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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

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sermon Notes - Second Sunday after Trinity - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 30 June 2019, Anno Domini


                                                 
Second Sunday after Trinity.
The Collect.
                                                                                                    
O
 LORD, who never failest to help and govern those whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love; Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Perhaps beyond any other consideration, it is the SECURITY of the believer in Christ that gives the greatest comfort and confidence. We have an unfailing LORD who is able to For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7) Fear does not come from God, but from the knowledge of one’s sins. When we have come to know God intimately, that fear engendered by our carnal sins is turned to love, and a sound conscience, in that state of forgiveness and justification that comes by the Blood of Christ. O LORD, who never failest to help and govern those whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love. Please note the order of emotions offered in this first line of the prayer – fear PRECEDES love, but love is the finality and victorious emotion that we have in Christ….and it is steadfast! Fear, conditioned by forgiveness and mercy, is converted to an increasing love much like the poisonous gas, chlorine added to sodium, results in an essential compound for life. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
save to the uttermost, and He will not lose any soul placed in His hands by the Father. The process by which our security is assured is through the means of His great help to those who call upon Him, and in His righteous governance in the hearts of those who claim Him as Sovereign of their souls. This governance begins in the fear which a lost soul feels for his unforgiven sins, and is consummated in the deep love that the sinner feels for His Savior once he has repented and come to claim that grace and mercy made available through the works of Christ. 

            Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence,Yes, we are dearly ‘kept for the Master’s use.’ Regardless of the vessels we represent in the Lord’s Vineyard – whether of wood, stone, gold, or silver – each vessel has a place in a great house. It is not the nature of the vessel that is most important, but the treasure which the vessel contains that lends meaningfulness and usefulness to the vessel. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, andprepared unto every good work. (2 Tim 2:20-21) I should prefer to be an earthen vessel of clay, filled with precious souls of children brought before the LORD on the Last Day, than a vessel of pure gold filled with the unprofitable works of this world. A vessel of  clay in the Master’s House is of far greater worth than those of silver and gold which will dissolve in the fervent heat of Hell. Being kept by God under His providential protection is the safest of all places regardless the external circumstances of our lives. He knows all things – future, past, and present – He therefore knows the very best course for our lives. 

            “. . . .make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name.”  This is not the same kind of fear mentioned prior to salvation – it is the kind of fear a son or daughter feels toward their parents in not wanting to disobey them or bring humiliation and shame upon their name. Honoring our parents makes their name respectable, but that respectability does not come close to the Holiness that attaches to the Name of our Almighty God. Our concern for not violating the Holiness of God’s Name must not be a mere passing whim, but it must be a matter of perpetual consciousness in our hearts. It is this kind of fear that increases love at the same instance. No man can love that which he does not respect, but a high regard for loved ones always increases our love for them. It is for this reason that we are commanded to honor our fathers and our mothers. Such honor places them above the common plain of familiar affection. As you will know, there are two Tables of the Law of Commandments. We often believe the first four to reflect our duties to God, and the last six our duties to man. But I believe the first five reflect our whole duty to God – because God is our ultimate Father. So the fifth Commandment is a transition Commandment between our duties to God and man – it reflects both our duty to God and our duty to parents.

            “. . . through Jesus Christ our Lord. Need this phrase be explained? At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:  For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. (John 16:26-27) All prayer must be made through that Redeemer who has made answer to our prayers possible – the Lord Jesus Christ! You may recall that the very last word of the Old Testament seals the meaning thereof: the word is CURSE, because the Law is a curse to us in our frailty and inability to obey. However, the very last line (and prayer) of the New Testament answers the meaning of that Gospel taught to us by Christ and propagated by the Apostles: GRACE! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ bewith you all. Amen. (Rev 22:21)

T
HENsaid he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: 17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. 18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. 19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. 20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. 21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. 22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. 23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.  (Luke 14:16-24)

            At the beginning of Plebe Year as a cadet at the Academy, I learned very quickly not to make excuses when questioned about some deficiency of appearance or conduct. The answer was ALWAYS, “No Excuse, Sir.” Then I might be asked the reason instead of the excuse, and it always came down to my own laziness or inattention in performing my proper duty. Today’s text brings out the flimsy excuses men make to cover their lack of devotion and commitment in meeting their obligations. Each was invited previously according to custom, but when the time came for performing, they made excuse in common consent. This is a trait of the lost sinner, too.

            This parable of today’s text was given at the home of one of the chief Pharisees who had invited Christ to supper. It is doubtless that the invitation was made out of a cordial courtesy, but out of a contemptuous curiosity to learn more of how they might entrap the Son of God.

     The comment that precedes the parable is noteworthy of the casual piety with which many regard the means of salvation. Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God The one posing the comment doubtlessly considered himself to be one of those blessed ones who would eat of that Bread in Heaven.  Many of us simply assume that we shall be among the number and smugly look around at those whose destiny we may consider in doubt. The comment of Balaam seems to best describe this lot: Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!  (Num 23:10)

     The statement, of course, is a profound truth, but the way in which it is viewed from the personal perspective may be profoundly in error. Instead of concerning ourselves about our PRESENTrighteousness, we are too focused on the end of the play – how we shall DIE! We must not occupy our time with undue emphasis on End of Time matters, but rather with those issues of life itself as it exists in the here and now. In order to walk from Jerusalem to Damascus, we must take EVERY step in between. Every step is as important as the last for, if one be missing, we shall not reach Damascus.

