Father – the only Begotten, not One and Only! As a great iron magnet draws only metal of like properties, so does Christ draw those whose souls are the malleable substance that God has created in them to respond to the pull of the Magnet.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Memorial Day Poem
 

Bishop’s Letter for Memorial Day Observance 28 May 2018, Anno Domini (in the 242ndyear of our Declaration of Independence)




If you  prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!
Bishop’s Memorial Day Devotional Letter
Memorial Day 2018
  
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.
                                                                                                   Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1854)


            In the days of horse drawn artillery and mounted cavalry, I believe the words of Tennyson in his famous poem above described the epitome of brazen and patriotic courage in the face of almost certain death. There was no question of the logic of the attack into the lines of an enemy of overwhelming numbers fortified behind breastworks of earth, and supported by a formidable array of artillery – only the unquestioned obedience of brave men in the profession of arms compelled them into that embrace of Hell.

            I often wish that we had a similar poem of comparable grandeur to describe the courage and patriotic valor of our American and Allied forces upon the landing on the beaches of Normandy; or the terror of the Ardennes Forest break-through of German forces supported by the seeming invincible Tiger (Panzer) Tanks; or even the sacrificial courage of Captain William (Bill) Carpenter of the 101st Airborne Division calling in air strikes on his own position to save his company from an over-running North Vietnam Force. As a result, his courage prevented his unit being encircled by the enemy though at high cost.

 
            These events are only footnotes of distinction in the annals of American military history. In considering the heroes of combat, we might also remember the four chaplains who gave their own life preservers to men of the USS Dorchester, a transport ship sunk by German U-boats on February 3, 1943 – one Jewish, one Catholic, and two Protestant. We must engrave the memories of such men on the escutcheon and shield of the nation. Many of our best and brightest have passed from this earthly struggle to their reward. They are our stones of remembrance. We have graven their names in our hearts and upon our memorials. Their courage, in holding high the Light of the Liberty, has sustained and encouraged us to continue on the Field of Battle and to forsake not the Ancient Landmark with which the Lord of Hosts has entrusted us. Many of our veterans grow old, but their spirit is not diminished by any loss of hope or valor. They, and those whose passing we memorialize, are the lively stones always before our faces and the Face of our Lord.

            This Memorial Day, please remember the cost of the civil freedoms we enjoy in a nation whose founding was surely by the Hand of God, a Lord who gave the greatest sacrifice of all for our Freedom – His only Begotten Son.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Perseverance - a Devotion for 24 May 2018, Anno Domini

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

Taken from a Fourth Grade Reader
The Boys' and Girls' Readers - Fourth Reader
by Emma Miller Bolenius (1919)

BISHOP’S NOTE: Today’s story is intended to evoke an attitude of perseverance in the young reader of the early last century – thereby perhaps contributing to the character and fortitude of the “Greatest Generation” of World War II.

Perseverance Wins
Author unknown

It is not what a boy wears on his back that makes a man of him, but what he has inside his heart and head.  As you read this story compare this boy's "outside" with the precious things he had within.

About thirty years ago, I stepped into a bookstore in Cincinnati, in search of some books that I wanted. While there, a ragged little boy, not over twelve years of age, came in to ask whether they had “geographies" to sell.

"Plenty of them," was the salesman's reply.
"How much do they cost?"
"One dollar, my lad."
"I did not know that they were so dear."
He turned to go out, and even opened the door, but closed it again and came back. 

"I have only sixty-two cents," said he, "will you let me have the book, and wait awhile for the rest of the money?"

How eagerly the lad looked for an answer, and how he seemed to shrink within his ragged clothes when the man refused his request! The disappointed little fellow looked up at me with a poor attempt at a smile, and left the store. I followed and overtook him.

"And what now?" I asked. 
"I shall try another place, sir."
"Shall I go, too, and see how you succeed?"
"Oh, yes, if you like," said he, in surprise.

Four different stores I entered with him, and four times I saw the boy's face cloud at a harsh refusal.

"Shall you try again?" I asked.
"Yes, sir. I shall try them all, or I should not know whether I could get one."

