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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

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Dahlia and Those Who Sleep – 31 January 2020, Anno Domini



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HESE things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12  Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13  Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.  (John 11:11-13)

            The Church has long struggled with the issue of physical death and in what manner it should be related to the people. Of course, the Bible provides all necessary for that obligation. Yet, there still hangs a pall of mystery over the issue of our death.

            Our Lord was abundantly clear that the death of a saint is nothing more than a sleep. The body, at death, falls into a deep sleep; but the spirit returns to God who gave it.

            How long do we expect our bodies of dust and ashes to lie in the tomb? That question we have not been provided an answer; however, regardless of the time component, it shall be as the “twinkling of an eye.” “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  (1 Corinthians 15:51-56)

            The soul of man is much like the seed of grain. In life, it is covered with flesh and bones. The seed, too, is covered by a husk and layers of protective tissue. Yet, at the heart of the seed, is a tiny spark of life. The husk and protective linings will deteriorate and provide food for the germinating seed. One day, the gardene4r will be pleased to see the evidence of the life in that seed break open into the sun of day. Science can define the husk and the embryonic linings of the seed, but they are still at a loss to define that spark of life. The same is true of the believer who dies in Christ. His body turns to dust, but that spark of life which is the spirit suffers no destruction. Instead, it returns to God who keeps the soul in safekeeping until it can be joined again with a perfected body. It matters not how long the body remains in the grave, the seed of life is held in security by the Father. Our understanding of life ends at the grave, but our faith in God and His ability to keep us in His care should not.

            “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

            Fairly simple and concise, but pregnant with truth and joy.

            My mother was an avid gardener. She loved all manner of flowers many of which I could never recall the names, but one imposing flower was in her garden and beside the entrance of our house whose name I do recall – the Dahlia. What an unusual name, perhaps, but not when you know the history behind the Dahlia. 

            During the mid-19th century, Lord Lindsay explored the pyramids of Egypt. Being privileged to open one of the mummies entombed there, they discovered in the hand of the mummy the stem of a bulbous rose. The mummy was estimated to have been 3,000 years old at the time of the excavations. As soon as the wrappings were removed and the flower was subject to the ambient air, it crumbled into dust – all except the seed! This seed was carried to England and planted in the garden of Lord Lindsay. It later sprang up strong and health bearing a beautiful and unusual flower. There were no descriptions in their catalogs of botany to classify the flower.

            ‘What shall we call this flower,’ wondered Lord Lindsay. It is clearly a flower which had become extinct over those three thousand years that the seed lay dormant in the pyramid. 

            It was decided the flower should be named after the renowned Norwegian botanist, Christian Dahl – therefore, DAHLIA!

            This seed had lain dormant those three thousand years, yet its life was preserved in the heart of the seed. That may be a shadow of how God preserves His people whether living or sleeping in the dust. The key word of hope and joy for every Christian is the word sleep – not death.  God created each of us to live forever in eternity. The greatest issue facing each of us is which eternity – that of Heaven, or the fires of Hell.

            Whether we sleep in the grave three days, four days (as Lazarus), of 3,000 years buried in the Valley of Moab matters not. Our lives do continue on. Remember poor Moses who was not allowed to step foot in the Promised Land after leading a multitude of whining, mummering Israelites in the Wilderness for forty years. Yet, God took him up Mt. Nebo and allowed him to view the Promised Land from a distance. Moses than “slept with his fathers” and God buried him in the Valley of Moab. How sad, right? Not at all. When do we see Moses next in Holy Scripture? “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.” (Matthew 17:1-3) Here, many centuries later, we see Moses on another mountain. He doesn’t appear dead, does he, even if his body is sleeping in the dust? Moses is even talking with the Lord!

            There are many mysteries involved with the state of the so-called dead, and many beyond our ability to fully fathom. But one day, we shall come to a perfect understanding of those mysteries. Until then, we simply see through a glass darkly. Please observe both the hope and the mystery revealed by Paul below:

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UT if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15  Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming(1 Corinthians 15:13-23 (KJV) … “51  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56   The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law(1 Corinthians 15:51-56)

            Perhaps the very best illustration of death is given by our Lord Jesus Christ: “24  Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25  He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26  If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.  (John 12:24-26) 

           When you soul is planted in the Garden of Lord, what fruit shall we expect to spring up in due season?

