The Power of Patient, Persistent, and Purposeful Prayer

BLCF: Luke_11_10-11e_animated

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Power of Patient, Persistent, and Purposeful Prayer’

 © January 31, 2016, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 31, 2016

BLCF: cross_praying_hands

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #630 (Christ Teaches Prayer – from Luke 11 and John 16); Prayer                                                                                                

Opening Hymn #392: Take Time to Be Holy; Choruses                                                      

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                                    

Today’s Scriptures: Luke 11:1-13 and Luke 18:1-8                                               

BLCF: hold on_

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service for this, the last Sunday of January. For our lesson today, we will explore the purpose and need for prayer in our Christian walk.

As he ascended into heaven, our Lord instructed his Disciples to become Apostles or messengers of the Gospel. Jesus said to obediently share his Gospel unto the ends of the earth.

If you look at the back of today’s bulletin, you will see a graphic that illustrates of how a believer may best achieve the goal of actively sharing the Lord’s Gospel.

BLCF: Discipleship_Wheel

 

You will note that there is a wheel that encircles a cross, bearing the label “the Obedient Christian in Action”.

At the center of the cross or the hub of the wheel, we find the Lord, as Jesus is the center of our faith. In order to share Christ’s Gospel, we must evangelize or preach the Gospel, by sharing the Word of God, gather together to worship God in fellowship and in faith, drawing closer to God in prayer.

This Action wheel has additional Scripture verses which we may study later to understand how to achieve each aspect of an active ministry in Christ.

Our lesson today will focus on one of these aspects of the Christian Ministry, which is prayer. Prayer is found on the top spoke or the top of cross our wheel illustration.

Today’s lesson has the title, The Power of Patient, Persistent, and Purposeful Prayer’. Besides the obvious use of alliteration, we see that prayer needs to be patient, persistent, and purposeful.

The Apostle Paul implores us to pray without ceasing, as we see in the Scripture passage, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

But what did Paul mean when he said to “pray without ceasing”? We find an answer to the question posted on the site “gotquestions.org”, which is found on the back of today’s bulletin:

Question: “What does it mean to pray without ceasing?” (gotquestions.org)

For Christians, prayer should be like breathing. You do not have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and essentially forces you to breathe. That is why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when we are born into the family of God, we enter into a spiritual atmosphere where God’s presence and grace exert pressure, or influence, on our lives. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure. As believers, we have all entered the divine atmosphere to breathe the air of prayer.

Unfortunately, many believers hold their “spiritual breath” for long periods, thinking brief moments with God are sufficient to allow them to survive. But such restricting of their spiritual intake is caused by sinful desires. The fact is that every believer must be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths, to be fully functional.

It is easier for Christians to feel secure by presuming on—instead of depending on—God’s grace. Too many believers become satisfied with physical blessings and have little desire for spiritual ones. When programs, methods, and money produce impressive results, there is an inclination to confuse human success with divine blessing. When that happens, passionate longing for God and yearning for His help will be missing. Continual, persistent, incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of humility and dependence on God.

http://www.gotquestions.org/pray-without-ceasing.html

As followers in the resurrected Christ, we must pray as frequently as we breathe the air. Just as breathing sustains our physical life, prayer sustains our spiritual life.

Prayer is multifaceted, having many aspects, which we find illustrated by the second wheel, a prayer wheel, found on the back page of today’s bulletin.

BLCF: prayerwheel-prayerclock

 

This prayer wheel is drawn to resemble the face of a clock, having 12 elements of prayer, and indicating 12 goals, one for each respective prayer element. Each prayer goal and element has corresponding Scripture verse(s) as an illustration.

 When we may see the variety of reasons and goals of prayer, it is not difficult to imagine that the Lord’s Disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, as we see in Luke 11:1-13 (ESV), where the Lord, who had just completed his prayer, answered how they should pray:

The Lord’s Prayer

BLCF: lord-teach-us-to-pray-Luke_11_1

11 Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,[b]
and forgive us our sins,
    for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

Jesus followed his prayer with a Parable to help Disciples understand the motives and goals of prayer, as we continue in Luke, Chapter 11:

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence[c] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Footnotes: a. Luke 11:1 Greek he b. Luke 11:3 Or our bread for tomorrow c. Luke 11:8 Or persistence e. Luke 11:11 Some manuscripts insert bread, will give him a stone; or if
he asks for

BLCF: Pray_for_Others

You see that the persistent person asks not for himself, but for something for a friend. And what father could deny a request from a son whom he loves.

Jesus said we are to pray to God, the Father in Heaven, asking persistently and purposely, with the patient expectation, to be answered His child. A “child of God” is loved by the Father, as well as being blessed with the Holy Spirit, by the grace of the Lord, Christ Jesus. We, as His children, only need to ask.

