Verse of the Day

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday before Advent which is often referred to as Stir Up Sunday

Today was the Sunday before Advent which is often referred to as Stir Up Sunday after the beginning of the Collect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Point
Someone asked, where do the quotes come from?  The answer is from the people who uttered them.  But, how did you find them?  Oh, that.  Some from Bishop Jerry, many from Rev Bryan Dabney, a few from other places, some from Rev Geordie Menzies-Grierson, but overall mostly from Bryan.  He always has some great ones to share.  On to the On Point quotes –

About half an hour later—or it might have been half a hundred years later, for time there is not like time here—Lucy stood with her dear friend, her oldest Narnian friend, the Faun Tumnus, looking down over the wall of that garden, and seeing all Narnia spread out below. But when you looked down you found that this hill was much higher than you had thought: it sank down with shining cliffs, thousands of feet below them and trees in that lower world looked no bigger than grains of green salt. Then she turned inward again and stood with her back to the wall and looked at the garden.

“I see,” she said at last, thoughtfully. “I see now. This garden is like the stable. It is far bigger inside than it was outside.”

 “Of course, Daughter of Eve,” said the Faun. “The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.”

Lucy looked hard at the garden and saw that it was not really a garden but a whole world, with its own rivers and woods and sea and mountains. But they were not strange: she knew them all.

 “I see,” she said. “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door! I see . . . world within world, Narnia within Narnia. . . .”

 “Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”
Jack Lewis
The Last Battle

Our Choice
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.
Jack Lewis
The Great Divorce

The Holy Ghost
It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it is not a real person: it is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God.

This third Person is called, in technical language, the Holy Ghost or the “spirit” of God. Do not be worried or surprised if you find it (or Him) rather vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than the other two. I think there is a reason why that must be so. In the Christian life you are not usually looking at Him: He is always acting through you. If you think of the Father as some- thing “out there,” in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you. Perhaps some people might find it easier to begin with the third Person and work backwards. God is love, and that love works through men—especially through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit of love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the Father and Son.
Jack Lewis
Mere Christianity

Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.
Proverbs 10:2

Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
Ecclesiastes 8:11

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
Jeremiah 17:9-10

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
St. Matthew 7:21

How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
St. Mark 10:23

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
I Thessalonians 4:7

Catholicity is to be judged not by places, not by numbers, but by doctrine.
Rev. David Samuel
20th and 21st century Anglican theologian and author

We ought to be diligent Bible-readers because the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. We shall never fight a good fight if we do not use it as our principal weapon. It may well be feared that there is not enough Bible-reading amongst us. It is not enough to have the book. We must actually read it and pray over it ourselves. It will do us no good if it only lies still in our houses. Knowledge of the Bible can only be got by hard, regular, daily, attentive wakeful reading. Memorized Scripture is a stronghold against sin in the hands of the Spirit.
JC Ryle
19th century Anglican bishop and author

The firewall we have against postmodernism (which is a fancy name for paganism) is an inerrant, authoritative Bible. Our sin problem finds its remedy through the gospel that is revealed in the Bible. We find morals and restraint from our sinful tendencies through the law of God revealed by God through the Biblical writers. Western Civilization used to be based on such ideas.
Bob DeWaay
20th and 21st century American Christian commentator

If someone asks you to vote for him at the next election, ask him, I beg you, what he can do for you that you cannot do yourself. Ask him whom he is voting for. If he tells you the truth, then go to the polls and vote for yourself. . . . Does the man who asks for your vote find you your job, does he provide your family with food and shelter, does he put clothes on your back, does he provide the education you need . . . does he even bother to see that you get a decent burial? The only time he is concerned about you is when you can make money for him. No matter how little you make he wants part of it. . . . From childhood you were taught that it is right and just to delegate your powers to someone else. You never questioned it because everything you are taught in school has one purpose: the glorification of your country. Somehow, though it is your country, you seem to have no part in it until the time comes to surrender your life.
Henry V. Miller
20th century American artist and writer

If we were wrong in our contest, then the Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a grave mistake and the revolution to which it led was a crime. If Washington was a patriot; Lee cannot have been a rebel.
Wade Hampton
Confederate general officer

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly. But the traitor moves among those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the galleys, heard in the very hall of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor—he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and wears their face and their garment, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation—he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city—he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
1st century B.C. Roman statesman

The propers for the Sunday next before Advent can be found on Page 225-226:

The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.

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

The reading for today’s Epistle came from the Book of Jeremiah, the Twenty-Third Chapter, beginning at the Fifth Verse.   Foretelling the arrival of Jesus, Jeremiah prophesied, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 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.”  He prophesied the New Covenant, moving reference of the Lord from Egypt to Israel and the return to one people of those driven out of their homeland across the world.

EHOLD, 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. 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. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.

The Holy Gospel for today came from the Gospel according to Saint John, the Sixth Chapter, beginning at the  Fifth Verse.  John relates one of the feeding the masses in the wilderness events.  This forshadows the arrival of the Christ at Christmas coming to feed our spiritual needs in the wilderness of this world.

With five thousand men with them looking for food in the wilderness, “One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down…”  Reminding us that if the Son of God gave thanks to God for His food, so ought we, “Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, ‘This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.’”

Compare to saving our souls and feeding the inner hunger we have for God’s love, feeding a mere 5,000 men is child’s play, but then Jesus said we should accept God and His love through Him as the children do.  So perhaps it really is child’s play.

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

Bishop Ogles’ Devotion
Bishop Jerry is on travel, no sermon; but he posted this great devotion which bears reading!

Devotion for Sunday before Advent (The Straight Gate) – 23 November 2014, Anno Domini

I have often been asked why I have so many OLD books in my library instead of more contemporary works. The reason, of course, is that truth and devotion to God are timeless treasures and, it so happens, that the more ancient writers were far more closely devoted to God and His immutable truths than are the more modern writers (there are few exceptions to this understanding).

