Thursday, April 30, 2020
I am impressed at the kind emotions and love that permeated the stories in the earlier textbook readers of America, and the high character of both students and teachers of those days. Where has the youthful innocence and tenderness gone in our young people. There is no time these days for them to be quiet and alone to consider the deep thoughts of life. This story is by Mary Louise Kitsen of Plainsville, New Jersey.
– Jerry Ogles
a touching story from my old elementary school reader
Anyone can be Beautiful
When I was 10 years old and in the fifth grade, Miss Mary Aborn was the most popular teacher in the entire Linden Street School in Plainville, Connecticut. In June, at the end of my fourth grade year, when the envelopes were passed out with next year’s assignments, I could hardly open mine. I closed my eyes, afraid to look. Finally, I opened my eyes. I got her! Miss Aborn was going to be my teacher!
At that point everything should have been perfect. But something happened to spoil the day. A classmate handed me an invitation to a “class picnic.” But the three black students didn’t get invitations.
I didn’t go. Seeing one of my black girlfriends cry was enough for me to make up my mind about that. I’m not sure anyone went.
When school started in September I happened to be talking with the black girl who had cried. “I don’t think I will ever feel as comfortable in school again,” she told my girlfriend Gracie and me. Gracie and I decided we’d better do something about that. But what? “Maybe we’d better confide in Miss Aborn,” Gracie suggested. And that is what we did.
One day, after break, it was time for our history lesson. “Instead of starting our regular lessons today, I think it would be interesting if we discussed the different climates around the world,” Miss Aborn told us. We talked about places that become extremely hot, such as Africa, and nations like Norway that have cold weather much of the year.
“In thinking about Africa,” Miss Aborn said, “if you lived there, do you think you’d get a bad sunburn? Did any of you get sunburns over the summer?”
Well, more than one of the students had to say they did get sunburned. “God planned wisely, didn’t He?” teacher said. We looked at her, curious. “He gave the people in nations where it gets extremely hot dark skins that protect them from the sun’s sometime cruel rays. In nations that have a good amount of hot weather but not to the degree that Africa does, we find people with brown skins. But look at Shirley Olsen sitting here in the front row. Her ancestors came from a cold nation, Norway. See how fair she is? Her family did not need the protection other peoples needed.”
Our classmate who had cried stood beside her desk. “Miss Aborn, I’m black because my ancestors came from a very hot country?” She smiled, “Otherwise, I am the same?”
“That’s correct,” Miss Aborn said. The girl’s smile turned to a grin.
The weeks flew by and Thanksgiving approached. These were depression years. Our little town was more fortunate than many, but of course we still had our fair share of problems. In my class there was one boy whose father had lost his job, and the family had very little money, even for food.
“My father says we’ll have to have a charity basket if we’re to have much of a Thanksgiving dinner,” this classmate told us. “But he says he won’t ask for charity.”
The next day Miss Aborn pulled one of her surprises. “A lady living alone often has a lonely holiday,” she told us. “This year I hope I can get a family to come to my house and share Thanksgiving with me. In my little home, I can have only one family, of course, and though I would like to ask all of my students and their families, I can’t. So, I wonder if you would help me. I have a basket here with slips in it. One of you will draw a slip and the child whose name is on that slip is the one I hope will do me the favor of coming to my home for Thanksgiving dinner.”
We all decided it was nothing short of a wonderful miracle that the name drawn was that of the boy whose father so hated to accept charity. All these years later, I realize that no matter which slip had been drawn, that boy’s name would have appeared!
That year went by quickly and by springtime I was worried. Gracie was worried. The world was coming to an end . . . because of the letters.
Since I passed the post office on my way home each day, Miss Aborn often gave me letters to mail. Gracie walked almost that far with me, and we worried about those letter addressed to a gentleman in Virginia.
Was teacher in love? How could she be . . . after all, she must be 40 . . . You don’t fall in love and get married when you’re that old, do you? What if she married and went to live in Virginia? What would the children of our school do? Miss Aborn had been there forever and she was needed. Loved.
Miss Aborn went around humming and smiling. We worried still more. Then I got up my courage one day and I stayed a few minutes after school. I told Miss Aborn all about my worries. She kissed me and said she’d tell us all about it the following day.
