Preparing for the Day When We exchange Our Tent for a Building

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Preparing for the Day When We exchange Our Tent for a Building’ 

© October 1, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 1, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                Opening Hymn #200: The Church’s One Foundation; Choruses                          Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Responsive Reading #654: The Holy City (-from Revelation 21)                       Message shared by Steve Mickelson:                                                                        ‘Preparing for the Day When We exchange Our Tent for a Building’

Let us pray…

The Lesson I would like to share with you today at BLCF is entitled: ‘Preparing for the Day When We exchange Our Tent for a Building’

It is interesting observation that most people endeavor to find permanence to the relationships in their lives. So it is young people may date, but ultimately hope to find their one true “soul mate” for the rest of their days.

There is nothing better than a lasting friendship with someone with someone you can always trust and rely upon.

The same is true for anyone who has lived the lifestyle described as:  itinerant, wandering, roving, roaming, touring, saddlebag, nomadic, gypsy, migrant, vagrant or vagabond.

While such lifestyle may initially seem exciting or romantic, after a while most of us get tired of living on the road, being quite content to have a place of permanence to call home.

Who among us can say that they have embarked upon an extended trip or journey, which initially seemed to promise excitement and adventure, and find ourselves both relieved and grateful to finally arrive back home?

So it was with the People of Israel, who were led by Moses, who in-turn was led by God, to wander the desert for generations to a permanent home in the Promised Land. While they  journeyed, they lived in tents which could be easily struck for the next leg of their journey. Even the Temple where they worshipped was housed in a tent.

Over time the People of Israel, who had longed to be delivered from their bondage in Egypt, sought to find a place which they could permanently call home. They wanted to exchange their tents for a permanent residence made of a more enduring material, such as brick and stone.

We have a few Scripture Verses today, some which reference having a tent for a home. However the tent is not intended to describe a place where one lives, but is used as a metaphor for the body in which we live.

Evangelist Billy Graham is quoted as saying: To the Christian death is the exchanging of a tent for a building. The building exists in heaven, as John records the Lord’s description in John 14:1-7 (ESV):

 I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

 14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[d]From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Footnotes: a. John 14:1 Or You believe in God b. John 14:2 Or In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you c. John 14:4 Some manuscripts Where I am going you know, and the way you know d. John 14:7 Or If you know me, you will know my Father also, or If you have known me, you will know my Father also

 As Christians, who believe that Jesus died for our salvation and who have decided to follow and accept the  ‘Way, Truth and Light’ of the Lord, our choice also brings us the gift of the Holy Spirit of God, Who comes to help transform our bodies from ordinary ‘tents’ to ‘Tabernacles of God’s New Covenant of Salvation’, to live a new life, transformed in the likeness of the Lord, Ephesians 4:17-24 (ESV): 

The New Life

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[a] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 4:22 Greek man; also verse 24

Those who believe in the Gospel of the Resurrected Christ, Jesus are promised us a heavenly dwelling which is eternal in exchange for our current mortal tent-like bodies,  2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (ESV):

 Our Heavenly Dwelling

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on[a] we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Footnotes: a. 2 Corinthians 5:3 Some manuscripts putting it off

Our current body is described as being like dwelling in a tent which is separate and away from the Lord. But we have the hope and faith that we  will go to live forever in a new home which is a permanent that Lord has prepared  for us,  Revelation 21:1-11 (ESV):

The New Heaven and the New Earth

 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The New Jerusalem

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

Footnotes: a. Revelation 21:3 Or tabernacle b. Revelation 21:3 Some manuscripts peoples c. Revelation 21:3 Some manuscripts omit as their God

Let us pray…

Communion: Matthew 26:26-28 ( -see below)

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

 Benediction – 2 Corinthians 5:1 (ESV) – Our Heavenly Dwelling:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

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Does God Allow Suffering In The World and Why God Allowed Good Things Happen To Bad People?