     16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:God is the ‘certain man’. The Great Supper is Heaven itself. Those ‘many’ invited are the fullness of the Will of God for those to fill His Heaven at last. We do not know the number, but God certainly has a fixed knowledge of it. God has invited a great many to that Supper. Though an invitation may be received, it will benefit the recipient nothing at all if he fails to respond to the invitation. (“many are called but few are chosen” Matt 20:16)

     Certainly, if you hear these words and have read the Gospel, the invitation has been extended to you. But what will you do in response to the invitation? Are you presently too busy to come? Have you properties to look after that forbids your coming? Are the trifling concerns of the world preventing you? Compared to the salvation of your soul, every other consideration is trifling.

     17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.Jesus is speaking to the Jewish guests who have early been invited to the Great Supper. They have not yet, at this point in His ministry, rejected Him officially. Those hereditary descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – not because of bloodline and DNA, but because of geographic affinity – have been invited first to the Great Supper. “All things are made ready” in the great I AM – the Gift has been presented in the coming of Christ, the life of love and labor has been completed, the sacrifice of the Great Passover has been killed, and the first fruits of God in the Resurrection fulfilled. All is ready at great expense of the “Certain Man” who has extended the invitation. He is speaking, first, to those who have already received the invitation.

     18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.Not a few, but ALL began to make excuse with one consent. It brings the fearful image to mind of all the Jews gathered  on the paddock outside the balcony of Pontiius Pilate screaming Crucify Him! Crucify Him! “His blood be upon us and our children.” (Matt 27:25) …and so it has been, and is today. Of what worth is a piece of ground which belongs to a dying world whose coming fiery death is a stark reality of prophecy? The surgeon has scheduled you for an appointment for surgery to remove a cancer that will certainly kill you soon if not removed. Afterwards, he is leaving for Africa for many months. What happens if you miss the appointment? Will an acre of ground loom more importantly to you than the life-saving surgery?

     19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.Certainly, oxen may be more important to the depraved of faith than coming to the Great Supper in Heaven. How can one night of nuptial bliss surpass the eternal joys of heaven. Did not God give the oxen, the land, the wife? Yet, we have no time for HIM! What is it truly that prevents inquiring men and women from coming all the way to Christ? It is the deceitfulness of riches: He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.  (Matt 13:22) Remember the shipis like the Church. It is made for the sea just as the church is made to be in the world. But when the sea begins to get into the ship, and the world into the church, the resulting ship wreck will be tragic. Those who simply do not desire to serve will always have SOME excuse to delay. The longer the delay, the greater the thorns that choke away the remaining life until…it is too late!

     Bear in mind we do not discuss any ordinary invitation – it is issued by the King of all Kings. Is it wise to refuse? 21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.The purpose of God in bringing the full number of His Elect into the Kingdom will not beabrogated by the small wills and weaknesses of men. He will fill His Supper with those who respond in earnest to His invitation. – even if He must enlarge the list of those invited. So here, in accordance with His foreknowledge and providence from the beginning, He sends for those who will genuinely respond, outside those first invited: the poor, the crippled, the suffering, and the blind. We all may easily fit into this last category. Before we knew Christ, we were absolutely blind. Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? (John 7:48)

      22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.The angels have expanded the list, yet still there remains room for others. Thank God that there does remain room for others, for those others are those who read, and the one who writes, these sermon notes. The maimed, the poor, the halt, and the blind have responded to the invitation ahead of those prominent ones who were privileged to come and have rejected the invitation. There is STILL room – even today! 

     23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.God sends His ministers into the four quarters of the earth seeking those who will respond to His gracious invitation. God will have His House filled with those who desire Heaven more than the riches of this world….not half-full, but wholly full with His predetermined number. The net is cast in the darkest depths of the sea where hope was forlorn and depravity beyond measure. The Gospel will go out to the heathen and the Gentiles. In fact, all of the Household of Israel – those who are Children of the Promise in Abraham. These does not require a blood heritage except the blood of Christ. It is doubtless that the Pharisees gathered around Christ understood fully His parable and were enraged by it. How could those vulgar Gentiles be placed ahead of them in gaining the privilege of Heaven? How, indeed? By faith!

     24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.Heaven will not be a home-delivery proposition. IN order to taste of its delicacies, we must come to it by way of the Householders Son. He has bought and paid for your invitation with His own Blood. He is the “ Way, the Truth, and the Life” and none comes to the Father but by Him. How shall you trample His Blood underfoot by refusing the gracious invitation to come?

Jesus has sealed your invitation with these words: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.(Matt 11:28-30)How have you responded?

Friday, June 28, 2019

Hosea 06 – 28 June 2019, Anno Domini


H
EARthe word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.  By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.  Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.  Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.  Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.  As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.  They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.  And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. 10  For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. 11  Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart. 12  My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. 13  They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery. 14  I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall. 15  Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORDliveth. 16  For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORDwill feed them as a lamb in a large place. 17  Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.18  Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye. 19  The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.  (Hosea 4:1-19)

            We see elements of God’s Judgment against Israel in three particulars in today’s text, and a warning to Judah. He has a controversy with that land which has been possessed of idolatry and every cardinal sin. It is important to observe that God deals differently with the reprobate wicked of the world and those whom He has loved and cherished as His own.