I have frequently referred to the Rev. William Arnot as my dear friend though he lived and wrote about one hundred and fifty years ago in England. I see no disparity in considering a man whose writings have taught me so much about the Love of God and His Scriptures as has the Rev. Arnot. Whether he spoke them directly to my ears, or   wrote them on paper for my understanding, is irrelevant – one teaches me great truth is a dear friend like unto that One Friend “that sticketh closer than a brother.”

The Rev. Arnot taught me, in my childhood reading, tantalizing similarities about the magnetic compass and the Gospel of Christ; the great Anchor of the Soul as compared to a ship facing, headlong, the gales of the storm; and a hundred other natural laws and objects that point to Christ. Below is one of his excellent commentaries on the Straight Gate:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." — Matt. 7: 14.

In the Scriptures, as in God whom they reveal, "goodness and severity" are marvelously united and harmonized. Sometimes this side, and sometimes that is more directly presented to view, but both are present in every exhibition of divine truth. When one is set forth in the light, the other necessarily remains in shade; and it is by alternate presentations that a full and impartial view is obtained. When mercy is, in express terms, held forth to men, a careful observer may trace the outline of judgment lying in fainter light behind it; when judgment is displayed, it leans on a back-ground of love. The sweetest promise holds in solution the terrors of the Lord; terrors have mercy in their bosom, and burst in blessings on the head of the penitent. "Come unto me, ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; ''here is a promise, distilling like dew from the Lord's own lips; but the other side of that tender word is a sword that might pierce the joints and marrow of every formalist. If the weary who come to Christ are saved, the weary who do not come to Christ perish.

Again, look to the sharp threatening, " Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish;" and through the dark transparency you may read, in lines of light beyond, the cheering counterpart, Turn and live.

Such is the character of the Bible as a whole; and in this respect our text may serve as an illustrative specimen.

            Every word of God is needed, each in its own place, as the sustaining food of his children. The terrors are as useful and as necessary as the promises. The same God who made day and night to serve different yet conspiring purposes in nature, has exhibited alternate streaks of light and shade in the revelation of his will to men.

            Righteousness and peace embrace each other throughout all providence and all grace. Wherever mercy is manifested in the gospel, there is a just God; wherever justice frowns, it is making way for mercy. These two agree in one. Conspicuously they meet in Christ crucified. There "the goodness and severity of God" are most clearly seen. It is beside the cross that you may see a sinner saved and a sinner lost. Those who trust in Christ cannot be lost; those who distrust cannot be saved.

            The text is a scroll written within and without. The sterner aspect is turned this way. Judgment is the direct and ostensible announcement; but mercy lies within, and obliquely glances through the folds.

            While the unbending requirements of the divine holiness are here proclaimed more loudly, the still small voice of invitation and encouragement is equally articulate and sure.

We shall glance first at the side of the text which is more obviously presented, and then endeavor to read the inscription which lies more in the shade. We shall take nothing out of the text, except what even the less instructed may easily see lying in it. Our effort shall be, not to bring our own meaning into the text, but to bring out of the text, for our own and others' use, the meaning with which the Holy Spirit has charged it.

I. The faithfulness of a Holy God,—the meaning which lies more obvious on the surface.
II. The tenderness of a merciful Father,—the meaning which lies in the heart, and more faintly, but not less certainly shines through.

I. The faithfulness of a holy God. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" Sin has separated man from Go, and the whole world lies in an "outer darkness.'' In this state all men are born, and in this state all abide, unless and until they are saved, one by one, in Christ. All the world is a way. It is so broad that the whole generation for the time travel abreast upon it. Like a river ever flowing is the stream of human life, moving along that worldwide path. Cold, dark, dead is the mass; outward, downward it flows. The world is a lost world. We are of it at first, and shall perish with it at last, unless in the day of mercy we come out from it, and enter into life new creatures in Christ.

To the perishing a Messenger has come, and the message which he brings is life from the dead. Christ died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. To the poor the gospel is preached. To you, men, he calls, and his voice is to the sons of men.

Whosoever will, let him come.

Such are the glad tidings that have come from heaven to earth. But what sound is this that grates upon our ears; and whence does it proceed? It is the voice of Jesus, and it proclaims, "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life.'' Strait, narrow, few! These are hard sayings, who can hear them? Ah! it is still the same as it was in the period of his personal ministry. Many when they hear him, and take into their minds some faint glimpses of his meaning, go away and walk no more with him.

Brethren, will ye also go away? But to whom can you go, when you flee from this speaker? These, though they thunder in an unclean conscience like the knell of doom,—these are the words of eternal life. There is no gentler Savior than he who utters them; there is no easier path to heaven than that to which they point. The way that leads down to destruction is broad and easy. It requires no exertion, no self-denial, no crucifying of sinful desires. You have nothing more to do than lie like a withered leaf upon the stream, and without a thought or an effort you are carried quickly down. Sinners do not find it difficult to sin.

But to turn from this broad path unto the narrow way of life is difficult. It does not fall in with the current of a man's natural affections to follow the Lamb in the way of life. The act is above nature; a man cannot do it: the act is contrary to nature; a man will not do it. The terms are, "If any will come after me, let him deny himself, and take np his cross and follow me." "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other" (Gal. v. 17). They who would walk with Christ must hold themselves ready to cut off" offending right arms, and pluck out offending right eyes. Men do not like to do that even although they know and confess it to be necessary. Many stand and shiver on the edge of the kingdom, resolving to plunge into it someday, but every day postponing the painful act till the morrow. Alas, if they stand near the kingdom considering, until death overtake them, they will drop on the outside and come short of it for ever!