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

© September 24, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 24, 2017

Based Upon a Message Originally Shared with BLCF on August 31, 2008

BLCF Bulletin August 31_08

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                     Opening Hymn #182: Marvelous Message We Bring; Choruses                      Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Responsive Reading #670: The Day of the Lord (from 2 Peter 3)                    Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

Let us pray…

I would like to begin today’s lesson by reading the headlines of a few recently posted news articles:

Harvey, Irma, Jose, And Now, Maria — Is The 2017 Hurricane Season The Worst One Yet?                                                                           https://www.dogonews.com/2017/9/23/harvey-irma-jose-and-now-maria-is-the-2017-hurricane-season-the-worst-one-yet

Floods kill over 1,200 in India, Nepal and Bangladesh                              http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/floods-kill-1200-india-nepal-bangladesh-170826230610924.html

Third earthquake hits Mexico in September, this time of magnitude 6.8 https://globalnews.ca/news/3764935/earthquake-mexico-magnitude-6-8/

Everybody knows of someone has personally suffered a personal tragedy that has caused us to question our faith. Perhaps they have suffered such tragedy in their own lives.

In fact our Lord personally suffered to the point of death on the cross and just before his death, Jesus asked a question often spoken by others in the wake of tragic circumstances, Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

So through his son, God has experienced some an example of the human suffering that happens in the world to innocent people. Jesus was innocent of any sin, yet he died a horrific death.

Suffering and pain was not brought to this world by God, but as a result of disobedience to God. In Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV), we read:

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:17 Or when you eat

We know the consequences of the temptation by the serpent and the consequences of disobedience to God is the judgment of death. And that Jesus took upon himself the punishment of death so that we may be good or sanctified unto God, if by faith we accept the  gift of salvation.

This verse from Genesis 2:17, helps us understand the consequences of disobedience to God. But how do we reconcile tragedies which occur to an innocent person or someone who has strong faith in God?

You may remember the story of Joseph, a son favored by his father, but seemingly forsaken by his God. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph rose to a position where he could have measured revenge upon his family.

Instead, Joseph showed them compassion and was instrumental in saving the Jewish people at a time of famine. God had a plan for the Jewish nation and it was implemented after Joseph endured much suffering.

In 1997, I experienced job loss twice within a year: once when corporate downsizing by my employer ended a 17-year term of and again when a four-month contract ended .

In our society we often tend to mistakenly identify who we are with what we do. And if our job is lost due a corporate take-over, we may feel that we have no value if our job falls-victim to a corporations restructuring.

That year of my life, I found to be a time of personal challenge to both my confidence and my faith. At that time of challenge, I found myself revisiting the Book of Job, which gives the account of a man of faith who was tempted and challenged, though he never allowed his circumstances to diminish his faith in God, as we read in Job 1:1-12 (ESV):

Job’s Character and Wealth

1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed[a] God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Satan Allowed to Test Job

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Footnotes: a. Job 1:5 The Hebrew word bless is used euphemistically for curse in 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9 b. Job 1:6 Hebrew the Accuser or the Adversary; so throughout chapters 1–2

Job was tempted over and over, by Satan. But Job never renounced his faith in God. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan and the Lord met the challenges with Scripture and the comfort of the Holy Spirit:

Matthew 3:16-4:17 (ESV)

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.”

The Temptation of Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,     lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,     the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness     have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,     on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

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

After a year of searching for employment, a head-hunter found my resume, which led me to being hired at a job, perhaps one of the best I ever had. At the time I recall my father remarking: ‘Sometimes good things happen to good people.’ This comment spoke volumes to me, as dad had seen that through my suffering I was faithful to my God and, as had happened gto Job, He did not allow me to endure more than I could bear.

In the years to follow, I would again be personally challenged three more times again by corporate restructuring and down-sizing. However, each time I kept my faith and the Lord provided for my needs.

Harold Kushner authored a book which made popular the phrase my father quoted to me, as Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner observes in aish.com:

Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi, followed precisely such an approach in his best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Few “Jewish” books in recent decades have had a greater impact upon those dealing with life’s personal tragedies. Kushner is regularly cited, in both the Jewish and non-Jewish media, as an expert on suffering and a variety of other ethical issues.

