Follow by Email

Who are we?

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, October 31, 2019

All Hallows Eve and Reformation Day – 31 October 2019, Anno Domini



A
ND, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52  And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose53  And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.  (Matthew 27:51-53)

T
O all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.  First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.   (Romans 1:7-8)

            For every Christian holiday on our calendar, Satan has invented perversions. Unable to deny the reason for our calendar date of 2019 Anno Domini (that number of years since an important event – the birth of Christ), he began to invent imposters to represent the event, especially to children. St. Nicholas, who by all accounts, was a good and noble bishop, became the symbol of Christmas to children. He saw all behavior, just as our Lord does, and brought gifts to children who had been good. But St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, could not erase the underlying reason for the season; so, the Christmas carols were abandoned for light and meaningless jingles. Still, the memory of Christ as the central figure of Christmas remained despite all those perversions. A new concept was undertaken to literally remove Christ from Christmas. They would merely substitute His Holy Name with an ‘X’ – Xmas! (no Greek letter to the contrary can replace that Name). 

            Amazingly, many still clung to the Lord Jesus Christ as the reason for the season. Now, the world turned to a new approach. They would simply rename the season from Christmas to Winter Break, or simply, Happy Holidays. This same effort to pervert Christian holidays has broadly been applied across the spectrum.

            Today, October 31st, is an ancient church holiday called All Hallows Eve. It is the day before All Saints Day. It was intended as a time of remembrance and honor for those saints from the mighty soldier and king, to the humble shoemaker, all of whose lives were dedicated to Christ. Saints are not superior to the common race, they are simply men and women who believe in an all-merciful and loving Lord. To honor the followers of Christ would not do. The world perverted the celebration to become a celebration of Satan’s own special delight – DEATH!   So, the night is filled with goblins and ghosts, spider webs of the tomb and gravestones. Horribly deformed creatures dominate the scene and, in some cases, rioters burn down entire city blocks. Some holiday, isn’t it?

            More important to the Church is to recall the significance of the 31st of October.  It was on All Hallows Eve – the day before All Saints Day – that the great Christian reformer, Martin Luther, nailed his 95 Theses on the door of a certain church in Wittenberg, Saxony. It may be more than coincidence that he chose this particular church since that church was ALL SAINTS CHURCH! That day became celebrated as Reformation Day – a day to remember the restoration of the Holy Bible as the Herald and Arbiter of all Truth, and a departure from the dark and bloody past of heresies untold. Martin Luther thusly rekindled the fiery Spirit of Truth and Love to a people whose unbecoming yokes had been lifted by the brilliant sunbursts of Truth and Light.

            It is obvious to the thinking soul that the world would not at all be happy with this day of remembrance. Something must be done to take the people’s minds off of those gleaming glories above and re-focused on the dark and ugly mirage of the underworld – death and bloody terror.  So, Halloween has persisted for these centuries. Almost no young child can answer correctly to the question, “What is All Hallows Eve,” or, “When is Reformation Day?” Just imagine the blessings and good fortunes that were restored on that October day in 1517 when Luther open the floodgates of truth and light to us and our posterity. Will we allow the world to substitute death and darkness for life and Light? 

            As the leaves catch fire and adorn the trees with magical colors, and the temperatures plunge below the outdoor comfort zone, it seems a very fitting time to celebrate the deeper spiritual mysteries of life instead of the dark and ugly. Below is a poem I wrote during the cold months a few years back which may warm your heart and inspire your soul:

Fireside Solitude

In the quiet and lonely moments 
as I muse before the fire,
And the gales outside are blowing,
And there’s winter in the air.

I am made to go a’wandering
Down the amber mists of old,
And behold the flowers of summer
As my younger days unfold.
  
In the glimmer of the faces
Of my family, friends, and kin
Who have left for better pasture
And forgotten all that’s been.

I see a light of mystery
Hidden deep behind the scene
Of a greater love and comfort
Than for man has ever been.

The love of God caresses
Their weary heads and hearts
As they smile behind the vapors
At the love His Hand imparts.

In my solitude and wonder
My heart is made to know
That our Father has a purpose
 though to us He may not show.

He makes our lives in patterns
Overlaid with points of light, 
And all our memories precious
In His Gardens of Delight.

I know that life is fleeting
As the sands of time fall fast,
And yet we know not how much sand 
Is in the upper glass.

