Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy

Advent Conspiracy header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy 

©November 24, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 24, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #631 (The Incarnate Christ – John 1); Prayer

Opening Hymn #35: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Let us pray…

Today’s message is entitled: Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy might beg for an explanation of terms. The first term is rather straight forward.

Next Sunday, we will observe the first Sunday of Advent and on that occasion we shall reflect upon the significance of the approaching birth of Jesus and how the birth of our Lord changed the world. But what is meant by Advent and what does light candle at represent?

advent-candles

Let us check our Wiki bits definition of Advent Sunday:

Advent Sunday (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches. It also marks the start of the season of Advent.[1] In the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Methodist churches the celebrant wears violet-coloured or blue vestments on this day, and the first violet or blue Advent candle is lit at Mass. In the Church of Sweden, however, the Liturgical colour is white: the motivation is that the day is a joyful feast (the colour is changed to blue, the traditional colour for Advent in Scandinavia, or—if the church does not possess blue vestments—violet after 6 p.m.).

Zechariah 9:9–10 and Matthew 21:1–9 are always read in the service, and the symbolism of the day is that Christ enters the church.

Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This is equivalent to the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day, 30 November, and the Sunday following the Feast of Christ the King. It can fall on any date between 27 November and 3 December. When Christmas Day is a Monday, Advent Sunday will fall on its latest possible date. Note that it is also possible to compute the date of Advent Sunday by adding three days to the date of the last Thursday of November.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent_Sunday

Adven+ Conspiracy

But as Christians observe the Advent of Christmas, it is easy to get distracted from the reason for the season, which is the observance of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and instead drawn into what some refer to as the Advent Conspiracy. Having just observed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, one might think that the Advent Conspiracy is some sort of plot involving the historical event of the Nativity. No so. There is no assassin on a grassy knoll. Though King Herod did plot a conspiracy, using information from the Magi, to locate and kill the baby Jesus, which God foiled. But that is a topic for another Sunday. But we do have a conspiracy in which the world diminishes the significance of the birth of Jesus.

give more

Here is an excerpt from interviews with the three founders of the Advent Conspiracy from foxnews.com:

Advent Conspiracy ( By Lauren Green  Published December 18, 2009 FoxNews.com)

The Advent Conspiracy movement asks Christians to resist the temptation to spend on extravagant gifts and instead redirect their money to helping the needy.

Greg Holder, who pastors a church in St. Louis, Missouri. is one of the group’s three founding ministers. He says Advent Conspiracy is about having Christians — not retailers — tell the story of Christmas.

“We’re not asking you to join this movement out of guilt or distrust or anger,” he said. “We want you to know that this is not about saying no to something. This is about saying yes to something better.

“So for us it’s re-entering the story, it’s rediscovering the story, that’s where the ‘give more’ comes in.”

Using a video posted on YouTube to market the movement, the Advent Conspiracy has spread to 1,700 of churches in at least 17 countries on four continents, and can even be found on the social networking site Facebook, where nearly 45,000 people have signed up to support the movement.

Houston Pastor Chris Seay, another of the movement’s co-founders, says he has no interest in forcing retailers to say “Merry Christmas” to shoppers in place of the non-sectarian “Happy Holidays.”

“I don’t want to invoke the name of Christ at Wal-Mart — it’s not the most sacred place,” he said. “I would rather you say Happy Holidays … especially when we’re running over little old ladies to get a cheaper television” on Black Friday.

Weary shoppers, laden with packages, see his point.

“It would be nice for (people) to learn to do for others, because that is the true spirit of Christmas and that does make you the most happy,” said New Yorker Candice Wylie. “Not receiving, but giving.”

“It’s about being together (with) family and really what’s important instead of just getting caught up in the commercialization of the whole thing and the franticness of Christmas and trying to spend, spend, spend,” added shopper Lorraine Cona.

Holder and Seay say they are not trying to bash retailers. It’s about rethinking Christmas.

Pastor Patrick McKinley, the movement’s third founder, emphasizes that it’s up the churches to exercise their creativity to let Scripture tell the true Christmas story so “we don’t have to sit back to let consumerism tell the story.”

