Verse of the Day

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon tied the Epistle and Gospel together talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction, the general content is in forewords above.

Consider the words from the Collect, wherein we ask God to give us … the spirit to think and do always such things as are right; that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will …

This is kind of a follow-on to last week’s Collect.  We are asking God to give us direction that we might know right from wrong and follow the right way.  If we listen to our hearts and minds, like the aviator, mariner or adventurer without a compass, we will soon be hopelessly lost.  With the compass God gives us, we can find the One True Way, much like the compass always points North.

The Collect acknowledges that without God’s intervention through the Holy Spirit in our lives we cannot do anything that is good or right. This has been true since the Garden of Eden. At the Garden, the Fall shows that our own very natures prevent us from doing what is right.  Our nature is inclined towards being away from God, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can reset our nature to be towards God. We just have to ask for His help and not just ask for it, but willingly receive it.  By receiving, I mean that we have to be willing and ready listeners, ready to listen to what He wants us to do, and then act upon that. We have to have His will be our will. We have to put aside what we want to do, and put what God wants us to do in the forefront. This is a very difficult matter, a concept we have always have and always will struggle with.

This is nothing new. As Paul reminds us we have a common spiritual past, regardless of our actual lineage.  Spiritually, we are descended from the Jews of the Exodus. Their God is our God; God directed their actions.  He was a Trinity then as He is today.  Their reality is our reality, whether we choose to understand or accept it. Our forefathers drank of “the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”  We are like them in that we stubbornly, due to our own nature, resist His will. It is in our own fallen human nature to be like this. This is the price that we pay for Adam and Eve’s rejection of God.  We follow in their footsteps with the struggle with sin. We murmur and grumble, when in fact we should be praising Our Father Almighty. We are also like them, in that if we do not look up to Him who was lifted up on the cross, like Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, we will perish. However, if we will look up to Him who was crucified on the cross, and believe on Him and his name, we shall be saved.

Those who have gone before provide numerous examples, both good and bad. We should aspire to follow the good examples of those who have gone before and not the bad examples that they have left behind. We can learn from both types of examples to help us become better human beings.  In this letter Paul addresses the bad and suggests we should see what their ill behavior gained them before we set our course and not after.  We should not strive to emulate the murmurings of the people, though we may feel that way sometimes, as we can learn from their bad examples.  We must see their bad examples and do not emulate those; on the other side, we must see the good examples, and strive to emulate them.

Lest we think ourselves ever so special, Paul reminds us we are subjected to no special temptations, only those “as is common to man.”  He is reminding us that every man on this planet is a sinner who desperately needs help, every bit as much as the next, albeit likely in differing ways. To paraphrase my mother, the church is a hospital for sinners. We are here because recognize we fail miserably in Earthy and in Spiritual matters without God’s help. We recognize the fact that in sin, all are equally lost to death, unless they accept the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Which is to say, common to everybody within the human race who is not Christ, which is all of us. This is another example of the adage, “Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.”  It is an old saw, but one as valid today as the first time it was used.  

That is a reason the Old Testament should be read and reviewed and compared to the New Testament, to see where we came from, how we got here and where we should go next. It works like a flowchart, from the beginning from Adam, down through the various figures of the Old Testament, the flowchart ends at the arrival of Christ and the Holy Ghost, and in our redemption. It is an excellent way to see the bad and good examples of the past and what worked for the people of old and what did not. Analyzing this flowchart, we can see our temptations and sins are nothing new, and sins are a waste of our spiritual life. We must practice continuous improvement, kaizenas the Japanese called it, and or total quality management of our spiritual life.

Just like running a successful business requires each and every member of the organization work together to achieve quality and serve the needs of the customer, so too, do the Scriptures require all believers work together, to serve the needs of those we serve, namely other believers and the Church. We must continuously improve ourselves in our day to day lives, not just in the church, but in our businesses and personal lives. We must continually work on improving our bad qualities and making them into good qualities. Only God, the Holy Spirit, and Christ can really provide us the spiritual guidance we need to do this. We must trust that they will give us the correct guidance when needed. 

Speaking of lessons, when Saint Luke recounts the story of the prodigal son we oft think ourselves as that prodigal one returning to God so late in life.  Yet there is far more to be learned than the titular son.

Consider the two sons.  The older is a wonderful young man who strives to please his father in everything he does.  The younger son asks for his inheritance, now rather than later, and sets off to spend it wastefully in a far off land.  In dire straits, he decides to go home to his father and beg to be allowed to live as one of his servants.  He decides to tell his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son…”  Before he can get the words out of his mouth, his father welcomes him, gives him new clothing and calls the servants to prepare a fatted calf for a big party.  The elder son is very angry and hurt.  He asks his father what he did wrong; he followed his instructions every day to the best of his ability, worked hard, and yet his father had never even given a small party for him.  The father answered, saying, “Son, thou are ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”  “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost and is found.”  