The next day Miss Aborn put a chair for herself in the front of the room and had us sit on the floor all around her. And she told us about falling in love (at any age). She explained why it was good and why it was right to wait for the one you marry. In something like maybe fifteen minutes, Miss Aborn told us things that would help us make many future decisions. I know that many times her words came to my mind at just the right time. Told simply and honestly, the joy of love and marriage can become a matter of respect for yourself and the one you will someday love enough to marry.
Then she took out a photograph of the gentleman she loved, and she told us all about him. His likes and dislikes. His work. His religious convictions. We came to know him well. And to feel willing to let him marry our beloved teacher.
Fifth grade came to an end. I opened my card and saw that I was passed on to grade six. My time with Miss Aborn was over. As we left her room, she kissed each girl, and shook hands with each boy. We kept looking back as we left. Gracie and I even walked backward for a way in the hall. Until she left that day, we could still call her teacher.
Later that day one of my granny Lyman’s dressmaking customers was in our home for a fitting. She looked out the window and saw Miss Aborn across the street. “Mary Aborn is such a nice person, it’s too bad that she is so homely,” the customer said.
“Miss Aborn isn’t homely,” I said, “She’s beautiful!”
And suddenly, right at that moment, I learned the most important lesson of all from Miss Aborn. I learned how to be really beautiful!
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
HIS is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. 9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. 12 When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. 13 Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them. 14 And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. 15 All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen. Titus 3:8-15
At even the most subtle suggestion the Christian life should be evidenced by good works, a charge is made we are advocating salvation by works. If good works are not evidence of Christian conviction, then what evidence should we seek? Good works prior to salvation is of no avail – in fact all the works of a sinner is sin – even plowing. To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin. (Proverbs 21:3-4) But, once the elect has received grace and mercy, his old self-will is surrendered and he takes upon his soul the Will of the Heavenly Father to do that Will and not his own (which is always a sinful will). The idea that doing good is not the character of a Christian is to embrace the heresy of antinomianism – or the rejection of God’s Moral Law as binding on the believer. It seems embecilic that any rational soul could accept such a depraved idea, but many have been deceived by the repetition of such a heresy from many pulpits. The biblical knowledge of many has become so incomplete as to make them vulnerable to the deceits of the false prophets.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. Just as the false prophets deceive many by often repeated falsehoods, so is true doctrine more readily planted with the deep roots of repetition. Both clergy and laity should constantly affirm the truth of good works following grace. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10) If these verses above were all that relate to the question, and they are not, these would be sufficient to establish the doctrine of good works following grace. The Christian must be mindful always, and careful, to do good works reflecting that same Spirit of the Good Samaritan.
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. The library is full of books of would-be theologians who consider the gnat always to be larger than the camel. They use terms that are foreign to the understanding of the simple Bible believer and argue ad infinitum over pretended theological concepts that they neither understand themselves, nor can explain to the rest of us in meaning. They question the simplicity of the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus Christ – the Author of our Doctrine and Faith – never used such arcane terms in His teaching – nor did His apostles. The Serpent of the Garden always begins with some misguided question about Scripture – Hath God said? It matters not the bloodlines and genealogies of our descent. Whether Jew or Gentile, there is only one true Israel of God and that Israel is the one that believes the Promise of a Redeemer made to Abraham. We are spiritual Children of the Promise, not of some physical, human bloodline.
I am very amenable to reading the Church Fathers and the works of great and Godly men of the past, but I love their works - not because they question Scripture – but because they do NOT! They expound upon Scripture in ways that reduce the complexity in our minds to the simple truths that lay there already covered by the dust of prideful ignorance. So, reading those men such as Matthew Henry, J.C. Ryle, Calvin or others, I admire the works because I can verify all that they say by Holy Writ. But let us not get carried away with intellectualism over simple truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:11-14) Yes, I have an inordinate love for books – I inherited the inclination from my father – but there is only one Book that really matters to me, and mattered to my father, and that is the Holy Bible.
A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. We realize that many, out of a good and charitable heart, fill duty bound to expend endless effort in convincing heretics of the error of their ways; I do not waste my time once I realize they have rejected truth for lies. The truth is too valuable to be reduced to the level of the gutter-dwellers. Our time will be more wisely invested in seeking out and teaching the ignorant and attentive sinner of the grace that God has made available through our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are teachable are of far greater worth than those who expect to convert you from truth to lies. I beg no man to come to my church. I serve a great King; in fact, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I need beg no one to accept Him. I simply expound the truth of God’s Word with all the power and force the Holy Spirit will grant. If the listener accepts that truth upon biblical confirmation of it, good. If not, his blood is upon his own head for rejecting it. Such ones are condemned by the words of their own mouths.