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/12/18/advent-conspiracy-seeks-to-bring-back-meaning-christmas/

So what are we to do to avoid becoming a co-conspirator of the Advent Conspiracy? The answer may be found on the Advent Conspiracy Web Page, as posted in the introduction to the movement:

Advent Conspiracy Brochure 20113

“Worship More, Spend Less, Give Presence, Love All Are you tired of how consumerism has stolen the soul of Christmas? This year, take a stand! Join the groundswell of Christ-followers who are choosing to make Christmas what it should be—a joyous celebration of Jesus’ birth that enriches our hearts and the world around us, not a retail circus that depletes our pocketbooks and defeats our spirits. Advent Conspiracy shows you how to substitute consumption with compassion by practicing four simple but powerful, countercultural concepts: Worship Fully—because Christmas begins and ends with Jesus! Spend Less—and free your resources for things that truly matter. Give More—of your presence: your hands, your words, your time, your heart. Love All—the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized, and the sick in ways that make a difference. Find out how to have a Christmas worth remembering, not dreading. Christmas can still change the world when you, like Jesus, give what matters most—your presence.

worship

The Advent Conspiracy is an international movement centered on bringing a deeper meaning to Christmas during the Christian season of advent that immediately precedes it. The movement is characterized by its four founding principles: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. The movement’s message is to avoid getting caught up in the consumerism surrounding the holiday in order to celebrate Christmas more fully.

In 2006, Pastors Greg Holder, Chris Seay, Rick McKinley and others founded the organization to rebel against the hyperconsumerism to which they found many Christians fall victim. They proposed to spend less on gifts and give more to the poor. Today, Advent Conspiracy consists of approximately 1500 member churches and organizations around the globe.”

http://worldrelief.org/advent

Spend Less

I first heard about the Advent Conspiracy in a graphic attachment to an email sent to me by Pastor Don Boyd several years ago. We see a good graphic summary of the movement on the back page of today’s bulletin:

Advent Conspiracy Summarized:

     Worship Fully Christmas marks the moment where God’s promise   was fulfilled and love took form, tiny fingers and all. It is a moment that   deserves our full attention and praise—a celebration!
     Spend Less By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves   from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a   full heart.
Give More The most powerful, memorable gift you can give   to someone is yourself. And nobody models this better than Jesus.
Love All By spending just a little less on gifts we free   up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who are in need.

http://worldrelief.org/advent

love all

If they had lived today, the Pharisees might be viewed as participants of the Advent Conspiracy, based upon their view of our Lord and the Scriptures which was both worldly and judgmental in nature, leaving them figuratively and spiritually in the dark, as we read in John’s gospel, John 8:12-20 (ESV):

                           I Am the Light of the World

8 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father[a] who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Footnotes:  a. John 8:16 Some manuscripts he

The Transfiguration of Jesus

But those who reside in the darkness are not just the Pharisees, all who live a life of sin, wickedness and evil, as we read in John 3:19-21 (ESV):

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Our path from darkness is illuminated by Jesus Christ who died for all the evil, wicked, sinful actions and thoughts. Christ’s path brings us from the darkness of condemnation and judgment to the illumination of His light and truth, by way of faith in the Lord.

Doing what Jesus would do!

This makes us a member of God’s elect as we read in 1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV):

 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

light_salt

But as Christians, we celebrate the approaching light by lighting candles for each of the Sunday’s prior to Christmas, as well a candle on Christmas Day. The colour of these candles may vary, but if you look on the back of the bulletin, you may see what these candles represent:

                       Why We Light Candles At Advent:

The candles are lit in the order of: Purple, purple, pink, purple, and finally, white. This is what each of the candles mean:

1 – Purple –The Candle of Hope – This candle reminds us that God keeps His promises. He promised a Savior, and He sent one.

2 – Purple – The Candle of Preparation – This candle reminds us to be prepared to receive the Lord.

3 – Pink – The Candle of Joy – This candle remembers the multitudes of angels that joyfully announced the birth of Christ.

4 – Purple – The Candle of Love– This candle represents the love of God. It was out of His incredible love that God sent His only Son Jesus.

5 – White – The Christ Candle – When this candle is lit on Christmas Eve, it symbolizes Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

 advent_candles2

But each candle reminds us of the different aspects of our Lord and how we may become free of the condemnation of sin by walking in the light, which is the path set before us by him:

1 John 1:5-7 (ESV) Walking in the Light

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

By lighting candles, and by prayer and thanksgiving, we remind ourselves of the great commission assigned to us until the time of the second advent, when the Lord will return:

 City on a Hill

    Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)

 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

 

Let us pray…

Advent Conspiracy manger 

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

Benediction – (Psalm 4:6b):   Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!