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Your Heart Will Live For Ever – 30 January 2020, Anno Domini



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 WILL declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. 23  Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.  24  For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. 25  My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. 26  The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. (Psalm 22:22-26)

            Can you imagine anytime in the future when you simply do not exist – no thoughts at all, no memory, no feeling? It is difficult to imagine. Of course, every one has a soul that has a destiny – a destiny of either a blissful eternity with God the Father, or an ignominious eternity in outer darkness. But every soul was created to exist forever.

            The Holy Scriptures often make reference to the heart as the seat of the soul. It is in the heart where the treasures of the soul are on deposit.  The heart is an over-flowing fountain either of the Living Waters of Life, or the putrid poisons of the dark Prince.

            In the recent movie, TITANIC, the producers took much license in adding to the historical drama; but in the case of the theme song of the movie, they got the picture partly right. Below is a single stanza of that theme song:

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on.

            Watching that movie, the clear intent was to some transcendental aspect of the human psyche; but if we simply change the perspective to depict the relationship between the soul of man and the Father of Lights, the stanza makes absolute sense. The heart indeed ‘goes on! Whether God is near to your soul, or far away. When He sends the Holy Ghost to draw you to His bosom, He becomes the Door of the Sheepfold to redemption. That Door is Christ (John 10). No one can open or close the Door but the Good Shepherd – not some romantic lover. Our Lord Jesus Christ comes into the heart to sit on the Throne thereof. He will vanquish the enemy and make no room for the evil winds of the world. When we are in Christ, our hearts will continue in the security of our election until the Trump sounds and we are gathered together with the hosts of Heaven. If we are outside that Ark of Salvation (Christ) the fervent fires of judgment shall be our fare at the last. That love on deposit in our hearts will forever characterize us.

            I have written often of the Old Testament Law and its fulfillment in the New Testament of Grace. The Law was given as a teacher and as a plumb line for Israel. It demonstrated beyond any doubt that man could not be righteous in his own merits. He required a Savior – the same foreshadowed in Genesis 3:15, 21. The Promise made to Abraham was of a Redeemer. The Old Testament Church was comprised of those who believed the Promise made to Abraham – not those who believed in their own righteousness under the Law. Christ did not annul the Law, but, instead, made it more binding. Instead of filling the coffers of the Temple, He desires the very heart of the believer. If the heart belongs to Christ, every other element of the man will belong to Christ. The great change is not in the outward man, but the inward. Christ is first our Savior and Redeemer; then, He is our Plumb Line.

            “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  (Jeremiah 31:33) The impersonal Tables of Stone of the Commandments were a laundry list of what the believer should, and shouldn’t, do. They were enforced by harsh penalties and a judgmental priesthood. But the Law took on a different nature entirely with the Coming of our Lord. He withdrew the Tables of Stone and wrote His Law upon the soft sinews of the heart so that the Law of God was obeyed, not out of compulsion and fear, but out of love and a high sense of duty – the sense of duty a child has to maintain the respect of the father by righteous living. This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God;” (Hebrews 10:16-21)  

            Christ Himself hung both Tables of the Law on that element of LOVE.  “ 35  Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36  Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37   Jesus said unto himThou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38  This is the first and great commandment. 39  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets(Matthew 22:35-40)

Notice how our obligations to God are enforced by Love? The first four Commandments are our direct duty to God. The fifth is a transition Commandment between our duties to both God and Man. God is also our Parent! The last five are our sole duty to others (enforced, again, by Love).

             Daily we are storing up treasures in our hearts – some are storing up treasures that are in a secure trust in Heaven; others are storing up ‘treasures’ of ruin and sorrow. It is the heart that defines our character, our loyalty, our devotion, our honesty, and our Love. “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,”  (Romans 7:22)  

            All of us have laws written in our hearts either by the habit and indifference of sin, or by the Loving finger of God whose Finger also wrote upon the Wall before Belshazzar at Babylon and in the sand of the Temple before the woman taken in Adultery.   "Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, A people in whose heart is My law; Do not fear the reproach of man, Nor be dismayed at their revilings.” (Isaiah 51:7) 

            Is your heart filled with luke-warm sentiments toward God, or perchance a perverse hatred of all things Holy? Or do the treasures of your heart consist of an unbridled love and perseverance for His Word and its propagation? The Gospels are quite clear on the foundations of righteousness seated in the heart of Love. “34  O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36  But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37  For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned(Matthew 12:34-37)

            What sacrifices does God exact from His people? Will ten percent of your first crops suffice, or a perfect young lamb each Passover? Not at all. Christ has become our Pascal Lamb. He is our sacrifice. No other sacrifice can benefit except one which God will receive as a sweet smelling savor – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

            The lyrics of the Titanic theme song are true if directed between God and man and not between merely human lovers. We are to be lovers of God, and He will love us as His chosen children. We are the Bride of Christ, and He is our Bridegroom. Should this not represent the highest degree of Love in all of Heaven and earth?