This story, like that of the workers in the vineyard has a number of meanings.  Like the father in the story, God wants us to be His faithful child, but rejoices when we return to Him.  He is a loving and patient Father, but will not accept our sinful behavior. However if we repent of that behavior, He will always welcome us back with open arms. We should always do our best to recognize when we have erred and strayed fro our ways like lost sheep. Like the prodigal son, we should be grateful to live long enough to return to Him. 

The moral of the younger son’s story is that God is always waiting for us, and if we are not too late, we can always return to Him.  Today preferably rather than tomorrow! He will always accept us with opening arms, but we must make sure it is not too late. Don’t wait until you die! If you feel you have erred and strayed, repent now! Do not put off until tomorrow your repentance. If you are led by the Holy Spirit to repent, please do it today, you may not live to see tomorrow. 

Do not let the sun go down on your sins and wrath, you may not live to see another day! On the other hand, consider the oldest son, let us learn from his mistake and be joyful when our brothers and sisters come home to our family. Let us put aside the anger and jealousy and replace those hurtful emotions with the emotions of pure love and joy! Let us join in the celebration and not begrudge the fatted calf.  We should not be jealous or angry when our long lost brethren return to the flock of Christ! We should be merry and joyful they have returned to us! Do not let your pride become anger and cloud your emotions like it does so many of us. But, rather see a sinner coming back into His flock and rejoice in he is no longer headed towards The Pit! 

Action counts.  For by their actions ye shall know them.  

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

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
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. 

Consider the words from the Collect, wherein we ask God who … ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; … to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which are profitable for us …

We must understand in our hearts that God does indeed “ordereth all things” here as well as in heaven. Even though it might not seem like it at times, we have to understand that ultimately He is the one in control of all of the Universe.  Once we understand that, then we can ask Him to keep us away from those things hurtful to us and incline our hearts towards those things that are good for us.  This is one of the many things for which we need the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in our hearts.  Without His Help, we cannot recognize the help we need.  We tend to think of ourselves as perfectable by our own work, without the need to depend on others (Him).  The problem is, it does not work.  Im our lives we cannot be a stable influence on our own life that God and the Holy Spirit can. We cannot give ourselves the calming influence that the Holy Spirit can. If we could have perfected ourselves, then God would not have sent His Son Jesus to come down and die for our sins and account us as perfect. And yet, we cannot seem to figure this out on our own.  To try what clearly does not work over and over again, is the very definition of insanity. On the other hand, if we look to God for help, for guidance, for direction, for course correction, for strength, for structure, for the ability to persevere, there is nothing that must be done that cannot be done. 

In other words, on our own we cannot do anything that works, but with God’s help, we can do things that work!  It is not because of us, that we can do things that work, but because God is acting within us with the help of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is key to following God here on Earth. He is our lifeline to salvation, giving us the resources that we need to be able to follow His Will. He can help us put aside our fears, worries, concerns and do what we need to do. He is a very big part of God, and He should be a big influence in our lives. He is how God communicates His Will to us to be done. He is our direct connection with God’s calming and wise influence. And He also gives us our marching orders. It may not necessarily be what we want to do, but in the end, it is better than anything we could want to do. God asks only that we do our very best.  By the way, do not confuse saying you are doing your best with actually doing it. There is a difference between words and actions! 

The difference lies in what our actions convey. Do our actions convey faith or disbelief? Do our actions convey that we are followers of the Gospel? Or are we just another set of Christians in Name Only (CINO). If we are true followers of Christ, then our actions will convey faith. If we are not of Christ, our actions will convey unbelief. I know what I want my actions to convey, do you? Our faith means nothing, if it is not evident in our actions. We would then not have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ within us, who saves us. It is not our faith that saves us, but Him who rose and died for our sins. It is the faith of Jesus Christ that has saved us and not our own faith. Our own faith did not account us as perfect, His Faith, by dying on the cross for our sins did.  Let us not confuse our faith, with His Faith that saved us, by His Actions. 

He acted for us and not only talked the talk as it were, but walked the walk as well. He cannot be truly within us unless we ask for Him to come in and help guide our actions. We cannot buy our way into heaven, nor any other way we can think of will get us into heaven, but the way that God provided for us, will get us into heaven, that of His Son Jesus Christ, who was sent to die for our sins that we would have eternal life, to all that believe upon His name. BELIEVE, is the key word. To truly BELIEVE, you must act in a Christly manner, believe that He died for our sins, and to live out the faith as preached by Him.  If you do not believe any one of the tenants of the Nicene Creed, then you cannot be considered a Christian, for all of the elements necessary to be a Christian are consolidated into the Creed. It is an easy way to find out who is and is not a Christian. Just ask them if they agree with the Nicene Creed. If they have any qualm with any concept found within in it, then you know they are not a true follower of Christ. It summarizes the story of the Gospel into a Creed that we acknowledge and believe. It summarizes it into a creed that we Christians are called to follow, believe and spread through the world. We are not called to just mindlessly repeat this creed, but we are to truly think upon each point in the Creed, and think about what it means for us and our salvation, and act upon this Creed. 