            God did not plead with the men of Sodom and Gomorrah to cease their filthy sins. He simply pronounced judgment upon them and destroyed them with a fiery conflagration; but His own people He chastens – sometimes with a very severe chastisement - which is intended to unfailingly bring them to their senses once more. (It is my belief that any who do not acknowledge God are out of their right mind.)

            We see in Israel the same sins that have come to characterize our formerly righteous land. I am sorry if you consider America a righteous land today (for it may be in comparison to those lands which have not acknowledged God as their Sovereign), but any nation which subverts the perfect plan of God in His institution of marriage as existing singularly between one man and one woman, who resorts to the murder of its innocent babies in the mother’s womb by the millions, and who has elevated wicked men of like minds with themselves as rulers, cannot be considered righteous in the same mold as that nation founded under the Providential guidance of the Holy Spirit more than two centuries ago. If I read Scriptural truth rightly, God has already begun to chastise this nation for her uncommonly evil ways. We have moved the ‘Ancient Landmark’ by promoting error-filled new bibles, and we have refused to walk in the ‘old paths’ wherein our Founding Fathers walked and prepared for us at great expense in blood and treasure. We have sold our souls as cheaply as the price with which Hosea purchased the adulteress, Gomer. 

The chastisement of Israel comes 1) in the form of a hard chastisement of the people for their sins, and 2) of the priests and ministers for their great sins of both commission and omission, and 3) finally both for their idolatry and ‘spiritual adultery’ in following other gods that are not her Husband. For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called(Isaiah 54:5)

What are the ‘other gods’ of America today? Humanism, emotionalism in worship, perversion of marriage, perversion of the birth sex, murder of our infants, deceit in business and especially politics, unmerited pride, and the failure to train up our children in the way they should go. And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD(Leviticus 18:21)Not only is abortion murder, but it also subjects the infant to cruel and intense pain much like that of being placed on the red-hot arms of Molech. The land is defiled by the sins of our people. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.  (Leviticus 18:22-25)Allow me to make this one point clear: This minister of Christ will never cease to preach the sins of Sodom nor neglect the fulness of the truths of perversion found in the latter verses of Romans, Chapter One.

            To whom may we most attribute the sins of old Israel and modern America – her ministers! When the ministers of God are silent in the face of the growing transgressions of a people, the silence is as great as the transgressions they fail to condemn. This is a perfect picture of what has transpired in America to create the sinful disdain for morality and righteousness of our people. National sins and personal sins alike are subject to the same resolution. Sins recognized and confessed early are more easily stanched than those which go unconfessed and little noticed. Like a snowball  released from the mountain peak, they gain speed, mass and momentum as they tumble to the abyss of hell. Our national sins are nothing more than the aggregate sins of our people and their loose view of Holy Scripture. But the man on the wall whose duty it is to warn the people of their transgressions, and the resulting penalty, are more guilty than any. God is truly angry at our ministers who fail to preach the strong, undiluted Word of God. Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORDGod of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.  (Jeremiah 23:1-4)

         Here is a chilling warning to the pastors of America (as to Israel): My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children(Hosea 4:6)  Whose duty has it been to teach and nurture the people in the faith? It is the role of men called of God as ministers. When we observe the lack of wisdom and common sense among the modern citizen of our land, one is astounded at the shallow regard for reason and logic, as well as for the Word of the Lord.

         The last judgment is against the idolatry being practiced in America. Most who are guilty of this sin consider themselves righteous and upstanding citizens – just like the rich young ruler who allowed his wealth to eclipse his faith and love of God. We do sacrifice upon the mountains of manmade religion. We seem to reverence the humanistic policies of the United Nations (Tower of Babel Revisited) more than those divine principles laid out in that glorious document called the ‘Declaration of Independence.’ We have become servile in our dependence on the idol of government rather than a reliance on our God-given talents to fend for ourselves in liberty. Let us heed the counsel of Solomon and of the Apostle Paul: : The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing. Proverbs 20:4 (KJV)and For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.(2 Thessalonians 3:10)

         Consider this question, friends: What is the difference in Israel of old and the Church in America today? 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Hosea 05 – 27 June 2019, Anno Domini

 
T
HENsaid the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. 2  So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: 3  And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee. 4  For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: 5  Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days(Hosea 3:1-5)

            The ways of the Lord seem strange and illogical to the mortal mind at times just as the action of the master of the house may seem strange and senseless to a pet animal; but God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  God must often resort to physical illustration to make spiritual truths discernible to our small understanding. 

            God loved Joseph when He had him ill-treated and sent as a slave down into Egypt. Neither did His love for the treacherous brothers of Joseph lapse. He loved both for He had made provision for them from before the foundation of the world. Joseph was a type of Christ in his example of going down into a land of moral depravity and becoming a savior to his less-righteous brothers. God had named the name of Israel upon Joseph’s father, Jacob. But Israel was unrighteous in forgetfulness, even in the days of Jacob, of the Lord whom Jacob had faced at Penuel (Facing God) and wrestled therewith. 