Paul closes with a benedictory address concerning future visitation. Finally, he closes the Book of Titus with this reinforcing reminder: And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. The part I cherish most of this last text is this: let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. I love to see churches that do more than build opulent structures and enormous bank accounts. I am always inspired by the small and very poor churches going out into the community to bring children to the church who have no money, or feed the homeless. There is a small church of less than fifty members near my home whose greater membership are children of less that 14 years of age. The minister is a brick-layer. He uses his own money to reach children for Christ. He does far more in the teaching of children than one of the largest churches in our community with a monthly income of more than one million dollars. This is solid evidence shown by souls who have known, and practice, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is tender hearts, not stone masonry and prestige.
This concludes our brief study of the Book of Titus. I pray you have found it of interest and of benefit to your spiritual studies.
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Hymn 173 – Hail. Gladdening Light, of His Pure Glory Poured – 28 April 2020, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)
An Ancient Hymn from the 2nd Century AD
OR he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19)
I was born at a peculiar age during the Second World War. In those days, steam engines were common on the rails, telephones hung on the wall and needed to be cranked to place a call, and horse-drawn carriages and wagons were not uncommon on the rural roads of Georgia and Tennessee. So, my memory covers a period of time when life was not so bustling and continued into the space age. There are many improvements in quality of life and health since my childhood; however, there were many treasures of World War II America that we should have retained faith, loyalty, patriotism, a love for the Constitution, a love of God and a high regard for the Holy Estate of Matrimony between one man and one woman.
In some older towns of the rural south, there were usually aged men called who went about the streets lighting the lamps of the sidewalks at eventide. His progress was well marked by an increasing brightness of light. There was even a popular song of the 50’s or 60’s entitled the Old Lamplighter performed by a group named ‘The Browns.’ The first two verses:
He made the night a little brighter
Wherever he would go
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago
His snowy hair was so much whiter
Beneath the candle glow
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago
This is a truly ancient hymn common to the Church within one hundred years of the crucifixion of our Lord. It was commonly sang at Evening Prayer and at a time when all worshippers risked death by the sword for attending – men and women have changed much since those precarious times. The hymn was written by ‘Athenogenes’ in the early 2ndcentury and translated by John Keble. The tune is SEBASTE. The hymn is a lamp-lighting hymn which comprised the early Evening Worship Service of the ancient Church. Light was not as easy to come by in those days – not with the flip of a switch as in our time – it had to be planned for with sufficient oil, lamps, and a fire. When secretly worshipping in the Catacombs under the streets of Rome, care was necessary to conceal the light from curious Roman officials. So the high regard for Light as a symbol of God’s Holy Spirit and His only Begotten Son was quite common to the ancients. It should be for us as well. Here is a quote from Clement of Alexandria concerning the service of Light:
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 211), in his Protrepticus (Exhortation to the Greeks) admonished believers to greet God with a similar expression, “Hail, O light”:
Away then, away with our forgetfulness of the truth! Let us remove the ignorance and darkness that spreads like a mist over our sight, and let us get a vision of the true God, first raising to Him this voice of praise, “Hail, O light.”
This particular lamp-lighting hymn seems to draw from this tradition, and it may also have drawn from vesper prayers, such as those found in The Statutes of the Apostles (3rd century) and The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (ca. 380):
Concerning the bringing in of lamps at the supper of the congregation. When the evening has come, the bishop being there, the deacon shall bring in a lamp, and standing in the midst of all the faithful, being about to give thanks, the bishop shall first give the salutation, thus saying: “The Lord (be) with you all.” And the people also shall say: “With thy spirit.” . . . And he prays thus, saying: “We give thee thanks, God, through thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, because thou hast enlightened us by revealing the incorruptible light, we having therefore finished the length of a day and having come to the beginning of the night, and having been satiated with the light of the day which thou hast created for our satisfaction, and now since we have not been deficient of the light of the evening by thy grace, we sanctify thee and we glorify thee through thine only Son our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom to thee with him (be) glory and might and honour with the Holy Spirit now, etc.” And they shall all say: “Amen.”
