Monday, December 31, 2012


Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Merry Christmas!

I hope that you are having a Merry and Blessed Christmas. Having? Shouldn’t it be had? No, “having” is correct! The Christmas celebration only begins on Christmas Day, December 25th. The celebration actually lasts for twelve days, until the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, when we remember the coming of the Magi or Wise Men to see the Christ-child. As I write this it is the seventh day of Christmas and I am listening to Christmas music, drinking a hot cup of Celestial Seasons Candy Cane Lane decaffeinated Green Tea, and enjoying the sounds, smells and tastes of this holy season.

Christmas Day at Holy Cross parish was a joyful experience. As always, we kept the Mass in Christmas by celebrating a Mid-night Holy Communion (“commonly called the Mass” - 1549 BCP). Our new choir sang for the first time, leading us in worship. After the Liturgy on the Fourth Sunday in Advent our church family had decorated the church with a beautiful Christmas tree near the communion rail, a traditional Nativity Scene (thank you St. Francis!), wreaths hanging from pew ends and on a wall, the largest poinsettia that I have ever seen, and more. A traditional Anglican church decorated for Christmas gives one an overwhelming sense of peace on earth and good will towards men.

After our Mid-night celebration of the Holy Communion we enjoyed a wonderful birthday party in honour of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I have seldom seen so much delicious food and drink. The warm fellowship and holy day cheer went on into the wee hours of the morning and Cheri and I did not get home until after 4:00 AM. After about four hours of sleep we spent the rest of the day celebrating Christmas with family. Cheri and I want to thank our church family for the beautiful Christmas card and the thoughtful gift. Your love is felt and deeply appreciated!  

Yesterday, on the First Sunday after Christmas, I preached on the Epistle lesson: Galatians 4:1-7. The Apostle Paul has such Good News for us: “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:4-7). Calling this merely Good News is almost an understatement! We have been redeemed and adopted into the family of God. We are no longer servants but sons! We address God not merely as Lord or King or Master like servants, but as Abba, Father, because we are His sons and daughters! How can this be?

In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes: “Therefore being [present tense] justified [declared righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1). Our righteousness is “by faith” according to St. Paul, not by our works. If we could earn our salvation then Christ died in vain. Even the best of our good works are flawed and imperfect. As Isaiah the Prophet says, “All our righteousness are as filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). Our righteousness as relating to our justification is external to us. It is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith. 

The Apostle Paul continues: “By whom also we have access by faith into his grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). We have access to God’s grace by faith, not by works. Do you mean that we cannot merit grace? No, we cannot. Grace means “unmerited favor” or “undeserved kindness.” You cannot merit unmerited favor, and you cannot deserve undeserved kindness. St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, writes “we have access by faith into his grace wherein we stand...” We have our right-standing with God by His grace (unmerited favor, undeserved kindness) through faith. Now thats Good News indeed! And because of that Good News the Apostle Paul says that we are to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rejoice. Yes, rejoice! “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). 

We all know that God loves the world in general, but many Christians do not live as though they believed that God loves them in particular. But the truth is far different. He knew you before the creation of the world!  I have some more Good News for you. You can actually take the words “the world” out of John 3:16, and replace those words with your name without changing the meaning of the text. Yes, God loves each of His sons and daughters, as though there were only one of us! 

St. Paul the Apostle continues: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Did you get that? We cannot merit God’s favor and we do not earn God’s love, or obey to gain His love. The Scripture says plainly, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  This is indeed Good News, but St. Paul has even more Good News for us. “Much more then, being now [present tense] justified [declared righteous] by his blood [not by our works or personal righteousness, but by His shed blood], we shall [not may, but “shall”] be saved from wrath through him [Christ]” (Rom. 5:9). “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall [there is that word “shall” again!] be saved by his life [because Christ is Risen from the dead!]” (Rom. 5:10). “And not only so, but we also joy [we have good reason to be joyful!] in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now [present tense] received the atonement” (Rom. 5:11). 