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What hast thou done? – 29 January 2020, Anno Domini


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ND he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.   (Genesis 4:10)

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HAT hath God wrought!  (Numbers 23:23b)

            How does a wife get the husband off the couch and away from TV news in an expeditious manner? By exclaiming ‘Company is coming!’ At least that has always worked with me since I like to gather many books around my easy chair, many opened lying flat upon the floor. It would not impress the most careless of housekeepers. I would immediately arise, pick up the books, take them into a back room and place them face open about the floor. I would also gather up house slippers and any other bits of informal attire scattered about the premises. We learn to hide our unkempt laundry very well when company is coming, don’t we? Don’t deny it – every person reading this text has had the same experience. It is like a surprise Saturday morning inspection in the military. But the inspecting officer knows from many past inspections where to look to find the hidden contraband a soldier is forbidden to have in a training camp. So, does the Lord our God.

            Cain believed he could explain away what murderous act he had committed against his brother. He had buried the body for we are told the blood of Abel cried unto God “from the ground.” There can be no hidden sins or thoughts of the heart. God does not observe the outer man, but peers deep into the heart. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Nothing is hidden from the eyes of the Lord. There is a hefty price to pay in attempting to hide our sins from the Lord just as Cain paid and even King David: “9For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

            It is the human condition to believe that we have escaped retribution as long as no one else knows of our misdeeds, but someone else DOES know of them! Even many devout Christians will attempt to justify certain sins by twisting and contorting the Word of God. They will make every manner of excuse as to why they remain, for example, in churches whose teaching directly contravenes the Word of God. After all, their ancestors are buried in the church cemetery. Would it not be a sin to abandon those over some doctrinal dispute? It would be a sin to remain in such a church and allow your offerings and labors to contribute to an institutionalized apostacy. “60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60) and see also “17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the LORD, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17) – not much wiggle room there.

            God does not hide His blessings or condemnations from us. He openly shares with us in His Word the manner in which He created the world and all that is in the world – including YOU! God, unlike man, has nothing to hide but His pre-ordained counsels which He reveals according to our ability to comprehend. “What hath God wrought?” this is a rhetorical question expressed by Balaam before Balak. “What hath God wrought!” or, "what God doeth." The meaning seems to be that augury and divination were useless and vain in the case of Israel because God Himself declared and would declare His mighty acts on behalf of His people and that by no uncertain prophecy, but by open declaration. 

            The Lord divided the waters of the Red Sea before both His people and the eyes of the pursuing enemy to see. He made Mt. Sinai smoke before the entire congregation of Israel. He has never hidden His glorious power from our observation. His Word is full of Truth and Life. We need only fathom the depth of it according to our Plumb Lines of Truth. Our Lord not only died on the cross before the eyes of many witnesses but appeared to hundreds of witnesses after His resurrection. His ascent into Heaven was also observed by His disciples. He did not simply slip away and ascend to the Father.

            How many Christians have many sins to hide which have not been confessed to Almighty God? I am not talking about our failures to confess those common sins of each day of which we may not even be aware of our committing. I am talking about grievous sins that lie deep in our conscience and which have become a lingering burden to our Christian walk. Harboring such sins is quite unprofitable since the Mercy and Grace of our Lord is sufficient to cover every sin. Some burdensome sins may have already been confessed and forgiven, yet we continually are grieved at the remembrance and feel that the Lord cannot forgive the enormity of such sins. He is ABLE! He forgave King David the sin of adultery and even murder. He forgave Peter the sin of betrayal and denunciation. He forgave Paul (Saul) the sin of persecuting His Church and stoning His messengers. So, you believe He cannot forgive your sins of somewhat (I hope) lesser degree?