            I speak here not to the careless who have never experienced the pain of conviction, but to the convinced who hang back because the step forward is difficult. I dare not go about to tell you that it is easy. I cannot make a plainer gospel than that which I find here. I cannot call that easy which Jesus pronounced hard; or that' wide which he declared to be narrow. A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. Heaven and earth may pass away, but not one of these words. He is the Truth, and he has said, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life." The gate unto life is strait. Dreams, by their unfettered combinations, give sometimes a better picture of great spiritual facts than any of the limited occurrences of actual life. It would appear that the human spirit during sleep is less clogged by the body, and capable of a freer, wider range. In the visions of the night you may have been in some unknown place of great but indefinite danger. All was dark above, all slippery beneath, all enemies around. You were about to be swallowed up. You tried to flee, but your limbs were feeble, they would not bear you up; your limbs were cramped, they would not carry you forward. By painful efforts, stumbling at every step, you reach a lofty wall within which lies safety; but you are exposed without, and unable to climb over. At length you discover a door in the wall at some distance, and make for the spot with all your might.

On the way your feet sink in the mire of clay. After a long struggle you reach the place, only to discover that the opening is too narrow to let your body through. But as the case is desperate you make an effort. Pressing, agonizing in, you are caught on every side. A sense of suffocation creeps over you, and you faint away.

            You are glad when you awake, although with a beating heart, and find that it is a dream. I have gone into the dim, middle region of sleep for a picture, because I have never seen one on all this waking world that so truly represents the state of the case. The unconverted, when some rays of light from the Scriptures come into the conscience, become alarmed. They apprehend danger, dread hell, and cast a longing look to heaven. They would like to go into the place where they have been told sinners will be safe, but there is no entrance that will admit the old man. They are afraid of being cast away, and yet are not willing to be stripped of their own selves in passing through the narrow entrance into life.

            There is no wider gate in the wall of heaven for the convenience of those who would like to carry in themselves and their sins. Except a man be born again, he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God. A freer gospel than that is not a true gospel. If sinners are saved, either God must change or they. He changeth not ; nothing that defileth shall enter into his presence. In the act of coming, the old man must be put off. It is a rending,—it is a crucifying of the flesh. If you think it enough to condemn any religious system that it runs counter to the strong current of a human will, you will reject Christ and the salvation which he brings. The offence of the cross has not ceased. He who bare it for us warns us plainly that we must bear it with him. The chief practical danger lies not in resolving to remain without, but in delaying to arise and press in. I think not many—perhaps not one whom I address will be lost through a formal determination not to agree to the Savior's terms; those who perish under the sound of the gospel perish mainly through a delay in closing with the offer and the offerer. A disease appears in one of your limbs. It is local in its character, and may be safely removed from the body; but it is deadly in its nature, and if not removed will bring your body to the grave. You know the state of the case. You know that your life depends on the severance of the infected member; but you shudder at the prospect of the operation. You know that it must be done, but you do not like to do it. Most natural! None who has a brother's heart will harshly upbraid you for your weakness. But a true friend, although he sympathizes with you in your suffering, will give no countenance to your refusal, or your procrastination. The poison will soon spread through the frame. If the deed is not done to-day, it may be done too late to-morrow.

            Brethren, a deadly disease is in your immortal being. The part must be put off, if you would enter into life. To know and confess that it must be done will not save you. To go about sad all your days because it must be done will not save you. Nothing will save but doing it.

            There is the gate. It is strait. The compassionate Redeemer of men has told us that it is strait. He will not make it wider that the carnal may get through. Although a whole world should remain without and perish because it is strait, God will not make the entrance easier. The terms are clear and fixed. There is no ambiguity, and will be no change. The carnal are invited to enter the kingdom of God, but it is by a gate which will crush off their corrupt nature as they go in. Strive to enter. There is no other entrance, and no time to be lost. If it be not now, it may be never.

II. The tenderness of a merciful Father.
See now, in a series of four separate points, the consolation which the text contains:

1 . There is a gate.
When a window is opened in heaven to display a terror. The gate is strait, we see within, and read the mercy, There is a gate. Such is the union of mercy and righteousness in God's covenant, that wherever one is manifested, the other also is exposed to view. In the very fact of telling the sinful that the gate is strait, the Scripture makes known for comfort to the convicted that there is a gate. While the
ostensible announcement is, Your corruptions must be excluded, the covert intimation is, Yourself may go in. In form the text is a stroke directed against a sinful man, but in its nature it is intended to take effect only on the man's sin to destroy it, and so permit the emancipated man to enter into the joy of his Lord.

            Within this faithfulness lies love; the way is not easy to the carnal mind, but there is a way. This is a father's voice. It is rough, as beseems it, when the child is prodigal. The sounds are forbidding, "strait,"' "narrow," " few,"—but the words forbid the entrance only of that which defileth. A father's heart is yearning beneath this stern look. He keeps back the filth, and rags, and employments, and associates of the prodigal; but he receives his lost and returning child. The gate is narrow,—tremble, self-pleasing, worldly, godless men ; but be of good cheer, weeping, heart-broken, conscience- stricken sinner, for the gate is not shut. The way is open. Yet there is room in the Lord's heaven,—the Lord's heart,—for you. If some of the Queen's soldiers were taken prisoners by the enemy', and confined in a fortress far in the interior of a forlorn land; and if an intimation were conveyed to the captives by a friendly hand that, at a certain part of their prison walls there is an opening to liberty and home, but that the opening is narrow and the path beyond it rough, their hearts would forthwith fill with joy. They would feel already free. Strait gate! what do they care for its straitness?—enough for them that there is a gate. Ere that setting sun get round to gild the east again, many long miles will be between them and the house of bondage. Surer and safer is their outgate, if slaves to sin were as willing to be free.

