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Tuesday, February 21, 2017
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. 3 Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. 4 Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God. 5 And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will. (Lev 19:1-5)
The hymn for today addresses the practice most wanting in the modern church and the issue upon which many other displeasing (to our Lord) modern practices have devolved. God is Holy in His Person and so is His Word Holy in every jot and tittle. When man takes a light view of Holy Scripture, he is taking a light view of its Author as well. It is unfortunate that this hymn was excluded from the 1940 Hymnal.
The lyrics of Take Time to be Holy were composed by William D. Longstaff of north east England in 1882 after hearing a sermon preached by a missionary to China on the subject taken from the First Epistle of Saint Peter, 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: (1 Peter 1:16-17) The music is written by the renowned George C. Stebbins in 1890.
Take Time to be Holy
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word. Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak, Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek. Holy affairs should be treated with a high degree of reverence. That is the purpose of the Prayer Book in guiding our worship and preventing the errors of manmade worship from infiltrating that worship. But even a solemn and punctilious worship can be irreverent if the heart is not aligned with the holiness of the occasion. If those Christians of 1882 needed to take time from their daily schedules to consider things Holy, how much more is such a practice needed in our busy day? In many homes of that period, there was a family altar and prayer room which did not want for use every day. Those spoke oft of thy Lord. Even in the days of my childhood, men and women of the rural South carried on daily communications with God’s Word woven throughout. We should seek God’s blessing on every endeavor that we undertake. We should care for those who are wanting the material necessities within the church, and then beyond.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on; Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone. By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be; Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see. There is no more sincere and meaningful prayer than that which is offered up in the privacy of one’s prayer closet. There does not even need the facility of words for the Holy Spirit knows our wants and desires before we express them. Prayer and meditation are closely joined in private prayer. Some may say, I simply do not have time to pray. Really! You are badly mistaken! You do not have time NOT to pray. All time belongs to God since He is the Author of the time scale. Like Peter walking on the sea, we must keep our eyes fixed on the Savior, else, like Peter, we will sink into the turbid waters when we take counsel of our fears and avoid His face. The more we gaze into that wonderful Glass (which is God’s Word) the more we come to know our own total depravity and recognize the perfection and holiness of His Person. We become more alike the object of our admiration.
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide; And run not before Him, whatever betide. In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord, And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Good shepherd who laid down His life for His Sheep. He knows the Way, and IS the Way, that leads to green pastures and still waters. The errant lamb that runs ahead will lose its way and be lost. We trust in the Lord under every circumstance, even when we may feel doubtful. Unquestioning obedience to His Word is always the best policy. To the committed Christian, there can even be joy in sorrow. Remember the first five words in each stanza of this hymn – Take time to be Holy. Holiness requires a conscious effort to be obedient to God in every avenue of life. Many have perished on the high slopes of the mountain for failure to look up instead of staring at the very dirt of the next step, or to the threatening crevasses below. Our whole lives should be dedicated to looking up to Heaven instead of down to the penurious provisions of the world. Take Time! Important endeavors require time to plan and execute. So, do the matters of one’s soul. When we enter church, do we make light of the occasion, or do we prepare our hearts in prayer for the worship hour? Remember the words of Christ: 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings arekilled, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise. (Matt 22:2-5) Do not make light of the calling and worship of the Lord.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul, Each thought and each motive beneath His control. Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love, Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above. Pray tell, how can our hearts be prepared for worship when our tongues are wagging on mundane subjects and gossiping just before the moment of worship! When we enter the church, we must remember that we tread upon Holy ground. If we fail to remove our shoes, then at least let us remove the concerns of the world. Our hearts need to be calmed and our spiritual ears tuned to hear the gurgling flow of the waters of the Holy Ghost. When our thoughts, motives, and desires are congruent with His, then do we kneel in reverence before the very throne of God. When our wills are made to conform perfectly to His Will, every utterance of prayer will be answered according to His good pleasure. The Good Shepherd will lead us to the Fountain of Living Waters that is over-flowing with love. Our hearts can little contain the profusion of those waters. They overflow and our love is spread abroad without a single drop lacking replenishment. (see Jeremiah 17:13) It is by looking constantly in the Glass of God’s Word that we become more like Him, and are fitted for that service to which we go when God awakens us from our borrowed tombs. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:22-25)
When we are conformed to the will of God, then we are free indeed since the things that we desire to see and do are precisely those things that the Father wills, and it shall be granted to us.
I admonish each of us in the coming week to take time to be holy. If we do so, we will all recognize a delightful improvement in our dispositions, characters, and joys.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
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Church of the Faithful Centurion
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel toforewords above.