            Suppose you were laboring in your field and the Lord asked in a booming voice, “What hast thou done?” I believe you might have many things to answer. I know I would have. My problem would be, “I do not know where to begin, Lord.” How would you respond? But remember; those sins of yours that have been a burden upon you before you were called and chosen as a priceless vessel in the Temple of the Lord, are wholly forgiven and not remembered by our Lord. He tells us that “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) And in another place, He says: “12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:12-14)

            There are depths of the sea yet unexplored by the human eye. That is a great DEEP. Though that Deep may be the largest cemetery of all, it shall give up its dead at the voice of the Lord, but the sins of His people will remain in the Deep – but the sins of the unrepentant will rise with their owners. “13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Revelation 20:13)

            You must admit that the distance of the east from the west is a far piece – even infinite in scope. But God says He will REMEMBER our sins no more! “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12). Notice God does not say , “Ah, I will just FORGET your sins!”  No, He doesn’t. Why? God cannot simply FORGET our sins. Redeeming us from those sins required the priceless blood of His only Begotten Son. How could He carelessly FORGET them – it is because forgetfulness is a weakness of the mind and involuntary. But Remembering requires a conscious effort. And failing to remember requires a conscious effort. God has no weak mind to forget, but He does have the mercy and grace to decide not to REMEMBER! He decided that for you in the eternity past when He called you and foreordained you in the antiquity past. He counted the cost of not remembering, and He was willing to make the purchase. 

            Do not allow the past life of sin to bear down upon your shoulders as an unbecoming yoke. Remember the words of our Lord’s in His prayer:  “11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes.11:26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight. 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. 11:28 Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and all of you shall find rest unto your souls. 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:25-30)

The burden of sin is heavy and hard to be borne, but the yoke of Christ is easy and light – in fact, a great JOY!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Hymns of the Church – My Savior First of All – 28 January 2020, Anno Domini




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ND it came to pass, as he sat at food with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.  (Luke 24:30-31)

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EHOLD my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit (o. pneuma) has not flesh and bones, as all of you see me have.   And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:39-40)

            Here is another hymn by the greatest of all American hymnists, Fanny Crosby. In spite of my well-stocked library of hymnary, I could find no references to this beautiful hymn. As in all of her hymns, Mrs. Crosby adds the strength of her own testimony in the lyrics. Blind from infancy, Fanny learned to see the unseen and hear the unspoken things of God. Her vision of God was enhanced by her blindness to man and the world about her. Fanny always included in her hymns a description of her personal submission and exaltation of the Lord and His Holy Word. A line from one of her favorite poems reads:

I think that life is not too long and therefore I determine,
That many will read a song who will not read a sermon.

In keeping with that proposition, each of Fanny’s hymns are sermons touched by the beautiful colors of God’s rainbow. This hymn was written in 1894.

My Savior First of All

When my life work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
Refrain
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand,
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
By the print of the nails in His hand.

Oh, the soul thrilling rapture when I view His blessèd face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepare for me a mansion in the sky.
Refrain

Oh, the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come,
And our parting at the river I recall;
To the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home;
But I long to meet my Savior first of all.
Refrain

Through the gates to the city in a robe of spotless white,
He will lead me where no tears will ever fall;
In the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight;
But I long to meet my Savior first of all.
Refrain
            
My Savior First of All
The title of this hymn is worth noting. As every educator will admit, repetition aids recall. This is a salient principle of learning. The Master Educator – the Word of God – frequently employs this principle. 9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.  I(Isaiah 28:9-13) And so the repetition of I Shall Know Him. It is something that was peculiarly characteristic of Fanny Crosby. She did KNOW Him!

When my life work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide, When the bright and glorious morning I shall see; I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side, And His smile will be the first to welcome me. It is astonishing to my mind that Fanny could SEE the coming GLORY better than anyone I know though she was, in this life, blind. She has phenomenal spiritual vision, but do not fail to consider her unusual ability to hear and listen. When . . . . I cross the swelling tide. Fanny had never witnessed the rolling of the tides of the sea, yet she could see them clearly in her hearing the tide swell and break on the New England coast as she meditated there – and she considered all to be the very Voice of God in nature. When a child, my parents used to make outings to the mountain streams of North Georgia and Tennessee. In those days, these streams were not frequented by the crowds of tourist of today. As you walked along those streams, you would know that you were approaching the white water rapids downstream by the crashing sounds of the cascading waters. That is what Fanny heard in the swelling tides ere they broke upon the rocks. She sees, with her mind’s eye, the bright and glorious morning when her eyes will behold her Redeemer without any impediment of vision. It is that face that Fanny repeatedly longed to see in her letters and talks with others. That face of Christ will be a smiling and welcoming face to such as Fanny who could never have seen a smiling and welcoming face before.