We praise Thee, we sing hymns to Thee, we bless Thee for Thy great glory, O Lord our King, the Father of Christ the immaculate Lamb, who taketh away the sin of the world. Praise becomes Thee, hymns become Thee, glory becomes Thee, the God and Father, through the Son, in the most holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
When it is evening, thou, O bishop, shalt assemble the church; and after the repetition of the psalm at the lighting up of the lights, the deacon shall bid prayers for the catechumens, the energumens, the illuminated, and the penitents, as we have formerly said. . . . And let the bishop say: “O God of our fathers, and Lord of mercy, who didst form man of Thy wisdom a rational creature, and beloved of God more than the other beings upon this earth, and didst give him authority to rule over the creatures upon the earth, and didst ordain by Thy will rulers and priests — the former for the security of life, the latter for a regular worship — do Thou now also look down, O Lord Almighty, and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy people, who bow down the neck of their heart, and bless them by Christ, through whom Thou hast enlightened us with the light of knowledge, and hast revealed Thyself to us; with whom worthy adoration is due from every rational and holy nature to Thee, and to the Spirit, who is the Comforter, for ever. Amen.”
Hail. Gladdening Light, of His Pure Glory Poured
Hail, gladdening Light, of his pure glory poured
who is the immortal Father, heavenly, blest,
holiest of holies, Jesus our Lord.
Now we are come to the sun's hour of rest,
the lights of evening round us shine,
we hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit divine.
Worthiest art thou at all times to be sung with undefilèd tongue,
Son of our God, giver of life, alone:
therefore in all the world thy glories, Lord, they own.
1 Hail, gladdening Light, of his pure glory poured who is the immortal Father, heavenly, blest, holiest of holies, Jesus our Lord. Like all great and classic hymns, the lyrics are simple – like the Gospel – in communicating their precious gems of truth. In the great old hymns, there is much praise and reverence for God, not claiming any personal rights as a believer or special treatment from God. It is enough that He has accepted us. The best will be provided as well. Jesus Christ is that ‘gladdening Light’ of the Holiest of Hoilies.
2 Now we are come to the sun's hour of rest, the lights of evening round us shine, we hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit divine. At the moment of retiring for the day, the light sinks on the distant sands, and the shadows lengthen. Just as we gave our thanks to God at our earliest wakening hours, we do so as well at the last gleam of heavenly light. We sing our praises to the Triune God even as our physical light diminishes – both for the day, and in this life.
3 Worthiest art thou at all times to be sung with undefilèd tongue, Son of our God, giver of life, alone: therefore in all the world thy glories, Lord, they own. There is no time of day that is not proper to sing praises to our God and our Savior. When we do so, we must not do so with a covet of sin in our hearts, else we pray in vain. “Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord, they God, in vain.” We sing in conscious acknowledgment of the words we sing. Like the green belt of grasslands that accompany the Jordan River on both sides in its rush to its demise in the Dead Sea, Christ is also our Giver of Life (Zayyanderud in Persian) for everywhere He goes, He gives life and Light.
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Happy Second Sunday after Easter!
The AOC Sunday Report can be downloaded RIGHT HERE!
Today we have quite nice sermons from Bishops Jerry and Roy, as well as Revs Jack and Bryan. I liked Jack's best, likely because it is the one I heard in person. I tell you each of the sermons is outstanding. When you read them, please think these gentlemen manage to provide a sermon every week, rain, shine or virus!
There are always a lot of people who need your prayer start for our world and various countries dealing with the Corona Virus that the people making the decisions about what to do might be guided by both God and reason, not political considerations to do their best for our various people. Please pray also for Bob, Shamu, Doug's family and work out from there.
There is a truly epic week ahead, but you need that Third God Guy to recognize and experience it.
Church of the Faithful Centurion
The Second Sunday after Easter.
LMIGHTY God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
HIS is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. (1 Peter 2:19)
Jesus is not ‘a’ Way,’ ‘a’ Truth’ or ‘a’ life. He is the ONLY Way – only Truth – only One by whom Life comes.
AM the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:11-16)
We will discuss the deeper meaning of that claim in today’s gospel.
What a wonderful subject is today’s text after the sorrow of the cross, and the glory of resurrection morning! It encourages us to know that our Good Shepherd has been over all the rocks and crannies of life, the well springs of rivers and seas, and through the dark valley of the shadow of death. He suffered all that His lambs can ever imagine, even death of the cross. Yet, He walked up to the gate of death and hell and battered down the door freeing captives that were held by the bondage of sin – you and I among them!