2. The gate leadeth unto life.
If the passage is dark and narrow like the grave, the mansion in which it issues is as bright as heaven, and as large as eternity. If one set of pleasures must be crushed by the straitness of the entrance, another set of pleasures begin as soon as you emerge into the light and liberty that lie beyond. If you have put off the old man, 3"0u have put on the new.

If the pleasures of sin must be left behind, the pleasures of holiness await you at God's right hand for evermore. If there is pain in the regeneration, there is gladness in a new life. From within the kingdom, even as it exists imperfectly on earth, already resounds the hum of a happy home ; the strait gate and the new life to which it led are woven both into a hymn, and sung in faith by saints before they get a sight of glory: "We went through fire and water, but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place" (Ps. 66. 12).

3. Those who enter neither make nor open the gate; they only find it.
            Although the gate is strait, it appears from the text that its straitness is not the ultimate reason why so few go in. It is not Written, “Few there be that can force through”, but, “Few there be that find it.” Men spend their strength for nought in efforts to escape from condemnation where the Mediator has not made a way.

            Though awakened sinners labor in the fires, they can never make any impression on the wall of wrath that stands between the wicked and the favor of God. The first Adam's sin was our way out. We were carried out in him before any individual personal departure was yet possible. When our individual life begins, it begins in a distant place, and with an alienated spirit.

When one of these strangers in a strange land begins to learn the history of man's apostasy, and the alienation of his own heart, his first thought is to retrace his steps. He has come out from God's favor by sin; he will return by holiness. Forthwith he falls to work in earnest. Alas, that way is shut. Outside the frowning barrier swarm the multitudes of all kindreds and tongues, who strive to be their own saviors. One will give ten thousand rivers of oil. Another, more alarmed, and more in earnest, will give the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul. Another will waste or wound his own flesh at the bidding of a priest who will assure him of an entrance. Another, without the intervention of any human mediator, will, under the spur of an alarmed but unenlightened conscience, abandon this life to blank, slavish fear, not daring to enjoy any comfort or any hour, in order that he may more surely propitiate the judge, and finally make his way into heaven. It is all labor lost. There is no gate on that side, and you cannot make one. By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. As long as the terms are, Keep the commandments, all men must go away sorrowful. Tbere is no salvation in any or all of these efforts. Beware of a fatal mistake at this point.

            When you are taught that all your efforts absolutely go for nothing, do not imagine that therefore God is indifferent to the fulfilment of his own law. He is ready to accept obedience whenever and wherever it is offered. He does not recede from the terms which his ambassador offered in the course of his mission: "If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments." It is not that he draws back from this bargain; but that no man fulfils its terms. We offer to God what we call righteousness, but it is not
righteousness. Love is the fulfilling of the law, and nothing but love. As long as you labor to get God'sanger appeased, it is not love that inspires your effort.

            In the nature of things, a struggle to avert God's anger cannot be the fruit of love to God. It is not your love of a God who is ready to condemn you that takes his condemnation away, but the free removal of the condemnation that makes you begin to love God. Once alienated and under condemnation, a man can never gain a footing to begin upon, that he may work his way back into favor. By the nature both of God and of man, it is impossible. The love that would engender obedience, cannot itself begin to be, until his anger is taken away. The wall meets you on this side, and there is no opening. Christ shows, —Christ is the way. In Adam, we came out by his fall; in Christ, we go in on the ground of his righteousness. To be in Christ by faith—that is necessary, and that is enough. He goes in by righteousness, and bears in all his own. All the delay and all the loss occur through the error of trying to make a gate, instead of seeking the gate that is already made. Its straitness, though hard to nature, never yet kept one earnest inquirer out. It is true of all who enter that they were stript of their old nature in the passage; but it is true of all who remain without, that they perish, not because the gate is narrow, but because they expended all their time and strength on a side where there is not a gate at all. Be of good cheer : that which is impossible is not necessary; that which is necessary is not impossible. The word is not, Make a way, but Seek the way that Christ has made.

4. He who made the way, and keeps it open now, is glad when many ''go in thereat"
"Few there be that find it" Does that word FEW resound in your ear as a deep-drawn threat that closes heaven against the common throng of average humanity? Does it steal over you in hours of solitude, as if it would choke the breath of your hope? Do not wrest the Scriptures to your own destruction. Do not misread and misrepresent the plain meaning of the best teacher. He takes it ill when his words are turned upside down, and his truth thereby changed into a lie. Who said that few find the way, and in what tone did he utter the words?

Jesus spoke them, and spoke them with a sigh. His complaint that few are coming is the sweetest and strongest encouragement for all to come. What proportion of human kind, in any one, or in all generations, shall, in point of fact, be saved, and what proportion lost, is a question with which we have no concern, and which our Teacher expressly refused to answer. It is our business not to pry into the secret things of God, but to look upon the world as it lies in wickedness, and strive to diminish the crowds that are thronging the broad way. " Few," in the lips of Jesus, is not the final summation of the names in the Lamb's Book of Life, after the accounts of time are closed, but the invitation to them that are ready to perish, while yet their day of grace is running, and before the door is shut.

            Few!  Bbut, Lord, are there not a multitude whom no man can number already walking with thee in white, and many thousands more than Jewish prophets reckon of, now in the body saved, waiting for the call to rest? Yes; and yet there is room. His soul is not satisfied yet. He is yearning for more, and will yearn, as long as one sinner remains on earth unsaved. Although he saw the lost coming to himself, the Savior, like doves to their windows, and coming in numbers like the sand on the seashore, he would still cry. Few, as long as any lingered. We owe great thanks to Jesus for speaking this word. Enough is a word that sometimes rends a human heart, and quenches hope's last feeble rays under a black, suffocating cloud of despair. The great ship, pierced by a sunken rock, is slowly settling down in the sea. The boats are lowered, and filled with a promiscuous throng of young and old, male and female. Each boat shoves
off" as soon as it has taken in its complement. The largest lingered longest, because it can take in most. At last the stern voice of the officer in charge resounds clear above the hum of the eager multitude: Enough; give way. That word sank, like the dart of death, into the hearts of the helpless remnant who were left upon the wreck.