Jesus then tells another Parable of a persistent widow, whose persistent petitions are eventually answered by a judge, who has neither fear of God nor respect for others. We must understand that only the righteous prayer made by a believer, who has faith in God and respect for others, will be answered promptly, as we see in Luke 18:1-8 (ESV):

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

BLCF: Prayer-is-the-key-to-heaven-but-Faith-unlocks-the-door

18 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

We see that Jesus concluded the Parable by raising the question: “Will find faith on the day that he returns?” We must understand that only faith in the Son of Man can mitigate the certain judgment to be given to those who have sinned and lack faith and prayer without faith is futile.

BLCF: Ephesians 1_13

The title of this Parable is The Parable of the Persistent Widow. From the perspective that Christ is the bridegroom and the believers, who comprise his Church, are his bride. When the members of the church, the bride, see the groom, Jesus dies, and do not believe that he was resurrected, the bride becomes a widow in faith. Without faith, there is no sanctification, no savior, with no hope of a resurrection. It is only by faith in the groom’s resurrection may the bond of marriage be restored. Without faith in the resurrected Christ, there will be no response, no answer from God, and no hope in justice earned by way of the Lord’s sacrifice.

But Jesus did rise from the dead, walked on the earth for some 40 days, and was seen by several hundred witnesses before he ascended back to heaven.

Unlike the widow in the Parable who pleas for justice from a judge who has no regard for God or others, we have an advocate who loves both His father in Heaven, as well as others. Jesus, the Son of Man, gifts those who believe in him with salvation, sanctification and an advocate in the Holy Spirit. Jesus demonstrates unconditional love for others and trusts in his Heavenly Father by surrendering himself to the judgment on the cross for the sins of humanity.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Always_Pray

Closing Hymn #434: Sweet Hour of Prayer                                                           

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18): Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

BLCF: faith trust salvation

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On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind January 24, 2016

BLCF: leaving_your_baggage_behind

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind’

© January 24, 2016, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared with BLCF Church on Sunday, May 19, 2013

BLCF Bulletin January 24, 2016

Unwanted Baggage

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Love – from John 3 and 1 John); Prayer                                                                                                 

Opening Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus; Choruses                                        

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                                     

 Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; John 3:1-14; Galatians 3:23-29

BLCF: excess_baggage                          

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind’ where we will not literally be talking about luggage that we travel around with, but the emotional and spiritual burdens that act to impede our Christian walk.

The biggest impediment to a non-Christian’s acceptance of the Gospel of Christ is the excess baggage, in the form of the cultural practices and values that the person carries. These natural or worldly values cloud the person’s vision of the spiritual world, which is perceived by faith and trust. This is what Paul meant when he wrote in his letter to the church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV):

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Ironically, this lack of spiritual trust or perception, at times, caused problems amongst the disciples in understanding the message of our Lord. You may recall John’s account of the Pharisee named Nicodemus.

Here are two definitions of a Pharisee (noun):

1. a member of an ancient Jewish sect that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious practices, liberal interpretation of the Bible, and adherence to oral laws and traditions.

2. A self-righteous person; a hypocrite.

Back to Nicodemus, let us read the Scripture passage, John 3:1-14 (ESV):

You Must Be Born Again

BLCF: YouMustBeBornAgain

3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

While Nicodemus acknowledged Jesus in this passage as a Rabbi and a teacher sent by God, he chose to visit our Lord at night, so as not to be seen by other Pharisees. Here a ruler of the Jews, whose understanding of the miracles and teachings of Christ are limited and restricted by a legalistic interpretation and understanding of these events. What is clear in this account is Nicodemus lack of spiritual insight evident by his question to Jesus about one being “born again” which describes a spiritual transformation, symbolized by baptism in the water. Christians will often demonstrate their faith by being baptized or immersed in water, after making a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. It is the act of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit that makes one born again, not being immersed in a body of water.

Imagine an inmate locked inside a prison, where there is no available pool, river or even bath for immersion, making a decision to confess past sins and a sinful nature, accept gifts of the salvation from Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This raises the question, “Does the absence of a body of water to baptize this prisoner, prevent the person from becoming a Christian?” After all, did the Holy Spirit not come upon Christ until after Jesus was baptized by John, the Baptist?

Well, for those of you who recall the lesson on the Day of Pentecost, shared here earlier at BLCF, may recall that the Holy Spirit came upon about 120 believers cloistered in a room for 10 days after Christ’s ascension, 50 after his resurrection. The account describes the Spirit arriving like a mighty wind, with each individual alighted by a flame-like glow. The detailed account of the Spirit’s arrival gives no mention of water baptism of those believers or of the 3,000 additional converts who received the Holy Spirit after hearing the Apostle Peter’s sermons and being convicted by the Spirit. The believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit, not in water.