Atonement! Don’t let anyone ever tell you that the death of Christ upon the cross was not an atoning sacrifice. “[W]hile we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8)... “being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved” (Rom. 5:9)...”we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10)...”by whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom. 5:11). Christ died for our sins and rose for our salvation, but our redemption was assured in the Incarnation. Christmas is a blessed time to be merry and to rejoice, and that joy should carry us through every day of our lives because it reminds us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...” (John 3:16). Christians should be a people of joy and the Christian life a life of joy. As St. Catherine of Siena says, “All the way to Heaven is Heaven.”

It is so sad to see joyless Christians, Christians who live as though they had a perpetual  toothache. They have little or no joy in their relationship with our Lord, with their pastor or with their brothers and sisters in Christ, and have no Good News to share with others. Such people have no feeling of assurance in their relationship with Christ and no sense of security in the love of God. In fact, they often condemn the ideas of assurance and security as presumption. But is it presumption to believe the sure Word of God written? St. Teresa of Avila used to pray to God, “From sour-faced saints, deliver us.” Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit named by the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Galatians; and even while under arrest in Rome he could write: ”Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).

We have received Glad Tidings, Good News, the Gospel, and have good reason to be a people of joy in the Lord. God is our dear Father and we are His beloved children. As St. John the Divine has said, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (I John 5:13). Now that’s Good News!

My prayer this Christmas season is that my Christian readers will begin to see themselves as sons and daughters of God, rather than merely His servants (as wonderful as even that would be!); and that they will begin to truly see God as their dear Father, and to have the assurance and security that comes from knowing that they are the beloved sons and daughters of a loving Father, are secure in His love, and heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. My prayer is, “that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (I John 5:13), that you will be a people of joy, and understand that “All the way to Heaven is Heaven.” We have received Good News, and have Good News to share to a lost, dark and hurting world. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words.” 

This Coming Sunday, January 6th, is the Feast of the Epiphany. If you are anywhere near the Greater Omaha area I hope that you will join us for worship as we commemorate the coming of the Magi. Morning Prayer is at 9:30 AM, followed by the Holy Communion at 10:00 AM. Wise Men still seek Him!

Holy Cross Anglican Church is a local church with a local, national and global outreach. I would like to invite my readers to help us in our ministry. Please prayerfully consider going to our Holy Cross Media Site, , and making a donation to the work of Holy Cross Anglican Church. You can do so by following the “Make a Donation” link, and using the Donate button. The Donate button is now working and we have just begun taking online donations. Your gift will be safe and secure with Pay Pal, and we will make good use of it. Thank you!

I wish all of my readers a Merry and Blessed Christmas. “Alleluia. Unto us a child is born; O Come let us adore Him. Alleluia” (Morning Prayer, 1928 BCP).

Monday, December 24, 2012


What does the word "Christmas" mean? It means Christ's Mass, or the Mass for Christ's Nativity. What is the Mass? It is another name for the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion. The Liturgy of the Lord's Supper is called by various names. In the Bible it is called the Lord's Supper, the Breaking of Bread, and the Holy Communion. From the Greek we call it the Eucharist (Thanksgiving) because on the night in which he was betrayed Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and said, “This is my Body...” In the East, Christians often call it the Divine Liturgy. Divine because it was instituted by our Lord. Just as the "Eucharist" comes to us through the Greek, the "Mass" comes to us from the Latin. The term Mass goes back to the early Church. For instance, it is used in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan an early Church Father. Who was St. Ambrose of Milan? He was the bishop who baptized the great theologian St. Augustine of Hippo! In the first English language Book of Common Prayer in 1549, the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion was described as "commonly called the Mass." Anglicans still commonly call the Holy Communion the Mass to this day.

We will be keeping the Mass in Christmas at Holy Cross Anglican Church this Christmas Day, just as we do every Christmas Day. We will be celebrating Christmas with a Mid-night Mass on Christmas morning, Tuesday, December 25th. Why mid-night? So we can put Christ first and foremost! After all, as the Christmas carol says, "It came upon a midnight clear..." Is it too much of an effort to come to church at mid-night? Tell that to St. Joseph and the nine-month pregnant St. Mary who travelled to Bethlehem from Nazareth on foot or on a donkey. Tell it to the shepherds who were watching their flocks by night in the cold fields. Tell it to a young woman giving birth in a stable. Tell it to the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. Believe me, it is worth coming out in the cold night air. Mid-night Mass is very special. You will feel like you were there at the stable 2,000 years go.