There are 66 books in the Bible, of those 27 are in the New Testament, of those Saint Paul wrote 13, almost half!  More than anyone.  Paul gives much of the guidance and direction we call The Word of God.  Yet, his message is very simple.  People claim to find it hard to grasp, which mostly means they don’t want to hear it.  If they truly did want to hear it, they would not offer up those excuses! Today, Paul tells us, much like last week, that if we are of this world, we die of this world. Pretty simple message, right? Yet if we will accept our adoption by God, we will be entitled to call Him Abba, or Daddy.  We have been emancipated from the bondage of sin and are now freemen under the promise of eternal life. 

What a wonderful gift this is. We are no more beholden to sin, no more under the eternal debt of sin, but we have been freed from that terrible master Death, and now we have a absolutely perfect master in God. He truly is the most perfect master for us, better than we could be of ourselves. Which is why slavery has never truly worked. We ourselves were in slave to sin, and in no condition to be a master of anyone. Fortunately for us,  God came up with the perfect way, the One Way, His Son Jesus Christ to die for us that we might gain a bridge between this earth and life eternal.

In order for us to truly be adopted, we have to be willing to follow Him and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, here on earth, for better or for worse, in times good and in bad, and never give up, never give in and always focusing our minds on how we can best serve Him. To truly show we are adopted Sons and Daughters of God, we must be willing to act in a manner worthy of this adoption. We will fail at times, that is true, but the key is that we always return to Our Lord, ask for His forgiveness, and start again a new, acting in a manner worthy of being adopted Sons and Daughters of the Great High King, God the Father Almighty. 

For, if we are His children, then we gain His Birthright and all resulting from that status. Again, this is simple, but following as His Children can be a fairly difficult task, if we try to do things without His guidance it will not go as well. Actually, without His Guidance, we cannot do anything that is great or worthy. But with His Guidance, we can do all things! While we may have some cause for suffering here on earth, the resultant glory will all be well worth it. The problem with this is that while we are all willing to suffer (just not today) we are so often not willing to put off what we want to do now for what God wants us to do. 

We need to realize if we put off what we need to do now, in the future it will make things for us here harder.  So if we do what we need to do today, we will have the satisfaction of doing what He wants for us today and not having put it off until tomorrow which will never come for us. Once again, it is what we want, not what He Wants. What He wants will ultimately result in our salvation, what we want will ultimately result in our eternal damnation.  I know which way I want to go, do you? 

That leads right in to the point Jesus said in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew when He Tells us to take great care in who we choose to follow. There are many today who seem to say the right things, but do the other. We must focus on their actions and see how it matches their spoken claims. 

There are far too many so called ministers out there saying what  at first glance appears to be the right thing, but in reality their actions do not show they believe. To paraphrase scripture, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. In the case of individuals like Creflo Dollar, we can see that his treasure is in mammon wealth of this world and His heart is not set on following God.  This duplicitous nature is not becoming of those who would be ministers of God. 

Therefore, those men cannot be true ministers of God, but must be false prophets. Scripture has been given to provide an unchanging standard against which we should judge the words and actions of those who would lead us towards God. Jesus tells us to listen to those who preach of the Gospel and discard the words of those whose teachings are not congruent with The Word.    To quote President Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”  Does what the person say match with The Word?  

We all have Bibles, most the Authorized Version or some version based on the Textus Receptus.  Does what the person preach match what God has said?  Does their life live that talk? We do not want to follow people that produce evil, corrupted fruit, but good and plentiful and delicious fruit! A good tree will not bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot ever bear good fruit! So is it with our actions, if we truly do our best to follow Him, our actions will produce good fruit; if we don’t, we will produce bad fruit.

Actually, that brings us to another point, does the Bible you use match the real Word of God. It is not the grammar or style that counts, but the facts, the points, the real message of Scripture.  The Authorized Version comes from the Received Text and is reliable.  Make certain the version you use loses nothing in the translation. The modern versions use corrupted manuscripts omitting a large number of verses that corrupt the message of the New Testament, and in the case of John 3:16 for example, dilute Jesus Christ’s status as the only begotten son of God. The newer Bibles also are copyrighted so “Man” owns it, and not the author of Scripture, God our Father. In this case, these newer Bibles are not Bibles at all, but doctrine books of men set on not following Scripture.