The comfort that we gather,
Regardless day or clime,
Outlasts the winter’s season –
No longer bound by TIME

©2013 Jerry Ogles

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Habit – 30 October 2019, Anno Domini


I
 BESEECH you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.  (Romans 12:1-8)

            Our lives are filled with spiritual ruts just as the wagon ruts are made by repetitious passage over a dirt road. The ruts on the road are not intentionally caused, and require no conscious effort to make. It is as a stream of water crossing over a stone surface for centuries that will eventually wear a deep river bed, or even a canyon, into that stone surface (much as the Grand Canyon). 

            There are chiefly three fundamental categories of habits – good, bad, and indifferent. An extreme form of a bad habit would be tobacco smoking. The habit is enhanced by chemical products in the tobacco. The devil always adds some enhancement to a bad habit in order to perpetuate that habit.

            I will provide an example of an indifferent habit learned in early childhood. It is not bad, nor does it offer any benefit of goodness. When I was four or five years old, my sweet grandmother (Granny Mae) used to take me shopping into the city every Saturday morning with a promise to buy me a ‘play pretty.’ I was a rambunctious young fellow and my grandmother told me something to occupy my mind on something other than running out into the streets. She told me that I must be very careful not to step on the cracks in the side walk for that would mean I would be breaking my grandmother’s back, or stepping on her grave. So, since I loved my grandmother very much, I took great pains to avoid stepping on the seams in the concrete sidewalk. That formed a habit that has occupied my mind with every walk along city sidewalks today. I still find myself trying to avoid ‘breaking my grandmother’s back’ or ‘stepping on her grave.’ 

            An example of a good habit is the etiquette of saying ‘thank you’ when granted any kindness by others. In my day, all youngsters were taught courtesy and etiquette in elementary school. Now it seems just the opposite is taught. 

         We have all heard the term, ‘habitual sinner.’ That is a very excellent term to identify those whose decadent and depraved lives are continually bound by sinful habits to which they have grown callous even to the awareness of their own sinful ways. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  (1 Timothy 4:1-2) 

But we do not hear the righteous referred to with the same sense. Sinful habits are aided by a gravity that makes going down the Broad and Downward way seem preferable to the uphill climb on the Narrow Way that leads up to God. An evil habit requires no effort aforethought – it is simply the fleshly response to some carnal stimulus. But a righteous habit DOES require thought and action on the part of the respondent. The righteous must go against their natural inclinations and act upon the sinews of faith and loyalty of the Truth, the Way, and the Life. That is not natural – it is supernatural. 

I quote here an old doctor of theology, Edwarde Whately: It is important to keep in mind that – as is evident from what is seen daily about us – habits are formed, not at one stroke, but gradually and insensibly; so that, unless vigilant care be employed, a great change may come over the character without our being conscious of any. For, as Dr. Ben Johnson has well expressed it, ‘The diminutive chains of habit are seldomheavy enough to be felt, till they are too strong to be broken.’

Of course, living the Christian life of moral conduct and fervent love may also be termed a habit, but it is more than that – it is a divine sanctification of one’s life in Christ. As we honor our Lord in all that we do daily, it becomes less likely, by and by, that we can be tempted away to the wilderness of sin and ruin. It is not that temptation does not occur, but that we have grown stronger day by day in living out our faith in works and grace to resist it.

There is an old Chinese tale of a young married lady who hated her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law was overly demanding, critical of every move of the girl, and never showed any affection whatsoever, no matter how persistent the girl was in doing all her bidding. She went to an old hermit to decry her predicament. The old hermit, full of wisdom, told her he had just the solution. He told the girl to return the next day and he would have a means produced to alleviate her misery. Next day, at first light, the young woman appeared at the door of the hermit. He bade her have a cup of tea while he fetched the article that was intended to make her life easier. Soon, he came from the back of his parlor with an ingenious mask, in an almost exact appearance as her face, that the girl was to wear. It was constructed in such a manner as to force the girl to smile always. He told her to put the mask on and never remove it. The girl did as the old hermit told her. Some three months later, the young woman returned. She removed the mask and returned it to the hermit. “I need the mask no more, dear sir,” she said. “When I wore the smiling mask, my mother-in-law changed her treatment of me. It even became easy for me to love her and to respond in the same spirit as the smile I wore. I now love my mother-in-law, and she loves me.”