Christmas is the best time of the year, and one of the most beautiful and wonderful Services of the year is at Mid-night on Christmas morning. This year will be even more special as our new choir will be leading us in worship for the first time. We will be singing some of the greatest Christmas music ever written, including O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, What Child Is This?, and Angels We Have Heard On High. The church will be beautifully decorated with a Christmas tree, wreathes, a Nativity Scene and more, the music will be uplifting, and we will have the opportunity to gather around the Throne of grace and welcome our newborn King. A Mid-night Eucharist on Christmas morning is an ancient Christian tradition, and is something you will never forget. So invite family and friends. Bring the little ones. You will be making Christmas memories that will last a life time. Don’t worry if they fall asleep on the pew, it is all part of the Christmas experience. Beginning your Christmas with Jesus will bless you and ensure that you and you children recognize that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Everyone is invited to reman after Worship for a Christmas party in our parish hall. There will be delicious festive treats, warm drinks, good fellowship and beautiful Christmas music. You won't want to leave! Come and be blessed!

7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wise Men Still Seek Him!

Friday, December 7, 2012

AS BIRDS FLYING, The Miracle of December 8th

“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but He revealeth his secret unto His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

In August of 1914 the Great War broke out in Europe. General Edmund Allenby of the British Army began the war in command of a cavalry division on the Western Front. He was later promoted to command the 5th Corps of the British Expeditionary Forces in Europe. In October 1915 he took command of the Third Army, which in 1916 took part in the battle of the Somme.

The War in Palestine really began in 1915, with a Turkish offensive against the Suez Canal. It was beaten back, but in late 1916 and early 1917, when the British launched a counter offensive, they were severely repulsed by the Ottoman Turks. British Prime Minister Lloyd George commented at the time, “Nobody could have saved the Turks from complete collapse, but our General Staff.” In June 1917, General Allenby was ordered to leave his Third Army and take command of the British war effort in the Middle East. 

Allenby was not excited about his new assignment. General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle saw Allenby at the Grosvenor Hotel in London before the latter left for Cairo. Allenby said to him, “The last man failed, and I do not see why I should succeed.” Sir Beauvoir, who was later to preach a sermon at St. Martin’s in the Fields about the capture of Jerusalem, consoled him with Bible prophecies of the deliverance of Jerusalem. He told General Allenby that the Bible said that Jerusalem would be delivered in that very year, 1917, and by Britain.

In 1886, Dr. Grattan Guinness had written a book titled “Light for the Last Days” in which he demonstrated from the Scriptures that Jerusalem would be delivered from Turkish rule in 1917. In 1898, Dr. H. Aldersmith, another eminent student of Bible prophecy, wrote  a book called “Fullness of the Nations,” in which he said that Jerusalem would be delivered by Great Britain in 1917. In personal conversations, Dr. Aldersmith would say that he believed that Jerusalem would be delivered by some sort of flying machine, although the airplane had not yet been invented. 

Before sailing to Cairo to take command, General Allenby was summoned to a meeting with Admiral Lord Fisher, the First Sea Lord. In one of the most extraordinary military conferences of war, recorded by Lord Fisher’s secretary, Allenby was told that he would be God’s instrument for the deliverance of Jerusalem in December 1917. Stunned by Lord Fisher’s words, he asked him to explain his deduction. Admiral Lord Fisher, First Sea Lord, then spent several hours in discussing the Bible with General Allenby, showing him the prophecies that related to the rise of Great Britain, and lastly the prophecies relating to the deliverance of Jerusalem in December 1917. Armed and strengthened by this knowledge, General Allenby sailed for the Middle East.