So the sheep may feel complete confidence and satisfaction in that Good Shepherd who knows the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and is, Himself, that Way – that Truth – that Life. He knows the mountain trails because He has made the mountains. He knows the still waters for He is the Water of Life. He knows the place of resting peace and safety for His sheep for He is the very Ark of security and salvation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ confirmed all that God had promised in long ago prophecies of a Redeemer. He is explicitly described by the aging King of Israel, David, in the 23rd Psalm. It matters not to you or me how Good Jesus is as a Shepherd unless He is our Shepherd; and David KNEW Christ to be his Savior and Shepherd. The Good shepherd will see that His sheep lack nothing that is essential for their health and wellbeing. He knows better than they the good way, and He will urge them from the dangerous and treacherous mountain gorges with His gentle staff and cajoling Voice. All of His sheep may proclaim with David: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want!”
The leading verse of our text reiterates an often overlooked and grand truth of the Gospel – Jesus is the Great I AM! He is David’s Shepherd as much today as when David, under the tutelage of the Holy Ghost, penned those lines of the 23rd Psalm. He was as much your Shepherd yesterday and today as He shall be in a million years or more. He dwells in the eternal Presence.
The preceding verse of John 10 relate another great truth: Jesus is the Door by which all must enter into the fold. There are no other doors to the sheepfold. Not only is Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He alone is that Way, Truth, and Life. In our day, a different Jesus is being preached from the greater number of pulpits of the world – a Jesus who is lax on sin, and who seems less divine than a member of the Triune Godhead should be. There are several reasons for this downgrade of faith, I believe.
1. Many clergymen today have chosen the ministry as a career field rather than having been effectually called of God. If they are not called of God, they lack authority – and it shows! Their sermons are sterile and worldly, and they lack any reproach for sin.
2. Many men who ARE called to the ministry delay their response far too long than is efficacious to take advantage of the many years wasted by their hesitation. God chases them over hill and dale until they finally surrender, or are taken out of the world. Such men are a waste of spiritual enlightenment.
3. Compromise with the world is a leading cause of the luke-warm condition of the modern church. The old classic hymns, so reaffirming of biblical faith and doctrine, are relegated to the dustbin while the light and unscriptural little ditties of the modern composer of rock music has taken their place. It is not only the words that lack spiritual truth, but the music itself which is sensual enough to be very much like that which is played in bars and night clubs. This is referred to by the sponsors of such music as ‘relevant.’
4. New Bible versions are pointing away from the central figure of the Good Shepherd, as Lord, and made Christ simply a fairly good teacher lacking divinity. The commonly received text of the Bible upon which the courageous Reformers relied is replaced with spurious manuscript evidence that lacks credibility on the face of it. A diminishing respect for the Truth and Holiness of God’s Word has clearly led to many grave shortcomings of the modern church.
5. Consumerism and profit motive are also big players in the diminishing faith of our age. False and deceptive ministers have made the House of the Lord a house of merchandise instead of a House of Prayer. Enlarging the monetary treasury of the church has become far more important than repentance and contrition of the sinner’s heart. Those who give the most money are viewed as the most righteous. This is not always the case since many who lack the wealth of others do so because they have shared their wealth with the widows, orphans and destitute of means.
So, what does this have to do with the text today? It has everything to do with it! We have failed to follow the Good shepherd in our day. His Voice has not changed since the day we first heard Him call our names, yet we have forgotten to recognize that loving Voice. One problem may be that we disagree with the Voice of our Lord. When He calls us from the sinful and dangerous way, we believe that we are safe and continue to seek grass in places where wolves and predators lurk. He has defined sin in the most serious and clear terms, yet we have called good evil, and evil good.
Our Lord’s definition of a good shepherd is one who will sacrifice even His life for the lowly sheep: “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” There are far more under-shepherds who are willing to lay down their lives on the foreign mission fields of the world than we have today in America; in fact, it happens often is countries today that are hostile to the Good Shepherd. If the under-shepherds are not willing to die for their flocks, how does our Lord classify them? “But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” It is a fact that we have an exceeding number of hirelings today, and too few true shepherds of the flock of Christ. The sheep are left to wander in barren places and are kept only for the fleecing of their wool, or the consumption of their very souls.
The Good Shepherd was promised by God most profoundly in Jeremiah 23: “1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. 2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. 3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. 5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jer 23:1-6) This passage is both a prophecy of the Good Shepherd, but also a condemnation of the hireling shepherds that populate the churches as those demons that live in the branches of the Mustard Tree.