            If Jesus should to-day send a great angel, with a commission to stand with one foot on the land, and another on the sea, and cry, Enough ! heaven is full, and the Savior satisfied has shut the gate ! If one should dream that he heard from heaven this dreadful message, and be awakened by the shock, how sweetly then would the tender plaint of Jesus— “Few there be that find it” — fall upon his startled ear.

This is the word that meets a man to-day when he awakens from the sleep of sin, trembling in terror of the judgment. It is the voice of Jesus issuing yet from an open heaven. He complains few are coming; sinners are the kind he came to seek; he has gotten some, and is wanting more,—is wanting you.

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above.

The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.

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

As is oft the case, today’s propers are all tied together.  As is usual, they call for action not just thoughts.  In fact the collect is among the most direct, asking God to stir our hearts that we might ACT in a manner which will result in good things!  Jeremiah prophesies the coming of Jesus out of the branch of David that He might unite God’s people as one under a New Covenant.  Christ is the key piece to the puzzle of the Old Testament Prophecies. John tells us Jesus not only comes to fill our hunger, literal in that if we follow Him we will do much better here on earth than if we do not, and figurative only He can fill the hunger in our hearts for God.  We are spiritually starving creatures who need His love, and our spiritual hunger can only be sated by seeking His love, by acting upon His Words and filling our hearts with His Word.  This is the only possible way we can truly be satisfied, everything else is a shadow of true happiness and satisfaction. God is the only way we in which we can truly be happy, for everything else is worthless to our well being, except for the joy of following Him.

If we follow our own heart and guidance, we will seek the things of this world.  There can be no true happiness or satisfaction.   Seeking material superiority results in coveting, that is the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others.  Notice both the insatiable part and the part about what rightfully belongs to others.  The word can also be described as "ruthless self-seeking," the kind of attitude the arrogant and callous person has, assuming that others and their things exist for his own benefit.  It has also been described as finding morally acceptable the taking of things from others rather than earning or purchasing them. These are all things that if you look at the Ten  Commandments, violate God’s laws. Thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not bear false witness, are just a few of laws that this type of individual breaks.

Look back on history and see how much evil action can be laid to coveting by not only persons, but nations. We can look at the examples of the early wars in Europe, and of late, of the wars started by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for examples. We can also look to the religion of Islam as a key reason for conquest in the Middle East, a religion built on deceitful lies and covetousness.

As we come on Advent, think ahead to the joy of Christmas, the birth of Christ, His entry into this world, the joy of Epiphany, His revealing to the world.  Then, think ahead to the horror, pain and sadness of Good Friday.  So you must understand everything has a price that must be paid.  From our eternal life which was paid for by Jesus’ one time sacrifice made for all mankind for all time to a simple meal.  It has been said there is no free lunch.  That is true, it is better said that everything has a price.  Some things are worth paying for, some are not.  Not one thing is worth coveting in the Ten Commandments sense.  Take nothing that has not been paid for.  If you don’t want to pay the price, don’t take it. You can accept gifts, but take nothing that has not been purchased. Do not partake or acquire stolen goods.

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

When people serve idols, they place things above God.  When you covet, you are willing to set aside God for things.  In the end, that never works.  And, near the end it gets pretty unpleasant.  We find idols easier to deal with than God.  You can make an idol; God made you.  If you don’t like the idol’s rules, you change the rules.  Big differences there.

We shall never be satisfied with the riches and the cares of this world.  If we let the Holy Ghost into our hearts, we will find happiness and satisfaction in His Word.

If we keep on learning the Word and acting upon it everyday, something that everybody in some way needs to work on, not least myself, we will become more like Him and that is what He asks of us. He asks of us nothing special, but to do our very best and not just say it. It is a hard concept for many of us to follow, including myself, but we must all strive more and more every day to do our very best.

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

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

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

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

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

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Bishop Dennis Campbell’s Sermon
Bishop Dennis is a brilliant speaker.  He is able to take biblical precepts and make them perfectly understandable, even to me.  Oft he provides the text of his sermons and I take the utmost pleasure in passing them on:

What Stirs You?
John 6:5-14
Sunday Next before Advent
November 23, 2014

Here we are again at the last Sunday in Trinity.  Since June 22 we have been emphasising how the great doctrines of the faith apply to every day Christian living.  As we have looked at the Bible, and its instructions, and its very high expectations for us, we have been constantly made aware of the fact that we don’t measure up.  The will of God for the normal Christian life has been set before us as a goal we have not reached.  Romans 3:23 uses the image of arrows falling short of the target: “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

This knowledge should bring us to deep confession and repentance, but it should not  bring us to despair.  For the reinforcement of the knowledge of our sin is given to reinforce our joy in the Saviour.  If Trinity shows our sins need a Saviour, Advent reminds us the Saviour has come.  God has completed that great work of salvation, of deliverance, of freeing us from the burden of our sins, by coming to earth Himself, and bearing our sins on the cross.  Because of the cross of Christ our sins are remembered no more, and God receives us unto Himself; not as criminals against His perfect Law, or traitors against His Divine rule, but as though we have no sin, as though we are perfect in every detail.  God treats us as though we have a right to His love and blessings. This is that amazing grace, this is that old,old story we tell and celebrate again and again throughout the year. For this is the hope and joy of life.  It is true that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But it is also true that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The forgiveness of our sin does not mean we should not strive for holiness of life.  It does not mean we have a license to sin.  It does not mean our sins have no consequences.  Just the opposite; realising that the death of Christ was the cost of our forgiveness, we should apply ourselves to a constant effort in holiness.  We should fight off every temptation, and give ourselves to righteousness with every fibre of our being.