 Kushner came to the topic of suffering through a terrible tragedy in his family: He and his wife lost a young son to a particularly perverse degenerative disease – premature aging syndrome. He has thus paid a heavy price for the right to talk about suffering. Though we shall be very critical of Kushner’s conclusions, nothing we say should be seen as a personal criticism of him, or an attempt to in any way diminish the awful suffering he had to bear. It would be contemptible to pass judgment on another’s experience of a tragedy of such magnitude.

If we are critical of Kushner’s ideas, ¡t is only because he has offered his views to the public as a consolation to those suffering emotional distress or pain and as an authentic Jewish response to the problem of suffering. As we shall see, they are neither.

While Kushner is in some sense a believer in God, his own faith was severely tested by the prolonged agony that he and his wife endured. He felt the need to construct a theory that would reconcile his tragedy with Judaism’s belief in God’s benevolence.

 He concluded that to maintain his belief in God he must reject either God’s benevolence or His omnipotence. He chose the latter course. God, in Kushner’s view, created the world and provides the foundation of moral principle. But He cannot quite control the world He created. He hopes for our good and He sympathizes, as it were, with us in our pain, but He is powerless to do anything about it.

 As to why a God Who had the power to create the entire universe in the first place would create one that He is powerless to control, Kushner basically shrugs his shoulders and contents himself with noting that the world is relatively good for most people most of the time. We might designate this theory as “randomness plus God.”

Unable to understand why a good God would allow individuals to suffer, Kushner ends by neatly defining the question away. He cannot even conceive of the possibility of any understanding, and so concludes that we have no answers because there are no answers. Much of what happens ¡s nothing more than random chance. Pain and tragedy are a necessary consequence of a world over which God does not exercise complete control.

http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/why_harold_kushner_is_wrong.html

This illustrates the great danger to Christians who are challenged by personal tragedy and give in to the temptation to feel that they are victims of overwhelming circumstances beyond their control and that God has no power or interest in intervening, as God is aware in tragic circumstances, but content in strictly observing them.

If this were true, God would have not likely created Adam and Eve and would have never intervened through the messages of the prophets and God would have never have chosen to give us Jesus, to die for our circumstances. And further, God would not have allowed Jesus to perform his miracles, the most noteworthy being his resurrection from the grave or the gift of the Holy Spirit. As far as bad things happening to good people, this only happened once and He volunteered! And the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ for our salvation indicates that God, through His Son, Jesus, provides the means for good things (our salvation) to happen to bad people (sinners – all have sinned).

In his publication, I Wonder Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, posted on the site day1.org, the Reverend Charles D. Reeb comments on the experience of H.G. Spafford:

H.G. Spafford had the following experience. In 1873, his wife and four children sailed from New York to France on an ocean liner. Mr. Spafford was unable to make the voyage with his family because of business commitments in Chicago. He told them goodbye, promising to meet them in France in a few weeks.

At two o’clock on the morning of November 22, 1873, when the luxury liner was several days out, ¡t was hit by another liner. Within two hours, the ship sank. Nine days later when the survivors landed at Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband these two words, “Saved alone.” When he received her message, he quickly booked passage on a ship to Europe to join his wife. On the way over, the captain called him into his cabin and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where your family’s liner went down.”

Well, that night in the mid-Atlantic, filled with much pain and sorrow, Mr. Spafford wrote five stanzas, the first of which contained these lines:

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,                                                         

When sorrows like sea-billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul!”

And these words have been a part of one of the most popular hymns in the church today. Little did Spafford know that his words would give comfort to so many people.  God turned his scar into a star.