Nicodemus did not understand, asking Jesus “How can these things be?” Jesus expressed a concern that this religious leader of the people of Israel not understanding something that is of the Spirit. For God, Heaven and even Jesus before he came to earth are not of the world, but of the Spirit. How can one teach about things that are Holy and of the Spirit, when they have trouble understanding the Spirit’s purpose and actions in the world? It was evident that Nicodemus’ problem was the absence of belief or lack of faith.

Nicodemus had a head knowledge of God and the Holy Scriptures but lacked the faith to receive the Spirit’s help in understanding God’s purpose and plan. He was a captive, held prisoner by following the letter of the law, and not allowing the power of the Spirit to set him free from captivity of legalism, Galatians 3:23-29 (ESV):

The Law and the Promise

BLCF: the_Law_and_the_Promise

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

So Christ came to the world, not to end or replace the law, but to assume the guilt, judgment and punishment under the law for everyone’s transgressions, Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV):

Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

BLCF: Covenant-of-Grace-chart

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In other words, the standards of the law are so great, no one can be considered righteous enough to enter Heaven. But God has a plan to enable us to overcome the guilt of sin by faith in Jesus, Romans 3:21-26 (ESV):

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

BLCF: righteousness-by-faith

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  

And by receiving righteousness through faith in Jesus, we must keep out faith and trust in Christ, Colossians 2:6-14 (ESV):

Alive in Christ

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6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,             12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

There are many ways that the excess baggage we carry could hamper our walk in the Spirit. If, like Nicodemus, we tend to rely strictly upon the letter of law, we will hamper the work of the Spirit in our faith walk. Satan uses such baggage to draw believers away from the Lord. Thus admonition: See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Even after God sent Jesus to die for our sins and overcome the judgment for the law, we still hear those who non-spiritual questions, for example: “What is the proper attire for the church; do I wear a suit and tie?” Or when in prayer we may ask: “Is it necessary to cover one’s head and must we observe a diet that is in agreement with the law?” And so on…

The original Ten Commandments God gave to Moses for the People of Israel, had literally hundreds of additional Mosaic Laws added by people over the following years, which I believe was not what God had intended to guide His People. Otherwise Moses would have been given additional tablets to Moses in the first place!

We know Jesus condensed original ten down to two; loving God and loving your neighbour.

To test whether the law is given from God and being of the Spirit or from man and being of the world; we should ask whether it matches one of God’s Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai or the two given to us by Jesus. If the answer to this test is “no”, then the law came from man, not from God, and observing such a law may be more important to other men than it is to God. Jesus said that we cannot go to Heaven on good works but by faith.

Keeping any of His laws is meaningless without faith, as many people have a tendency to muddle and confuse God’s Law with worldly laws. That is why God provided a Spiritual solution to a worldly problem of sin.

Satan would love us be preoccupied as to whether we eat pork, or cover our heads in prayer, or should we be baptized in water, or ask which is more important: whether we observe the Sabbath on a Saturday or Sunday? All of these types of questions act to distract us from worship and perhaps even diminish our faith in Christ. Let us keep our focus on our faith in Jesus and our growth in the Spirit while observing God’s Laws. All the other things in this world are of little importance to God, except our faith in Him, which God desires most from us. To grow our faith, let us discard the excess baggage of the world, focus on the gift of the Holy Spirit and Gospel of the Lord.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

Benediction: (Ephesians 1:3-4) – Spiritual Blessings in Christ:                        

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

 

BLCF: by-Gods-grace

 

What Is ‘God’s Mercy and Grace?’

BLCF: Gods Mercy is greater - animated

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

What Is ‘God’s Mercy and Grace?’

© January 17, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 17, 2016

Based on a Message shared with BLCF Church on Sunday July 11, 2010

 Ephesians1_7   

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 – Second Part Only (Living Psalms – Psalm 23 – Paraphrased); Prayer                                                                              

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

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Choruses                

Scriptures Verses: Psalm 23, Romans 5:20-21, Ephesians 1:3-9

BLCF: Lord-Jesus-animated

Psalm 23 (ESV) The Lord Is My Shepherd

– A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
forever.[g]

Footnotes: a. Psalm 23:2 Hebrew beside waters of rest b. Psalm 23:3 Or in right paths c. Psalm 23:4 Or the valley of deep darkness d. Psalm 23:6 Or Only e. Psalm 23:6 Or steadfast love f. Psalm 23:6 Or shall return to dwell g. Psalm 23:6 Hebrew for length of days

BLCF: the_Grace_of_God_will_lead_you

Let us pray…

For today’s lesson, we will be looking at ‘What is ‘God’s Mercy and Grace?’ Mercy and Grace, when referenced to God are usually used interchangeably by both believers and non-believers alike. We often speak of the God ‘s Mercy being involved when we avoid a catastrophe or disastrous circumstance in our lives. It is often used to describe a situation where we experience events that have good or positive outcome, when the anticipated outcome should be bad or negative, and no one can explain why this has occurred.