The habit of smiling and being kind to others is a dimension of sanctifying grace imparted by God. Does the world not need just common courtesy and decency that for centuries has characterized the graces of God in Christ and His followers? As faith has waned more and more, the hearts of common society has grown cold and devoid of any measure of mercy and kindness. We hear daily of the murder of the most innocent life on the planet in the abortion of innocent babies who have not glimpsed their first sunrise. Children are taught in godless education indoctrination classes that there is no such thing as a difference in boys and girls – that we can be whatever our wicked imaginations are inclined to believe. Every perversion takes on the force of law and dignity.

 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness(2 Thessalonians 2:7-12)

Societies today, around the world, are falling victim to a great delusion. The more evil the imagination, the greater the depravity demonstrated. Perversions of every imaginable stripe are emerging. It has become a trait of formerly decent and moral societies to habitually accept every extreme evil that is professed by government and their allies in the public media. 

The forces of the delusionally wicked are rapidly proliferating, but make no mistake: God has His REMNANT in waiting! The time will come when these will be so few as to constitute a small camp enclave which is threatened by the assembled armies of the whole world. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10) 

I hope I answer muster on that last roll call! How about you, friend? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Hymns of the Church – Beaulah Land – 29 October 2019, Anno Domini



F
OR 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 (KJV)
 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.        (Isaiah 62:2-4)

            This is another old and beautiful Gospel song whose lyrics, apparently, did not rise to the sophistication required by the 1940 Hymnal editors but whose beauty exceeds most hymns that are, indeed, included. The hymn was published in 1876, the composition of Edgar P. Stites, and to the tune, BEULAH LAND, by John R. Sweeney. Stites, a native of Cape May, New Jersey, had a varied background of experiences including that of  Civil War soldier, Riverboat pilot, a lay missionary, and a local business man of Cape May. His testimony of his experience in writing this hymn (explained in the devotion) adds meaning and beauty to the lyrics.

Beulah Land

I’ve reached the land of corn and wine,
And all its riches freely mine;
Here shines undimmed one blissful day,
For all my night has passed away.
Refrain:
O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land,
As on thy highest mount I stand,

I look away across the sea,
Where mansions are prepared for me,
And view the shining glory shore,
My heav’n, my home forevermore!

My Savior comes and walks with me,
And sweet communion here have we;
He gently leads me by His hand,
For this is Heaven’s borderland.

A sweet perfume upon the breeze,
Is borne from ever vernal trees,
And flow’rs that never fading grow
Where streams of life forever flow.

The zephyrs seem to float to me,
Sweet sounds of Heaven’s melody,
As angels with the white-robed throng
Join in the sweet redemption song.

I’ve reached the land of corn and wine, And all its riches freely mine; Here shines undimmed one blissful day, For all my night has passed awayThe beauty of this song is made more profound by the deeper spiritual meaning which the author incorporates – completely consistent with the biblical meaning related. The word used for corn does not refer to the American grain originating in southern Mexico, but to any grain such as wheat, barley, or rice. The meaning at the time of the English translation of the KJV was, and still is, “ . . . .the grain of a cereal grass that is the primary crop of a region (such as wheat in Britain and oats in Scotland and Ireland).” In the above stanza, it probably relates to wheat from which bread is made, and to wine, both of which are an indispensable part of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. After Mr. Stites wrote the first two verses of this hymn, he simply was forced to stop writing being overcome with a strong spiritual emotion. Here is his report of that event: 

"It was in 1876 that I wrote ‘Beulah Land.’ I could write only two verses and the chorus, when I was overcome and fell on my face. That was one Sunday. On the following Sunday I wrote the third and fourth verses, and again I was so influenced by emotion that I could only pray and weep. The first time it was sung was at the regular Monday morning meeting of Methodists in Philadelphia. Bishop McCabe sang it to the assembled ministers. Since then it is known wherever religious people congregate. I have never received a cent for my songs. Perhaps that is why they have had such a wide popularity. I could not do work for the Master and receive pay for it."

The mid part of the stanza is filled with an awe-inspiring truth: at the marriage of the Bridegroom to His Bride, the possessions of the Bridegroom becomes a common possession of the Bride; and the latter portion, too, is a reflection of a prophecy made – in that wonderful land of Beulah, there will be no night: “Rev 5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5)  

It seems appropriate, before proceeding, to point out two important meanings. Hephzibah is a Hebrew word meaning “possession of my delight;” and the second, Beulah, is a word for marriage as between the Lord , and the  Bride of His delight in New Jerusalem. In the end of days, our Lord will bring forth that land as a Bride adorned for her Husband. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2) This is not the war-torn old Jerusalem, full of wars and strifes, but a new and Holy Jerusalem, as the abode for His Bride. She shall no longer be called ‘Forsaken’ but blessed and prized as the Bride of our Lord.