We can’t control the fact that bad things will happen to us. They just do, and one day we will find out why. But the one thing we can control is how we respond to the bad things that happen to us. We can get bitter or better! We can stay angry at life and at God and never move on, or we can give our pain to God and allow him to do something beautiful with it. Then we’ll be able to say with confidence:

 I will be untouched in the midst of fire

I will stand firm in the midst of a storm

I will not crack in the midst of chaos

I will not lose heart when the world is torn

I will not fear when the heat blazes

I will not fret when drought comes

I will bear fruit in the midst of all of it

I will march to a different drum

I will discover victory in tragedy

I will trust in El Shaddai

I will laugh in the face of death

I will wave evil and pain goodbye

http://day1.org/955-i_wonder_why_bad_things_happen_to_good_people

Going back to Jesus’ words, we the Lord cried in pain and anguish atop of the cross in Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This leads us to explore why does God allow bad things to happen to good people, or perhaps we should ponder why, through the salvation of Jesus, we should ask ourselves: Why God Allowed Good Things Happen To Bad People? Quite an interesting thought!

In conclusion, I suggest we consider when happens, when force is applied to an egg: if the egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. But if an egg is broken from the inside, life begins. And by faith in the sanctification and the gift of the Holy Spirit inside of us, our new life begins.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #328: Anywhere with Jesus I Can Safely Go

Benediction – (Romans 12:2):

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Do You Know the Definition of the Word or Whom Should You Thank Today?

Thanksgiving – noun (dictionary.com)
1. the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God.
2. an expression of thanks, especially to God.
3. a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor or kindness.
4. a day set apart for giving thanks to God.
5. (initial capital letter) Thanksgiving Day.
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/thanksgiving

 

Potluck Luncheon this Sunday at BLCF on September 17, 2017

This Sunday, September 17, 2017, at 10:30AM see an encore showing of Paul Young’s film, The Shack here at BLCF featured in lieu of our BLCF’s Praise and Worship Service.

Following the film, BLCF will serve a Potluck Luncheon at 1:00PM. Join us and bring a friend as well as a dish to serve at the potluck. Please note the 10:30AM start time.

 

 

The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity

© September 10, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 10, 2017

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on August 28, 2011

BLCF July-August-2011 Bulletin

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            Next Sunday at 10:30AM The Shack, 1:00PM Pot Luck Lunch at BLCF          Opening Hymn #43: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; Choruses                          Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings   Responsive Reading #641 “Christian Assurance” (-from Romans 8)                Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service, here at BLCF. Several weeks ago, some of the congregation saw the movie The Shack, Christian film, based on the book of the same title, which dealt with the topics of Godhead or Trinity of God, pain and suffering among people, and the nature of the love that God has for us in times of darkness and tribulation.

 

For the lesson today, I would like talk about similarities and differences between the Trinity of God, sometimes referred to as the Godhead and the trinity of the human race. Yes, there is a trinity aspect of people, though not quite the same as the trinity of God. While one trinity is not widely known, or at the least spoken about, particularly in context of the other. And the other Trinity, (of God), though spoken about frequently, is often misunderstood.

Hopefully, by the end of this lesson, we will have a better knowledge and understanding of both trinities, particularly how the two relate to each other.

Let us begin with the one that is more frequently spoken about by Christians and frequently misunderstood, which is the Trinity of God. This Trinity is used to describe three Divine aspects or expressions of God: the Father/Creator, the Son/Word-made-flesh and the Holy Spirit.  It is here that we often encounter some controversy amongst various denominations of the Christian Church, as well as criticism from those who challenge the Christian faith as monotheistic.

When we read the King James Version of 1 John 5:7-8, we see a direct reference to the trinity being three aspects of one God:

7For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.                    

Recently, some Biblical scholars have questioned whether the disciple John authored this version of the Scripture as found in the King Lames Version translation, since there may be some evidence to indicate verse from the original, which many authorities agree should read as found in the English Standard Version of 1 John 5:7-8 (ESV):

Godhead Trinity

Holy Trinity

7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

At first blush, it appears that mention of the Trinity, which is clearly described in the King James translation, seems to be omitted by the English Standard translation. However, if we examine the English Standard translation more closely, we see that the ESV implies the same message as the KJV, though more by inference than by words in the ESV, which is a more subtle expression of the same thought.