So what do we mean when we talk about grace? Let’s check our Wikibits:

Spiros Zodhiates, author of The Complete Word Study Dictionary:

New Testament defines Grace is the word most frequently used in modern Bible translations for the original Greek word charis. There is no simple English-language equivalent. Charis means “that which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor [and] acceptance, for a kindness granted or desired . . . [and] a favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver Charis is also translated as “favor,” “thanks” and “pleasure.” It comes from the Greek verb chairo, which means “to rejoice” (same source).   A simple way to define grace would be to think of it as God’s unearned, undeserved favor toward us—motivated by His love and concern for us, especially those of us who accept His invitation to enter into a relationship with Him. It encompasses all of the wonderful gifts God so graciously offers us.

Similar to the above scenario, when we see another who has fallen into circumstances, we use the expression, “There, but for the Grace of God, go I”

BLCF: Gods-Grace-Mercy

There is a problem in using the two terms, Grace and Mercy, interchangeably. For while God’s Grace and Mercy, in some ways are not used not mutually exclusive of each other, that does not mean one is synonymous to the other.

Mercy is what grace offers. The grace of God comes to us in our poor sinful condition and offers us the mercy of God when we deserve His wrath. So grace comes to us giving us mercy.

Grace is most commonly called “unmerited favor”. Grace is what God offers to fallen sinners through the salvation obtained by the atonement of Jesus Christ. We call it grace because it is undeserved.

The forgiveness we receive in Christ is through no work we ourselves do, it is for this reason we call it “unmerited favor”. (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7, 2:8-10, Titus 2:11)

Rolfe Barnard defines the relationship of the two as:

“Mercy is God’s favor that holds back from us what we deserve. Grace is God’s favour that gives us what we do not deserve.”

BLCF: Gods mercy and Grace

Thomas Goodwin puts it this way:

” ‘Grace’ is more than mercy and love, it super adds to them. It denotes, not simply love, but the love of a sovereign, transcendently superior, one that may do what he will, that may wholly choose whether he will love or no. There may be love between equals, and an inferior may love a superior; but love in a superior, and so superior as he may do what he will, in such a one love is called grace: and therefore grace is attributed to princes; they are said to be gracious to their subjects, whereas subjects cannot be gracious to princes. Now God, who is an infinite Sovereign, who might have chosen whether ever He would love us or no, for Him to love us, this is grace.”

Another way of describing God’s grace is calling it Divine grace. is found in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia:

Devine Grace is a theological term which is present in many and varied spiritual traditions. It is God’s gift of salvation granted to sinners for their salvation. However, there are significant differences between the ways people of different traditions use the word.

Within Christianity, there are differing conceptions of grace. In particular, Catholics and Protestants use the word in substantially different ways. It has been termed “the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism, Calvinism from Arminianism, and modern liberalism from conservatism”. Catholic doctrine teaches God may use the sacraments to facilitate the reception of His grace. Protestants generally do not hold that view.

Grace in this context is something that is God-given, made possible only by Jesus Christ and none other.

Romans 5:1-2 (King James Version) “1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand…”

Galatians 5:4 (King James Version) “4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”

The view that Christians have on grace is that it is undeserved mercy that God gave to us by sending his son to die on a cross to give us a way to be with him in for the balance of eternity.

However, the Greek word used in the Bible is Charis pronounced khar’-ece, in which Strong’s Concordance gives this interesting definition:

“The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”[2] The Greek word charis is related to two other Greek/English words, which are charisma (a special spiritual endowment or influence) and character (an engraving, stamp or mark indicating the genuineness of something)[3] Therefore, grace is given by God in reference to developing characteristics in harmony with God’s character.

Non-Christians hold a markedly different definition of grace:

Hindu philosopher Madhvacharya held that grace was not a gift from God, but rather must be earned.

From a nontheistic, naturalist, and rationalist perspective, the concept of divine grace appears to be the same nonexistent concept as luck.

By contrast, Christian believers hold with the belief that grace comes from God, as an expression of His love, and is manifested by His mercy to those who confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as savior and redeemer.