Advent_Conspiracy_4

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Standing by Faith on Heaven’s Table Land

BLCF: alpha and omega2

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘’Standing by Faith on Heaven’s Table Land’ 

© November 17, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 17, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #611 (Comfort from God – Isaiah 40); Prayer

Opening Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Today’s Bible Verses:

Jeremiah 40 (ESV) Jeremiah Remains in Judah

40 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he took him bound in chains along with all the captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. 2 The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The Lord your God pronounced this disaster against this place. 3 The Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you. 4 Now, behold, I release you today from the chains on your hands. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you well, but if it seems wrong to you to come with me to Babylon, do not come. See, the whole land is before you; go wherever you think it good and right to go. 5 If you remain,[a] then return to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon appointed governor of the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people. Or go wherever you think it right to go.” So the captain of the guard gave him an allowance of food and a present, and let him go. 6 Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah, and lived with him among the people who were left in the land.

                                Jeremiah 41(ESV) Gedaliah Murdered  

41 In the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. As they ate bread together there at Mizpah, 2 Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the ten men with him rose up and struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword, and killed him, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor in the land.           3 Ishmael also struck down all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there.

4 On the day after the murder of Gedaliah, before anyone knew of it, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and their bodies gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the Lord. 6 And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, “Come in to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” 7 When they came into the city, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and cast them into a cistern. 8 But there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Do not put us to death, for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he refrained and did not put them to death with their companions.

9 Now the cistern into which Ishmael had thrown all the bodies of the men whom he had struck down along with[a] Gedaliah was the large cistern that King Asa had made for defense against Baasha king of Israel; Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain. 10 Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.

11 But when Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, 12 they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. 13 And when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him, they rejoiced. 14 So all the people whom Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan the son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. 16 Then Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him took from Mizpah all the rest of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, after he had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam—soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs, whom Johanan brought back from Gibeon. 17 And they went and stayed at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt 18 because of the Chaldeans. For they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.                                                                                                                 

   Footnotes: a. Jeremiah 41:9 Hebrew by the hand of

                      Jeremiah 42:1-17 (ESV) Warning Against Going to Egypt

42 Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near 2 and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” 4 Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” 5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

7 At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, 9 and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: 10 If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. 11 Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. 12 I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. 13 But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. 17 All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them.

Let us pray…

Our lesson today comes from Jeremiah, Chapters 41 and 42 tell the story of the assassination of Gedaliah, the ruling governor, by Ishmael while dining together at Mizpah. In Jeremiah Chapter 40, we read that Gedaliah was forewarned by Johanan the son of Kareah, who had learned that the Amorites had approached Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to kill the governor. Not only did Gedaliah refuse to heed Johanan’s warning, but accused him of telling lies. Gedaliah’s misplaced trust in Ismael was a fatal decision.

So who were the Amorites who arranged the assassination of Gedaliah and why?

Let’s check our Wiki bits for a historical backdrop to Gedaliah’s death:

The term Amorites is used in the Bible to refer to certain highland mountaineers who inhabited the land of Canaan, described in Genesis 10:16 as descendants of Canaan, son of Ham. They are described as a powerful people of great stature “like the height of the cedars,” (Amos 2:9) who had occupied the land east and west of the Jordan. The height and strength mentioned in Amos 2:9 has led some Christian scholars, including Orville J. Nave, who wrote the classic Nave’s Topical Bible to refer to the Amorites as “giants.”[7]

The Amorite king, Og, was described as the last “of the remnant of the Rephaim” (Deut. 3:11). The terms Amorite and Canaanite seem to be used more or less interchangeably, Canaan being more general and Amorite a specific component among the Canaanites who inhabited the land.

The Biblical Amorites seem to have originally occupied the region stretching from the heights west of the Dead Sea (Gen. 14:7) to Hebron (13:8; Deut. 3:8; 4:46-48), embracing “all Gilead and all Bashan” (Deut. 3:10), with the Jordan valley on the east of the river (4:49), the land of the “two kings of the Amorites,” Sihon and Og (Deut. 31:4; Josh. 2:10; 9:10). Both Sihon and Og were independent kings. These Amorites seem to have been linked to the Jerusalem region, and the Jebusites may have been a subgroup of them. The southern slopes of the mountains of Judea are called the “mount of the Amorites” (Deut. 1:7, 19, 20).

Five kings of the Amorites were first defeated with great slaughter by Joshua (10:10). Then more Amorite kings were defeated at the waters of Merom by Joshua (Josh. 11:8). It is mentioned that in the days of Samuel, there was peace between them and the Israelites (1 Sam. 7:14). The Gibeonites were said to be their descendants, being an offshoot of the Amorites that made a covenant with the Hebrews; when Saul would break that vow and kill some of the Gibeonites, God sent a famine to Israel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amorite

It seems that the Amorites were embittered by how the people of Israel were treated by the king of Babylon. Some were released from captivity, including Jeremiah, with others left in the care of Gedaliah at Mizpah. Johanan the son of Kareah brought a force to free those captured by Ismael and to avenger the murder of Gedaliah. But Ismael had managed to escape and Johanan and other leaders now feared their own deaths at the hands of Ismael and decided to flee to Egypt. They sought out Jeremiah, God’s prophet, for approval of their plan:

  “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.”      – Jeremiah 42:2-3 (ESV)

In Verse 4 of Jeremiah 42, we read Jeremiah’s response:

 “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.”   – Jeremiah 42:4 (ESV)                    

And then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” – Jeremiah 42:5-6 (ESV).