Thus, on this last Sunday in Trinity, the Sunday next before Advent, often called “Stir Up Sunday,” we beseech God to stir up our wills that we may bring forth the fruit of good works.

I love the imagery of that prayer.  It is the same imagery used in 2 Timothy 1:6, where Paul urges Timothy to “stir up the gift that is in thee.”  It pictures your will to serve God as a blazing fire.  But, sometimes the wood becomes encrusted with charcoal and buried in ash.  Oxygen cannot reach it easily, so the flame slowly dims.  Often this is a gradual process.  We may become distracted by the pleasures and problems of life.  We may simply neglect the things of worship  and Scripture.  But, for some reason, we take our eyes off God, and the logs become encrusted and the flame slowly ebbs, and we don’t even notice.  What do we do with such a fire?  We stir it up, until the crust falls of and the oxygen reaches the logs and the flame blazes and crackles again.

I have told this story before, but it bears repeating.  An old country parson came to the  home of a man who had been absent from Church for several weeks.  It was a chilly winter day, and a fire glowed brightly on the hearth.  Both men sat in silence, but the minister took a pair of tongs and moved a small ember from the fire.  On the hearth, the ember glowed red and hot and sent off a blue-orange flame.  But soon the flame went out, and the ember turned black. The rector replaced the ember into the fire, and it began to glow and burn again.

Finally, the man spoke.  “Yes, Reverend,” he said.  “I understand.  I will be in Church on Sunday.”  Oh how I wish some people had a good, old fashioned fireplace and a glowing fire burning when I visit them.

It is no accident that the Gospel reading for the last Sunday of the Christian year is John’s record of the feeding of the multitude with a small boy’s lunch.  The point  we are to gather from it is stated in verse 14, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.”  How does this statement apply to the prayer that God will stir up our wills?  It applies because it is the knowledge of Jesus that stirs us up.

Biblical faith, unlike any other, is based on actual events and persons.  It is not based on feelings.  It is not based on experiences.  It is not based on visions or dreams or voices in our heads.  It is based on solid events.  It is content centered, not feeling centered, not experience centered.  And the content is given in the Bible.

This is easily seen in the way we pray.  Christian prayers are content oriented.  Look at the Psalms.  They are mostly prayers, and they are content oriented. They make no attempt to get us emotional, but they make every attempt to express truth about God and truth about us.  Look at the Lord’s Prayer.  When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He didn’t say, “first get all excited about God, and work yourself into a good feeling.”  He didn’t say, “find your holy word and repeat it over and over and over until you fall into a kind of trance.”  He gave them a prayer with solid theological content: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed by Thy Name.”

Christian faith, then, is a whole-life response to the revelation of God in Christ.  It is a response to truth, to doctrine.  And it is a response that stirs us up, spiritually, not emotionally, to follow God.  To do good works.

Our souls are stirred up, then, when we, like the multitude in John 6:14 realise that Jesus is “that prophet that should come into the world.”  He is the One of whom all the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament spoke.  Moses wrote of Him.  Isaiah wrote of Him.  David wrote of Him.  Abraham saw His day and rejoiced.  When the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3, “Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the the scriptures,”  he wasn’t referring to the New Testament.  He meant Jesus died for our sins in fulfillment of the Old Testament.  His life, death, and resurrection are all plainly shown in the Old Testament, and may be readily seen by the discerning eye.  Seeing and comprehending this truth is what motivates us to live Godly, righteous, and sober lives to the glory of His holy Name.  More than the problems we cause ourselves by our sins, more than the wrath of God, more than the fires of hell, it is this knowledge of Christ the Saviour that motivates us to bring forth the fruit of good works.  There is a great verse in the New Testament that expresses this well.  It was written, humanly speaking, by the Apostle Paul.  Paul was a brilliant man.  Aristocratic, cultured, educated, he was destined for greatness in the Jewish religion, with every promise of respect, riches and comfort.  What could persuade such a person to give all that up for a life of deprivation and pain and prison and martyrdom?  He explains it in 2 Timothy 1:12: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”  It was the knowledge of Christ that stirred up Paul.  God grant that it may stir us up also.

+Dennis Campbell
Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Church Diocese of Virginia
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church
Powhatan, Virginia

Roy Morales-Kuhn, Bishop and Pastor - St. Paul's Anglican Church - Anglican Orthodox Church
Bishop Roy is pastor of the biggest AOC parish West of the Mississippi and is in charge of the Diocese of the Epiphany. 

Sunday next before Advent
Psalm 39           Jer. 3:14-18           Mt. 25:31-46
23 November 2014

The Collect.

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

The designation of this Sunday as ‘next before Advent’ says quite a bit, a foreshadowing of things to come and of things to ponder.   As we combine the three passages of scripture for today, we see a fairly ominous cloud, some depicting total destruction, some a wiping away of the present, some a look to the promise of renewal.  Good three point sermon material.

In spite of all the dire warnings surrounding this shift in politics, we really should not fear or tremble.   God is on his throne, he sees all that is transpiring, he knows the past and has created the future.  We, who are in his hands should not fear.   The writer of today’s psalm asks for guidance, especially concerning the future.  And yet through out the psalm, he acknowledges that God is in control.  “You have made my days a mere handbreadth, the span of my years is as nothing before you”    He knows that God has complete control of his life.  And in spite of the obvious difference between the Creator and the created, the psalmist still writes; “My hope is in you . Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.”