If this verse were the only passage of Scripture which supports the Trinity of God, then we could say that existence of the Holy Trinity is open to debate and possibly doubt. Fortunately, we have other verses which support the singularity of the Godhead.

In the beginning of the Bible, we read that God refers to Himself in the plural, using the personal pronouns: “us” and “our” rather than “me” and “my” as we read in Genesis 1:26:

 26Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. – Genesis 1:26 (ESV)

But who is it comprised the ”we” and ”us” mentioned this passage, describing the beginning of the Bible:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   – John 1:1 (ESV)

So we know that with God was the Word, but who is the Word? Those of you familiar with the scripture likely already have an idea, as we read from John 1:14:   

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.            –  John 1:14 (ESV)  

This passage refers to Jesus, also referred to in the Bible as the “Word made flesh”. But was Jesus there in the creation?  From John 1:1 and John 1:14, we may conclude that Jesus or the Word was with God and the Word was God. To help us understand this relationship better, Jesus put it simply in John 10:30:   

30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 (ESV)     

What about the Holy Spirit? Was the Spirit there at the beginning? The answer to this question is found in Genesis 1:2:   

2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.         – Genesis 1:2 (ESV)   

Let us recap. We have at the beginning God referring to himself as a plural Entity, using the personal pronouns we and our. We are told that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was there in the beginning of creation, as was the Holy Spirit. Not three Gods, but three distinct aspects of the same God: a Trinity.

I wonder how many of you know the children’s story of Peter Pan, a free spirited eternal youth who became separated from his shadow, which both confused and complicated his life until his friend Wendy took and thread in hand and sewed the shadow back to Peter, making him happy and whole again. This somewhat silly child’s tale makes for a good analogy to the human condition.

Adam and Eve, created in the image of God had a good relationship with the Creator. That was until Satan took the form of a serpent and beguiled Eve and Adam to partake of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden We read in Genesis 3, verses 1-6:

 

Temptation in the Garden

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.   

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.                                           –  Genesis 3:1-6 (ESV)   

We see the consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, in verses 22-23 of the same third chapter of Genesis:

22Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.      – Genesis 3:22-23 (ESV)     

Adam and Eve were told that they would surely die if they ate from the tree, commonly called the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil or Tree of Life? Having done so, Adam and Eve were not only expelled from the Garden of Eden, they had brought the judgement of death upon themselves and their descendants. Once Adam and Eve broke God’s rule, all members of the human race became like the Peter Pan character. But not severed from their shadow, but severed from the Holy Spirit. While the scriptures have no Wendy to sew things up, we do have a way to repair what has been broken. Jesus Christ came to the world to repair the tear in our spiritual fabric, to restore our souls, to bring that joy again to those who have inherited the judgment of sin.

To better understand God’s solution for the problem of sin, let us now talk about the Human trinity. Let us recall from Genesis 1, that we were made in God’s image, verse 26:

26Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness               – Genesis 1:26 (ESV)  

If we are made in God’s image, it is not hard to understand that God gave us three aspects of our character, a Human trinity as described in  1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV):  

 23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

We see that the Human trinity consists of the body, soul and spirit. Spirit exists like Peter Pan’s shadow, severed from us by the sin of Eden once the human race having eaten of the tree of knowledge became aware of good and evil and the consequences of choice. God provided us with a way to reconnect with the Holy Spirit, by confessing our sins and receiving the gift of salvation through Jesus and eternal life through the Holy Spirit. The proof and the promise may be found in John 20:20-23 (ESV):

 

20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Trinity of God and Trinity of Man

 

Dr. Clarence Larkin in his book, Rightly Dividing the Word expands on the Human trinity mentioned in 1 Thessalonians, by describing the three as follows:

The human body touches the material world through the five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.

And the gates to the soul are imagination, conscience, memory, reason and the affections.

The spirit receives impressions of outward and material things through the soul. The spiritual faculties of the spirit are faith, hope, reverence, prayer and worship.