BLCF: Gods_grace

Grace reigns through righteousness. An excellent verse regarding God’s grace and which also addresses man’s role is Romans 5:20-21 (ESV):

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The expression “grace reign though righteousness” (charis basileuon dia dikaiosunes) reveals the climate in which grace is successful. “Righteousness” is an atmosphere of the presence of God’s commandments and man’s humble acquiescence to all that God had required of him   (Psalms 119: 172, Acts 10: 34, 35).

BLCF: God_is_Love

The apostle John summarizes God’s motivation and character in three simple words:

“God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).

His dealings with us are motivated by His love—His care, His concern and even His correction—so we can receive His gift of eternal life as members of His family.

Several of the apostles summarize God’s attitude and approach of loving care and concern for us with the term grace. Paul, Peter and John use the word quite often. What do they mean by it, and how can it help us better understand our Creator?

1Peter5_10

Paul typically starts his letters to the churches with the phrase:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In doing so he wanted to impress upon his audience God’s favor toward those who accept His calling.

BLCF: bible-verse-2-corinthians-my-grace-is-sufficient-for-you-for-my-power-is-made-perfect-in-weakness1

If you look on the back of today’s Bulletin, you will see a list of Scripture Verses giving the many ways as:

How does God express His love for us through grace?
 
– Through grace God reveals Himself and helps us come to know Him and Jesus Christ His Son (John 1:14-16).
– God calls us through His grace (Galatians 1:15).
– Through grace God pronounces us “justified”, righteous and free of sin
– as a result of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice (Romans 3:24; Titus 3:7).
– God offers us salvation, His gift of eternal life through grace (Romans 5:15-18; Titus 2:11; 3:5; Acts 15:11).
– Through grace God allows us to enjoy a relationship with Him (Romans 5:1-2).
– God saves us through His grace (Ephesians 2:5, 8).
-Because of God’s grace, God offered Jesus Christ, and Jesus offered Himself, as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind (John 3:16; Hebrews2:9).
– Through grace God gives us mercy and “help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
-Through grace God gives us not only what we need but enough for us to share with others (2 Corinthians 8:1-4, 9:8).
– God forgives us through His grace (Ephesians 1:7).
-Through grace Jesus Christ came in the flesh in the role of a servant so we could have a Savior and receive eternal life (2Corinthians 8:9; compare Philippians 2:5-11).
-God gives us consolation and hope through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16).
-Through grace God grants spiritual gifts to His people for the benefit of those in His Church (Ephesians 4:7-16; 1 Peter 4:10).
-God’s grace: His dealings with humanity motivated by love are part of the true gospel (Acts 20:24). The gospel —the good news — is the message of God’s plan to offer eternal life in the Kingdom of God to all who have ever lived and will yet live. This is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in taking on Himself the penalty for our sins.

The Gospel of Jesus is the message of God’s plan to offer eternal life in the Kingdom of God to all who have ever lived and will yet live. This is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in taking on Himself the penalty for our sins.

And Jesus’ Gospel includes the wonderful news that God will intervene in human affairs to save us from ourselves and send Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

So what is the lesson, we as believers in the risen Christ, need to take home from so many expressions of God’s mercy and grace?

Grace is when you receive a good reward that you do not deserve. Mercy is when you spared from a bad judgment that you do deserve. God expresses His love by being generous with both His Grace and Mercy.

BLCF: Grace_Mercy

The lesson to us should be that of tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

We need to show tolerance to the words and actions of others which we find offensive to both God and to ourselves. If God is just to forgive us in spite of our sins, then who are we to condemn such behavior? Throughout His ministry on earth, Christ demonstrated tolerance to those who would commonly held in contempt by so called elders of the faith. Judge not lest ye be judged.

We need to forgive others who have wronged us. The Scripture passages found in both Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4 , commonly called the ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, where Jesus teaches how to pray, indicates that if we expect forgiveness from God, we need to forgive others first.

BLCF: Always_Pray

In the Bible we are asked the question: “How can we claim to love our Father in Heaven whom we do not know, when we hate our brother whom we do know? In other words, if we really know God, that is know Him in our heart, we would not have room there for contempt or resentment, to seek retribution or revenge.

I find it interesting that some people are more tolerant towards strangers, than they are to those whom they know.

Finally, we should not only just show tolerance and forgiveness, which are aspects of mercy; we need to demonstrate grace by reconciling ourselves to others by working to reestablish our relationships with those from whom we have distanced ourselves. For just as God has reconciled us through the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf at the cross at Calvary, we must be reconciled to those guilty of doing or saying the unforgiveable against us. It is an un-Godly self-indulgence to hold a grudge or express contempt towards those who have wronged us.