Refrain
I shall know Him, I shall know Him, And redeemed by His side I shall stand, I shall know Him, I shall know Him, By the print of the nails in His hand. Yes, Fanny shall know Him by more ways than one. She will know Him on sight for His grace and mercy; and she will know Him by the print of the nails in His hand. Perhaps the formerly blind Fanny will know Him better than anyone else on that glorious resurrection morning. At that moment, the most deeply felt yearnings of poor, blind Fanny Crosby will be realized. 

Oh, the soul thrilling rapture when I view His blessèd face, And the luster of His kindly beaming eye; How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace, That prepare for me a mansion in the sky.It is obvious from this line that Fanny has given much thought to the appearing Savior. An elderly Fanny Crosby died in 1915 blind and waning; but her resurrected and glorified body will see the blessed face of her Lord. She will see the love beams of kindness glistening from His eyes of mercy and grace. The praise of God for which Fanny lived and wrote will not be diminished, but rather increased a hundred-fold, at the sight of her Lord. His Mercy, Love, and Grace were the Anchor and Cable that drew her to that union with Christ, and was the oil that burned in her heart in praise that is now even more abundant. Even a godly Fanny Crosby needed preparation to be able to receive such a glorious mansion as the Lord has prepared for her and all who believe. 

Oh, the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come, And our parting at the river I recall; To the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home; But I long to meet my Savior first of all. Remember our long past separation from mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and other loved ones by the Banks of Jordan Waters? We may have cried aloud, or shed silent, warm tears at the parting. It would seem an interminable time before our reunion on the far shores of the Jordan. But now, as our curtain descends, and we close our eyes on that precious gift of life on earth that was the grant of Heaven, there awaits the most wonderful of glorious events. We shall see our loved ones again beyond Jordan’s stormy banks; but the One that makes all of that possible will be the more glorious face to behold – our Lord and Savior.

Through the gates to the city in a robe of spotless white, He will lead me where no tears will ever fall; In the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight; But I long to meet my Savior first of all. Those Gates of Splendor are never closed to the elect of God. They swing wide open in welcome to those who have lived for Christ. There is a Banquet planned which will require a proper attire – the White Robe of Righteousness purchased by the life-blood of our dear Savior. 1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away(Rev 21:1-4) Nonetheless, Fanny long’s to meet her Savior first of all as must we all who are bound for that City in the Sky.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

AOC Sunday Report - Third Sunday after the Epiphany


Happy third Sunday after the Epiphany!

The AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE.

There are really great sermons today from Bishops Jerry and Roy, as well as Revs Jack and Bryan.  You will find each quite different and very interesting.

As always there are a lot of people that need your prayers. Please start out today with Jim Flanagan and work out from there.

There is an epic week ahead but you were not even going to notice it, let alone find it, without the help of the Holy Ghost.

Godspeed,

Hap

Church Faithful Centurion
Descanso, California

Sermon Notes - Third Sunday after The Epiphany - 26 January 2020, Anno Domini (in the Year of Our Lord)


The Third Sunday after The Epiphany.
The Collect.

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LMIGHTY and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

When Blind Bartemaeus and the leper called out to Christ, they did not first request healing, but mercy. When we plead the Lord to look mercifully upon us, all things needful will be done unto us when He does. His right Hand is the arm of unconquerable Strength. Not only does He heal the Body; not only does He defend against danger.; and not only does He heal the Spirit forlorn and hopless. Instead, He lifts our unbecoming yoke and concentrates our vision on the upward looking Gates of Paradise.

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ND the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six water-pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.  (John 2:1-11)

I consider the lectionary texts today to be of paramount importance. They represent the beginning of the ministry of Jesus at Cana. The ancient Prayer of Collect opens with a petition for the provision of safety and necessity from the Hand of the Lord.  It further appeals for mercies on our common frailty in life. If we remembered to pray this prayer first each morning, it would suffice for our daily bread. Whether by profound miracle, or by the common miracles of God’s nature, our daily needs are all provided by the right hand of God.