The final passage of this Psalm is written in a future tense and yet a sense of anticipation. 

12  Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
13  O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.

The psalmist seems to be looking down the years towards a time that this condition will be no more, he won’t be an alien, his people will be accepted, he will be in the hope of salvation.

As we see the selections of scripture focusing on the anticipation of the first coming, the Advent of Christ as a child, the Immanuel, God amongst us, we can rejoice and be sure.  Our salvation was provided and secured those many centuries ago, when God reached down and sent his Only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer.

As we compare two sides of the same coin, the Old Testament reading and the New, we see a study in the contrast that makes up the whole when it comes to our spiritual journey. 

Repentance is a given, if you are to be right with God.  You must repent and TURN from your ways and come back to God. He will return you to the right path. 

As we study the passage from Jeremiah we find really wonderful warning. ‘Turn, O backsliding children...’   Then the prophet continues with what happens when we do turn back from our backsliding.   Good pastors will come and feed the flock with knowledge and understanding, the people will increase and multiply, all nations shall be gathered to Jerusalem, not the physical city, the spiritual city.  How do we know that ?  “...neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil hearts..”   That statement alone indicates that the coming of the promised Kingdom has happened.  Verse 16 indicates a final aspect of the foreshadowed ark of the covenant has been revealed.  This revelation of course being in the coming of the Savior, both his first coming {Advent} and his anticipated second coming {Advent}. We celebrate both the first and second Advent in this coming season, two Sundays each set aside to reflect on such.

14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.
17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
18 In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.

Now we look at the passage from St Matthew.    Here is the encapsulation of the whole Advent from start to finish.  Why is this included in the Sunday before Advent ?   I think that we are looking at a tease that is to peak our interest in the coming time of contemplation and reflection that should mark the Advent season. 

Here we read of the Savior, the Messiah, the King of Kings as he reveals what has been in place since before time.   Look at verse 34 ‘...then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’      Talk about foreshadowing.   Here the kingdom, promised before man, “..from the foundation of the world...” is given to those who did what they were supposed to do as believers.   All the acts of kindness, the compassion that was shown to those who were in prison, hungry, thirsty, sick, without clothing.  ‘...when you did this to the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me...’

Now we also see what happens to those who do not show compassion on those in need, “...then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.   And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

That is some pretty powerful medicine.  I think that Jesus is also referring to those who need to live their lives in a Gospel manner.  If you think of the needs that are physical in nature, that is all well and good, but the import of this passage is the eternal.  If we are looking at the eternal, then it would also seem to indicate the spiritual nature of need.   As believers we should also make sure those we meet and live among be clothed, fed, nurtured, cared for and guided spiritually as well.   The temporal shall soon pass away, it is the spiritual that truly matters.   So as followers of Christ Jesus, we need to make sure those who are without spiritual guidance at least get warned of this need.   May the Lord richly bless us this coming week.

Let us pray:

ost gracious God, by whose knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew; We yield Thee unfeigned thanks and praise for the return of seed-time and harvest, for the increase of the ground and the gathering in of the fruits thereof, and for all the other blessings of Thy merciful providence bestowed upon this nation and people. And we beseech Thee, give us a just sense of these great mercies; such as may appear in our lives by an humble, holy, and obedient walking before Thee all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be all glory and honor, world without end.  Amen.

 Lord God, to whom belongeth the earth and the fulness thereof; Give us grace to honor Thee with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase; that we may be blessed in the use of Thy gifts, and sanctified to Thy service, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

lmighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; We commend to Thy continual care the families of Thy people, and the homes in which they dwell. Put far from them, we pray Thee, the desire of vain glory, the pride of life, and every root of bitterness. Endue them with faith, temperance, patience, and godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who have been united in holy wedlock; turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; and so kindle charity among us all, that we may be evermore kindly affectioned with brotherly love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev Bryan Dabney of Saint John’s Sunday Sermon
We are fortunate to have Bryan’s Sunday Sermon.  If you want people to come to The Truth, you have to speak the truth, expouse the truth and live the truth.    This is really a good piece and I commend it to your careful reading.

Sunday next before Advent

Think about the words of Saint Paul as he writes to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 13:4 (KJV)
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

The apostle Paul reminded us, Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. This is one of many passages wherein the LORD has supplied mankind with the parameters for intimacy between the sexes which are confined solely to the estate of marriage. God has also made known to us that those who choose to live outside the marriage bond are reckoned to be whoremongers and adulterers whom he will one day judge. Sadly, many in today’s world have no respect for God’s word on this matter as they seem to enjoy their particular sinful state whether they be whoremongers or adulterers.

Let us examine the first portion of Hebrews 13:4 which deals specifically with marriage. I have often seen the depressing statistic that half of all marriages today will end in divorce. It used to be that the newer marriages were coming unglued within 5 or so years; but the trend now extends to those marriages that have been around for decades. We live in a society that values very little except for what gratifies the fleshly lusts of the masses. But what does God have to say about this matter? Our Lord has supplied us with his unambiguous view on the subject: What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder (St. Matthew 19:6b). To look at the divorce rate, you’d get the impression that people really do not care for the institution of marriage.

But consider this: those who divorce their spouses today will, in all likelihood, marry again. So what is the problem? Like every other difficulty that humanity faces, it stems from an absence of God in the home. If God is honored by both parties, then no divorce will take place because the grounds for such will not exist. But those who do not honor God will cheat on their spouses, abuse them, or so alienate themselves from them that their relationship becomes irreparable.

God has made plain to all the importance of marriage for in Genesis Chapter 2 (21-25) it is written that, the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. This is one of the most beautiful passages found in Scripture. It sets forth the purity and the spirituality of the institution of marriage. That is why our Lord spoke as he did in defense of marriage because he was there at its beginning. He also spoke of the origins of divorce because in the Law of Moses such was permissible on account of the sinful natures of men and women who would not abide in God’s rules for life (St. Matthew 19:3-9).