An earnest seeker of the Word of the Lord is more likely to learn a false gospel in the modern church than the pure and unadulterated Word of the Lord. “16 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.17 They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” (Jer 23:16-17)
The great contrast of our Lord as Good Shepherd with the false pulpit dandies of our day is this: Our Lord is a Shepherd who is completely GOOD. “14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Our Lord and shepherd knows our simple hearts thoroughly, and far better than we, ourselves, know them. HE KNOWS US! There is no question, either, in the heart of the sheep of the Goodness of their Shepherd, for His sheep also KNOW Him! None other has laid down His life for us – the sinless for the sinful – as our Good Shepherd has done. This the world cannot comprehend. Why would a rational Shepherd die such a horrible death for mean and lowly sheep? The trade-off to the world does not make sense. Well, truly, it does not make worldly sense; but it makes abundant heavenly sense when the great love with which our Lord has loved us a His sheep is taken into consideration. Love is a quality that is unknown to the world. It cannot weigh it, spend it, or measure it. So it remains unknown to the world.
Our Lord delivered this counsel of His role as the Good shepherd to the Jews gathered about the Temple in Jerusalem.
A small number believed, but a greater number hardened their hearts against our Lord and the words of His Father which He spoke. It will always be the case. The number of believers that Christ claims at His return will be woefully few. Remember that only eight souls were saved out of the millions who died in the Great Deluge of Noah’s Day. Thank God that there are sheep of the Good shepherd’s other than those few to which He spoke. 16 “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” It is my prayer that all who hear the words of this sermon are a part of those “other sheep” of the Lord’s. He has a pitiful few in every land and nation, but when gathered from the four quarters of the world, they will constitute a happy fold – perhaps that Camp of the Saints to which John the Revelator makes mention. The devil will gather the armies from all over the world to destroy the people of God, but he will suffer a blistering (literally) defeat: “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.” (Rev 20:9) I hope to see you there, friend.
Saturday, April 25, 2020
The Propers for today are found on Page 171-172, with the Collect first:
The Second Sunday after Easter.
LMIGHTY God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This morning’s Epistle came from the First Epistle of St. Peter, beginning at the Nineteenth Verse of the Second Chapter. The Epistle reminds us that Christ, who was completely without sin or guile, not only died for our sins, but suffered humiliation and torture without complaint for us. Thus, if we, because we believe in God and our Lord Jesus, are subjected to unfavorable comment, criticism or even persecution, we should bear this gladly, as our Lord gave us his example. If we want to benefit from the Lord’s sacrifice, then we need to try to follow in his footsteps. We need to look to His example to live our lives.
We are as sheep going astray who have been returned to the flock by our Lord, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
We were asked the question, who is this man Jesus? We answered, he is the Son of God; are we following him? In this Epistle again, we are admonished to follow our Lord.
HIS is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
Today’s Gospel came from the Tenth Chapter of the Gospel according to St. John beginning at the Eleventh Verse. Using the words that give this Sunday its name, Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” He goes on to say He is not a hireling who cares not for the flock, but rather the shepherd himself. He understands his job and puts it first, before his desires. Jesus knows each of His sheep and they know Him, even as He knows His Father and His Father knows Him. Because we are His sheep, He willingly laid down His life that we might live. Jesus also points out He is not here to shepherd only the Jews, but all men, “And there are other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd.”
ESUS said, I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and know my sheep, and am known of mine, even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd.
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above.
We are in the Easter Season which consists of Easter and the following four Sundays, through Rogation Sunday. This is a time we should work on centering our lives on the central figure in our religion, Jesus Christ.
Consider these words from the Collect:
… who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life …
To understand the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice, it is critical to understand He is the only begotten Son (John 3:16) of God. He is also referred to in places as The Word, the means by which God is given to the world. But, more than that, 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3) Though the corrupted versions of the Bible (NIV, NKJV, RSV, etc) have attempted to erase His Divine Status and the role He plays in our salvation, that does not change the reality of Who He is. He is in simplest terms, the great I AM. He was the one who brought light into this World. He has been there since before the beginning of time, before the beginning of what we know as our Universe. He created this world, it is by rights His; not the rightful belonging of the Prince of this World. It was not Satan’s to give away, which Jesus knew when Satan failed miserably to tempt Jesus with his false promises in the wilderness. He whom is begotten of the Father is who was sent to give His earthly life that we might be accounted as perfect at our own final accounting. We ourselves, so oft serve only as bad examples, need the One who is the ultimate perfect example.