         So Israel went down into Egypt to escape the famine in Canaan and wound up becoming slaves in the land for four hundred years – yet God remembered Israel and loved them throughout this period of chastening and teaching. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”  (Hebrews 12:6-8) 

            When a father of the world chastens his son or daughter, it is a principle of teaching that motivates the practice. If the child realizes he will suffer disciplinary action and disdain from his father if he plays in the road, he will avoid it out of the fear he has learned from the chastening. 

            God did not leave His people in the Hell of Egypt, but prepared a means for their deliverance in His prophet called Moises whom God groomed and prepared in both opulence and wilderness deprivations.  Now God tells His servant, Hosea, to perform a duty that most men of lesser faith would have baulked at doing – to take a woman unto himself who was a notorious adulteress. God did not tell Hosea to simply TAKE the woman unto himself, but more than this, He told Hosea to LOVE the woman. Hosea purchased the woman at a cost of fifteen pieces of silver – a lesser price than the cost of a slave. Consider the example here given. Israel has played the harlot with the Lord in running after other gods. She plays the harlot in major churches across America, and the world, today. Yet, God still loves His apostate people whom He has chosen as His elect people. This is also true of a husband devoted in love to a wife that has played the adulteress to him who loves with an undying love. 

            Several years ago, I preached a sermon on Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac – his only begotten son. I tried to make clear that God never intended Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but was merely showing us a vivid picture of the pain of a man sacrificing his only beloved for others. I mentioned how the Lord stayed the hand of Abraham in the sacrifice and how Abraham had told Isaac at the base of Mt. Moriah how the Lord would provide Himself the Lamb for the offering – in other words, God would given His own only Begotten Son as the Lamb of God for the sacrifice. Afterwards, during the fellowship hour, one of the parents of one of my beloved young men told me he did not like God.’  I asked why he would say that. He responded, ‘Because God told Abraham to sacrifice his son!’ In spite of my most diligent efforts to make that picture clear, this father missed the point even if his young son did not. We are like that, aren’t we? Many of us have ears to hear, and hear not; and eyes to see and see not.

            “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.” Indeed, Israel did abide many days without a king, prince, or sacrifice. There are two prominent examples that bear this prophecy out: from the end of the Book of the Prophet Malachi until the advent of John the Baptist, four hundred years transpired when there was no king, prince, or sacrifice in the Israel of Jerusalem. There was no word whatsoever from Heaven. These were four centuries of deafening silence from God. So also the Ten Tribes of Israel, in wilderness exile having forgotten their past abode and wandering aimlessly, were without a king, prince, or sacrifice until that made on Mt. Calvary. Those of the gentile nations who were drawn to believe that promise, from every nation, kindred, and people, came to know the essential points of their faith even if the non-essentials of genealogy were forgotten. 

            The early Church of the New Testament spread rapidly throughout Asian Minor and Europe, and from thence throughout the whole world. Such a blessing has that influence, even for unbelievers, been for the uplifting of the poor, the widows, the orphans, the sick and halt in the world. It has been proven true that every nation and tongue has been blessed in that promise made to Abraham long ago on the high desert of Canaan. Once the brilliant and gleaming Light of Christ was shed abroad in the hearts of those who had ears to hear, (and did hear) and eyes to see (and did see), the plight of humanity was markedly improved. The unbecoming yoke of those who had sat in darkness was lifted when they saw the great Light of Christ.

            “Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:5)We must not mistake the nation-state of Israel today to demonstrate the pure faith of God’s people. David the King is dead and buried, but this is not the One to whom God refers as David the King, but rather the Son of David, and God’s own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In spite of our love for the Holy places of Judah and the people of that land above that of the murderous peoples who seek their destruction, these are not a privileged people in the eyes of God. Only those, including the Jewish race, who come seeking the face of the Lord Jesus Christ as their sacrifice (and not Temple sacrifices) will be the chosen and elect people of God, or Israel returned. 

We do not worship a race of people, and neither does God look upon the mortal bloodline of man in seeking those whom He has called out of the world. The only bloodline that matters is that sinless bloodline of our Lord Jesus Christ to which Abraham looked in faith and saw His Day. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56)  The faith of Abraham was a profound faith. He, willing to sacrifice his own son at the command of the Lord, lived in faith of a future Redeemer for those of faith – he looked forward in faith to that even to which we look back upon as a proven historical fact, yet we fail often times in faith. 

God will forever preserve a remnant of His people Israel in the world. Even in ancient days before the Roman invasion of England, there was a remnant Church in England true to God and believing that same promise made to Abraham and knowing it.