The following selection from the day’s Epistle has profound meaning for the Christian professor: Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Some hearers today will not know, or remember, the term ‘hickory stick’ due to the fact that its memory has not been indelibly etched on the hide of their legs, but I remember! It was the punishment of choice in the mountain country in which I was raised. The mention of it would strike terror into the hearts of its victims. If I, or my sisters, or brother, misbehaved, we could expect mother or father to go outside and break a thin, limber limb from the hickory tree. This became a sort of whip that was used to evoke repentance for deeds of disobedience. It was not possible to outrun the persistent lashing of the ‘hickory stick.’ Once after an argument with my younger brother of five years of age, I told my mother on him for some secret misdeed. Mother said, “Jerry, go outside and find me a hickory stick.” Gleeful at the opportunity for maximum revenge, I sought out the prickliest limb I could find, and adorned with especially hateful spurs. When I handed the branch to my mother, she took one look at the dreadful instrument of torture and said, “OK, Jerry, YOU are FIRST!” I will never forget that lesson of willful revenge on my part. I believe God teaches us the same lesson. Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him. (Prov 24:17-18)

Now we come to the glorious Gospel, so full of Light and Hidden Manna for the early riser – for Manna comes with the mist of the morning. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. (Psalms 63:1-2)

I have heard men argue that marriage was not so much of importance to God for Jesus was not married. While it is true that our Lord did not marry during His ministry, His entire ministry involved His betrothal to His Bride, the Church!

The text describes a marriage celebration in Cana of Galilee to which Jesus and His disciples have been invited. The event is heralded as Jesus’ first miracle among a host of miracles. Of course, the text is referring to those profound suspensions of natural law that Jesus evoked by the power of His Word. But we must not forget that the pre-Incarnate Christ was the agent of First Cause in the Creation of the world, the heavenly bodies, and all life. (John 1:1-03) The changing of the elements of pure water into wind demonstrates our Lord’s eternal sovereignty over the Creation which He has made. It was sensational and stunning to man who deals more commonly in the physical realities of life; however, I will suggest that this is the second recorded miracle of the Gospel of John. In fact, I will claim that all of the life of Jesus was an ongoing miracle of eternal proportions. Remember Nathaniel in the first chapter of John? “esus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. (John 1:47-50)

Please observe that the Hidden Miracle here is one of the Spirit and not of the elements of the physical world. It is this miracle that supersedes all others.  So what is the profundity of this miracle? And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  Unless God first reveals Himself they will never understand the truths of the Creed or His Word.. First of all, it is a miracle that God loves us. Secondly, that He deigns to reveal Himself to us by way of His Word and the natural world. An anonymous love letter, addressed to no one in particular, may be beautiful for thought and prose, but it bears little meaning unless revealed to its intended beloved. The most difficult challenge to the modern Christian is to see that God’s personality and truth are just as clearly intended for his heart as it was for the hearers two or three thousand years ago. Only God can bring that revelation to the heart.

In reading the Gospel text, we see that those who are followers (disciples) of Christ share in the courtesies to which He is invited. They were ALSO invited to attend this, presumable, friends and family event. If we are in Christ, we are accounted a part of His family and circle of friends. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. (John 15:15) Christ is all in all to us. He is first, a Friend; but more than a Friend, He is our elder Brother in the family of God; and more than a Brother, He is our Lord and Sovereign. He is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) If He is the second Adam (which clearly He is), He becomes literally the Father of all who are quickened in the Spirit to eternal life. 

Jesus Cares for the Common Needs of all Humanity:
The marriage celebration at Cana reveals the Glory of His All-Sufficient Grace to us in all conditions, big and small, of our lives. It places an exclamation mark on the Institution which was God’s first in the Garden at Eden. Marriage is so illustrative of the union that exists between Christ and His Church that Jesus uses the occasion to demonstrate its importance by performing His first material miracle. I love the beauty and reverence provided in the Book of Common Prayer for the Solemnization of Matrimony that reflects this truth: 

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EARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

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ND when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.” The Greek term used here for ‘wanted’ is: uJsterevw  (Hustereo) which means to fall behind or lack an essential something for a particular need. The need may not be a profound necessity, but it is a necessity for the conditions of the present moment – in this case, wine, the lack of which would have been a signal embarrassment to the family of the couple getting married. To the consternation of many of our Baptist brethren, this wine is not unfermented grape juice, but the real deal. The warmth and comfort of the fruit of the vine is illustrative of the same which is granted, in a more marked degree, by the Holy Ghost. But the issue of wine is not the focus of this event, but the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ in His role as Creator and Sovereign over all powers – even His natural law. “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 1:14)