            My Savior comes and walks with me, And sweet communion here have we; He gently leads me by His hand, For this is Heaven’s borderland. Yes, if we “come to the Garden alone while the dew is still on the Roses”  (as Mary Magdalene at the Garden Tomb), our Lord will hold private Communion with our souls. Jordan Banks represent a borderland for the crossing over to the Promise Land of the beleaguered Christian. If the Lord does not take our hand in that crossing, who else is has the authority or inclination?

A sweet perfume upon the breeze, Is borne from ever vernal trees, And flow’rs that never fading grow Where streams of life forever flow. The beauty of expression in this hymn reminds me of another beautiful old, and seldom heard, hymn entitled Is Not This the Land of Beulah.

I am dwelling on a mountain,
Where the Golden Sunlight gleams
O’er a land whose wondrous beauty
Far exceeds my fondest dreams;
Where the air is pure, ethereal,
Laden with the breath of flowers,
That are blooming by the Fountain,
‘Neath the amaranthine bowers.

The River of Life is in the City of our God whose flowing waters are eternal and effulgent with joy and Light. The Lord will bring His Bride out from among the vulgar commons, and take her unto Himself: “I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen.” (Ezekiel 20:41) These are all Israel, whether Jew or Gentile, who belong as a Bride to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The zephyrs seem to float to me, Sweet sounds of Heaven’s melody, As angels with the white-robed throng Join in the sweet redemption song. The Bride shall be borne forth with the soft, gentle breeze (zephyr) of the Holy Ghost.  So will the grandest angelic chorus ever heard in Heaven or earth be sounded at thy welcome.

Refrain
            O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land, As on thy highest mount I stand, I look away across the sea, Where mansions are prepared for me, And view the shining glory shore, My heav’n, my home forevermoreThere is no mountain that towers higher than the Mountain of the Lord. When we stand with Him, we shall shall share the vantage point of that High Fortress. Looking with a more perfect vision as our eyes grow dim with age, we look across those turbid waters of Jordan to that Land of Promise to which Moses ascended once he was forbidden to cross over into that less glorious land of Promise. Our Bridegroom, as was the custom for those in days of old, gone to prepare a place for His Bride; and He shall return when the Father deems the moment appropriate. “Jn 1  Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3) Once Heaven’s shores are viewed, even from our distant vantage point, there can be no other place to satisfy the heart of the weary pilgrim. We shall stake our claim to that beautiful shore according to the calling and grace of our Lord and Savior, High Priest and King.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity - AOC Sunday Report


The AOC Sunday Report can be downloaded RIGHT HERE!

There are really great sermons today from Bishops Jerry and Roy, as well as Revs Jack and Bryan.  They are, as usual, quite a bit different and very very good.  They are easy reads.

There are always a lot of people how need your prayer, please take a little time to pray for them.  It will help both of you.  Start with Amy's dad Bill and Amy herself, Shamu, Tricia, Hope and work out from there!

There is a super EPIC week ahead, but you will not find it without the help of that Third God Guy, the Holy Ghost.

Godspeed,

Hap
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, CA

Sermon Notes - Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 27 October 2019, Anno Domini


The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect.

O
 GOD, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

T
HOU art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity …..(Habakkuk 1:13a)



J
esus entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus, seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. (Matt 9:1-8)

            The Collect for today, and the Gospel Text, go hand in hand to reveal the deeper beauty of the text.

            There may appear a seeming impasse for imperfect children of God in this prayer, but it is only apparent and not real. How can those imperfect professors of Christ please God in their imperfections when God cannot look upon the slightest sin and wickedness, especially in view of this fact: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) If we had continued reading in Romans 3, we would have read that it is righteousness by Faith in Jesus Christ by which we are all justified. God the Father views us in light of the imputed righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ! It is our faith, dictated by God’s elective grace, that brings us into that covering of Grace for all our sins.

            O GOD, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee So, apart from Christ, there can be no salvation. Without Christ, there is no reconciliation of the sinner to the terms of justification and salvation to God. We must have that nature and mind that was in Christ imparted to our own natures and minds. Even the will to do good cannot exist in a heart that does not belong to God. An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin(Proverbs 21:4) Though our pride and vanity are our ancient stumbling blocks to keep us from righteousness, even the small things of life that seem good are not so with God. Now, I am sure you will agree, the plowing of a field seems to be commendable labor. It certainly is so in the eyes of men, but to God, even that seeming good thing is sin when performed by those who are not of the household of God and who harbor wickedness in their hearts.