              Gomer is a fitting description of the Israel of today with her adulteress abandonment of biblical truth and the God who spoke it. But we look to that better example given in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelations: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.”  (Revelation 12:1-2)

            The Gospel of our Lord is simple and easy to understand – so much so that even a child can know it. Let us avoid complications of genealogy and hyper-theologies that make the study of arcane vocabulary to lifted above the pure and simple truth of God’s Holy Word. Knowing that the Holy Spirit will bring to mind, or reveal, nothing that is not written in that Holy Word. It is complete and sealed. “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth (as we see today in church compromise). Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Hosea 04 – 26 June 2019, Anno Domini



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HEREFORE, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. 15  And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. 16 And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. 17  For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. 18  And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. 19  And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20  I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.21  And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; 22  And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. 23  And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.  (Hosea 2:14-23)

            Let us not be deceived by the brevity of the above text for its implications of Israel Future are profound.  From the ancient days of Israel’s dissolution in the Ten Tribes of the north, she has wandered aimlessly with neither chart nor compass except for the splendor of light breaking through by the Providence of God from the brake in storm clouds which attended her exile. She had forgotten her heritage in God and her kinship to that Redeemer made reference to in Abraham and the testimony of our friend, Job. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”  (Job 19:25-27)  In fact, Israel suffered a spiritual amnesia of her past and identity.The Israel of God has been sprinkled among the nations since the days of Abraham. Those of Abraham’s race were not all part of Israel. They added their own religion to that declared by God. But the spiritual lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob remains fixed among those of faith as the Israel of God. 

            The Scribes, Pharisees, Sadduccees and Jewish rulers at the time of the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ were as lost in manmade religion as most churches of our own time. The Passover which Christ celebrated was that same ‘Lord’s’ Passover to which the ancient prophets referred. (see Ex12:27,48, 34:25; Lev. 23:5; Num 9:10, 14, 28:16; Deut 16:1, 2,; 2 Kings 23:21, etc.)In the days of its institution it has been referred to as the Lord’s Passover, or the Passover of the Lord, in the days of the Prophets. But the order and observance of the Lord’s Passover were changed somewhat and added to by the Jewish hierarchy so that by the time of our Lord’s ministry, it was frequently called the Jew’s Passover.  Nonetheless, our Lord Jesus Christ became our full and complete Passover at His Passion and Sacrifice at Golgotha. It is His Passover Supper that we observe in our Holy Communion

         The Jews laid claim to the title of Israel, and so they were racially at some point a part of Israel; however, the Ten Tribes of Israel had disappeared just as surely as any trace of true faith had disappeared in the Jewish religion (as contrasted with that of Abraham’s faith). “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that 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. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:” The seed are called by means of faith and not racial generation.

         We see this principle exemplified in many other passages of New Testament Scripture including: “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” See how this passage follows the scarlet thread of salvation in Romans: 

C
OMETHthis blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law(bloodline), but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith (spiritual), that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law (blood descent), but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:9-16) 

         There are many other passages that point to the descent from Abraham is by faith and not bloodline only, but space in this short study does not permit elaboration. As was the Israel to whom Hosea witnessed, Israel has been blinded so that they have no reliance on claims of descent, but faith only. In His predestined election, God knows His own and calls them forth by faith by the means of grace alone so that merit is not a factor, and could not be in deserving salvation. Do you boast of your choice in following righteousness? If so, you boast in vain for righteousness on your part had nothing to do with God’s calling and election of your sorry soul to His flock. 

            Hosea’s dealing with Gomer and her children is not unlike His dealings with Israel of today. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.”(Hosea 2:14)Israel has been historically drawn into the wilderness when she has forgotten her salvation in Christ. The wilderness is a quiet place and one affording little distraction except for thirst of water and hunger for bread – the Water of Life and the Bread of Heaven.  Here are absent the singing of birds, or the roar of the rivers. God’s Voice is much more easily discerned in the wilderness. 

            The Israel of both the Old and New Testament Church is scattered throughout many nations, but God knows His sheep. He calls them by name, and they know His Voice and respond. Her husband, as Isaiah says, is her Maker. He will take back Israel, His estranged wife. He will utter words of comfort in the wilderness wherever He has drawn her. The false gods that have occupied an unrighteous curiosity will be forgotten: “For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.” Israel will forget the false gods (Baalim) as easily as she formerly forgot her true God and Husband of her youth. Here is a promise to comfort those whose hearts are chambered in love for their precious pets: “And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely.

            Here is God’s promise to all of Israel who place their trust and faith, by grace, in that promise made to Abraham long ago in the wilderness of Canaan: “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Hymns of the Church – The Rich Man and Lazarus – 25 June 2019, Anno Domini



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HERE was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20  And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21  And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22  And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:19-23)

This hymn was written by a minister well-acquainted with the doctrines of the Bible and a prolific writer of hymns to make those doctrines clear to the hearer. His name is Philip Doddridge (1702-1751). His many hymns are all designed to further an understanding of Holy Scripture even for those who were illiterate in reading. The tune is PENTECOSTwritten in 1864 by William Boyd, and it conveys the reverence of God’s holiness to the lyrics composed by Doddridge though the tune was first written for “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire.” The name of the hymn is sometimes referred to as “IN WHAT CONFUSION EARTH APPEARS!” - the first line.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

In what confusion earth appears!
God's dearest children bathed in tears;
While they, who heaven itself deride,
Riot in luxury and pride.

But patient let my soul attend,
And, ere I censure, view the end;
That end, how different, who can tell?
The wide extremes of heaven and hell.

See the red flames around him twine,
Who did in gold and purple shine!
Nor can his tongue one drop obtain
T' allay the scorching of his pain.

While round the faint so poor below
Full rivers of salvation flow;
On Abra'm's breast he leans his head,
And banquets on celestial bread.

Jesus, my Savior, let me share
The meanest of thy servant's fare;
May I at last approach to taste
The blessings of thy marriage-feast.