It sounds like Johanan and the others had already decided on a plan of action, without first seeking God’s approval, and now sought God’s approval after the fact. We get the impression that rather seeking the Lord’s direction; they wanted God’s rubber stamp approval to their plan. Funny how some of the so called faithful seem to behave that God is subject to their beck and call, rather than the other way around!  Lack of trust and faith in the Lord can result in fear and distrust.

This Friday will mark the 50th anniversary of another assassination of a leader. I recall clearly after lunch going to my locker at Sam Rayburn Jr. High in San Antonio, and my friend John approached and said that the President had been shot. I told him that he should be doing something better than going around the halls of the school telling sick jokes. After all President Kennedy was popular with many of the youth. Ironically, my dad, Harry L. Mickelson, was a television news editor for KENS-TV, a CBS Network outlet in San Antonio, Texas had a sound on film interview with President Kennedy the day before he was killed in Dallas. Among other things, Kennedy indicated that he planned to pull the US troops out of Viet Nam by the middle of1964. This interview was filed away in the tombs of KENS and was never broadcast because of the events that happened the next day. Like Gedaliah in Jeremiah’s time, Kennedy was a leader who showed compassion particularly to the disenfranchised:

7 When all the captains of the forces in the open country and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land and had committed to him men, women, and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been taken into exile to Babylon, 8 they went to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, Johanan the son of Kareah, Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah the son of the Maacathite, they and their men. 9 Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, swore to them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. 10 As for me, I will dwell at Mizpah, to represent you before the Chaldeans who will come to us. But as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken.” 11 Likewise, when all the Judeans who were in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in other lands heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, as governor over them, 12 then all the Judeans returned from all the places to which they had been driven and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah. And they gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance. – Jeremiah 40:7-12 (ESV)

The 1960’s were quite a turbulent time in the history of the United States. The first Roman Catholic was elected President, and was assassinated. The same fate happened to his brother, Robert Kennedy, as he ran for the same office as his brother, as well as Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King. Racial riots and anti-war protests all were part of a turbulent period in US history not unlike last year’s Arab Spring or the Second American Revolution. Echoes of the same sentiments may be heard by radical political groups today.

Last Sunday, I spoke how the poppy symbolizes the brave sacrifice of the soldiers who died in battle. And while the battle may have been won, sadly war continues with killing of soldiers and innocents in violation of God’s laws. God sanctioned the death of only one man, his son Jesus, who died to atone for our sins, for our transgressions. And as Jesus had been resurrected by the power of the Spirit, believers who confess to have sinned and accept the sacrifice of Jesus, are given the assurance of forgiveness, the covenant of the resurrection from death, and the gift of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. As believers, the expectation from God is to follow His direction and to honour and glorify Him as Lord in our lives.

This is not what happened with the Johanan and the leaders, who dishonored  and demonstrated a lack of faith in the power and protection from God, by desiring to flee  to Egypt from the threat of Ismael, and by doing so turning away from God. Even though they said that they would abide by God’s reply, their decision to flee show an absence of trust in their God. As we see in Jeremiah 42:

7 At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, 9 and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: 10 If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. 11 Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. 12 I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. 13 But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. 17 All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them. – Jeremiah 41:7-17 (ESV)

God expects us to demonstrate faith and trust, particularly in times of adversity. He does not want us to revert back to our old life, as Johanan and the others had sought when they decided to ask Jeremiah to get God’s approval to flee into Egypt, a nation of idols, false gods and lack of faith in the one true God. And God made it clear that such action is an act of disobedience and breach of a covenant with the Lord, resulting in the death, which they fear.

As believers in the resurrected Christ, Jesus, we are held to a similar standard of faith and trust in the Lord. Jesus has promised us his kingdom and in return we must demonstrate to God worship that is acceptable, with reverence and awe.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #355: I’m Pressing on the Upward Way

Benediction – (Hebrews 12:28-29):

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,  for our God is a consuming fire.