Grace should not be considered a form of mercy from God, but rather the state of tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, granted by God’s grace, an expression of love which gives us His mercy, in spite of our sins. It is manifest when we confess our sins to Him and accept Jesus as our personal Savior. We may not and should not assume that while God grants us grace freely by His own will, and because of His love for us; that we are automatically entitled the Lord’s grace. There is a prerequisite, which has been mentioned several times in this sermon, which I would like to repeat in a different way:

God does not grant us grace to make us faithful and believe in Him. God gives us grace because we do have faith and believe in Him.

And we demonstrate our faith by our words and deeds, particularly towards our enemies and those we do not hold in high regard. We show that we believe in Him, when we place our concerns in His hands and trust that He would grant us the grace to endure those challenges in life that we must endure and mercy and forgiveness for those things that we have done which are not of His liking.

BLCF: Ephesians_1_3-9

For our closing prayer, let me read the third of today’s Scripture Verses, Ephesians 1:3-9 (ESV), which is entitled: Spiritual Blessings in Christ.

Let us pray…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us[a] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known[b] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ .                                                                                                            

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 1:5 Or before him in love, having predestined us b. Ephesians 1:9 Or he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight, making known…

BLCF: Gifts-of-Grace

Closing Hymn #49: Surely Goodness and Mercy                                        

Benediction: O God in Heaven, we thank you for your Mercy and Grace. We thank you for your love. We confess our sins and pray that the Holy Spirit guide our hearts so that they may be only for Him; to accept Him, to believe in Him, to praise and to worship Him for Who He is, the One who redeemed us by the sacrifice of Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ who is God. – Amen

BLCF: Trust Jesus - animated

The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Epiphany and Pentecost

BLCF: Trinity_of_God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Epiphany and Pentecost’

© January 10, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin January 10, 2016

BLCF:Trinity

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #624: (The Great Commission – Mark 11 and Matthew 21); Prayer          Opening Hymn #581: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit                                                                                                         Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                                                                                   Today’s Scriptures: Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 3:13-17, John 2:1-12, Acts 2:1-13

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service at BLCF Church, where our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Epiphany and Pentecost’. Before we get too involved in the lesson, let us check out the definition of three terms used in the lesson’s title: manifestation, Epiphany and Pentecost.

The first term is manifestation:

Manifestation – from the Thesaurus portion of freedictionary.com

BLCF: Jesus_dove

 

noun 1. manifestation – a clear appearance; “a manifestation of great emotion”

appearance – the event of coming into sight

epiphany – a divine manifestation

theophany – a visible (but not necessarily material) manifestation of a deity to a human person

Word of God – a manifestation of the mind and will of God

tidal wave – an overwhelming manifestation of some emotion or phenomenon; “a tidal wave of nausea”; “the flood of letters hit him with the force of a tidal wave”; “a tidal wave of crime”

 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Noun

 

The term manifestation might be illustrated when BLCF Cafe volunteers help with various chores at our Community Dinner as an expression of compassion and care to the guests.

Those Christian volunteers among the team believe that by serving the least of their brothers and sisters is a manifestation of service to their Lord, Christ Jesus, where physical actions are an expression of love and faith.

Next, let us look at Epiphany:

Epiphany – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

BLCF: Epiphany

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphany

And last, but not lease, we have Pentecost:

Pentecost – from Wikipedia.org

Pentecost (Ancient Greek: Πεντηκοστή [ἡμέρα], Pentēkostē [hēmera], “the fiftieth [day]”) is the Greek name for Shavuot (Hebrew: שבועות‎, lit. “Weeks”), the Feast of Weeks, a prominent feast in the calendar of ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses at Sinai. In Christianity, Pentecost is celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday, inclusively (i.e., 49 days with the first day counted, seven weeks), hence its name.

In the New Testament, Pentecost was the occasion of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1–31. and therefore in the Christian liturgical year, it became a feast commemorating this occasion. For this reason, Pentecost is described by some Christians as the “Birthday of the Church”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentecost

BLCF: signs_wonders_miracles

 

Christians commonly accept that Epiphany marks the occasion when our first Lord demonstrates his supernatural divine nature to humanity as part of the Godhead or Holy Trinity, though there is some disagreement among scholars as to when the Epiphany took place.

Let us look at the three events in the Scriptures, which happen to involve two of the three members of the Trinity: Jesus, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. Depending on the scholar, each event may be considered Epiphany or the first physical manifestation of Epiphany.

Our first Scripture verse concerns how Mary became the mother to Jesus, from Luke 1:26-38 (ESV):

Birth of Jesus Foretold

BLCF: Angel and Mary

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[e] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b. Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! c. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man d. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you e. Luke 1:38 Greek bondservant; also verse 48

Mary conceived her son by way of the Holy Spirit, where the Power of the Most High had overshadowed her. In this verse, the Holy Spirit is described as “the Power of God, who is the Most High. The conception is a miracle of God.