            Doubt not! All who are depending upon their own righteousness are wicked. Every heart born into the world needs a purifying and cleansing purge. That purge is Christ and His shed blood! So the Collect opens with a profound truth upon which the petition that follows in good order is contingent – we are not good without the goodness of God. Our good works are not our own, but His who died for us and MADE us into the sons and daughters of God.

            Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts Even our rudimentary petitions must start, not with our own worth, but MERCY – and that mercy is of God to us. The very services that we perform out of love to God and man are not ours but result from that MERCY of God through the efficacious workings of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Why is this so? Because even that love we demonstrate to others is borrowed and not our own – it comes from God in His Mercy. Remember those Tables of Law written in Stone? Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God(2 Corinthians 3:3-5) This is, indeed, good news to the saved. We are not perfect in our ways, and we KNOW it! But God has imputed a love of righteousness in our hearts that causes us to obey His Law of Love. We know that our righteousness falls far short of God’s standard, but our love of God, and His Son Jesus will bring us to obedience in the things of the law. Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. (Proverbs 10:12) How many sins will love cover? All sins!

            Now you may smugly satisfy your ego that you have such an abundance of love that your sins are all covered, right? Wrong, it is not your own love that covers all of your sins, but the Love of Christ that has covered all sins – and He broadcasts that Love into the hearts of those who know Him as Lord and Savior. Does this truth make the Law of none effect? Not at all, but it makes it a greater joy to please and obey God out of our gift of Love than from the uncompromising restraint of Law written on Tables of Stone.

            We see in the latter part of the petition of this Collect an acknowledgment that our obedience and goodness are not native to the human heart, but directed by the Holy Spirit that rules in every heart born of God.

            Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Were our petitions of imputed righteousness based on any name other than that of the One who paid our sin-debt, our prayer would fall on the bleak ground of our own helplessness. It was Christ who bought us, and it is in Christ’s name by which we ask the blessing. Are you good? “There is none good but God!”

            The Gospel for the day echoes the grace represented in our Sunday Collects. The man afflicted with the palsy was unable to come to Christ just as many in the dark and far-flung lands of wilderness countries. They must be brought by other caring souls to Him. Bringing others to Christ is not a private matter, but a function of the mission of the Church. Carrying a litter, as these men of today’s  Gospel did, bearing a disabled friend, requires a coordinated effort. All who carry a litter must bear the equal weight of the four corners of the litter. If one relaxes his grip, the victim falls to the ground. Like so with the Church and her missions. One must prepare and train the missionary, another must share the burden of costs, and the other must do the travel. Many hands are involved in the delivery of the Gospel to those who sit in darkness on foreign shores. 

            Another cardinal point of today’s Gospel is the fact that Jesus knows the innermost thoughts of our souls – sometimes even before WE know them. He has the authority to forgive sins, and He has power to heal the bodies that He has made for us. And when He commands any to arise, that person cannot resist that irresistible grace of His command and Voice. If you are a disciple of Christ, an Andrew must have brought you to Him at some point. Perhaps it was your parents, a friend, or a caring stranger. As it is written:
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15) 

HOW?

Friday, October 25, 2019

In the Beginning – 25 October 2019, Anno Domini

 


T
HAT which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  (I John 1:1-10)

A Fitting Prayer of Collect
A
LMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

      Once again, God, in His Holy Word, makes reference to the beginning. The beginning is a popular perspective of that gracious and well-beloved disciple, John. He begins His Gospel with a discussion of the ‘beginning’ and he introduces his epistle here with a like reference. We have already discussed how God relates to the beginning: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) Please note that John closely associates the beginning with light for, without light, there could be no living thing. Moreover, light was the first element God called into being in the earth. But Light was not physically created for the first moment at Creation, for God is Light and has existed from Eternity Past. He spoke light into being in our world as a prerequisite for His creation of life on earth. Christ was the executive Person of the Trinity at Creation and Light must exist wherever He walks (for Christ is the Light of the world). 

      John opens his epistle with a gracious greeting and invitation. Having known the grace of Christ, and the comfort and security to be had therein, he invites us, as well, to know that same grace and fellowship. It is the heart’s desire of every man, woman, and child who belongs to Christ – that others come to Him as well for the Waters of Life and the Bread of Heaven.