Marriage is, after all, about life and its orderly continuance upon this earth. God ordained marriage to join a man and a woman together that they might provide each other comfort and companionship. Under the rubrics of godly marriage, the two became one flesh in his eyes and the blessings of children would come out of the marriage bond and these were to be reared up in the knowledge of God. Thus it would follow that after they had matured these same godly children would marry and the process would begin anew. God’s expectation was and remains that those who would choose to marry ought to enter into that institution with thoughtfulness, solemnity and with loving acceptance of their new estate.

Consider the words of the Book of Common Prayer on the Solemnization of Matrimony (pp. 300-304). The parties to matrimony are reminded of the need to examine their motives for joining together. They are then given the charge that God will judge them both if they are in error in their seeking to be married. Afterward, both make a public profession of their agreement to wed in taking the other as their spouse. This is followed by the giving of the marriage ring to the wife. And after a series of short prayers, the minister will repeat the words of our Lord, What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder (St. Matthew 19:6).

Enter now Satan and his cadre of wicked spirits. They have sought to make mankind’s life as miserable as they can, as well as to turn as many as they are able from following God’s rules for life. Satan hates everything God has made and that includes the institution of marriage. Where God has ordained a state of loving faithfulness, the devil creates unfaithfulness. Where God has created a union, the devil fosters disunion. Where there is supposed to be peace and harmony, the devil stirs up strife. Where the family home is supposed to be a place of refuge from the world, the devil brings the world right inside to confound and depress. Where children are supposed to have a haven in which to grow in the love and admonition of the LORD, the devil brings in his spiritual chainsaw to cut away the bonds of unity within the family. In so doing, he divides spouses one from the other, and parents from their children. He engenders bitterness and wrath so that the children will hardly hear a kind word between their parents, much less be taught the intentions of God. Afterwards, God hears the weeping of those dejected spouses and the tearful cries of their children whose lives have been turned upside down by the antics of one or both of their parents.

with their foolish questions about marriage and divorce (St. Matthew 19:3-9), it would be safe to say that he was revolted not only by their questions, but by their hardheartedness as well. An omniscient God had clearly seen way beyond their time and even ours. He knows all too well the consequences of divorce — the lives ruined and homes wrecked.

Returning to Paul, we read that God will judge all who choose to live together beyond the precincts of holy wedlock (Hebrews 13:4). Sadly, many who think themselves to be Christians are doing just that. They do not give any thought to how God sees them as simply living in sin, and they may even believe that God’s prohibition against their behavior is just a matter of interpretation. They have conveniently forgotten that if one claims to be in Christ Jesus then one must be obedient to Christ Jesus (St. John 14:15). In St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle advised them concerning marriage when he penned, Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency... for it is better to marry than to burn (7:2-5, 9b).

Scripturally speaking, those who co-habit apart from the institution of matrimony are saying rather straightforwardly that their living arrangements with one another do not involve asking God anything. And so, when one or the other party leaves, they just walk away without any obligation, or for that matter, without any valid reason. They believe that they are free to then go and form any number of new live-in relationships without consequence. Where is the stability? Where is the bonding that God intended for both the man and the woman? What about the possible inclusion of any child or plural being born out of such a tenuous relationship? What about the effects on any child or plural who became part of a previous relationship? So when a live-in couple breaks up, one can blame it all on “bad karma,” or “a lapse of judgment” but not on the very malefactor who chose to end the relationship. The message here is plain and simple: those who refuse to marry have opened the door to demonic spoliation. To paraphrase a notorious political figure of our day, The devil and his minions will “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Nevertheless, in spite of everything the devil has done to destroy this institution, marriage still remains a gift of God to mankind. The solid foundation of Christ makes for longevity in Christian marriage. What a bulwark it is against the wiles of the devil. What joy is found therein. This is not to say that Christian marriage will not have its rocky moments for even the best of marriages will face turbulent times. But I should think that a couple who are committed to each other — who have the love of God in their hearts — and seek to maintain their fellowship with each other and with the Godhead, will survive the storms which the devil will send their way. Marriage is a life-long commitment. It is not a life- sentence as if one were somehow imprisoned. It is a life-enriching union which ought to have our Lord Jesus Christ at its center. Think about it in this manner, if Jesus Christ is ruler of all of your life then you will have a happy and secure marriage. Marriage is not “a bed of roses,” it is not “a piece of cake,” but it has the potential to be one of the most fulfilling aspects of this life or God would not have established it.

Our task as Christians is to encourage others to seek God’s will for them. While we may not be able to keep bad marriages from ultimately failing, we can assist those who are struggling to keep their marriages together through our prayers, and with God’s permission, to appeal to the parties as we are given leave to do. God is sovereign and his power preempts all others. Ergo, we should bring before him our prayers and petitions on behalf of those who are trying to maintain their marriage vows, as well as for their children. We should make it part of our daily prayer life to seek God’s assistance for those who are troubled in mind, body or estate and that includes the fractured households in our church and in our communities. We should also be in prayerful thanksgiving that if we are married and our home life is good, that God would give us grace to continue in such until he calls us home. Being thankful for the good things which God has given us is just as important as bringing him our petitions for his assistance regarding those things which trouble us. May it please our Lord to bless each of you and that you will not give Satan an open door to enter and wreck the good that God has given you.

Let us pray,

ather, make of us effective witnesses via our homes and marriages as a people who revel in thy blessings and desire that others might experience the same; and this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Have a blessed week, Bryan+

[1] Gates are not walls, they are made to be selective.  To pass that which you want to pass; to bar that which you do not wish to pass.

No comments: