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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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thanksgiving Day 2019

28 November 2019, Anno Domini

IVE thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.

N every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

            There is an insidious effort afoot in our day to undermine every Christian religious observance of the people that, unfortunately, has allies in many apostate churches across America and Around the World. For many decades, Thanksgiving Day was a uniquely American holiday, but today is celebrated by an array of mostly Christian nations around the world on the day each designates. For the United States, that day is the third Thursday in November. According to a proclamation of President Lincoln, Thanksgiving was to be observed on the fourth Thursday; however, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it up to the third Thursday. Why? In order to accommodate the commercialization of the Christmas Season - a policy that has only gained such momentum as to drown out the true meaning of both Christmas and Thanksgiving in the hearts of many.

            The Pilgrim Fathers who launched off into the new adventure in America did so from Southampton, England, in September 1620 and arrived at Plymouth (Cape Cod) Massachusetts, on 11December 1620. They did not completely abandon quarters on the Mayflower until the day after Christmas of the same year. Their first action was to hold a prayer service returning thanks to Almighty God for their safe passage. 

            The Pilgrims had left England and Holland as a result of religious persecution. Religious freedom is that freedom which underpins all others. They were especially oppressed and persecuted in England for objecting to the high church formality that had come to characterize the Church of England decades following the Great Reformation.

            The first Thanksgiving Proclamation of record was issued on June 20, 1676: The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present War with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgments he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions.

            From those early days of the American settlement, faith in a Holy God dictated the society and government of the colonies. This influence of faith and biblical living permeated American public policy and the hearts of the people for almost 300 years following the Pilgrim landing. But in the modern day, that faith has waned, and social values have turned to the uttermost evils of man’s imagination. 

            There has always existed a segment of society whose licentious behavior has been shameful and repugnant to decency. Such evils as public nakedness, Abortion (or offering one’s child to idols), homosexuality, Euthanasia, and a corrupt indoctrination to evil under the guise of ‘education’ have flourished at intervals in the annals of history; but I do not believe there can be any period recounted in which the validity and dignity of law have been so disgustingly and egregiously demonstrated as in the cities of present day America. 

            It is high time for the nation to awaken from its drunken slumber and restore righteousness and dignity to our governments and society. We have little time remaining before we bring down upon our unrighteous shoulders the full wrath of an offended Sovereign. Our Lord will not forever turn His righteous glance from our wicked enterprises. If we wish to continue celebrating a National Thanksgiving (NOT Turkey Day!), we had best fall on our knees in prayers of repentance and pleas for mercy and grace to restore our land to the beautiful and bountiful American handed down to our Forefathers by a loving and Righteous God.

A Happy & Blessed Thanksgiving!
Jerry L. Ogles
Presiding Bishop

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Hymns of the Church - Hymn 498 – Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life – 26 November 2019, Anno Domini(In the Year of our Lord)

ND Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.  And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.  When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? (John 6:3-5)

            This missionary hymn was written by Frank Mason North in 1905, a longtime resident of New York and a pastor there. Instead of looking beyond the horizon to far-flung mission fields, he directs the lyrics inward to his own city and those like it around the world. The music is attributed to Gardiner in 1816 who, in turn, credits Beethoven with the musical score. The title of the music is variously called Germany, Gardiner, Fulda, and Melchizadek.

Where Cross the Crowded ways of Life

Where cross the crowded ways of life,
where sound the cries of race and clan,
above the noise of selfish strife,
we hear your voice, O Son of Man.

In haunts of wretchedness and need,
on shadowed thresholds fraught with fears,
from paths where hide the lures of greed,
we catch the vision of your tears.

From tender childhood's helplessness,
from human grief and burdened toil,
from famished souls, from sorrow's stress,
your heart has never known recoil.

The cup of water given for you
still holds the freshness of your grace;
yet long these multitudes to view
the sweet compassion of your face.

O Master, from the mountainside,
make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
among these restless throngs abide;
O tread the city's streets again;

Till all the world shall learn your love,
and follow where your feet have trod;
till glorious from your heaven above
shall come the city of our God.

            1 Where cross the crowded ways of life, where sound the cries of race and clan, above the noise of selfish strife, we hear your voice, O Son of Man. There is an urgency of action required on the part of the Church today to purify its Body and reach out to those who are perishing daily by the millions – not all by hunger and oppression, but more greatly by the spiritual death of an eternity without salvation. There is no greater venue of selfish strife than that which emanates from the streets and back alleys of New York. Every imaginable wickedness haunts those streets most intensely with the daily fall of the curtain of night and darkness. 

            2 In haunts of wretchedness and need, on shadowed thresholds fraught with fears, from paths where hide the lures of greed, we catch the vision of your tears. The greedy fingers of Wall Street are oblivious and uncaring concerning the want and poverty of soul and body that inhabit the skirts of that financial district. Instead of reaching out to ‘Greenland’s Icy Mountains’ and the lost legions on foreign shores, the Church must first remove the mote from their own eyes to view the wretched spiritual poverty pervading their own shore and even their own godless form of worship. Charity and love begins at home (or in the House of God). Why constantly ponder matters of social evil while your own family famishes in spiritual darkness? Fear rules the streets of New York as well as other major world cities. There is a Balm yet in Gilead! We must be about our Father’s business in sharing the Gospel either to condemn or else convict the hearts of the dying.