To understand God, we must receive the Holy Spirit by faith and trust in God, as we see in 1 Corinthians 2:9-11 (ESV):

 

9But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

 10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Let us therefore pray that be find the faith to trust God’s Plan for Salvation, Reconciliation and Sanctification, through confession of sin, trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and acceptance of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: # 1 Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty

Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Following the Lord’s Steps, According to His Plan

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Following the Lord’s Steps, According to His Plan’

© September 3, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 3, 2017

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on September 7, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin September 7, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship:                                                                      

 Responsive Reading #609 (Words of Wisdom – Proverbs 16); Prayer         

Opening Hymn #224: How Firm a Foundation                                                        

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

 

   

Let us pray…

Good morning to you on this, the first Sunday of September, a Communion Sunday here at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship.

For our lesson this morning, I would like to dispel a couple of commonly held myths, even by some Christians. Such myths seem to promote the idea that God somehow left the world in a state of chaos.

 

The first myth is: that since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God has abandoned of us because of sin.

The second myth is: the misconception is that God has set everyone adrift, left without any influence or direction from Him.

I believe that the origins of both these myths come from the fact that God has granted to all of humanity something called “free will” or the choice in which direction to go in our lives.

This is not something new, as Adam and Eve were given a “free will” choice whether or not to listen to and follow’s God’s direction regarding eating the fruit from the “Tree of Life”. Unfortunately for humanity, with a little help from Satan, they chose to not follow His direction, and we know where this sin left us. And because we have inherited a birthright of sin and death, many people today behave as if there is no recourse, but to continue to defy God and continue to sin!

After all, many people behave as if they have no choice whether to live a lifestyle that distances them from the Lord.

Because of this common misconception, many sinners feel that they are predestined to follow a path of abandonment, leading ultimately to death and judgment, which is quite a hopeless predicament.

To those with this disparaging view, I say “take heart”, God is aware of your circumstance and He has a plan just for you, as we see in the first of this morning’s Scripture Verses, Proverbs 16:9 (ESV):

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Bulletin Sunday June 5,2011

The heart of man plans his way,     

but the Lord establishes his steps.

The first step of God’s plan is found in Exodus 3:1-12 (ESV), where He reveals Himself to Moses from a burning bush:

The Burning Bush

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Verse 12 is important in that God promised to be with Moses, as well as the Hebrew people rescued from Egypt, as either a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire, as we read in Exodus 13:17-22 (ESV):

Pillars of Cloud and Fire

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph[a] had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

Footnotes: a. Exodus 13:19 Samaritan, Septuagint; Hebrew he

Our lesson last week, we had the account of Moses meeting God at the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-12 as an example of fire being an expression of God’s power and presence.

Today, we see how this same passage from Exodus 3 reveals that our Heavenly Father does have a plan for restoring grace upon humanity.

God had not abandoned his people, but revealing Himself first from a burning bush, then as a pillar of cloud, and as a pillar of fire. God also revealed a plan to free the Hebrew People from a life of bondage in Egypt by way of parting the sea, knowing the Hebrews had not rid themselves of a life or a mindset of captivity. By closing the sea behind them, God forced the Hebrew people to follow the path of rediscovering a free will choice for them, which had been lost and forgotten through generations of bondage and servitude in Egypt.

Though the Lord did part the Red Sea and close the sea behind the Hebrew People, so that they could not flee back to servitude in Egypt at the first sign of adversity. This gave the Hebrews an opportunity to become reacquainted with the free will choice between either following the Lord by faith or drifting away from God.

God had chosen Moses to lead the Hebrew people, out of bondage, through the desert to the Promised Land, as well from bondage to the life of free will. And throughout this trek, He made His presence known by the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. And during this journey, the Lord restored the identity of His people by providing His Laws.

We know that having restored the identity and free will of His people, God’s next step in His Plan, was to reveal Himself, through His Son, Jesus, as we read in John 14:1-14 (ESV):

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[d] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[e] anything in my name, I will do it.