Jesus desires us to come in prayer to him for all our needs:       
Another interesting point in this comment of Mary to her Son is the familiarity which family associations breed. When we are part of the family of Christ, we can approach Him with even mundane requests. Our every ‘want’ may not be always supplied, but we have the privilege to seek it out and understand His will in the matter. You will observe that Mary did not make ANY overt request but only expressed a need. He knows our every need and will supply according to His will. If we express our need in prayer, He will be more acutely keen to satisfy that need if He deems it beneficial to us.

The miracles of Jesus are not to be regarded as the most prominent proof of His Lordship, but as secondary revelations of His power and grace. The greater revelation is in His revealing Himself to us as He did to Nathaniel, to Nicodemus, and to Peter. The modern church that seeks signs and wonders is not a church of faith and holiness: An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.   (Matt 12:39-41) Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the whale. Jesus was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. But Jonah came up from the whale’s belly, and Christ was the first born of all the family of God in His resurrection. Is this not enough iron on which to hang our faith? Why do we insist on God constantly proving Himself? Should the case not be reversed?

The key to gaining the best from the master’s hand is obedience:
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. Jesus’ response is not unimportant to us. He seems to hesitate in His response to His mother, but she perseveres and counts her prayer as already answered.  She knows the nature of her Son to provide all necessary wants. So she says to the servants (as well as to you and me): Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. Has the modern church done this? Have you done this in your personal walk of faith? Remember, ‘WHATSOEVER’ covers every Word of Scripture revealed to us. Of course, the greatest ‘WHATSOEVER’ that Jesus has commanded is that we Love one another.……A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35) How many Christians fail of this commandment? How many churches?

Notice Jesus commands authority – even among those who may not know Him. 6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.  No one had ever issued such an unbelievable command to these servants before, yet they obeyed immediately and without question. When Christ calls us into unknown paths, we do not stammer and falter, but rise immediately in obedience. If we hesitate, He may send His “Hounds of Heaven” on our trail until we do obey.

Obedience results in the best always being ahead:
Do you truly LOVE God? Love possesses a sacrificial quality. It foregoes self and exalts the object of its affection. We have no means of loving the unlovely, but Christ is LOVELY. In fact, we love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) If we obey and keep His Commandments, we shall always have the best to which to look forward. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Cor 2:9-10) Who are we to enjoy such blessings! Do you desire the BEST, or do you prefer the sordid leftovers of the world?  If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. (Isaiah 1:19)

This great truth is made certain in these verses: 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.  This is absolutely true. The world sets forth its shiniest and best false pleasures before us first of all, but the blessings and benefits of God are ever increasing in splendor and beauty.

Regardless of the victories and reverses of your life heretofore, the Lord can make those victories and benefits pale in comparison to what He has to offer those who love Him and are obedient to His Word.

Friday, January 24, 2020

A Bowshot Away – 24 January 2020, Anno Domini



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ND Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. 15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. 16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. 19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. (Genesis 21:13-19)

            In global geographical measure, a bowshot is not so great a distance. One can cross such a distance in seconds or minutes. But that short distance can mean the difference in life or death, condemnation or salvation. Oftentimes, it is just such a distance that separates man from his eternal reward. It may seem quite random to measure our nearness to God by such a simple scale; however, even an inch separation of man from God is as good as twenty thousand light years of distance. The fly of an arrow is brief, but death may lie at the end of its arc of trajectory. There are many factors that dictate the fly of an arrow – the wind, the quality of the bow, the marksman that pulls the string, or perhaps the craftsmanship of the arrow itself.

            The raising of a child is much like the making of an arrow. The branch from which the shaft is cut must be of sound and solid wood. The shaft must be dried and finished to a smooth and polished texture. It must be perfectly straight if it can be guided to its intended target. Children, too, must be conceived in love and brought up under the nurture of the Bible law. They must be made straight and polished to a high gloss to accomplish much in life and spirit. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it(Proverbs 22:6)  A child should GO straight, therefore, his training must be made straight.