            3 From tender childhood's helplessness, from human grief and burdened toil, from famished souls, from sorrow's stress, your heart has never known recoil. While the absence of recoil from these horrendous miseries has never characterized the true Church of our Lord, it certainly and sadly does describe the modern church, built up with pride and sinful lusts. The sinner is very much burdened with an unbecoming yoke of sin and helplessness. As a lost child, they know not where to seek solace or a warm hand to hold. The soul of the lost is as the hunger of the lost lamb on mundane plains of the wilderness.  Does your heart feel a burning burden for the young girls traded in human trafficking, or the child whose raising never included a single mention of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you feel pain and compassion for those whose lives have become prisoners of the drug dealers’ art and the sorcerers’ charms?

            4 The cup of water given for you still holds the freshness of your grace; yet long these multitudes to view the sweet compassion of your face. We have partaken of the Water of Life, and it has diminished not a whit in its spiritual nourishment; yet full of complacent satisfaction with our own state, we turn blind eyes to the perishing multitudes. When our Lord sought, tired and weary, sought rest beyond the shores of Galilee, He saw the multitudes of lost souls following hard after Him. In spite of His weariness, He had time to receive them with love and compassion. He fed them a feast of all they could eat. Many ate of the physical blessing, but failed of the greater spiritual blessing of the Bread of Heaven. They found a love and understanding in His face that many could not comprehend, and others misconstrued. It is our duty to make known to the multitudes the promise and truth of His salvation in our own lives. He came bearing gifts of both Bread and Wine. He provided an abundance of the best Wine at the Marriage in Cana; and He is here breaking Bread again to feed far more than five thousand (in addition, the women and children); but also Bread for you and me of which we partake in remembrance of Him.

            5 O Master, from the mountainside, make haste to heal these hearts of pain; among these restless throngs abide; O tread the city's streets again; The five thousand mounted the slopes of the mountain, but did not ascend all the way to the top where our Lord prayed that night. We must begin with our Lord, and we must close the twilight of day with the Lord. We cannot begin and finish halfway up the mountain. Jesus does not pay social calls – He comes to abide in our hearts, or nothing else. He most often frequents the city streets where the masses of men and women mingle. He does not often attend fancy balls and imperial dinners.

            6 Till all the world shall learn your love, and follow where your feet have trod; till glorious from your heaven above shall come the city of our God. Sadly, the greater number of human beings to see the light of the sun shall perish in darkness and guilt before that day referred to in this stanza dawns; that day will begin with the return of the Son of God when all knees shall bow and tongues confess Him as Lord! Those who follow Christ – not just along the spring-fed brooks of Mt. Hermon, or the beautiful shores of Galilee – to the end which trails beyond Bethany, the Mt. of Olives, the Roman Pontiff’s Courtyard, the Way of Dolorosa, to Calvary, and then, wonderfully, to the open Tomb, shall glory in that Day of Blessing and Wonderment. 

            A Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to one and all in our company of readers, friends, and family!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

AOC Sunday Report - Sunday next before Advent

The AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

Stir Up Sunday
Stir Up Sunday is an informal term in the Anglican Church for the last Sunday before the season of Advent. The term comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer: 

TIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Through an association of ideas, the day subsequently became connected, especially in England, with the preparation of Christmas puddings in readiness for Christmas. Also,  though with no real religious significance, Stir Up Sunday is located just the right time of the year to make the fruit cakes, Christmas Puddings and the like to be consumed on Christmas.   In many English culture homes, the afternoon of Stir Up Sunday is dedicated to measuring, stirring and cooking the Christmas Pudding!

The Christmas pudding is an important part of the Christmas Day celebrations in the UK.  Christmas pudding is a round, rich and heavy pudding made from fruit, eggs, sugar, breadcrumbs, suet, spices, and alcohol such as brandy or rum. Many families have their favorite pudding recipe, which is often passed down through generations of family members.

Stir-up Sunday is traditionally the day for making your Christmas pudding; giving it a month to mature before eating it on Christmas day. Stir-up Sunday is on 23 November this year.

According to tradition, everyone in the family (especially the children) takes a turn to stir the pudding and makes a wish while stirring. Traditionally, the pudding should be stirred from east to west in honour of the three Kings who travelled from the East to see Jesus; and it should also have 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his disciples.

It used to be common for people to put a coin in their Christmas pudding. This was supposed to bring wealth in the coming year to the person who found it.

Christmas puddings are popular in the UK, but many people now buy their puddings from their local supermarket.