We entered the fifth store, and the little fellow walked up manfully and told the gentleman just what he wanted and how much money he had.
"Do you want the book very much?" asked the proprietor.
"Yes, sir, very much."
"Why do you want it so much?"
"To study, sir. I cannot go to school, but when I have time I study at home. All the boys have geographies, and they will be ahead of me if I do not get one. Besides, my father was a sailor, and I want to know about the places that he used to go to."
"Does he go to those places now?"
"He is dead," replied the boy softly. Then he added, after a while, "I am going to be a sailor, too."
"Are you, though?" asked the gentleman, raising his eyebrows curiously.
"Yes, sir, if I live."
"Well, my lad, I'll tell you what I will do. I will let you have a new geography, and you may pay the remainder of the money when you can; or, I will let you have one that is not new for fifty cents."
"Are the leaves all in it, and is it just like the others, only not new?"
"Yes, it is as good as the new ones."
"It will do just as well, then, and I shall have twelve cents left toward buying some other book. I am glad they did not let me have one at any of the other places."

The bookseller looked up inquiringly, and I told him what I had seen of the little fellow. He was much pleased, and, when he brought the book along, I saw a nice new pencil and some clean white paper in it. "A present, my lad, for your perseverance. Always have courage like that, and you will make your mark," said the bookseller.
"Thank you, sir, you are very good."
"What is your name?"
"William Hartley, sir." 

"Do you want any more books?" I now asked, earnestly regarding the boy's serious face.
"More than I can ever get," he replied, glancing at the volumes that filled the shelves. I gave him a bank-note. "It will buy some for you," I said.

Tears of joy came into his eyes.
"May I buy what I want with it?"
"Yes, my lad; whatever you want." 
"Then I will buy a book for Mother," said he. "I thank you very much, and some day I hope I can pay you."

He asked my name, and I gave it to him. Then I left him standing by the counter, so happy that I almost envied him. Many years passed before I saw him again.

Last year I went to Europe on one of the finest vessels that ever ploughed the waters of the Atlantic.

We had pleasant weather the greater part of the voyage, but toward the end there came a terrible storm, and the ship would have sunk, with all on board, had it not been for the captain.

Every mast was laid low, the rudder was almost useless, and a great leak was filling the vessel with water. The crew were strong and willing men. and the mates were practical seamen of the first class. But, after pumping for one whole night, with the water still gaining upon them, the sailors gave up in despair and prepared to take to the boats, though they might have known that no small boat could live in such a wind and sea.

The captain, who had been below examining his charts, now came up. He saw how matters stood, and; with a voice that I heard distinctly above the roar of the tempest, he ordered every man to his post.

It was surprising to see those men bow before his strong will and hurry back to the pumps. The captain then started below to look for the leak. As he passed me I asked him whether there was any hope of saving the vessel.
            
He looked at me, and then at the other passengers, and said: ''Yes, sir. So long as one inch of this deck remains above water, there is hope. When that fails I shall abandon the vessel, not before, nor shall one of my crew. Everything shall be done to save the ship, and, if we fail, it will not be our fault. Bear a hand, every one of you, at the pumps."

Thrice during the day did we despair. But the captain's dauntless courage, perseverance, and powerful will mastered every man on board, and we went to work again. "I will land you safe at the dock in Liverpool," said he, "if you will be men."

And he did land us safe, but the vessel sank soon after she was moored to the dock. The captain stood on the deck of the sinking ship receiving the thanks of the       passengers as they hurried down the gangplank.

As I passed, he grasped my hand and said : "Judge Preston, do you not recognize me?"

I told him that I did not. I was not aware that I had ever seen him before I stepped on board his ship.

"Do you remember the boy who had so much difficulty in getting a geography, some thirty years ago, in Cincinnati? He owes a debt of gratitude for your encouragement and kindness to him.”

"I remember him very well, sir. His name was William Hartley."
"I am he," said the captain. "God bless you!"
"And may God bless you, too. Captain Hartley," I said. "The perseverance that thirty years ago secured you that geography, has to-day saved our lives."

I. In what ways would a geography be of use to a boy who wanted to be a sailor? 
2. Would William Hartley neglect his mother? How do you know? 
3. Do you think that he paid Judge Preston back? Give a reason for your belief. 
4. What is meant by "ploughed the waters" and "owe a debt of gratitude”?
5. Prove that Captain Hartley knew his business well. Was his decision wise? 
6. Practice reading aloud the conversation, making up speeches where they are not given. 
7. If a boy is forced to go to work, how can he still keep up his education? 
8. What are different ways to earn money for books? 
9. What things would William Hartley not do in the schoolroom and on the playground? 
10. Tell the class which of your school books you like best. Why?