I won’t take the time to review the Palestinian campaign during the Great War, but God’s hand was clearly in evidence. Under Allenby’s command was the famous Thomas Edward Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia. Many books and articles have been written about the exploits of T. E. Lawrence, and continue to be written. One of the great adventure stories of English literature is “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by Lawrence.

Allenby was a devout Christian. He often consulted the Bible for spiritual direction, and for historical and geographical military guidance for an army fighting in Palestine; and would frequently ask his staff officers to bow their heads with him and to pray for success in battle with few casualties.  In his biography of Allenby, Field Marshall Wavell recounts a saying among the Arabs at the time, “When the waters of the Nile flow into Palestine, then will a prophet of the Lord deliver Jerusalem from the Turkish yoke.” Under Allenby the waters of the Nile did flow into Palestine via a pipeline laid by the Royal Engineers to supply the British forces. The Arabs called General Allenby “Allah en Nebi” which means prophet of God.

After many battles the British Army finally made its approach to Jerusalem. Allenby’s plan was to partially encircle Jerusalem, intentionally leaving a safe way of escape in hopes that the Turkish Army would withdraw, avoiding a siege of the Holy City.

When the British forces had come within striking distance of Jerusalem, and were coming under fire from Turkish batteries within the city, Allenby did not want to return fire because he believed that it was unworthy of Christian Britain to fire on the Holy City. He cabled Prime Minister Lloyd George for instructions. George replied that the Cabinet was leaving him free to do whatever he thought best. Not satisfied with such an answer, he cabled the King for guidance. King George V replied simply, “Pray about it.” Gathering his staff together, General Allenby followed the King’s counsel.

This takes us to the morning of Saturday December 8, 1917. The British chaplains that morning led the troops in prayer. The first lesson from Morning Prayer on that day was from Isaiah chapter 31. The very prophecy that was to be fulfilled on that day was found in that lesson: “For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also He will deliver it; and passing over He will preserve it” (Is. 31:4-5). That day, December 8, 1917, was also the Feast of Hanukkah, commemorating an earlier deliverance of Jerusalem by Judah Maccabee two centuries before Christ.

In the reading from Isaiah, General Allenby saw the lion in the prophecy as representing Great Britain and the young lion as representing his ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand) troops. When Isaiah spoke prophetically of God defending, delivering and preserving Jerusalem “as birds flying,” Allenby knew exactly what that meant. 

By this time the Royal Flying Corps had complete air supremacy over Palestine. That morning General Allenby ordered British planes to make reconnaissance flights over Jerusalem and to drop leaflets calling upon the Turkish garrison to surrender, but were directed not to strafe or bomb the Holy City. With all of the British air activity, panic broke out among the garrison who had no air support to speak of, and the Turkish officers could not get the situation under control. That night Izzet Bey the governor of Jerusalem smashed all of the equipment in the telegraph office, and wrote a letter of surrender. At 2:00 AM, on December 9th, the Turkish garrison began leaving through the Jaffa Gate. By 7:00 AM the last of the Turkish soldiers were passing through St. Stephen’s Gate making their way along the Jericho Road. Bey and a few frightened policemen came out of the city bearing a white flag and surrendered Jerusalem to General O’Shea of the 60th division. The Holy City had been delivered without a shot being fired.

On December 11, 1917, General Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem silently on foot and without fanfare. No guns were fired in salute. Only the bells of Jerusalem’s churches rang. Isaiah 35:5 had been fulfilled, “As bird’s flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem, defending also He will deliver it, and passing over He will preserve it.”  “As birds flying,” God had used the Royal Flying Corps to frighten the garrison into leaving. As foretold, God had delivered the Holy City and preserved it. There was no siege.  

After the war General Allenby was appointed British High Commissioner of Egypt, and made a peer of the realm, becoming Viscount Allenby of Megiddo and Felixstowe. He died in 1936, and is buried in Westminster Abbey - a great honor for a great, nobel and pious man.

But how do we arrive at the year 1917 in Bible prophecy? When making His covenant with the people of Israel, God warned them that if they sinned they would be corrected, and that there would be a “seven times” punishment (Lev. 26:28) for national apostasy.