Consider these words from the Collect:
…put not our trust in any thing that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity …
In the Collect, we tell God we put our trust for eternal life not in our actions, but in His Power. If we do this, then we must do as He asks us. For, to make trust in His Power rational, we must follow His Direction. We cannot trust our own sense of direction for spiritual matters, but must look to Our Heavenly Father for guidance. If we do not follow His Direction then we are surely going be just as lost as before we accepted Him into our hearts. It would be foolish to think that we could guide ourselves, when in fact we need Him to guide us. The problem is that often, at least in my case, pride gets in the way of seeing that I/we need to rely on Him for guidance. We need Him as our navigator to guide us along the rocky paths of life, so we don’t crash into the rocks of Sin and Death! We need His directions if we are to proceed upon the path to Heaven.
The Collect also goes on to explain His Power will give us defense in adversity. His Power is the only real power which can help us in times of trouble and sorrow. It is the only power which will give us comfort in times of adversity and give us the strength to get through those times.
We may think we can get ourselves through trouble, but that is only us deceiving ourselves. Thinking this way can lead us digging ourselves a bigger hole so to speak. We need to stop digging and look to the One who can help us and let Him into our hearts to guide us. We need to recognize God has the power to help us overcome adversity.
All the goodness and greatness we have within us, is not sourced from us, but from the Holy Spirit and God. It comes from God and He fills our hearts with the goodness we ourselves cannot generate on our own. In order to have that goodness within us, we need to be following His Directions to the very best of our abilities. It may be hard at times and we might make mistakes and fall down from time to time, but we need to get back up on the horse so to speak and re set our course anew.
This squares with what Paul tells us, salvation, honor and glory come not from what we do or have done, but rather from God. It is not our deeds which procure our salvation, but God and His Son’s deeds. Our deeds next to His are not comparable and are not worthy of the honor and glory that His are. We must recognize this fact and we should turn to Him, not ourselves, for guidance. Following His Word is where the salvation, honor and glory come from. And that is also to whom we should give credit and not us. We haven't earned the credit; so we should give it to whom it is due, that is to God our Father.
Nothing that we have done as far as anything good or significant is not from us on our own volition, but from God. He will guide us through all of our life’s trials, if we let him. That is one of the problems with many people today, and not only today but in the past, the present and the future, is that they believe that they have made their own goodness and own deeds. They do not realize they are not the source of their good deeds, but God is. They do not recognize the role God has in guiding good actions and instead lay claim to the glory that isn’t theirs to claim. In essence, they are stealing God’s glory and not giving credit to whom credit is due. Paul, who as Saul, had been a super star on his way to being the number one rabbi in the Hebrew nation, was more learned, more vigorous in following the law, more vocal in all things. When he “saw the light” and converted, he took that same approach to Christianity. No one was more in anything than he. He had been the worst of the worst and was the best of the best. Yet, through God, now he was keenly aware of how short he himself fell. But even more importantly, he was keenly aware of the saving perfection of Christ.
From his early days as the chief persecutor of the Church, to the main missionary of Christ’s Church, from this timeline he could tell us of the experience of the power of God first hand, using his life as an example. He told us these things not to glory himself, but to show the glory and honor that comes from on high, from following His Word. He wanted to show us how God’s Grace and mercy changed His life and got Him through some pretty awful times. And also, He can get us through both the good and bad times and that in both we should never stop praising and honoring Him. He wanted to highlight God’s saving power and Grace, which had helped him, and show us how it can help us as well. He wanted us, other Christians to learn from his example and to do their best to follow Him. Thus, he counseled all to take comfort and pride in God, not themselves. Do your best and look towards God.
This brings us right in to the well known Parable of the Sower, which might be better referred to as the Parable of the Four Soils, for the seeds were all alike.
Like the seed sown by the sower, The Word is spread throughout the world for all to hear and act on:
While we are on the subject, consider the issue of weeding. Is this not part of the reason for the Church, that is to say the body of believers, to exist? Often we cannot pull our own weeds, but we can help others and they can help us. We cannot pull our weeds alone, but with help, we can remove them one by one. Christianity is not a religion of hermits; it is a social religion where we can help each other. This is why it is best that believers attend a Bible believing Church, where they can get valuable friendship and from that friendship, spiritual mentoring for their day to day lives.
So, think about this, we need to understand eternal life and indeed on a shorter term, happiness in our life here, comes not from our self-directed actions, but those of God and our action following His direction. If we follow our self-directed actions, we will find death and misery awaiting us. However, if we put our trust in Him and follow His commands, we will “live long and prosper” to quote Spock. Do your best and look towards God for the Light to illuminate your path. If you prepare your heart, as the farmer prepares the field, root out the forces of this world as the farmer roots out weeds, cultivate the good given by God, water your heart with His Water, your life will be manifold.
Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail. The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.
The time is now, not tomorrow. The time has come, indeed. How will you ACT?
Action, not diction. It is by our actions we are known!
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
Friday, February 17, 2017
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Just outside the limits of Tombstone, Arizona, is the Tombstone Graveyard, most often referred to as Boot Hill. Perhaps the reason for the name is that most of the ‘inhabitants’ of Boot Hill died with their boots on, either victims of violent death, or engaged in violent actions. But not all died with their boots on. Three men, part of the Clanton-McLaury Clan who died at the OK Corral compliments of Doc Holiday and Bat Masterson and company, did die with their boots on, but there are others who died victims of the brutal the brutal atmosphere prevailing in Tombstone. There were many who died of other causes such as three year old Eva Waters who died of Scarlet Fever, and one year old Thomas Cowan who died of diphtheria. And, of course, a respectable number of the graves belong to men who were hanged in execution of a jury’s verdict, or by a lynch mob – a fairly balanced set of books. One Frank Bowles died after having been thrown from his horse causing his rifle to accidentally discharge hitting his leg. He lingered unattended in a mining camp until the leg was infected with gangrene – a condition from which he died. His tombstone bears this inscription:
In memory of Frank Bowles,
born Aug. 5, 1828,
died Aug. 26, 1880.
As you pass by, remember that
as you are, so once was I, and
as I am, you soon will be.
It should be noted each grave-stone faces west, and over the wilderness scene the crucifixion thorn broods in silent and solemn loneliness.
Some of the dead at Boot Hill were wanted “dead or alive.” Whether they were taken dead or alive no longer matters, for all are certainly dead insofar as the law is concerned today. That holds true for every human inhabiting the planet today. In the eyes of the law, every man, woman, and child is already dead for the verdict of the law is always death. “23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23) You may aver these verses apply only to sin, not law-breaking, in which case you would be mistaken: 4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4) The law is a multiple purpose teacher to instruct us in righteousness, of that which is wicked, and the hopelessness of man to satisfy that law without a Redeemer. In fact, we were saved under the terms of the law. Jesus Christ satisfied the penalty for our salvation if we have sought and received mercy and grace.
We are all sons and daughters of someone, are we not, on this earth? But in eternity, we also must lay claim to a father, or a FATHER! 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3) The Sons and Daughters of the Heavenly Father do not mingle and mix with the sons and daughters of the wicked: 14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:14-18)
Our countenance shall be changed when we are glorified in our Lord. But more than appearance marks the sons and daughters of men – so the sons and daughters of God. The son or daughter takes on the resemblance to the features of the Parent, but also the NATURE. In God, that nature is one of righteousness and compassion.
Our death certificates are executed at our birth. We are as good as dead as we grow into adulthood. 1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved; (Eph 2:1-5) Please look carefully at these five verses. To be quickened means to be “made alive!” Something that is already alive cannot be made alive. We must already be dead in order to be made alive. Were you ever dead in trespasses and sins? Certainly you were, and so is every man born of woman. We all walked in the way of the world until we received that grace and mercy made available in the calling and election of God. Lazarus was dead as a door knell in that stone vault of a tomb. He could not come to Jesus of his own volition. HE WAS DEAD! But when our Lord called, “Lazarus, Come Forth!” Lazarus had no choice. He immediately came forth bound tightly in grave clothes. Jesus then said to those around him, “Loose him and let him go.” It is when the Son sets us free that we are free indeed.
There is more revealed in Hebrews 11 than the natural eye and understanding can discern.
Even accomplished scholars of the Word fail to fathom the depths of its meaning; however, there is simplicity to God’s Word that allows even rude scholars such as you and me to comprehend the vital points. 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Heb 11:8-16)
That ONE which sprang from Abraham’s advanced age was Isaac, but spiritually, the Redeemer to come. Isaac, like Jesus, was born through a miracle of birth. He was the fullness of Israel as are all who have believed the Promise made unto Abraham. 16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Gal 3:16) And Christ is our Ark into which we are formed at salvation as One with Christ and, therefore, One with the Father. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:26-29)
If one simply reads the Holy Scriptures in their absolute simplicity, I cannot see how any would believe that God has chosen a special race, nation, or tribe as His Chosen People other than those who have placed their trust, faith, and hope in the beloved Son of God – our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you have a lonely grave reserved at Boot Hill, or in a lonely tomb of Moab? Or have you received the Promise of the eternal life made available in Jesus Christ our Lord?