This brings us to Peter’s point in the Epistle, Christ serves as a perfect example for the conduct of our lives. There again the Epistle and the Collect tie together amazingly well. Jesus conducted His ministry as an example for us to follow in our times of trial and tribulation, that we might see His light in our darkest moments. His Ministry acts as a pattern that we should look to emulate in our trials and tribulations here on Earth.
If we are wrong and suffer for it, there is little honor; for we were wrong. But, if we do right, that is follow God’s Will, and suffer for it, there is in fact glory, laud and honor there. Jesus went to His death on the Cross that we might be accounted as perfect at our final accounting rather than being held accountable for our failures. He who is, was and always will be perfect suffered great pain that we might live life eternal. If He did that for us, should we not follow that example and follow His Direction, counting the cost only after the work is done? We can be assured that no matter how bad our sufferings and tribulations here are on Earth, Jesus had it far worse than us. Not only did He die a painful death, but then He had to descend into Hell and fight the Devil. I think we have it better than He did as far as suffering goes. Just something to think about next time we think our sufferings are awful.
We are, after all, much like sheep, following the lead of those around us, somewhat like lemmings, it seems. We have great need of a shepherd to lead us back from the edge of The Pit and to life, back to those verdant pastures and still waters. This Shepherd never will fail to lead us back to the pastures, we just have to pick up the guidance from the Holy Ghost and follow the path that He has set for us.
As Peter referred to Jesus as a shepherd, so does John. There is a reason for this constant reference to Jesus as the Good Shepherd; He is. He leads us to green pastures and to beside the still waters. He restores and comforts our souls and drives the enemy from out of our souls and minds, if we let Him. This is a universal theme throughout the various Epistles of Paul, Peter and James. In order for us to have spiritual growth, we need to let Him into our hearts. He will lead us towards the path to Heaven, we just have to make the conscious decision to follow His Directions and etch them into our hearts.
In order to follow His Directions, we have to let go of our pride, vanity and arrogance and accept His Guidance and teachings of humbleness and humility into our hearts. We have to realize we cannot do this on our own; we cannot save ourselves and we need God’s influence in our lives. We have to allow the Holy Ghost to enter into our hearts and once He is in accept His Direction and Guidance and then act upon that guidance. It is not good enough just to say we believe, we need to actually believe. Actually believing means that if we truly believe on Him, we will act in a manner consistent with Scripture.
Acting is the key word here, not just talking about it, but acting. It isn’t good enough just to read Scripture and go on our merry way and act like we did before we read them. We have to apply the key principles of Scripture in our lives and shine the light of Christ to those around us.
The Gospel notes the difference of ownership. Our true owner will, and I might add, has, given His Life so we might be protected from the ravening wolves of this world, the Prince of this World. We are cautioned to 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:(1 Peter 5:8) But, sobriety only gets you so far; sheep do poorly against wolves and lions. We need one who is experienced in protecting our souls against the spiritual wolves and lions of this world. Jesus is that experienced protector we need. Make no mistake, we need the help of that Good Shepherd. That Good Shepherd calls to each of us, we need the Holy Ghost in our hearts to hear the call. Regardless of what you have been told by those of this world, there is only One God, One Lord, One Savior. Thus, there is only One Flock; there are many ways to follow Scripture, but they must all have the same general plan. That is the reason for the creeds, the reason we tell all to compare what is preached against what is in Scripture. We need to daily work towards doing a better job of following God’s Will.
We need help, He provides it, we need to accept it.
The key is action, in this case our action. We need to actually accept the offered help; like the life ring thrown to a drowning person, we must grab God’s proffered help, else we profit nothing.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
Friday, April 24, 2020
UT them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. 3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:1-7)
There are two different kinds of principalities and powers – those of righteous government, and those of the dark Prince of the Air. The only legitimately instituted government is that which acknowledges the sovereignty of God’s government to which their laws and practices must conform. On the other side of that coin are those governments that deny God as Lord. They impose hard bondage on their people and justice is victim to their thirst for power and corrupt administration. The kind of government a people tolerates is precisely the kind of government they deserve. Free men will not bend the knee to tyranny nor accept the yoke of bondage to be placed upon their shoulders. Only a weak and unprincipled people will accept such government. Paul is not contradicting himself in the initial counsel of this text. He is well aware of the two forms of government to which I make reference.