            Children and arrows are much alike and are compared with each other in scripture. They must undergo processes that may seem to hurt the wood, but the craftsman is making the shaft a better instrument in the hands of the marksman as he applies his skill to carving, sanding, and notching the shaft. He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24 (KJV)  The shaft does not take the bent and crooked shape it might otherwise attempt, but is fashioned by the hands of the craftsman to be a useful tool in his hands. Parents may not take pleasure in the discipline of their children, but it is an essential aspect of making them strong and successful.

            Ps 3  Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate(Psalm 127:3-5) Parents do not seem to truly love their children enough in our time to administer discipline. But children are a great heritage to any mother and father – a heritage which must be protected, maintained, loved, and trained. The quiver mentioned above is the home. When a home is full of children, a man walks proudly among his neighbors. He is always at the ready to produce an array of photographs each of which will be accompanied by laudatory explanation.

            The Archer (Father) has full control of those arrows as long as they are in his hands or possession. One day, he will remove one of those arrows from his quiver, perhaps at the time of marriage, and carefully place it on the bow and string. He lifts the bow at an high angle, still maintaining total control of the arrow. He draws the string and arrow back with much force and waits until his aim is steady. Even now, he possesses control of the arrow; but then, as he feels comfortable with his aim, his pull, and his arrow, he releases the arrow and watches it as it leaves his bow and arches off into the sky. At that point, he has relinquished all control and influence over the arrow. If the arrow is straight and polished, the bow is strong and sure, and the archer’s aim is accurate, the arrow will arrive at its intended target. If not, it will miss the hope of the archer in going where he aimed it. 

The same is true of children. When they are but a branch, it is easy to fashion them into something better. As they grow older, more labor and effort is required to finish and polish them. And once they are out of the home, all control of the parent is relinquished. If they are properly prepared, made straight, and aimed properly, they will be sons and daughters of which the parents can be proud. If not, they will miss the mark.

Let us now consider that ‘bowshot’ of Hagar’s wilderness experience. In the end, Hagar winds up by a fountain of water; but what was it that brought Hagar to the water? 

1.        All hope was exhausted – Hagar wandered in the wilderness until all her water was gone. She came to the realization that she may die of thirst. Worse, her beloved son, Ishmael, was already perishing for lack of water. The Christian, too, often tires of fighting the good fight and considers hope forlorn. When we have expired our own efforts and resources, we forget the God of Heaven.

2.        Sorrow and heartache – Hagar could not countenance the death of her only son. She would wander a distance– a bowshot – away so as not to witness the child’s death. Sorrows mount in the lives of believers that overcome their spirits. They are bent down with sorrow and unable to see clearly. They may try to escape the circumstances that brought them to the brink instead of acting out in faith.

3.        Blindness – Hagar was blind to the providential Eye of God which beheld her every move. She wept bitterly the tears that added a physical blindness to her spiritual blindness. She knew not where she wandered as she moved that bowshot away. It was not Hagar who directed her feet, but God. In our blind sorrow, God will intercede and guide our feet to places of which we have no knowledge – a place of answered prayer and glorious salvation.

4.        Mourning and weeping- Like Mary Magdalene at the Garden Tomb, Hagar’s tears prevented her seeing the Fountain of Water right where she was standing. How often have our tears kept us from seeing the works and purpose of God right before our eyes? God asked, What aileth thee, Hagar?

5.        God opened Hagar’s eyes – And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. The well of water was there all along, but Hagar’s tears had blinded her. The same was true of Mary Magdalene. Looking for the last time into the vacant tomb where she presumed the dead body of her Lord had lain, the angels asked her, Jn 11  But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12  And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13  And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. (John 20:11-13) The angels were inside the tomb looking out at Mary, and they could see the joyous approach of Jesus toward her from behind. They must have smiled at the circumstance.

            Hagar’s unexpressed hopes were fulfilled without so much as a prayer, the Lord knowing her needs even if not verbalized. She discovered the Fountain of Water. Likewise, Mary, hoping to anoint a dead body, was grieved to the heart. Her tears were blinding in their profusion. Her prayers were for the dead body, but were shockingly and joyously answered by the Living Body of her Lord! 14  And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16  Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master(John 20:14-16)

            Like Hagar, Mary was blinded by sorrow, hopelessness and tears. But the Lord, in calling her name like no other could do, opened her eyes to His presence. Mary, too, discovered the Fountain of the Water of Life right before her eyes. It was the distance of a bowshot that brought Hagar to the fountain of waters; it was the distance of faith and love that brought Mary to her Lord. 

What tugs at YOUR heart, my friend