1 In what confusion earth appears! God's dearest children bathed in tears; While they, who heaven itself deride, Riot in luxury and prideDoes this first sentence not perfectly describe this orb of chaos upon whose turf we dwell and make our lives? Those issues such as love, marriage, civil restraint and courtesy, and sobriety were merely the natural state of decent society in the days of my youth – today, there is a rarity of decent society. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20 (KJV)The dignity of law is given to perversions of sex and the sins of Sodom. Pornography is elevated in sex education classes for our youth while prayer and Bible readings are forbidden. The abortion of innocents in their mother’s womb is praised while Godly family life is assailed as quaint and out of date. The wicked seem to prosper while the righteous suffer want. But there is purpose in all of God’s plan for His Elect, and that purpose is easily observed in the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man just as it was revealed in the life of dear Job.

2 But patient let my soul attend, And, ere I censure, view the end; That end, how different, who can tell? The wide extremes of heaven and hell.” Success in life itself is closely reliant upon our measure of patience – a Godly virtue, indeed. If we will patiently forego the little luxuries of life in our youth and save, we may have the resources to invest in business or profession when our savings allow. But spendthrifts lack patience and enjoy the summer corn and starve in the winter months. In living the life God has willed for us, we must exercise that same patience of a wise steward. Though our righteous honor may seem to cut us short from the advantages of the less honorable in life, a patient reliance upon the Providence of God will bring a more enduring reward in the end. There is a thin line between Heaven and Hell, but the degree of difference is beyond description. The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man will bear that truth out in bold relief. 

3 See the red flames around him twine, Who did in gold and purple shine! Nor can his tongue one drop obtain T' allay the scorching of his painThe Rich Man can lay claim to no asset at all – even a name which he needs not in the lonely fires of Hell. He carelessly enjoyed his finery in selfish living in this life, and will suffer every deprivation in the life to come. (By the way, we all will spend an eternity someplace – either in Heaven or Hell). The Rich Man never wanted of a drop of water when the world seemed to lay at his feet. Now, the most routinely available of natural resources are withheld. Not only is he without material blessings, but immeasurable pain and suffering are added in the place thereof. Even his mind is tormented for his brothers who seem destined to share the same end.

4 While round the faint so poor below Full rivers of salvation flow; On Abra'm's breast he leans his head, And banquets on celestial breadBread and water are the essentials of life. Lazarus, who begged for bread from the Rich Man and his friends now has an abundance of the best Bread of all – the Bread of Heaven. But the Rich Man, never lacking the best cuisine and wines, now yearns only for a drop of water from the finger of Lazarus. The text is not about ONE beggar, but TWO! Lazarus was a beggar on earth but a rich man in Heaven; and the Rich Man was wealthy on earth but has become a beggar in Hell. Wealth is no bar to salvation, but it is a hindrance to many whose eyes are blinded by that wealth so much so that God is eclipsed by things of this world engendered by greed and lust. It should be noted that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. If one considers a life in Hell to be defined as living, the Rich Man is also as alive today as Abraham. But eternal damnation is an existence apart from God and Love. Eternal life is on a far different scale than the life of damnation reserved for the wicked. 

5 Jesus, my Savior, let me share The meanest of thy servant's fare; May I at last approach to taste The blessings of thy marriage-feast.  Who was the Savior of Lazarus as he lay before the Rich Man’s door? It was the same Lord Jesus Christ upon whom Abraham fixed his faith, and upon whom you and I look for salvation. The poor feel the need and presence of God more commonly in their lives of deprivation than those to whom every need is provided by a wealthy sire. I have noticed this fact in the mountains of Luzon, the jungles of the Solomon’s, the rice paddies of Asia, and the bush country of Kenya. When the next morsel of food seems too much to hope for, the poor turn to God who provides for those who believe. The feasts and banqueting of the Rich Man were enjoyed in the sight of poor Lazarus, yet no one cared for him or invited him to the feasts thrown by the Rich Man. Now the Rich Man can see Lazarus as he enjoys his own feast of opulent provision given on his behalf by His Lord and Redeemer, but no one will notice the Rich Man’s cries and screams in Hell for that wide abyss to which Abraham made reference precludes Heaven from witnessing the pains of Hell, but not those in Hell from witnessing the splendors of Heaven. Our Lord has made His Invitation list In Heaven for His greatly anticipated Marriage Supper. He will invite those only whose names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I pray that your name appears there.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sermon Notes - First Sunday after Trinity - 23 June 2019, Anno Domini


                                                 
First Sunday after Trinity.
The Collect.

O
 GOD, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee; Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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HERE was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was
carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.  (Luke 16:19-31)

           Today we will be looking at the lives, deaths, and afterlife of two beggars – one, Lazarus who begged during this life; and the second, the rich man, who begged in the fires of Hell.

An important point raised in the text is the importance of a NAME. A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.(Proverbs 22:1)What difference between the rich man’s name and that of the beggar, Lazarus. Much to be treasured for the Beggar Lazarus HAD a name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; and the rich man had no name, nor did he need one, in the fires of Hell.