So once you let the Holy Ghost into your heart, then take the direction He Offers, read and understand Scripture, you will know what you are supposed to do.  Then, you need to actually acton that knowledge.

Action counts.  For by their actions ye shall know them.  

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

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
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. 

Consider these words from the Collect:

… the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness

In the Collect, we ask that the events of this world might follow God’s governance or will.  Why?  Because in those places where it does, we find happiness and joy.  It is that simple, it means more, reflect on that. After all, amazing is it not? Since the Garden, it has always been one of the two same choices:

1.    We follow God’s Will for us, we do what is good for us, individually and as a people or a country.  It is hard work, but easier than we imagined; we prosper when all goes well.  It was all our doing, we are happy because we were so smart.

2.    We ignore God’s instructions, doing what we want to do, not what we are supposed to do. It turns out to be way harder than we thought possible, in the end everything turns to weasel spit.  It was not our fault, it is God’s fault, He is punishing us.

As long as we are imperfect creatures with free will, humanity will not change.  The key word in this phrase is will. The will of humanity is set towards embracing sin and running away from God. But there is the possibility that through the Holy Ghost, we as individuals can change and with enough individuals changing, the whole of humanity of change.  Humanity would be better off if we fully embraced the principles found in the Gospel.  However, there is a big obstacle to this: human nature. By our own nature, we are naturally resistant to embracing any kinds of change and most especially change from doing what we want to doing what God wants. We have to understand doing what God wants will be better for us in the long run than doing what we want. 

How do we start changing our corner of the world? What is the best way for us to do so? Peter gives us some helpful hints on this very subject. He advises that we should be of be of one mind, have compassion and pity for each other, to be courteous, to give good to all our brethren, to return good for evil, to seek peace, to do good, not just talk good. Peter tells us we not only need to talk good, we need to act good as well.  These qualities all will improve us, but first we need to let the Holy Ghost into our hearts and let Him help us in adding these qualities. Having compassion and pity for each other is a critical part of being a Christian. These are not qualities we normally have without the Holy Ghost. Being courteous and being good to everyone are also qualities that we lack without the Holy Ghost. These are key principles that will strengthen our spiritual character.

How can we get these qualities? We have to start first with ourselves and allow the Holy Ghost into our hearts to transform us. After we are transformed by the Holy Ghost, only then can we truly be able to help others. Then we can truly act with the one mind that Peter speaks about. It will not happen right away, but it is a steady and continuous process, in fact taking most, probably all, of our lifetime here on earth. But while we are being transformed, we can do our best to help others. To help others, we have to first put ourselves in others’ places, understand when they fall short and make good things happen. 

The key word in off of this is to act! We need to act upon the teachings of Christ, and not just utter them and not do them. All of us, including myself struggle with this, but as long as we are DOING our best, and not just saying it, that is all He asks of us.  We cannot do more than our best. We must be doing our best and not just faking doing our best. There is a significant difference between the two. If you are sincere, people will know it. If you are not sincere, people will also know it too. As they say, actions speak louder than words. And to paraphrase Scripture, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. To understand where a person’s heart is, look at their actions and not their words. Words are meaningless unless they are backed up by actions. We need to perform good actions, with the help of the Holy Ghost, to show that we truly believe.

So, just how do we make good things happen? Fairly simple, if we follow the Summary of the Law and all shall be well in our lives. Every one of the moral laws hangs off of the Summary of the Law “Love your God with all your heart soul and your mind, and Love thy Neighbor as thyself.”.  These two simple, but important, laws are the ultimate benchmark for us, which we should try and do our best to meet. We need to check our actions and compare them against these two to measure our spiritual progress.

If you think about it, all of our problems can be solved by doing what God asks! Don’t try to get out of doing what God wants to do what you want, and don’t look for loopholes.  Don’t be a Pharisee! Consider when Jesus told Simon Peter to go out and set his nets.  Simon was tired, he was hungry, he had fished all night with no result.  After making excuses, he decided to do what he was told! There is a lesson there, instead of making excuses why things are the way they are, why not be quiet and do God’s will instead? It will have a lot better result, that is for sure! 

That is what happened to Simon Peter; that is what will happen to you, if you will but listen and act. Listening and then acting are the key principles of this Gospel, we must listen to what He says, and then ACT upon it.

Do not misunderstand, every day Jesus speaks to you telling you what to do.  It is your choice, you can listen like Simon Peter or you can ignore Jesus.  He has the pony for the lottery.  He wants to give it to you, all you have to do is accept.  While He is a bit more subtle than a Drill Instructor, the question is the same, “Can you hear me?” The problem with us is that we just do not want to hear. That is why we need the Holy Ghost to open up our ears, that we might hear and obey.

There are none so deaf as those who will not hear. 

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