In the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and later, this collect is listed for "The Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Trinity", with accompanying rubric specifying that this collect "shall always be used upon the Sunday next before Advent". This reinforced the significance of this day as forming part of the preparation for the season of Advent. The rubric is necessary because the last Sunday before Advent does not always fall on the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity: Trinity Sunday is a moveable feast and the Advent season is fixed, so the number of weeks in between varies from year to year. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer solves this dilemma by marking only 24 Sundays after Trinity, with provision for two more, and setting this Sunday apart as “Next before Advent.” 

Sermon Notes - Sunday next before Advent - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 24 November 2019, Anno Domini

The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.
TIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

I would like to first address the very meaningful COLLECT for today and its significance:

HEREFORE I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Tim 1:6-9)

            A strong counsel for the Christian of any time of persecution, and of those who live, as we do, in a world of watered-down faith and easy-believism. Regardless the number of Sundays in Trinity Season, this COLLECT must always be the COLLECT of choice on the Sunday next before Advent Season. (See rubric following the Gospel for 24th Sunday after Trinity in 1928 BoCP, or following the Gospel for 25th Sunday in the 1662 English BoCP). The title referenced above was not used by Cranmer but was restored to its ancient title by the 1892 American Prayer Book (from the Sarum Missal). The Collect was famous for its beginning words – “Stir up” – so much so that the Sunday of its use was popularly labeled, “Stir Up Sunday”!

            The words, “Stir up,” summarizes the fullness of the Gospel preached in its entirety.  It relates to that most powerful aspect of the human nature – the WILL! If it is the will of a man or woman to become rich in the material riches of this world, it is very likely that he or she shall surely become wealthy if that will is strong enough – even to the detriment of character and virtue! The WILL is that overt and compelling manifestation of what is hidden in the heart. The heart that belongs to Christ may, indeed, become wealthy in giving and caring, but wealth is never the superseding goal of such a heart. The problem with the rich young ruler was not his wealth, but that he allowed his wealth to blind his eyes to his duty to God. (see Mark 10 & Luke 18) When we take all virtue, all godliness, all compassion, all love, et al, that we have been granted in Christ, we need to ‘stir-up’ these qualities and devotions from time to time in order to bring them back up from the depths of forgetfulness and revive them to a fresh and lively currency.

            The will of the sinner, while free of the godly restraints of righteousness, is a completely free will. However, when a heart is given over to Christ as Lord and Savior, it is that Mind and Will of Christ that takes possession of that former will of the world and transforms the heart to godliness. Do not preach to me of Calvin or Arminius – but only of Christ and His Word. Both these men were stellar scholars. Each ‘got it right’ at some point, but those moments of correct interpretation only followed learning of truth gained from Holy Scripture. So why not, instead of quoting some good man, go to the Fountain of Truth Itself rather than drinking downstream?

            You may ask: “How do we ‘stir up’ our Godly wills of faithfulness to God?” We do not, but God DOES! He does so through the preaching and hearing of the Word! So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17) But wait! Suppose you have already heard the glorious Gospel and yet sleep? One of my favorite means to allow God to ‘stir up’ my faith is through the singing of hymns – whether alone of with family, or friends. Nothing touches my soul more than scripturally-based classical hymns. (You may keep your Gospel songs filled with pabulum, thank you!) But suppose my heart is closed to every means of being stirred up by conscious rebellion? How will God elect to ‘stir up’ my faith? But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.  But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you(Romans 10:18-19) I personally prefer the more gentle stirring of love and remembrance than to be stirred up by jealousy and anger. But God will use whatever mechanism He deems useful to stir us up.

            Though God may use the wills of evil nations in bringing judgment, He only stirs up the wills of faithful people in service to Him. With what result does God stir up our hearts? With the results that our faith again becomes foremost in our daily living, and our fruits of righteousness and good works are multiplied over and over again. Such fruits are not ours, but belong to the Sower who sowed the Seed in our hearts at the beginning. When we are a useful vessel to God, He will use us more and more as a favored vessel in His Hand just as a loving mother may have an old iron skillet or stone bowl that she treasures above even more expensive and beautiful vessels in her kitchen. If we, as Christians, are able to hold our ‘heat of the Spirit’ as the heavy iron skillet holds its heat from the oven, God will be more disposed to use such a proven and useful vessel. Moreover, He will reward such a vessel by placing it is a favored place in the cabinet of Heaven. He will often clean and polish it even more for future use. Personally, I would rather be an old, blackened iron skillet than a beautiful, French porcelain vase on the mantle. If God will use me to prepare food for His Children, how much greater honor can I have?

            We have a mere four more Sundays before the blessed observance of Christmas. The Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a precious baby at Bethlehem stirred the hearts of kings, rulers, wise men, and shepherds. Christ always stirs our hearts!

            When God stirs up the wills of His faithful people, such a stirring can only result in greater production of fruit somewhat as life-giving rain on a parched field planted with wholesome seed. If we produce plentifully in good works, this gives the Father the opportunity to reward us with even more Rain of Blessing. Is there a smell of rain in your heart today, dear Reader?

The Holy Gospel

HEN Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.           (John 6:4-14)

            What a wonderful Season of the Church Year is Advent. All good things in the lives of men – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Apostles, and us – begins with the Coming of Christ, both spiritually and physically, to us. Having longed to see the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Seed of Promise, Abraham hoped in the Gospel of Christ and was blessed to see His Coming. Christ comes to us that we may be enabled to come to Him. We see this truth enacted in today’s Gospel sermon text. Those who hunger for Christ will find Him if even on the mountain heights of the Galilean coasts. Those who hunger for Christ will 1) discover (through the Word and Spirit) where He may be found; 2) they will leave the place where that are presently (sin and error) and GO to Him; 3) they will not give thought of what the morrow may bring, but trust in Him to provide their every need; and, 4) they shall be fed with the Bread of Heaven.

            When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him This is most prophetic of that company of souls that will come, over the expanse of centuries and millennia, to Him in faith and trust.  They shall come seeking that Bread of Life which will satisfy eternally and not temporarily. They shall, on the day of God’s own choosing – and not that of greedy spiritual speculators – come to meet Him in the air, and not a mountain, on His glorious Second Coming. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:16-17)

            Christ often challenges the faith of His chosen vessels just as He tests that of Philip. Knowing the mind of Philip in His spiritual growth, Jesus asks: Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat A lesser prophet than Christ once asked the same question of God in the Wilderness: Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat(Num 11:13) It is certain Christ wants us to know a greater prophet than Moses stands before us. Without the presence and power of Christ, the world is in constant worry about this matter sustenance. Shall we have bread to eat and raiment to wear? Of course, the world takes the matter a step further: How can we enjoy the most opulent of cuisine and the most fashionable and elegant raiment – delicacies and raiment that will set us apart from the common people and that will exalt us in our pride? The starving child on the backstreets of Calcutta does not wish for delicacies, but only a morsel of bread to appease his gnawing hunger. It is so because the starving child knows not of delicacies or of elegant silken robes, but only his desperate NEED. So, the sinner (rich or poor), when he comes face-to-face with his depravity, can recognize no righteousness at all in his feeble works, but starves for the Redemption made available in Christ. Rather than the bread of wheat, he starves for the Bread of Heaven. This Bread cannot be bought with money, so Christ gives Philip a thought to nourish his soul. 

            Philip’s mind has not progressed to that perfection of understanding, as yet, that might be expected from so close a disciple! Clearly, under the terms of the world, a small fortune would be required to buy sufficient bread to feed so many. There were many more than five thousand present for there were five thousand men alone, plus women and children.. Has Philip forgotten that He who provides food and lodging for the sparrows of the field is in his presence? Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. Two hundred pennyworth of bread would cost two hundred days of wages - And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard (Matt 20:2) And even at such an expense, there would certainly be no leftovers for each would only “take a little..” All of our labors and wages from our birth until now will not purchase a single morsel of that Bread from Heaven. The combined wealth of the world would not do so. It is a gift of pure Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

            There was one disciple among the lot who accepted that there was a mystery in the Person of Christ that enabled Him to provide plenty from little of nothing. He knew not the manner in which might do it, but he nonetheless believed that the mystery would be realized even in a meager amount. God takes our talents and multiplies them when we are willing to share them. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so manyWhat are five barley loaves among a multitude so great, yet, Andrew suspected that Christ would use even a small amount to supply a great need – and He did! Now, we must recognize the innocence of youth in this circumstance. The little lad had labored to bring his two fishes and five loaves over a great distance and even up the slopes of the mountain. Were he a mature man of wisdom, he probably would have refused to share so little claiming that it would not suffice so many hungers and, moreover, he had the foresight to bring them for himself and it would be consumed by him. But the little child has a heart that is closer to the Kingdom of Heaven and has not grown calloused by the world. The child willingly shared his small treat with the Lord. Though we have little, if we share what we have, the Lord will multiply the gift an hundredfold, or more!

            And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. The rubrics of the Prayer Book indicate when we are to kneel, stand, or sit, and we must comply with each and every rubric of the Prayer Book if we are able. The Lord expects all things to be done in good order and, here, He is about to feed the multitudes with His Bread. The Bread of the Prayer Book is the Sermon delivered from the Lectionary appointed for the day. So the people sit to hear the Word preached. It is the means by which faith is received and increased. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17) Contrary to the Romanist approach, preaching takes precedence over every other act of worship including Communion for, without the Word, Communion is meaningless. So Christ asks that the men be seated to receive His blessing of Bread. When men receive from the Lord, they do not stand in their own power as if they contribute to His miracle. “Stop your labors, have a seat, and see the works of the Lord!”

            The Lord will always comfort our needs in green pastures - He maketh me to lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23:2) Now there was much grass in the place (vv 10)So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Obedience before the Lord comes most surely when men realize their need. These men were hungry and were expectant that Jesus could, indeed, feed them. They obeyed Him.

            And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks Here, Jesus gives us the perfect example to follow in returning thanks for the blessings of Heaven. He never failed to thank His Father in Heaven for every blessing of food and drink. Do we do so, Friends? “….he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.” Please observe a stark lesson here for us. We do not serve ourselves at the Communion Rail, but kneel reverently (according to the Prayer Book form of worship – and the Holy Bible) to be served the Cup and the Bread. We do not innovate and do according to what seems right in our own eyes, but serve according to the good order required. The Lord allows His servants to have a hand in assisting in His important work. They serve the bread, but the Bread is given by Christ – it is not their own. We, as ministers, preach the Word, but the Word is His and not OURS! Note also, that each person on the grassy slopes received as much as they wanted of the bread and fish. The cupboard of the Lord has no bottom of blessings. There will always be more than enough to satisfy our hunger. We must return to the Bread Table daily for our “Daily Bread.”

            When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Notice that all were FILLED! You never come to the Lord hungry and go away hungry. He fills you with the desperate need of your heart. Another important lesson in this verse is the one of stewardship. We are to be good a faithful stewards in the economy of resources with which God has blessed us. We are to use His blessings of talents we receive in satisfying the hunger of those God has placed in our hands (parents included) but we are to waste nothing! When we travel field and forest to gather souls for Christ, our efforts do not end at the early confession of faith – we must continue to teach and nourish the soul in the Word so that the convert will grow strong spiritual bones and muscles. We must not lose a single flower from the bouquet….that nothing be lost!

            Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Let us count the balance sheet of the Lord here: there were a mere five loaves at the start. Now the remnants taken up fill TWELVE BASKETS! Do you believe this is too amazing? Do you believe that the Creation of the stars in the expanse of space too amazing, or the earth with all of its wondrous beauty too amazing, or billions of people – all with different faces and features – amazing? What is so amazing that the Word which created all that has been created could multiply a few morsels of bread into such an immense supply? He is able to likewise multiply the smallest mite of the widow’s heart when given out of her need to Christ! He is able to multiply that love scattered abroad from that heart brimming over with the love of God so that the residue is always of plenty.

            What is the result of receiving the blessed Bread of Heaven? How should our hearts respond to so mighty a miracle as salvation, forgiveness, grace, and faith? Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. Faith is confirmed from pillar to post when we have tasted the Bread of Heaven. The multitude recognized that Christ was a prophet of even greater miraculous power and virtue than Moses – their greatest prophet beforehand. The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken (Deut 18:15)Christ is, indeed, that Prophet! 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…… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:1-4,14)Friend, believest thou this?

Sunday next before Advent

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together because as is always the case there is a unifying message in the Scripture for this Sunday. 

The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.
TIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

As is oft the case, today’s propers are all tied together.  As is usual, they call for action not just thoughts.  In fact, the collect is among the most direct, asking God to stir our hearts that we might ACT in a manner which will result in good things! The collect is asking for God to inspire us to ACT to produce those good works that will please Him. It is asking for God to assist us in our actions here on Earth to produce good fruits. 

Jeremiah prophesies the coming of Jesus out of the branch of David that He might unite God’s people as one under a New Covenant.  Christ is the key piece to the puzzle of the Old Testament prophecies. He is the answer to all of the prophecies the Old Testament contains about our savior. He is the Messiah who is prophesied by the prophets in the Old Testament.  John tells us Jesus comes to fill both our spiritual and physical hunger. Our spiritual hunger in that by His Coming, we will have the Word as our spiritual bread and drink. And our physical hunger by the fact if we follow what He says and do our best, we should have no problems getting food to eat. The collect is asking God to stir up our will. The collect also notes that when our will is stirred up by God, we will be driven to perform good works for Him. This collect is a call to action, to perform good works to advance the cause of the Gospel. In a way it is similar to Jesus’s Great Commission in that it is asking us to allow God into our hearts and go forth and do good works that the Good News might be spread. When God enters into our hearts, he will give us spiritual food and drink that will be more filling to our souls than the lembas bread from Lord of the Rings, it will sustain us on our spiritual journeys here on earth and guide us on that narrow and upward path towards heaven. We just have to let Him into our hearts and provide us with that nourishment.

Once He is in our hearts, we are to let Him stir up His Will in our hearts, to incline us to perform good works for Him and to go out and actually perform those good works. Then through these actions we will truly get our just reward. Our wills are naturally inclined towards not following Him; we need to have our wills reset towards following Him. 

We have to throw off our old man, to quote Saint Paul and to put on the new armor and helmet of the new man. We have to let the Holy Ghost into us and cleanse us of our old sinful selves.  For without the Holy Ghost’s influence, we cannot truly be able to willing follow Him and act for Him on our own intuition. For our natural intuition is corrupt, by the disease of sin eating away at our very souls. Only the great doctor, God himself, can cure us of this otherwise incurable disease.