       “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” John would have us understand the depth of his testimony as an Apostle of Christ. He informs of the progressive revelation of Christ to himself and others during His earthly ministry. At the first, John sets forth the fact that Christ was ‘from the beginning’ but NOT the BEGINNING - for Christ precedes the beginning in Eternity. John tells us that first in revelation was the HEARING of Christ. The hearing of the Gospel is the beginning of faith: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Next, John has witnessed the very face of Christ in a real way. Once Christ is looked upon in faith, there will be no forgetting His beautiful countenance. We have that very privilege in our labors and love to see the face of Christ in so many ways – the tender face of a child, the music that lifts our souls to higher heavens, and great art masterpieces that are created to replicate the beauty of God’s Creation.  An example would be Handel’s Messiah. Handel was unsuccessful in his efforts to establish his career in music until age 54 at which time Jonathan Swift asked him to compose this wonderful work of musical praise to God. The proceeds were donated to charity as it debuted in 1742. It took Handel only twenty four days of intense composition, locked away in his private study. On the 24th day, his servant broke into Handel’s study believing that something was wrong. Handel had just added the last note to the Hallelujah chorus and stood with tears brimming his eyes. The servant asked him if he was ill to which Handel responded, “I feel that I have just looked upon the face of God!” and perhaps he had!

      Observe the building revelation of Christ that John recounts. Hearing came first. Perhaps John recalled that most precious moment of his memory when he labored on his father’s ship by the coast of the Sea of Galilee and heard, while his ears were yet tender with age and able to hear clearly, that beckoning voice that never let him go: “ And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Matt 4:18-22)

      Next, John tells us of his having SEEN Christ and all that He did. He saw the woman with an issue of blood healed by a touch, the little daughter of Jairus raised from the dead (as well as Lazarus), the lepers healed, and sight restored to the blind. He saw all of these things but, more importantly, he saw Christ. Next in the unfolding revelation is the touch of Christ which John has sensed. His old memory returns to the Upper Room where his young head rested on the bosom of Christ. I have no doubt that John’s head rests there today. So, the revelation of Christ to a believer is progressive: hearing, seeing, feeling, touching. Have you had these experiences?

      “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” John tells us Christ is the Word of Life (the same Word made mention of in John 1:1). There was bodily life in Christ just as is in all men, but that Life which is in Christ is more than that – it is eternal life which He makes available to all who are called and chosen as was John. Christ was with the Father before the worlds were made. But He came down from glory to a dark and dying world to make known to us that eternal life available in Him.

      “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Please note the gracious love expressed here by John. It is the same kind of all-embracing love that every believer should have for those who have not known – who have not heard – of the blessed Gospel of Christ. John desires our souls to be saved by the same Lord who has saved him.  If we have believing fellowship with a fellow Christian, that fellowship will rise to that with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. If we are One with Christ and He is One with the Father, then we shall be One with all who believe. The One is existent in the Father Himself.

      “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” The more we know of Christ, the greater is our joy. If we are unjoyful in Christ, it is because we have known little of Him. So we are counseled to study diligently from the Scriptures that testify of Him and prove all things thereby that we cannot be deceive by the cunning of false professors. My wife invited me to lunch at a local restaurant. So I took a break from writing and went with her. As I was eating my meal, my mind wondered back to this text of today. My heart was simply melted to suddenly reflect on John’s words and how he must have felt when he remembered that first call of Christ in his youth by Galilee. My eyes moistened with tears to think of it. That is a consoling joy that no one at the other tables could have known at the moment.

      “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” I am quite sure that you have heard me speak enough already of light, but I must address the matter since it is at hand. If we have heard the truth of God, we must share that truth, for truth is light, too. “It is the function of a living Church to be a light in a dark world. In order that we may determine in what sense the disciples of Christ are lights, let us read two cognate scriptures, one in the Old Testament, and the other in the New: ‘Arise, shine; for they light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.’ (Isaiah 60:1,2) “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among  whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the Word of Life.’ (Phil 2:15,16)

      “From these texts we learn clearly that renewed men are first receivers of light; and then givers. They are not the source whence the light springs, but channels through which it is distributed. The Lord alone is the Light of the World; but He has been pleased to arrange his covenant so that those who receive his beams also spread them. It is so arranged also in the material world. Not much of the light which guides us in life comes in direct lines from the sun: most of it reaches us at second hand, ,reflected from surrounding objects. Thus in the spiritual sphere, the glory of the Lord arises and shines on Israel; then and therefore Israel is expected to arise and reflect the light around to attract the Gentiles. The Philippian converts, walking in the Light of God, are expected to shine among the heathen as lights. They are not rays, but reflectors; they give out with more or less of the truth and fullness, the light they receive from the Sun of Righteousness after He has risen upon them.” (Rev William Arnot, Lesser Parables of our Lord, 1884)

      “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” We cannot truly have fellowship with Christ and continue in our old, dark ways. If we say we are Christians and walk after the manner of heathen, we are NOT Christians but hypocrites. Are Christians too sterile today to judge between apples and oranges of faith? 