Our next Scripture describes the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, in Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV):

The Baptism of Jesus

BLCF:Jesus_Baptism

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

Footnotes: a.Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b.Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

In this Scripture, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove upon Jesus after his baptism. We hear a voice from heaven, from the Most High, describing Jesus as His beloved Son, with whom He is well pleased. Both the arrival of the Spirit, Who appearance is descending like a dove and the voice from heaven announcing the identity of Jesus are miraculous in nature, from God.

Our third verse describes the miracle Jesus performed at the wedding at Cana, where our Lord changed water into wine, as described in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

BLCF: Miracle_Wedding_at_Cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers[b] and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters b.John 2:12 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

This miracle performed by Jesus, who was conceived as the Son of God and baptized by the Holy Spirit. All three verses describe events which demonstrate the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit enables Mary to conceive God’s Son; empower Jesus, who is also the Son of Man to resist testing and temptation from the devil, and enable Christ to transform ordinary water to wine.

This same Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus, who sits beside the Father in heaven, to transform common believers into Spirit-filled Apostles of the Lord. As is told in our final Scripture verse, Acts 2:1-13 (ESV):

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

BLCF: Pentecost_Dove

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested

In conclusion, the Holy Spirit enables both the Son of God and Believers in Christ to demonstrate His power and purpose to share the Word, which is the Gospel manifested through Christ Jesus.

God has come in human form, as Jesus, whose sacrifice provided the way for the Holy Spirit to come to all believers, so that we are empowered to prepare the way of the Lord, when all will be brought before the Father, at the time of Jesus’ return.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Epiphany

Closing Hymn #350: Open My eyes, That I May See

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):                                                                                                                                                       May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

 

BLCF: Power of the Spirit

 

2015 in review for this BLOG

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ

BLCF: animated_magi-starstargraphic

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ’

© January 3, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin January 3, 2016

BLCF: animated-wisemen-star

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616: (Christian Baptism – Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6); Prayer                                                                                   

Hymn #251: My Song Shall Be of Jesus; Choruses

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                                

Scriptures: Matthew 2:1-18, John 1:29, John 3:1-8

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Praise and Worship Service, on this, the first Sunday of 2016, which is a Communion Sunday.

Our lesson for today, A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ,’ we give us an opportunity to reflect upon the events of 2015, while anticipating the hopes and expectations of the New Year, 2016.

Christians today, as in the years past, find the Christmas Season fraught with assaults against God, our faith and our Savior. It is around Christmas and Easter, the naysayers come forth to either deny the existence of Jesus and the truth of the Lord’s Gospel, or to promote a theory that Christ did not exist, or was not Savior.

It seems that no other faith is the subject of so much derision and attacked to the extent that is our faith in Christ. But the gospels are full of warnings that believers in the resurrected Christ may anticipate to see a parade of false prophets and perversions of the truth. We see an example of the agenda of proponents of this anti-Christian theology in the way we mark our calendars, where B.C. and A.D. are being replaced by B.C.E. and C.E., respectively. We find a Wikibits explanation for the meaning and motives for such a change as follows:

B.C. /A.D. versus B.C.E. /C.E.

BLCF: BC_Nativity_AD

Our calendar is based on the birth of Christ; all years before Christ’s birth have traditionally been designated B.C. (before Christ) and those after his birth as A.D., an abbreviation for the Latin term Anno Domini which means “in the year of the Lord.”

Some historians have adopted an alternative dating system, referring to B.C. as B.C.E. (Before the Common Era), and to A.D. as C.E. (Common Era). The change was made to mask the Christian basis for the dating system and presumably make it more palatable to non-Christians.

The new designation is unsatisfactory on several levels. In the first place, no “common era” exists. It can’t be found in history books or the dictionary. It was just made up. If there is a common era, it didn’t begin in the year one; it probably began around 1500 A.D. when ocean exploration connected the world in a global trading network.

On a cognitive level, B.C.E. and C.E. repeat the same letters in the same order making the distinction between them harder for the eye and mind to grasp than the traditional system that uses all different letters. To understand the meaning of dates, readers may have to stop and consciously translate the letters.

The politically sensitive thinkers who developed the new terminology were not so bold as to identify a new, logical, non-Christian basis for dating time such as the beginning of agriculture ten thousand years ago or the beginning of civilization five thousand years ago. Instead, they kept the Christian system but attempted to obscure its historical origin, a curiously anti-historical act.

http://www.studentsfriend.com/feed/topic11.html

BLCF: BC_AD

While some historians have an agenda focused on removing Christ from Christmas and modern calendars by using B.C.E. and C.E., no effort has been undertaken to make our nomenclature for “politically correct” by renaming the months named for Roman gods: January, February, March, April, May and June. Certainly Christians could be “offended” by the use of Roman gods to name the months is the same way non-Christians object to the acknowledge each year including and following Jesus’ birth as an Anno Domini or Year of the Lord and any year preceding his birth as an acknowledgement as well.