Nothing else in this world will satisfy us like God and the Word of God can. He is the answer to the missing hole in so many people’s hearts and lives.  There is so much evidence of this missing hole in people’s lives today. Our broken society is a reflection of the gigantic God shaped hole that is missing. Yet nobody wishes to acknowledge or recognize this hole. The church sadly has been complicit in this by allowing the devil to enter into the church. No house divided against itself shall stand and sadly that is what is happening with the modern church.  We have found that no art or work of mammon can come even close to the pure satisfaction following God provides. Yet because so many people have been blinded by Satan they won’t see this. This is the only possible way we can truly be satisfied, everything else is a shadow of true happiness and satisfaction. God is the only way in which we can truly be happy, for everything else is worthless to our wellbeing, except for the joy of following Him.

If we follow our own heart and guidance, we will seek the things of this world.  As explained before, the things of this world cannot compare in satisfaction value to God and the Word of God.  If we set our hearts on acquiring things of this world, we will be seeking material superiority. Which leads to things like stealing, coveting, all negative attributes that go against God’s laws.  These are all things that if you look at the Ten Commandments, violate them.  And nothing can be gained by the things of this world that will grant eternal pleasures like setting our hearts on heaven and God.

Look back on history and see how much evil action can be laid to not only coveting but some of these other evil desires by not only persons, but nations. We can look at the examples of the early wars in Europe, and of late, of the wars started by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for examples. 

These examples show we are not truly capable of satisfying ourselves, but only Jesus and the Holy Spirit can fill the hole. This is why we truly need the Holy Ghost acting in our hearts and cleansing us of these impure thoughts. We desperately need the influence the Trinity provides in our life. Our life will be so much more rewarding and happier, if we have them involved in our lives, versus those who do not have them in their life.

As we are nearing the beginning of Advent, let us think ahead to the joy of Christmas, the birth of Christ, His entry into this world, the joy of Epiphany, His revealing to the world.  Then look ahead at the horror, pain and sadness of Good Friday.  This lets us see the joy of eternal life He gave us, came at a very heavy price. Jesus gave His Own Life so we might have eternal happiness and not only that but he had to go down into hell and do battle with the devil. It has been said there is no free lunch.  That is true, it is better said that everything has a price.  There are some things are worth paying for, some are not.  Not one thing is worth coveting or stealing in the Ten Commandments sense.  Be sure and pay for everything, do not steal or partake in acquisition of stolen goods. We need to always be cognizant of this and be thankful He came, lived and died for us, that we might have eternal life.

The inordinate desire, coveting, for more money can lead to theft; the desire for more prestige, to evil ambition; the desire for more power, to tyranny; the desire for a person's body, to fornication and adultery. This inordinate desire for more money is a gateway drug of sorts, leading us into more sins. Paul identifies covetousness as idolatry because it puts things in the place of God.  When we put things over God’s Will, we no longer worship Him, but avoid Him. 

When people serve idols, they place things above God.  When you covet, you are willing to set aside God for things.  In the end, that never works.  And, near the end it gets pretty unpleasant.  We find idols easier to deal with than God.  You can make an idol; God made you.  If you don’t like the idol’s rules, you change the rules. We can’t change God’s rules so we seek to change Him to an idol so we can change the rules.  God stands fast and is unchanging, unlike the World which is constantly changing things to suit its sinful desires.  There are some pretty big differences there. We will never be fully satisfied with things of this world, but we will be satisfied with what God provides for us.

He asks of us nothing special; but just to do our very best and not just say it. It is something that I am striving to work on more and more every day. We must keep learning and following His Word. It is a hard concept for many of us to follow, including myself, but we must all strive more and more every day to do our very best. If we study Scriptures diligently and work hard to follow them to the best of our abilities, then we will, with the Holy Spirit’s help, be charted on an excellent course. 

Interestingly, He tells the disciples to “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”  It seems He is talking about the sheep that He tends to, He wishes to “gather up the fragments that remain”, meaning the people apart from His flock, that “nothing be lost”, meaning that their souls may not be lost for eternity. Think about that and take what it is offered before it is no longer on the menu! And be thankful for All His Blessings in our lives, for our friends and our family that He has placed in our lives.   

We are blessed and should be grateful we are in a spiritually rich group (The Anglican Orthodox Church) and in communion with some very good men and women across the Earth in the AOC Worldwide Church, who hold true to the principles of Scripture. God has blessed us all by bringing us together. I am thankful for each and every person in the AOC Church and my family and friends.  At Thanksgiving, we should be thankful most of all for God sending His Son to die for us, that we might have eternal life and happiness instead of the eternal misery that comes from the separation from God.

Actions speak louder than words, when we actually use that inspiration of the Holy Ghost and a couple well thought out words with actions, we can do many marvelous things in the lives of people around us, through His Spirit and Word and we will help to fill people’s spiritual hunger, through acting through His Word, in thought, word and deed.

Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Friday, November 22, 2019

Sycamores of Faith – 22 November 2019, Anno Domini

ND Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.  And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.  10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.  (Luke 19:1-10)

            Dr. D. James Kennedy wrote a book once entitled, “What if Jesus Had not Come?” Though I held Dr. Kennedy in the very highest esteem as a Christian minister, I believe such a book expresses a certain vanity. Such questions of the foreordained will of God are not subject to our speculation. Of course, Dr. Kennedy was trying to convey to us the great debt of sin we would still bear without hope of repayment among other things. But, if we believe God’s Word, we must know that neither we, nor the Creation itself would exist had Christ not come. The Word of prophecy is a more certain fact than any eye-witness report. “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)  

            But Christ DID, indeed, come as prophesied from before the Foundation of the World. There is not a single jot or tittle of past history, or future circumstance, of which He is not knowledgeable. He is the Author of both History and Future Promise. 