Read Paul’s counsel in Ephesians: 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. The whole difference in the two major forms of government is spiritual – either Godly or satanic. There is a great Spiritual purpose in Godly government which conforms to the Commandments of God; and there is a great and demonic power to which ungodly governments conform. Over the centuries past, we have witnessed governments that have been righteous degenerate over time into total dictatorships. Sometimes the change is gradual, sometimes sudden as by revolution. But the underlying cause is the failure of the citizen to recognize that slow degradation in government and the subsequent loss of liberty. The fall of the German government following WWI is an example of the gradual loss of freedoms coupled with a growing boot-heel of evil oppression being imposed as good men and women slept. The Communist Revolution in Russia at the end of WWI is an example of that sudden change mentioned before. The Holy Russian Empire became the haven of devils and demons in a fortnight via the Communist Revolution in which less than 10,000 men were members of the Communist Party.
1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work. Men need to be reminded on a regular basis of their duties to God and country. One cannot be ready for every good work when his actions are dictated by a tyrant. Paul’s counsel has a double application – one to civil government, the other to the one’s conduct and allegiance to legitimate church government. Why do I use the term ‘legitimate’ often? Because Satan has a counterfeit for each form. He worms his way into civil government to turn Godly laws upside down and impose the most horrendously immoral laws imaginable. He does the same with church government. He knows the greed of men’s hearts, and he uses that to subvert them.
2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. Here the dual application still holds – to abstain from gossip and tale-bearing (either in the Church or in the civil society).
Do not be the cause of dissension or disunity either in civil society or the church. Pride overthrows justice in both. Totalitarian government grabs for everything simply because it is granted the power to do so by its subjects. The watchful citizen, and observant Christian, will be watchful for any excess of Church or government to abuse its powers. Many Christian churches have already been undermined and rendered spiritually sterile by wicked men who have taken the devil’s bait and over-reached their authority to administer honest episcopal oversight, and have instead become thieves and blasphemers for profit.
3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. We all were in the described category until we came to accept the Sovereignty of God over our lives. And we often succumb to those urges even now after salvation. The flesh struggles and wars constantly against the flesh. Thankfully, the hunger of the flesh is momentary, but that of the spirit is eternal. When the Church exerts its proper influence in any civil society, that society will experience a just and righteous government. When the church fails, the people are left to the whims of immoral magistrates.
4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The love of God toward man is not limited by the walls of the Church. The Christian religion has influenced the good of all mankind through its institutions created for their good. God has extended the blessings of grace to those to whom He desires. It was never any good works on our part that warranted such grace since grace cannot be earned – it is a free gift. That washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost is not an instantaneous result of salvation, but evidenced over time through the process of sanctification. Justification comes at the moment of adoption – sanctification comes over a life of spiritual study and experience. The Holy Ghost is constantly reinforcing our soul’s battle against the flesh. He is that silent voice mantled in the conscience which convinces of sin and its effects on ourselves and others.
By the way, please know that sin is not simply a matter between you and God. Sin stains the soul and feelings of all who love us – all who care for us – and even those who may be innocently offended by the results of our sin. Sin hurts everyone around us. The grace of God was granted us while we slept in sin and made our beds in hell. But suddenly, that grace penetrated our hearts with power and force – the Holy Ghost being the executive power in drawing us to Christ. We came to know the Love of Christ Which he (the Holy Ghost) shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Most often have I mentioned the fact so virulently proclaimed in Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, and a variety of other biblical texts that testify to the fact that the sinner is, in fact, dead as a door nail before being drawn to Christ by the Holy Ghost. The dead can neither hear, see, nor repent. He must be called from the sleep of the sinner’s death to life in Christ. He is saved (JUSTIFIED) by that free gift of grace extended to him without a single effort on his part. That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. How can an alien to a kingdom be made an heir to the fruits of that Kingdom? He is made a citizen through the process of naturalization. In the Kingdom of God, that process is called ADOPTION. We are made sons and daughters of God by that process of adoption and and through no natural merit of our own.
Are you sons and daughters of the All High King? 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 According to a careful reading of this last text from Ephesians, what part did you play in God’s choice? Who made the choice to receive you and when? Who chose us to be holy and without blame? Did we make that choice or did God? Who made us accepted in Christ – did we make ourselves accepted any more than we could have created ourselves at the beginning? Please read the Holy Scriptures and study these matters before you answer.