Many view the New Year as a time for resolutions for change, improvement, and reconciliation in our lives. So it is not surprising that while many such expectations answered by the birth of Jesus; others perceived his arrival as a threat to their own personal authority, as we see in the first of our Scripture verses, which tells of the arrival of the Magi or Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-18 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

BLCF: animated_wise_men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

BLCF: Jesus-in-Egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Herod Kills the Children

BLCF: Herod the usurper

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

Since the Wise Men brought three different gifts to Christ child, offering him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh, we may infer that there were three Wise Men, with each bringing a gift for the newborn king.

Some try to disparage the Wise Men as astrologers and Wikibitsdictionary.com define as astrology as follows:

astrology – definition

BLCF: Ptolemy_Astrology_1564

A study of the positions and relationships of the sun, moon, stars, and planets in order to judge their influence on human actions. Astrology, unlike astronomy, is not a scientific study and has been much criticized by scientists.

If the Magi were just interested in studying the Star of Bethlehem, they would have neither acknowledge to star’s arrival as a fulfillment of the Jewish prophecy of the birth of the Christ child, nor would they arrive to worship him with valuable treasures. The fact that an angel had warned the Magi not to return to Herod indicates that there may have been some Divine influence which brought the Magi to Jesus and consequently gifts worthy of a king were brought to the Lord.

No doubt when Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt, these valuable gifts were used by the three refugees while in exile until the time that they returned.

I find it ironic that many who profess to be Christians today have little or no sympathy for the plight of the refugees in the Middle East, fearing the refugees may harbor a threat to their way of life. This perceived threat parallels the motive which prompted Herod to kill all the male infants age two years and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

I feel that God, the Father, knew of the danger from Herod and He provided a way of escape by an angel’s warning to Joseph and the gifts of the Magi.

The date of Christ’s birth is so significant to history that events are observe to have occurred on a date defined as a year preceding or following the year that Jesus was born. While AD or Anno Domini translates as the “Year of the Lord”, Christians mark the date of their re-birth as a child of God some thirty three or so years later, following the Lord’s death, resurrection, ascension, and Day of Pentecost, which collectively mark the birth of the Church, a body of believers, who having demonstrated faith in Christ by confessing their sins, following the Way of the Lord, receiving the Spirit and teaching the Gospel.

That Gospel message being that: Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins! His birth was for his death; his death was for our re-birth, as was acknowledged by John the Baptist in John 1:29 (ESV):

Behold, the Lamb of God

BLCF: Jesus_Lamb_of_GOD

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Just as Jesus was born to mature to become the Savior from the judgment of the sins of humanity, believers must be willing to be reborn through faith, by God’s Holy Spirit, as indicated in the account of Nicodemus in John 3:1-8 (ESV):

You Must Be Born Again

Be still and know HE is God!

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Footnotes: a. John 3:2 Greek him b. John 3:3 Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7 c. John 3:6 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit d. John 3:7 The Greek for you is plural here e. John 3:8 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit

Just as our Lord grew from an infant to a child, and then a man, those who are re-born or born again in Christ are expected to grow and mature in the Spirit. And with the maturity of Spiritual growth, Christians are expected to take upon themselves the responsibility of preaching the Word or the truth of Christ’s Gospel to others, 2 Timothy 4:1-8 (ESV):

Preach the Word

BLCF: The_Great_Commission

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Footnotes: a. 2 Timothy 4:3 Or healthy

For our closing prayer for this New Year 2016, I would like to read to you ‘A Prayer for Peace’ by St. Francis of Assisi, which gives a good outline of how we may best achieve the task of preaching the Gospel in thought, word and deed. What better way to implement a Christians’ desire for resolution for change, improvement, and reconciliation in the New Year of their rebirth and the future.

BLCF: Animated_Prayer_For_Peace

Let us pray…

Hymn #220: Break Thou the Bread of Life                                                        

Communion Scripture Versus: 1 Corinthians 10:16-18, 11:23-26

1 Corinthians 10:16-18 (ESV)

BLCF: communion_fac

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel:[a] are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 10:18 Greek Consider Israel according to the flesh

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)

BLCF: Communion Sunday

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[b] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 11:24 Some manuscripts broken for b.1 Corinthians 11:24 Or as my memorial; also verse 25

Benediction – (Psalm 90:14): Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

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