           Before delving too deeply into the account, let me provide you some food for thought. Suppose you were blessed with great riches. You needed for nothing, and yearned for EVERYTHING. You had such an abundance that you could feed an army and not miss a single grain of wheat. But one day, your lavish living came to an end. You are taken captive by a band of marauders from far across the sea. They strip you of your finery, take all of your identification from you, and cast you into a subterraining prison somewhere in the far-off  Gobi Desert. You are isolated from all other human beings. Your only meal is a slow rat. Your water is the filthy streams of bacteria-ridden water that descends into your dungeon. Who will you call upon for help? There is only one, and that is God. But God will not hear the prayers of a man whose heart is filled with iniquity.

           The salient question is this: Of what value to you is all that wealth and opulence you left behind? You will never lay hand on a silver spoon or a silk shirt again. Your hope is forlorn. That describes Hell except for the better state of the dungeon. That is the situation the rich man faced once separated from his luxury and ease of living. 

           This Gospel text for today, like every textual passage in Holy Scripture, not only bears counsel and guidance to those of the time of their being spoken, but also to us in our day. In the Reformation Church, all preaching was conducted expositorily – that is, the scripture passage itself was used as the outline, substance, and meaning of the sermon. Sermons were not built upon isolated verses often taken out of context. It is God’s Word we are to preach, not ours. In the sermon, it is the solemn responsibility of the preacher to draw direct comparisons to the manner in which the textual passage has direct bearing and meaning to us. God’s Word is not only history, it is also of present currency in our time and for ALL time. It is a Living Word to all who read and believe – but also to those who reject it and incur the curses and wrath that is sure to follow such rejection. Jesus taught in parables to make the Gospel clear and relevant to the people of faith. We must make our preaching relevant as well. The world is very frank in its expressions of evil, so why should the ministers of God be abstruse to the point of obscurantism in preaching?

           The text for today is not only a Parable ensconced in real truth, but presented by Christ in a perfect compendium of much broader truths. These truths will escape the understanding of the heathen, but come as refreshing showers on a dry and thirsty land to those who love and cherish His Word. Many will refer to this account of the Rich man and Lazarus as merely a parable; but I disagree due to the fact that this is the only such parable that includes actual names of real people – not the least, Abraham! And do not forget Lazarus! Before we look more closely at this great parable of Jesus, we must understand that Christ never uses a parable of things physical or spiritual whose principle is not consistent with the truth.  This story of the rich man and Lazarus may be just as actual as it is figurative. God’s principles never change and neither does His truth.

           From today’s text, there are two opposing personalities involved – a rich man (whose name is not given), and Lazarus, a poor beggar. As we explore the Deep of this Parable, I hope you will be asking yourself this question: “Which am I – the Rich man, or Lazarus?” A good friend of mine from the West Coast recently reminded me of the words of Solomon the King, 9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.(Eccl 1:9-10)Solomon was referring to newness of evil and wickedness – it has always been; but I aver that there does exist, in the Kingdom of Heaven, a newness that is readily and easily seen and defined – the New Creature in Christ that we all become as devotees and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. And not only that, but our understanding may reveal new truths (to us) that we never observed in God’s Word before and after many readings. When I refer back to the numerous sermons and devotions I have delivered, or written, concerning today’s text, I am amazed at the newfound gems of truth that emerge with every successive reading of it.

           One profound point immediately comes to fore in this text is the reality of an actual Heaven and an actual Hell.  Each reader of this devotion has his final estate in one or the other of these two destinations. Yet another point is this: God does not always provide material reward to His righteous in this world. The tables are often turned so that the wealthy are the wicked, and the poor, the righteous. It does not necessarily need to be so, but often is. Even a very righteous man may be corrupted when he comes into great wealth. He may forget the estate from which he has come, and dwell only on the improvement of his finances.

           The deference which Christ shows to the poor man in giving him a Godly name, Lazarus, or Eleazar (in Hebrew), is notable. The name means, God is MY Help. We have churches in the AOC in parts of the world in which every member depends upon God alone for the next morsel of food they consume. This Holy name imputes a righteous character to the poor man. 

     But what of the rich man? He is given no name at all. Why do you suppose this is so? Because if our names are not written in the Book of Life, then they are not written at all. In fact, there are no names in Hell. Why would you need a name there? (see Rev. 3:5)

    19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.
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This man was filled with himself and cared not a whit for those around him. He had much more than he needed, yet was unwilling to share a morsel from his well-stocked pantry to a poor man diseased and dying. The love of wealth petrifies the heart and closes its gates of mercy. Christ only refers to this man as a “rich man.” He has no redeeming qualities that recommend him to God. The rich man, by the way, has no wicked reputation mentioned here either. The world considered him quite honorable – but, like the rich young ruler, there was one thing the rich man was missing!

     20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores

You may wonder why Lazarus is a beggar? Could it be a result of his complete helplessness due to disease? He could not help himself – he had to be helped. Someone must help those around us who are unable, due to tragic circumstances, to help themselves. Before the advent of utopian and socialistic philosophy, the Church and Community were the source of help – and still should be.

    21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

He desired no great thing – only to be fed the crumbs from the rich man’s table. These the rich man did not need, but it is doubtful that the rich man cared enough to give them to Lazarus. Even though men of means showered no mercy on their own kind, at least the dogs lived up to their reputation of loyalty. The dogs comforted Lazarus – not with food which they had not – but with compassion and love. Are we better than dogs?