A “time” in the Bible is 360 days (Dan. 7:25, 12:7, Rev. 12:6 and 12:14). In Bible prophecy, a day often means a year, “each day for a year” (Num. 14:34; Ez. 4:6). Students of Bible prophecy call this “the Year/Day Principle.” A year of 360 days is known as a “prophetic year” as distinct from lunar or solar years.

There are seven references in the Bible which help us understand the seven times punishment of Leviticus 26:28:

Time, Times and the dividing of times (3 1/2) Dan. 7:25
Time, times and an half (3 1/2) Dan. 12:7
Forty and two months (3 1/2 years)                 Rev. 11:2
A thousand, two hundred and threescore days Rev. 11:3
A thousand, two hundred and threescore days  Rev. 12:6
Time, times and a half time (3 1/2)                  Rev. 12:14
Forty and two months (3 1/2 years)                 Rev. 13:5

A “time” is a prophetic year of 360 days, and a day represents a year. The Seven Times Punishment for national apostasy was to last 2520 years.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded the apostate Kingdom of Judah in the Hebrew month of Kislev, corresponding to our November/December, in the year 604 BC.  Jerusalem surrendered in the middle of Kislev, or early December on our Calendar, becoming a vassal state. Judah later tried to break free from Babylonian domination, but was invaded, and Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 586 BC.

Jesus told us that Jerusalem would be trampled down by the heathen (Gentiles) until the time of the heathen be fulfilled. Leviticus 26:28 tells us that the punishment for national apostasy was to last 2520 years. The prophesied 2520 years stretched from 604 BC to AD 1917 (a year must be added because the calendar goes from 1 BC to AD 1 without a year zero). Christians saw this prophecy in the Bible well before it was fulfilled, and Admiral Lord Fisher, First Sea Lord, General Allenby, and many other devout Christians, were confident that this prophecy would be fulfilled to the letter. And it was. 

The Seventy Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 is interpreted using the same prophetic year/day rule, with a day representing a year. The Seventy Weeks (seventy weeks of years) prophecy begins in 457 BC with the decree of Artaxerxes to restore and to build Jerusalem ( Dan. 9:25). The 69th prophetic week ends in AD 27 with the baptism of Jesus, “until Messiah the Prince.” In the midst of the 70th week, AD 31, “shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.” And at the end of the 70th week, AD 34, Stephen the protomartyr was stoned, signaling the final rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus by the Jewish authorities (Acts 7:58-8:4) and ultimately resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70.

Christians argue about many things, often dividing over minor differences. Opinions and personal preferences that cannot be proven objectively one way or the other continues to absorb the attention of believers and divide Christians into often hostile camps, yet hundreds  of Bible prophecies have been fulfilled to the letter and still many Christians have no interest in them, or will even doubt or dispute what I have shared with you today. 

They will tell you that although everything happened just as I have described it, for history bears witness to it, yet it was merely a coincidence. They will insist that we have to believe everything that was revealed 2,000 or more years ago, while doubting or denying what God is doing all around us and the fulfillment of prophesies in our day. For many, Christianity is a religion about what happened long, long ago in a land far, far away, but not about what God is doing today and will do tomorrow. This “Christianity” is little more than Deism. A parishioner of mine recently told me of a Jewish friend that does not practice his faith because God hasn’t spoken to the Jewish people since the time of Malachi some 2,400 years ago. He says, “God has forgotten us.” Sadly, many Christians act as though God hasn’t had a word for them for nearly 2,000 years. But that is not true. God has not abandoned His people. He continues to speak to us through His prophets as recorded in the Holy Scriptures. We need only to study the Holy Scriptures and search it out. The miracle of December 8, 1917 is a wonderful reminder that our God will neither slumber nor sleep, but that he is working out His purposes all around us.

“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but He revealeth his secret unto His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Prov. 25:2).

“By measure hath He measured the times, and by number hath He numbered the times: and He doth not move nor stir them until the said measure be fulfilled”  (II Esdras 4:37).