Footnotes: a. John 14:1 Or You believe in God b. John 14:2 Or In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you c. John 14:4 Some manuscripts Where I am going you know, and the way you know e. John 14:7 Or If you know me, you will know my Father also, or If you have known me, you will know my Father also f. John 14:14 Some manuscripts omit me

We see in Verse 3, that Jesus promised to prepare a place for us. This is not the Promised Land, but a place in Heaven. In the meantime, God has provided, as the next step of His plan, a Companion, in the form of the Holy Spirit, to help us follow His path, teach His Gospel, and avoid the influence of Satan, see John 16:1-15 (ESV):

16 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

In the place of the Lord, Jesus, believers in the Resurrected Christ are promised a Helper, which is the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise expressed in Hebrews 13:5-6 (ESV):

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

So from burning bush, to a pillar of cloud or flame, to His only begotten Son, Jesus, to the Companion of the Holy Spirit, God continues to reveal Himself to all people, giving us proof of His love to us, but to demonstrate the steps of His plan to restore us to His grace and reestablish what was lost in the Garden of Eden.

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #663 (- from: 1 Corinthians 11)                    

Closing Hymn # 324: Be Still, My Soul

Benediction: (Psalm 121:7-8):

 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire’

 © August 27, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 27, 2017

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on July 28, 2013

BLCF Bulletin July 28, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                  

Opening Prayer Hymn #195: Fill Me Now (Hover o’er Me, Holy Spirit); Choruses                                                                                                                        

Tithing and Prayer Requests; Hymn #572: Praise God                                       

Responsive Reading #654: ‘The Holy City’ (-from Revelation 21)                  

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                   ‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire’                                                

1 Kings 18:20-40 (ESV) The Prophets of Baal Defeated

20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 

28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs[a] of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 18:32 A seah was about 7 quarts or 7.3 liters

Let us pray…

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire.’   The invention of fire had a profound effect upon our world. Fire brings us heat to counter the cold, cook our food and to illuminate our surroundings. Fire enabled members of society to work through the night and led to the advancement of the civilization of humanity.

The first use of fire is lost in prehistory and the subject of much conjecture and speculation. According ancient mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. Fire was likely first discovered by accident event, as a result of natural causes, such as volcanic eruption, ignition of marsh gas or more likely from a lightning strike.

There are numerous references in the Bible to the use and significance of fire. In most scriptures that mention fire included to describe the manifestation of the power and presence of God. We find a clear example of His power and presence in this morning’s Scripture from 1Kings 18.

A severe drought and famine in region of Samaria led to God’s Prophet Elijah facing off against some 450 prophets of the god Baal. Elijah was critical of the people wavering between this god and the true Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.

Elijah proposes to the people the building of two altars, each with its own sacrificial bull. To one, the prophets of Baal will call upon the god Baal to ignite the wood of the altar. And with the other, Elijah will call upon God, Jehovah, to ignite to wood. The people and the 450 Baal prophets accept the challenge.

For hours, the prophets of Baal called in vain, upon their god, Baal to ignite their altar.  The prophets even resorted to cutting themselves to illicit a response from Baal. And no fire came; Baal did not reply.

Now it was Elijah’s turn. But to make things interesting, Elijah instructed the people to douse the offering and wood with four jars of water, not once, not twice; but three times!

I recall camping a few summers ago and trying to ignite some wet wood. It was not easy. Just when you have some flames, the fire dies out.

The wood on the altar constructed by Elijah wasn’t just damp, being soaked by a dozen jars of water to the point that excess water collected in a trench surrounding the altar. But this did not deter Elijah’s faith, nor did it deter him from calling upon God. Elijah had proceeded as the Lord instructed. He acknowledged the authority of the Lord saying “I am your servant”. He asked that God would start the fire not as a response to a request to do the bidding of Elijah. Instead Elijah implored the Lord to start the fire to change the hearts of those who had turned away from God and to restore their faith.