      “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Where light is found, there can be no darkness for light and darkness are not compatible. Darkness is no force at all. It is simply the absence of light. If we walk in the Light of Christ, and have fellowship with one another of like minds, we cannot help but be truly washed clean from all sin by His blood. I have a wonderful adopted daughter named Soyeon.  She is an excellent example of a young and pure virgin. She has excelled in her studies and lived a life commendable before God and man. Now she must go away to University. She is worried that she may make church friends that are Christians in name only. So we have chatted a few moments ago and I counseled her to know well those people whom she selects as friends before she ever calls them friends. They must first be brothers and sisters in Christ and walk in the light in order to be friends in fellowship. Amazingly, she agreed!

      “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Have we heard the proud comment: “Oh, I have no sin. I am holy and perfect since my sins were forgiven?” Rubbish! Certainly a Christian should attempt to lead a Holy life and one satisfying to God; however, just as many prophets before us, and Apostles of Christ, have done, we may commit sins of unintention. We are not perfect, but we ARE being PERFECTED through the process of sanctification. 

     “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” John is speaking to the choir here. He is writing to fellow believers. Naturally, he hopes his words may fall on believing ears of the heathen as well, but, primarily, his words are for us. We say the Confession at each service in our daily and weekly service. Those sins for which we seek forgiveness in the General Confession are both sins of commission as well as sins of omission. Regardless the earnest effort to the contrary, we shall sometimes sin for which we must seek forgiveness. Do not make God a liar by denying that you have sinned. “Let GOD be true and every man a liar!” (Romans 3:4b)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Blindness and the Seeker – 24 October 2019, Anno Domini



A
ND it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: 36 And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. 37 And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. 38And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 39 And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, 41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. 42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God. (Luke 18:35-43)

            I have had the privilege to preach on this event outside Jericho many times, but today, I will expand the meaning to include an aspect we may not have previously considered. Blindness is a terrible affliction. Light is of no use to the physically blind, so, their other senses are often enhanced to compensate for the disability. An extraordinary example of this process is to be found in the most prolific hymn writer in history – Fanny Crosby, who wrote more than 9,000 hymns (enough to fill sixteen hymnals) – and she did it all after the age of fifty-four years of age. But no enhanced sense can fully compensate for loss of sight. It is the sense that is most profound in learning.

         There is another blindness that is more devastating than physical blindness, and that is spiritual blindness. This is the most common form of blindness in the world today – even in the great majority of churches. There is a WAY that seems right to the spiritually blind, but he is headed for a calamitous ruin. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12 (KJV) Physical death may come upon the physically blind by mishap; but spiritual death that awaits the spiritually blind is eternal.

         I will relate an observation by the late Dr. C. S. Robinson: “In the schoolroom of an American mission in Cairo, I found two persons reading the Bible in Arabic. One was a little girl and she was physically blind; both eyes were covered. But the other was a hard-looking old Mohammedan, hired to teach her to read with her fingers in Braille. She was a Christian child; he was a heathen. This was an instance of the “blind leading the blind” in exact meaning of our Lord in both ways. The old Mohammedan could see with his eyes, but only she could see with her heart, what Jesus had written for them both. And I leave it to all thoughtful Bible study scholars to discern which of the two seemed to be the worst off – which was the blindest?”

         It is quite common for a man or woman to be spiritually blind, but then to be found by Christ just as He finds the physically blind by waysides such as at Jericho. But the process is quite different. Let us compare two different men, both of whom were found by Christ in the same city (Jericho), who were afore times spiritually blind. One was physically blind as well as spiritually so.

         First, let us consider the blind man by the wayside outside Jericho. We infer this to be blind Bartimaeus from the Gospel of St. Mark 10. He did not know Christ as Lord and Savior. He had no way of finding the Lord in his debilitated state. But he had HEARD of this man called Jesus who performed many miracles and healings. Bartimaeus realized his only hope for sight remained in this one MAN. His sense of hearing was keen in order to make up for his blindness. He heard every word whispered by passersby – about travels, commerce, and about the MAN Jesus. The bits and pieces of news he had heard about our Lord had kindled the slightest cinder of faith deep within his heart. Many great fires have begun with such a cinder, and this matter was no exception! In effect, since Bartimaeus could not find Jesus by travel, Jesus traveled to his very side to find him! 