BLCF trinity footer

The Poppy and the Cross: Remembering the Sacrifice

BLCF: Cross and Poppy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘’The Poppy and the Cross: Remembering the Sacrifice’  

©November 10, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Church Bulletin-Program November 10, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Love – John 3 and 1 John 4r of Prayer); Prayer                                              

  Opening Hymn #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Let us pray…

Tomorrow is November 11, Remembrance Day. A day where most Canadians wear a poppy on their lapel; possibly recite the poem In Flanders Fields; and then at 11AM, observe a moment of silence. For many of us who had a relative or friend who experienced war firsthand, Remembrance Day is a time to acknowledge the sacrifice of men and women who served their country at wartime, including the millions who never survived to celebrate the peace. The phrase lest we forget is spoken, to which the reply is made they will not be forgotten. At the back of this very sanctuary, we have a plaque commemorating the names of those from this church who served in the Second World War.

I read a posting reprinted from a BLOG in the Huffington Post, where a young lady even though her grandfather served in the RCAF in WWII, wrote an article listing the reasons why she refused to wear a poppy on November 11. Some of the reasons for refusing the poppy included: that it was a symbol that glorifies war or that it illustrates how politicians yield to public demands that they wear this blood red symbol of battle.

The article describes how the poppy worn is not a real flower, but a commercially manufactured item, made for corporate profit. In her rant she complains of a message from a Canadian Legion urging to wait to put up Christmas decorations until after November 11. And the author speculates that if Canada were defeated by the Nazi’s that we would still celebrate Christmas, seemingly to imply that Christ, the Prince of Peace, was really a Lord of War that condoned war! There is no mention of instead of honoring many who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms often take for granted.

My father, Harry Mickelson, served in WWII as a medic and military band member. He preferred to recall the funny incidents of the war. But between enlisting in the Rainbow Division of the 42nd Infantry of the US Army reserves in December 1940, then being called to active duty by executive action of FDR in January 1941 in anticipation of USA being drawn to the war, crossing through the battlefields across France and Germany, ending in Austria by 1945, Dad’s remembrance of the horror of war was relegated, according to Mom, to the nightmares he had for years after he married 1946.

Dad had little use for the John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and the host of other actors who glorified a war that they never saw or experienced firsthand. He cared not to join Legion Halls to relive events, though necessary, were often filled with grief and pain. Though Dad did step forward to testify at the trial of Ernst Zündel, who taught that the Holocaust never happened, providing an eyewitness account of the Dachau Concentration Camp as a first responder, along with photo evidence of the camp. It was for this reason he wore a poppy, so not to forget, then ignore, and ultimately deny the real importance of the sacrifice given and end up in idle speculation whether or not a Nazi victory would end Christmas in Canada!

I read a recent statistic that there currently around 3.2 million surviving veterans from World War II, who are passing away at a rate of around 1,100 per day. Soon there will be no witnesses left to refute the claims those who deny the Holocaust or correct those intent in twisting the events of the war. And unfortunately the sacrifices of those solders and the victims of war may evolve to whether we wear a red poppy or white poppy, to sanitize the events and eventually open the way to new despots and new horrific conflicts in a cycle repeated again and again.

In Christian circles, there are movements to sanitize worship, to remove the cross as it is a symbol of the brutality of the crucifixion of Jesus. Yet, as Christians, we are expected to serve the elements of communion to remember the blood and body of Christ given as a sacrifice for all our sins.

We often here in memorial services for those who gave their life in war, a quote from John 15:13 (ESV):

 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

But such a quote seems to imply that the Lord approved of war. However, let us read this verse in its full context: John 15:12-17 (ESV):

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.      13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant[b] does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.                                                 

Footnotes: a. John 15:15 Greek bondservants b. John 15:15 Greek bondservant; also verse 20

And what does the Lord say about conflict in general? We may find our answer in James 3:13-18 and in Matthew 5:9:

James 3:13-18 (ESV) Wisdom from Above

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Matthew 5:9 (ESV)

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.      

         Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:9 Greek huioi; see Preface

We know from experience, that the sacrifices remembered in ceremonies on November 11, no matter how dear and noble may help to win a battle and a war, but do not put an end to war and conflict which seem to be intertwined in human nature because of sin.

But God did provide a solution to the sinful nature of men and women, which is the underlying root cause of war. God allowed the battle against sin and sin’s progenitor, Satan, by allowing the sacrifice of one innocent man: his only son, Jesus on the cross. And by way of the cross, all who believe and admit to sin; who desire to change to the way of the Lord receive the gift of salvation, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life. I would like to show a short video to illustrate how we should not forget this sacrifice every day of our lives.

I would now like to present Billy Graham’s message entitled The Cross.

Video from www.findingmyhope.org  The Cross

Let us pray…

Benediction (2 Thessalonians 3:16):

 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.  The Lord be with you all.

BLCF Accept Jesus