God’s response was to send a fire of such intensity, that it not only consumed the offering, wood and stones, so all that was left was dust. And all the water, including that in the trench, had evaporated. God’s response was clear and definitive, leaving no doubt in the minds of the people of Israel. The people fell on their knees, acknowledging that “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

And the 450 prophets of Baal were executed. Such was the judgement of God. And afterword, the Lord kept His promise by bringing rain to end the drought.

If you look at the back of today’s bulletin, you will see a list of several instances in the Bible, where the power and glory of God is expressed in some form of flame or fire.

Most of us are acquainted with the Prophet Moses’ encounter with the Lord, who revealed Himself as a Burning Bush, Exodus 3:1-6 (ESV):

The Burning Bush

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

At the time of this account, Moses was 80 years of age. Having been expelled to die in the dessert by Pharaoh, Moses had lived the next 40 years as a shepherd, and had seen most that the dessert had to offer. But something had caught his eye. The English translations translate what Moses saw as a bush, but a more accurate translation of the Hebrew word seneh is brambles. While we could spend the rest of today’s sermon debating the inaccuracy of the translation and the merits of the original Hebrew over inaccuracies of English translations, such discussions have no real bearing on the lesson our Lord is trying to convey and only act as a distraction from the main theme of the passage. Now back to Moses.

Moses noted that while the bush or brambles burned, it was not consumed by fire. And when he drew close to the bush, Moses saw an angel in a flame of fire in the midst of the bush. And when the Lord had seen that Moses turned aside to see, God admonished Moses to not come closer and to remove his sandals, as the ground that Moses stood upon was Holy ground. And the Lord identified himself as the God of Moses father, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God reveals Himself to Moses as a burning bush, the flames burning supernaturally without ceasing.

After God used Moses to deliver the Hebrew people from enslavement in Egypt, He did not forsake them, Exodus 13:21-22 (ESV):

21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

We must remember that that light is not just a tool of mankind, but an expression of the presence of the Lord, Exodus 24:17 (ESV):

17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

But the fire and flame of the Lord is not only a source of comfort to the faithful, but will be an expression of God’s judgment upon those who are not of value to His Kingdom, considered to be like thorns and brambles, Isaiah 10:17 (ESV):

17 The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day.

This same fire is as an expression of God’s ability to refine and cleanse us of impurity and filth, Malachi 3:2 (ESV):

2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

Refiners use fire to melt and separate precious metals such as silver and gold from non-precious metals found in the ore. Each stage extracts purer metal. And fuller’s soap is used in a process to wash and clean raw wool of impurities and odors.

We find a more direct description of the Lord’s fire, by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 (ESV): 

  

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   

You will note that the Prophet’s indicates that water baptism is an act we do for repentance, but only the Lord can baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. So when the believer receives the Holy Spirit, the same fire which is an expression of God, also is received, Acts 2:1-4 (ESV) The Coming of the Holy Spirit:

2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.   

So the followers of Jesus Christ are given the Holy Spirit as a Comforter and the gifts of fire which is the glory of God, Hebrews 1:7 (ESV): 

               

7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

To better understand Hebrews 1:7 let us back up to the first four verses of Hebrew 1, Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV):

The Supremacy of God’s Son

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

In the above passage, we see that Jesus is described as the radiance of glory of God, and like a refiner purifying precious gold; He purifies us from sin, through His son, Jesus Christ.

In Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, we see that Christ is talking with two prophets, Moses and Elijah, who had experienced the power and presence of God by fire and flame. And we have an idea of this radiance in the description of Jesus in the account, in Matthew 17:1-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

 Footnotes:  a. Matthew 17:5 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

I believe Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus gives us some idea as to how it will be with Jesus after our own resurrection. Just like Moses and Elijah, we will be able to see our Lord, present in all His glory; radiant and full of light, bright like the fire of the sun. May this vision ignite a fire of passion and faith to share with all those around us the love of God as is expressed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, for this is the Savior’s final commandment our Lord gave to us. For it only takes a spark of faith, to ignite the fire that is found in the presence and power God’s love.

Let us pray…

 Hymn #484: Pass It On (It Only Takes a Spark)

Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26): The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.