22And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.

How casually does the LORD make reference to that grave which awaits every beloved reader of this devotion. It shall come to pass that each of us shall die. Then what? 

     You will observe a great difference in the disposition of Lazarus after death, and that of the rich man after death. Christ says of the beggar (he) was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosomTruly the destination of all righteous souls. Abraham is father, not only to the Hebrews, but all who believe in the Promised Seed – Jesus Christ! What a royal sendoff did Lazarus receive. Though a poor, sick beggar, he was honored with the dignity of being carried by the angels to Abraham’s Bosom. Angels are important heavenly dignitaries, but not so dignified as to ignore any soul that dies in Christ. 

     How does the honor paid Lazarus differ from the disposition of the Rich Man’s body? The rich man also died, and was buried. He was placed, not in the Bosom of Abraham, but in the depth of the earth – his eternal home, or ultimately, Hell. Instead of the angels carrying him to Abraham’s Bosom, the rich man lies in the cursed soil of the world. 

Our words do not fully reveal the extent of the tragedy of such a lifestyle – the fires of Hell await such a one the very moment his eyes are blinded by death.

    23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Christ does not leave the reality of hell open for question, but states the fact outright. There are FIRES in Hell, and torments as well. There are no medical stations there to relieve the pain for, in Hell, the character of its citizens rule – NO MERCY! The rich man can see Lazaraus “afar off” in the bosom of Abraham. Heaven is a far off place from Hell. But the wicked can see the delight of those in Heaven.

    24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

The pride of wealth no longer dominates the rich man’s thinking. He takes no longer pride in his fine raiment for that was burned away the moment he was cast into Hell. The rich man begs for that which he had none of in life – MERCY! Lazarus is now rich, and the rich man a beggar. He begs for mercy to be delivered by the very finger of him to whom he granted no mercy. Hell is a hot dry place. The drought never ends there. It is interesting to note that there is no evidence that Lazarus is aware of the rich man’s condition in Hell. Such knowledge might dampen his joy in Heaven for he obviously was a man of compassion as opposed to the rich man. Hell is a place of torment. God sends no one to Hell – we send ourselves.

    25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

We sometimes find men in conditions and circumstances from which we cannot extricate them, but we still should have what kindness we can have and show respectful regard. Observe with what sympathy Abraham addresses the rich man in Hell: He calls him “son!” It is possible that this man could have been a true son of Abraham as was Lazarus had he followed in that faith of Abraham in Christ. But he was more likely a son by hereditary descent and not spiritual. The temporary luxuries of riches born out of greed will avail nothing in Heaven. The pleasure is so temporary, and eternity so very long – endless in fact.

    26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

We must recognize that the distance is so great between Heaven and Hell that none can pass to and from. No one has descended to Hell and returned to tell of it, and the same is true of Heaven regardless the cheap little books of commercial fodder marketed today. If you believe that you can visit Hell, you probably will do so for longer than you wish.

    27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

Even the wicked in Hell are aware of the lost condition of their loved ones. Does this give cause for pause? Those in Hell would do anything to save their loved ones (for the damned also love their own) from coming to such a place of hot torment. 

     29Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

Have we, too, heard the voice of Moses from the beginning in Genesis? Have we heard and heeded the writings of the prophets and the Gospel and Epistles that tell of Christ? If so, it is enough! We need no astounding signs to prove our faith else it is not faith. An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth(Matt 12:39-40)Is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior enough for you, or do you seek cleverly designed signs of men?

    30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

Really? Christ rose from the dead and the obstinate, faithless Jewish rulers still hated Him. Faith is based in hope and love, not sure evidence.

     31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.  

If our faith is not founded on God’s Word, no other considerations are important. We believe because God’s Love is reflected to our hearts in the hope and reality revealed by Scripture. If our hearts are made of lead, the iron Magnet will not attract it. There must be a kinship (even if distant) in the heart that responds to the Call of God. Do you have that kinship?

           Friends, let us consider this last verse more intently. The Jewish rulers claimed to be righteous and Holy, yet, their lives and conduct belied the fact. They constantly pestered Christ to show them a miracle because that would be their only foundation for faith; but miracles are not the foundation of faith – our faith is based upon the Person of Jesus Christ, and His Truth. The Law and the Prophets pointed, as surely as does the Holy Spirit today, to the Lord Jesus Christ! Even if One were to return from the dead, yet will they not believe if they have not known the Mentor of our Faith! Jesus Christ did, indeed, return from the dead, and the rulers of the Jews maintained their obstinacy of faith. They still did not believe! Christ and His Life, Death, and Resurrection are not merely historical facts, but are great stones of faith and remembrance to us. If we do not see our own privilege of eternal life in the resurrection of Christ, we may perish in doubt and loss of hope. 

           Today, the world and its so-called churches, are morally anemic and fearful to address sin and the devil as the enemy of our souls which they are. In fact, many of our churches today have embraced the most egregious sins and perversions. Our pastors are afraid to mention sin, or to criticize the secular arm, for breaches of the moral law. Until we identify the enemy and offer the means of biblical defense, what purpose do we serve as ministers and as Christian people?  

           Will you beg for mercy in this life while salvation is possible, or become a beggar like the rich man when Hell is your only abode?