            It was doubtless a beautiful spring day when our Lord made His way through the dirty little streets of Jericho on that Palm Sunday before His Passion. The crowds were excited at His coming for much had been published abroad about His many miracles and wonderful teaching. His very name offered a promise that dimly tweaked the memories of the Hebrew people of the ancient prophecies they had heard.

            As He continued toward His final journey to Jerusalem, He was thronged about by disciples and curiosity seekers.  Little children ran along side. To get a glimpse of this figure of whom they had heard so much from parental conversation.  But Jesus had a great purpose in mind as he progressed down that little avenue of dust road and adobe wall. There was a particular fellow He had known from before the stars were thrown into orbit, but one who had very little knowledge of the Lord. Like Blind Bartimaeus, the Lord had watched this little fellow grow from childhood to adulthood, and He was aware that not all of his business dealings as a tax collector were above board.

            Zacchaeus had a strange curiosity regarding this Jesus who was coming into Jericho. He would not have been able to express the source of that curiosity, but it drove him to run toward the entourage as it wound its way down the street. Zacchaeus was short. There is no more politically correct way to describe his stature than that. But Zacchaeus was short in more ways than one. He was short on the knowledge of His Savior to be sure. He was not very honest either as a chief publican (tax collector) for the Roman government. 

            As Zacchaeus drew nearer the crowd, his curiosity mounted – a curiosity generated and nurtured by the Holy Spirit. He became quite desperate to get a glimpse of this very popular figure named Jesus. His desire to see our Lord mounted the nearer he came to His presence. The same is true of all whom the Holy Spirit draws, as a hook in the jaw, to Christ. The same was true of you, dear reader, in the moments before you heard His tender beckoning voice.

            When I lived in the Middle East, I witnessed most boulevards lined with the same kind of sycamore trees that lined that street in Jericho that spring day. As Zacchaeus drew nearer, it became abundantly obvious that the crowd surrounding our Lord would preclude his line of sight in seeing Him. “But, wait! Here is this sycamore tree. If I can climb this tree, Jesus will pass directly beneath in my clear line of sight!” 

            So, Zacchaeus climbed the tree and waited. There are times that the sinner feels drawn to Christ but must wait patiently for His voice. Zacchaeus, too, waited patiently. Now the Master was in full view. He was approaching with great commotion being raised about Him. As He approached, He made no notice of Zacchaeus perched like a squirrel on the limb of the tree. Zacchaeus felt certain that the Lord would not even know that he was there looking on. But as Jesus past directly beneath, He suddenly stopped and looked up at Zacchaeus. Chills ran up the back of Zacchaeus to discover that he had been caught in an embarrassing situation. There is always a great power in the look of Christ. Peter can tell you assure you of that! When Peter denied the Lord the third time, Jesus turned and looked directly into the eyes of Peter. Peter went out and wept bitterly. 

            But this look was different. It was not a look acknowledging betrayal as in Peter’s case. There was an appealing warmth about that look. To the amazement of Zacchaeus, Jesus called him by name. How was it possible that such a great Teacher would know the name of a lowly publican. “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.” How to respond to such a surprising invitation – not to the Master’s home (for He had none), but to the home of Zacchaeus himself. How did Zacchaeus respond? “And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.” He did not hesitate, but obeyed without delay!

            When Jesus calls our name, there is a profound response of the soul just as in the case of Lazarus in the tomb at Bethany, and Mary Magdalene outside the Tomb in the Garden. There is power in any name the Lord calls that demands a response. 
            It was not mere coincidence that Zacchaeus was drawn into the streets of Jericho to see Jesus. It was not coincidence that the Sycamore tree stood at the ready to serve his curiosity to view the Lord. It is not coincidence that we, at seemingly random times, are confronted by a sinner who has realized his depravity and seeks counsel of a Christian believer. We can be that Sycamore tree to sinners to enable them to see Christ. 

            It is our responsibility, our privilege, and our joy to allow the sinner to see Christ from our vantage point which we can provide. If we are His, we shall always be standing beside the path He travels for such a time as is needful. As Sycamore trees of God, we must be accessible to the sinner as Christ was. We must be strong to share the burden of those who are short of the faith needed for repentance. And we must be planted by the Straight and Narrow Way that our Lord travels with us.

            Are you a Sycamore tree with strong branches, or a mustard plant with weak and fibrous stalks?