         Our Lord is like that! He will find His elect whether they come to him humbly, or if He must search them out for their blindness. In Blind Bartimaeus’ case, the Lord came to him. Let the reader know that this was no mere accidental meeting. Just as in the case of the appointment of Christ with the woman at Jacob’s Well, our Lord had seen the many hot and dusty hours Bartimaeus had sat in this very place daily begging for bread. Bartimaeus did not know on the morning he was brought to this place by friends what mighty event would transpire ere he lay down to bed that evening. Hearing the bustle of men’s feet, Bartimaeus inquired as to what group was passing. Being told it was Jesus of Nazareth, he latched on to a hope that had lain dormant in his heart from youth. He could not hold his excitement but blurted out, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” Those closest to Jesus tried to hush his fevered cry just as many in leadership of our churches try to squelch the cry of the needy. But Bartimaeus would have none of it. He persisted in his desperate prayer. He cried once more and persistently, an attitude which our Lord values in our praying.

         Our prayers may often stop our Lord in His tracts. Jesus stopped and demanded the man be brought to him. He will always hear the cry for mercy. Bartimaeus knew if he received mercy from the Lord, all else would be provided. He knew, with the little faith of his burning cinder, that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah – the Son of David! The Lord healed Bartimaeus – not only of his blindness but made him every whit whole in body and spirit. Bartimaeus found what he could not have found lest the object of his seeking came to him which the Lord did.

         In the same city of Jericho lived a publican of lecherous repute named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was not physically blind, but was certainly spiritually blind. He too, out of mere curiosity perhaps, heard of this man Jesus. He had heard that Jesus was coming to his city and, in fact, coming down the very thoroughfare upon which Zacchaeus was afoot. Urged on by a deeper curiosity that he may not have known or understood, Zacchaeus felt an untamed urge to see this man Jesus. Hearing the commotion of His entourage advancing down the street, Zacchaeus ran to get a glimpse. As was the case with spiritual blindness, Zacchaeus had not been graced with a usual stature – he was, in a word, SHORT! He had some questionable business dealings likely in his profession of chief tax collector for the Roman government. He was generally despised by the people of Jericho. 

         The crowd surrounding Jesus, again like many churchmen today, would not make way for this short fellow to get close to Christ. Zacchaeus was not lacking in wit. He calculated the direction Jesus was heading and ran beyond and climbed up a sycamore tree for a better view of Jesus passing underneath. But something happened that shocked and surprised Zacchaeus. When Jesus was directly under the tree, again, He stopped. He then embarrassed Zacchaeus by looking up directly at this short pumpkin of a fellow hanging to the bough of the tree. I imagine Zacchaeus did not know what to expect now. 
         Jesus then did something that caused that ever-so-slight sliver of faith in Zacchaeus to blossom into a burgeoning cloud. He said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.” (Luke 19:5 )Zacchaeus had never laid eyes upon the Lord before this moment. But something sparked in his heart, and he did not waste any time in coming down.. Once the Lord calls YOUR name, friend, you, too, will come down in humble obedience. Even if you were Lazarus of Bethany lying stone dead in a rocky tomb, you will burst forth into the light of day if our Lord merely calls your name.

         We see two different circumstances in these two men and events. The first was blind and unable to seek the Lord out by searching. The second was not physically blind, but sought the Lord out to satisfy a curiosity. In the end, BOTH men were saved! It matters not how we come to Christ – whether brought blind and stumbling; or else running to see Him out of curiosity, it is the Lord who calls us and sets the stage. He may use our infirmities to our profit in waiting for His loving call; or, He may use our senseless curiosity (senseless to us, but not Him) to draw us to where He is. It matters not what means the Lord finds to draw us near as long as we come to Him. He knows us as surely as any shepherd knows his sheep. He knows our ways, our predicament, and the simple measure needed to find and draw His Elect. 

         Are you blindly stumbling about searching? Be still! The Lord will find you. Are you aimlessly searching the city streets for that which cannot satisfy? Rise above the masses of worldly people and look to His coming. He will stop and call your name. Do not, however, place your trust in the arm of flesh, but God only.

         “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14)