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Our Great Refuge – 20 November 2019, Anno Domini

HERE is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. 27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.    (Deuteronomy 33:26-27)

N thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me. Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.. Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD. I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities; And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.  (Psalm 31:1-8)

            A favorite old hymn of mine has direct bearing on Our Great Refuge as the subject at hand. It is Rock of Ages by Augustus Toplady written in 1763. It seems that Toplady found inspiration for the hymn from an incident that he experienced during a storm while passing through a gorge of Burrington Combe, Mendip Hills, in England. As the storm raged more intense, Toplady found refuge in the cleft of a Rock in the gap. Thus, the hymn. That same Rock exists today as a memorial to the event as the Rock of Ages. But the genuine and true Rock of Ages has existed from all Eternity Past in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though this is not a devotion in detail of that hymn, I do include below the first stanza:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.            

As His blood spilled out in torrents, His side was rent, or cleft, for us.

            This hymn is a beautiful expression of the grace and nature of God as our Fortress, Refuge, and great Defense. The hymn has no moral or spiritual authority apart from the biblical truths to which it appeals. But those truths transcend all others in our walk with Christ. He truly is our sure defense. Toplady was used of God to transmit those truths to untold millions. God also uses the life and testimony of each of us who hide ourselves in that same Rock of our Salvation which is Christ.

            I am amazed at the way in which the wonderful doctrines of biblical truths have been codified in our classical hymns. The verses of these hymns enhance our recall of those truths at times when the Holy Bible may not be readily available. The arms of God are a refuge unapproachable by the enemy of our souls. 

            When a young lad, my parents lived in Dalton, Georgia. About twenty-five miles south was the small community of White, Georgia. There is a Methodist church their called Pine Log Methodist Church at which an evangelist named Anthony J. Showalter was preaching in 1887. Showalter owned a printing shop in Dalton but traveled the South on evangelistic tours. While preaching at Pine Log Church, he received a bit of sad news concerning two former men whom he had met on a preaching tour in Alabama. The wives of both men had tragically died shortly after Showalter had departed for Georgia. As he was contemplating what words of comfort he could use to console the two men, the words of Deuteronomy 33:27 came to mind: The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. This verse was sufficient to write an entire hymn by the title, LEANING ON THE EVERLASTING ARMS. This hymn was first sung at that small church but travelled around the world in just a few months without the aid of radio or television. My favorite stanza of this hymn is the second: 

O how sweet to walk, In this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

I had the privilege to hear this hymn sung almost every day by my mother as she busied herself in her garden or in the usual household shores. When a toddler, I had no idea the meaning, but those words sank deep into my heart and later were magnified in my soul as the meaning became clear in later life.

            GOD IS OUR REFUGE! What great importance these words signify to the Christian. There are Christian soldiers who have died in battle just moments after throwing their souls upon the altar of mercy in some far-flung foxhole. Amazing the many who accept the Lordship of Christ on the eve of a major battle – in both life and on the battlefield. God is the Refuge of last resort to many; but for those who have found their refuge in Him at an early age, a long life of joy and service serve as evidence of His Mercy and Grace.

            In the eyes of God, we are all children. We lack the understanding and wisdom to keep our souls safe and our hearts pure. But He is the over-watching Father whose watchful eye is on those who put their trust in Him. At the darkest moment, He stands at the ready to demonstrate His power and love toward us and IN us.

            Walking among our bullying playmates with our big and strong brother is a dim illustration of walking with our Lord through every trial of life. He is bigger, stronger, and more faithful than any problem we face. 

            God is our Fortress!  His walls are strong, and the security He offers is within those walls. Wherever He is – like the Ark of Noah – is security. That fortress is, in counter measure – like a prison. Both have strong walls to prevent penetration. Both are made as an abode for different kinds of souls. Both have watchmen on the walls and tall towers. Both require authorization for admittance. Both have armed guards to protect the premises.  But look at the tremendous difference. The walls of a prison are designed to keep malcontents and criminals INSIDE. The inhabitants cannot leave until their punishment has been exacted. But the walls of a fortress are designed to keep the enemy OUT, and the inhabitants safe. Those within its walls are free to come and go according to their wishes. Theirs is an abode of security. All others within the walls of a fortress are our friends, our compatriots, our brothers and sisters. 

            The world is a prison; but the Kingdom of Heaven is an impenetrable Fortress. All who place their trust in God are safe within those walls. 

            In our day, there is much talk of so-called ‘sanctuary cities,’ but those are corrupt and ungovernable cities of the world. The only true Sanctuary City is that City of God which shall descend as a Bride prepared for her husband at the last trump. Sanctuary cities of the world are for law-breakers and violators of the peace; but the Sanctuary City of God (New Jerusalem) is a haven for the righteous.  We are not natural sons and daughters of the Father, but sons and daughters by means of adoption. We are ‘naturalized’ citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

            Are your papers in order, reader, to be admitted to that City of God?  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. 10  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) Imagine! This is just BEFORE the White Throne Judgment. The Adversary (Prosecuting Attorney) will not be present to accuse the people of God when they go before that Throne – only our Advocate (Defense Attorney) the Lord Jesus Christ will stand beside us at that moment! The devil will have already been cast into the Lake of Fire!